How to Get Your First Physician Assistant Job

Physician Assistants (PAs) play an essential role in providing patient care alongside or in place of Physicians. These medical support professionals are needed all over the United States as more and more health facilities are constructed to match the medical needs of thriving communities. Here at Desert Medical Careers, we work closely with Physician Assistants (PAs) and facilities that are looking to hire them for medical teams. Because we have placed numerous PAs in positions at some of the best medical facilities, we prepared this guide to assist with getting your first physician assistant job:

Job Outlook & Salary

When it comes to job availability, Physician Assistants (PAs) have to contend with Nurse Practitioners (NPs) who are often seen as providing similar medical support. The number of positions available for PAs also depends on location, as each state has a preference for either PAs or NPs.

(Trying to decide between becoming a Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant? Read our 2-minute guide.)

However, based on 2016 data from Arizona, there were 47% of Nurse Practitioners compared to 53% of Physician Assistants employed in medical facilities. This stark difference in employed PAs is expected to grow according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics who projects a 37% growth of PA jobs up until 2026.

Salaries for Physician Assistants can differ based on location, experience, and facility. However, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national average wage for Physician Assistants is $104,860. In Arizona, PA’s can expect to earn around $110,530 annually, which is 12% over the national average.

If you would like to be placed in a physician assistant job within the United States, please fill out the form below or call us at 602-468-6300.

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Physician Assistant Job Prerequisites

Before attempting to find your first physician assistant job, there are a few things that you should obtain.

Degrees and PA Programs

Although Physician Assistants do not need to be in school as long as Physicians or Doctors, they still require a four-year degree from a regionally accredited institution.

According to Get Educated, the most common Bachelor degrees obtained by PAs, are:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Nutrition

After obtaining a four-year degree, the next step is to complete a Physician Assistant Program which provides more detailed information and specific topics that will prepare you for being a medical support professional. This portion could take anywhere between 2-3 years to complete, making a total of 6-7 years of education needed to be a PA.

In Arizona, the three schools certified for PA programs by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) are:

(If you are not in Arizona, you can review the ARC-PA website to research for accredited institutions near you).

The next step after completing your PA program is to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants administers this exam.

(To learn more about this exam, the costs, requirements, and regulations, please visit the NCCPA website:

The Job Search

Once you have passed your PANCE and can claim a certified Physician Assistant title, you are now able to apply for PA positions.

Prepare Your Resume and Build Your Interview Confidence

Before you start applying for jobs, you want to make sure you have your resume (or curriculum vitae) and cover letter ready. Detail your degrees, certifications, training, and any other industry experience you have obtained over the years. For example, if you had an internship or if you had a set of courses that focused on a medical specialty, these should be mentioned in your resume or curriculum vitae (CV). Numerous templates can be used; however, even when drafting a simple 1-2 page resume or CV detailing your experiences, make sure to include:


  • Contact information
  • Objective
  • Employment & internship history
  • Degrees & certificates
  • Clinical training information
  • License(s) information

Curriculum Vitae

  • Contact information
  • Employment & internship history
  • Degrees & certifications
  • Professional qualifications & awards
  • Published articles
  • Published (or presented) presentations
  • Association memberships
  • Professionals Interests

Cover Letter

Next, it’s time to work on your cover letter, which should only be one to two paragraphs. To create a draft for your cover letter, express your excitement for the company, the possibility of working at their facility, and how the job is aligned with your career goals. Use accomplishments or employment history to connect with the requirements mentioned in the listing. Likewise, detail any quantifiable actions from your job history that will make your resume stand out. In your closing sentences, make sure to thank the employer for the job consideration and let them know you’re interested in an interview.

Interview Tips

Before securing an interview, it’s good practice to look over your resume (or CV) and be able to discuss 1-2 stories from your employment history that relate to the job listing. If you have specific stats that you mentioned in your cover letter, be able to go into detail of how you achieved those accomplishments. Practice speaking with confidence about your abilities and your work history. Grab a friend to help with a practice interview, or stand in front of a mirror and use sample questions like these 46 PA interview questions to practice your ability to respond confidently.

Ways to Get a Physician Assistant Job

Job Boards and Employment Sites

Use job boards and listing sites to research and apply to facilities that have available Physician Assistant jobs. Notate the skills and requirements they’re desiring for potential applicants, and use this information when updating your resume or cover letter when applying. Job listing sites, like Glassdoor, let you glance at reviews from previous employees, and this information provides a glimpse of a facility’s culture, which can help when choosing the best place to work for you. Before submitting your resume and cover letters on these sites make sure to target keywords for automated tracking systems (ATSs) to pick up. (Learn how to update your resume for ATSs here).

Social Media

Linkedin is a powerful source that merges job search and networking into one. Users can research recent Physician Assistant positions, connect with people who work in a facility of interest, and even join PA focused groups to network with like-minded people. Linkedin can be used to virtually connect with people already in the PA or medical field who can provide valuable connections or insights into which skills facilities need the most. Building a robust LinkedIn network could lead to learning about available positions that have not been listed online yet.  

LinkedIn Groups to Consider

Connect With Others In the Industry

If virtual connections are not of interest to you, utilizing in-person networking is also valuable when trying to get your first Physician Assistant job. Joining local associations like the Arizona State Association of Physician Assistants could assist with building your network of those working or looking to work in the Physician Assistant field.

However, if you know of people who are already working as PAs or in a medical facility that needs PAs, you can use these connections to your advantage. Similar to using LinkedIn, you can ask your personal network for resume reviews or to provide a recommendation when applying to jobs.

Work with an Agency Focused on Physician Assistant Placements

This is our specialty at Desert Medical Careers. Because we have had years of connections with facilities that regularly hire PAs, individuals that work with us end up getting placed quicker and in better positions compared to doing things by themselves.

Likewise, we review resumes ensuring they match what medical facilities are looking for, and we provide interviewing tips based on our experience placing thousands of people in Physician Assistant positions. All of this is free for the person seeking a Physician Assistant job.

We also find out what you want from your employer, which allows us to match you with the perfect position for your needs. We are based in Arizona, but we work with healthcare employers throughout the nation. If you would like to be placed in a Physician Assistant job, contact Desert Medical Careers at (602) 468-6300.