Life After PA School: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

In this article, we’re going to talk about life after physician assistant school. Specifically, we’re going to be looking at the good things to expect along with the bad and unfortunately the ugly.

So what is life after physician assistant school like? After PA school it’s going to be both awesome and scary at the same time. While you’ll be able to start working and making money, it also means you’re going to have more responsibilities. Below we’re going to dive deeper into that discussion.

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Because of the rigor of PA school many PA students are so focused on just surviving and making it through the class in front of them that many never get a chance to look up from their textbooks to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

No worries.

We’ve got you covered on this matter. We’re going to go through and list some things you should expect after PA school.

Now, the question is what do you want first the good news or the bad news.

If this is the first time, you’re coming to this site I want you to leave this site in a positive light. To accomplish that I’m going to start with the ugly, then the bad, and lastly we’ll close with the good.

Let’s go!

The Ugly

1. Your Supervising Physician Might be a Jerk

After your graduate, your supervising physician can set the tone of any job. A good physician can make the worst job and the worst situation not that bad.

At the same time having a bad collaborating physician can make even the easiest and most straightforward PA job the worst job in America.

While you might be very limited on what your options are based on the job you should try to make sure you jell with your supervising physician.

We’re not saying you shouldn’t pick a job because of a difficult supervising physician. What we are saying is it should be one of the criteria on your list.

Let me rephrase that. It should be close to the top of your standards for a job.

2. You’ll Now Have to Face Your Student Loans

The dreaded student loans. According to Forbes the average graduate in America is facing student loans of almost $40,000. PAs are not the exception. Actually, they’re beating the average.

According to the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) almost 50% of PA students expect to have student loan debts of $75,000 to $124,999.

Nearly 2% expect loans North of $200,000 (source). Those are some crazy high numbers. But they’re that high for a reason.

According to The PA Life the average physician assistant schooling costs a little over $70,000 for in-state students and almost $90,000 for out of state students.

We haven’t even talked about living expenses. Living expenses like food, water, and shelter.

With all that said you now have to face that debt. If you’re still early on in your PA school, try to keep your expenses in check. If you’re late in your schooling and about to graduate be prepared to bunker down.

After you graduate, go on a budget to knock out those student loans as quickly as possible.

Some helpful resources would be Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover.

3. You Could Get Taken to the Curb by Your First Contract

It’s a dog eat dog world out there. When negotiating your physician assistant job contract, it’s your job to be looking after your best interest.

Your employer is going to be looking after there’s. The sad part is many new grad PA are not familiar with contracts.

What their rights are under the law. How to protect themselves. Some I’m sad to say are just naive. Naive to the reality that if they’re not careful, their new employer will take advantage of them during the negotiation process.

To remedy this:

Do NOT let your future employer pressure you to sign a contract. Scarcity is a basic marketing tactic and pressuring is also a basic sales tactic. Both of which you need to be mindful of before making a big transaction like this.

Do NOT try to play lawyer.

Just don’t.

Make sure you have a “good” contract attorney look at the contract before you sign it. You need to do this, so you truly understand what your rights are relative to your employer.

Don’t have your PA friend who’s done this one time before try to tell you what to do. They’ll act like they know what they’re talking about.

They don’t.

Don’t have your brother’s friends wife who’s a divorce attorney give you advice on contract law.

Two different things. You wouldn’t go to an orthopedic for a cardiac problem, would you? No, you wouldn’t.

The Bad

4. Your Done with PA School


Your entire goal of going into PA school is to graduate. Why in the world would we now say graduating is a bad thing.

Well, it’s not so much that it’s a bad thing as it is you now can’t hide under the veil of PA student.

You’ll now have to make a resume. Find a job. Apply to the job. Interview for the PA job. Hopefully, get hired and have a supervising physician that’s not a Jerk.

Did we also mention you now have to make decisions involving your patients without a preceptor looking over your shoulders?

While no new grad PA escapes the anxiety flying solo. Things do get better with time. Regardless it’s important to note that this is probably going to happen.

5. You Might Not Get Your Dream Job

As a new grad physician assistant, you have to face the reality that you might not get your dream job. I know what your thinking…

“I’ve been told over and over again that physician assistants are in demand.”

Well, they are in demand. But like everything else, it depends on what area of the country you live in and what field of medicine you’re trying to get into.

It’s important to note if nothing else PAs with relevant experience are in hot demand.

To help combat this make sure to start looking for a PA job early. Be impressive during your clinical rotations. Set realistic expectations. Apply to a lot of places.

Lastly but definitely not the least




6. You Might Have to Accept Your First PA Job Offer

As we mentioned above finding your first PA gig could be challenging. You might not get that dream job you’ve been looking for. Honestly, you might have to accept your first offer.

Depending on your life circumstances you could have a spouse and kids that are depending on you having an income.

Unfortunately, it means you might not be able to hold out for the best offer.

Accepting your first offer in most cases is not a big deal. Use that first job to learn as much as you can.

Build up your resume and your bank account so you can go back into the job market in a stronger position.

7. You Might Have to Do Your Own Billing
This one is pretty straight forward. You might have to do your own billing. If you do, it sucks. It’s not impossible. But it sucks.

Try to pick up what you can during your rotation.

8. Charting will be the Bane of Your Existence

What you’re going to find out after you graduate PA school is how very little time you’re going to spend with patients relative to charting.

Charting gets better with time. During your rotations make sure to ask plenty of questions. Remember if it’s not charted it never happened.

The Good

9. Your Done with PA School

Life after pa school means you get to celebrate. You get to celebrate on your big accomplishment of passing PA school.

10. You Get to Go on Vacations
If you haven’t been on a vacation in a while, this would be an excellent opportunity for that. Finances permitting of course.

It doesn’t even have to be a big expensive vacation. Just make it getaway between you and your loved ones.

11. You Get to Start Saving For Retirement
If you’re graduating PA school young, it’s never too early to start saving for retirement. If you’re older, it’s never too late.

As awesome as the PA profession is you don’t want to be in a situation where you’re working late into retirement because you don’t have enough money saved.

Most experts recommend saving 10-15% of your income for retirement.

12. Change Your Family Tree
This is something Dave Ramsey normally says, and it’s something being a PA will allow you to do.

You’ll be in such a great profession making easily double the average salary of most Americans that you’ll be able to provide for your family in ways most people won’t be able to.


If you just read the first part, you might think life after PA school is going to be the worst thing ever. It’s not.

In the end, being a full-fledged licensed PA will present its own set of challenges you’ll face. But you can do it. Besides, look at it this way. It can’t be worse than PA school

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