Tips for Accepting Your First Job Offer as a PA
Whether you have one job offer or multiple, the process of finally accepting your first position as a newly certified PA is equally as exciting as it is overwhelming. You’ve worked so hard to make it to this point, and now your career as a health care professional is finally materializing.
However, it’s important to not just rush into any offer that’s been sent your way. To ensure that your first job experience is a good one, consider these best practices for accepting and preparing for the position.
1. Get to know the workplace
If you do get offered a position, it may be beneficial to ask the recruiter if you would be able to come in and shadow for a day. This is a great way to step into the opportunity and make sure the setting is right for you.
You can also ask the employer in your interviews about what prompted the open position. This can lead the conversation to discuss the rates of turnover and prior employee satisfaction. Learning about past and current employee experiences can help paint a picture of what you can expect from the position.
2. Carefully evaluate the offered pay
The first thing you may be inclined to notice when receiving an offer is the pay, often in the form of salary but may be an hourly rate depending on your position. After working so hard to obtain your degree, you do want to make sure you are being appropriately compensated for your work. This can be difficult to determine, as there is a ton of variation in pay across different specialties, states, and, of course, years of experience.
My favorite resource for determining pay is the yearly AAPA Salary Report. This narrows down the average salary (or hourly rate) for physician assistants practicing based on their specialty, years of experience, and even state. It is an excellent resource to determine if your offer is where it should be.
If you feel the offer is unfair, you are absolutely able to and should negotiate this with the recruiter. When doing so, be sure to cite a reliable source and the reasoning for why you feel you should be paid more. You should also provide a reasonable counteroffer respectfully while reaffirming your interest in the position.
Unfortunately, as a new graduate, you might find that many larger organizations have set budgets for the positions and may not be able to offer anything further. However, it is always better to ask. If you are still disappointed in the offer enough to no longer want to accept, you can respectfully decline the position.
3. Remember to weigh employee benefits
Of course, while you may be drawn to the pay, do not be blindsided by this. There are many other things that need to be considered. For starters, consider employee benefits.
If you will be relying on insurance benefits offered by your employer, such as health care/dental care/vision, you should absolutely review these before accepting an offer. If you personally are not too aware of the average cost of different benefits, I recommend consulting with someone you trust who’s more experienced with scrutinizing benefits packages!
Paid time off (PTO)
In addition, make sure to pay attention to your PTO balance and accrual. You work hard, and you will absolutely want to be able to take your much-needed time off! By ensuring right from the start that the position offers sufficient work-life balance, you can help prevent PA burnout before it becomes an issue.
My own first job as a PA had no PTO, with a schedule of seven 12-hour shifts every other week, with a week off in between. I was compensated a bit higher because of the lack of the PTO benefit, but any days on my “week-on” I wanted to take off needed to be made up. I found that I really needed to be able to have some guilt-free time off to achieve my optimal work-life balance.
This may be completely different for you, and it may fluctuate by your stage of life, but overall make sure you review the PTO allowance/accrual to see if it meets your needs. In addition, PTO means nothing if you do not get approved for time off. You may want to ask in your interview how PTO and requests work at that company.
Additional benefits and relief
Some other benefits to keep an eye out for include physician assistant CME, signing bonuses, relocation assistance, and student loan repayment. Most companies should offer some kind of CME allowance, so be sure to take a look at what your position offers and what it includes. It is really nice to be able to put licensing costs on your CME fund, such as your DEA license, state license, and NCCPA license fees.
Moreover, they should fund the materials/conferences needed to meet your CME requirements per the NCCPA. They may also cover the costs of travel/lodging if you do go out of town for the event. In addition, they may offer paid CME days that can be used to further compensate you for the time spent keeping your license up to date. Student loan reimbursement is less common but still sometimes available in positions. This is a huge benefit, so if it is offered in your position you should definitely calculate just how much additional money this could save you annually.
Finally, signing bonuses have been relatively common in the PA job search. They can be great to entice candidates, especially when this would be your first position out of school. However, certain signing bonuses come with a requirement of time spent at the position. While something like two years may not seem like a long time, in a job you do not like it definitely does. The penalty for leaving prior to whatever time commitment given by the company is likely having to pay back either some or all of the signing bonus. Keep this in mind, but if you feel great about the position it is often just a great way to make some extra money at the start of your career!
4. Carefully read and reread the offer before signing.
When you officially accept an offer, at some point you will likely have to sign a contract. Be sure you read these thoroughly before signing. There are certain items you should be especially wary about in these.
For example, confirm your pay is adequately listed. Also, keep an eye out for the notice you will have to give if you decide to leave the position. This is typically between thirty to sixty days, but some companies will have longer notices that you should keep in mind.
You will also want to see if there is a noncompete clause in your contract, which essentially could mean that if you were to leave that practice you may not be able to work within a certain mile radius for an allotted number of years. These work restrictions may or may not be specialty specific. This is important because if you are working in an area you know you will want to live indefinitely, it could really limit your opportunities beyond that position.
You can also ask your recruiter about any noncompete clause if this would be a dealbreaker for you accepting the position. Overall, if you are unsure about any part of the contract you should discuss it with your employer prior to signing.
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