Your Top 5 Career Questions Answered by the PA Career Coach
Advice on How to Ask for a Raise, Negotiate Your Salary, and More
December 21, 2021
By Jennifer Anne Hohman
Jennifer Anne Hohman, the PA Career Coach, answers the top five questions we heard from PAs this year. She offers her expert advice on asking for a raise, negotiating (and renegotiating) your salary, how to land a job as a new grad, and more.
- How do I ask for a raise?
Asking for a raise can be a daunting experience. But not doing so when you deserve one can lead to acute job dissatisfaction. Asking for a raise is worth the discomfort for the health of your career! To prepare for a successful discussion, do your research: How does your salary compare to AAPA’s latest findings for your specialty, location, and years of experience? AAPA’s Salary Report is an amazing resource for gauging your compensation and developing a range for your raise target.
Also, as part of your negotiation preparation, review your recent accomplishments, projects, and professional development activities. This will boost your confidence and is important information you’ll want an employer to be aware of as you make the case for a raise.
Lay the groundwork for a successful face-to-face meeting with a carefully crafted email to your practice manager/employer. It should lay out your raise rationales in detail and with a positive tone. Remember that every time a PA raises the bar for her compensation, it has a positive ripple effect on your PA colleagues. Knowing and advocating for your value is uplifting for the entire PA community.
It’s empowering to approach the negotiation as a win-win conversation: You are affirming your intention to stay and grow with your current employer and to be recognized as a valuable, contributing member of the team.
- How do I negotiate a salary in a hospital system?
Salary negotiation at a large hospital system has its own challenges – many hospitals operate within predetermined budgets and pay scales. That said, it is possible in at least some positions to either negotiate your initial salary or renegotiate your current pay. In addition to mining the data in the AAPA Salary Report, try to network with currently employed PAs at the hospital to gain insights into the management culture, treatment of PAs in general, and to investigate what PAs with your level of expertise are receiving.
As you interview, establish your value in terms of experience and patient care expertise. This will help you lay the groundwork for an improved salary. When negotiating, be sure to look at the big picture in terms of benefits that are important to you. I’ve often seen in my work with PAs that a sustainable schedule is a priceless benefit – something like this should definitely be considered during the negotiation process! Define what a manageable shift schedule would look like for you and take a clear-eyed view of how well the hospital’s scheduling needs coincide with your own. For some PAs, a sustainable schedule may be worth taking a slightly lower salary. It’s an individual decision, but make sure to keep the big picture in mind.
For PAs renegotiating a hospital position, be sure to bring to your administrator’s attention any and all growth, expanded roles and duties, projects and initiatives that you’ve led. In large institutions, these can be lost by higher ups and it’s up to you to make the case for all of the value you being to patients and the institution!
- How do I land a job in a new location?
Landing a job in a state you don’t live in is a great opportunity to leverage your online professional presence and span the distance with a compelling LinkedIn page. Brainstorm any potential contacts in the area (you may be surprised to discover you have more than originally thought) and reach out to them, as well as hiring staff, on LinkedIn. As in any hiring scenario, coming recommended by a current employee will help open doors. Join the state PA association in your target location to network and learn about practice conditions.
Draft a cover letter that illuminates your reasons for being absolutely committed to moving to their city; this will help overcome an employer’s wariness that they may be pursuing an uncertain prospective employee. Illuminate any connections you have to the new area: family, friends, personal history, or a love of its unique qualities and culture. Explain why you passionately envision a future for your PA practice where they are. A tip for your resume and cover letters: instead of using your current address, use the phrase “relocating to (city) in month, year.” This will help prevent being automatically cast aside as non-local and help the employer pursue your application with more confidence.
- As a new grad, how do I navigate “experience required” in specialty-specific job listings?
This is a challenging issue and can make many new graduates feel that they are being asked to unravel an impossible catch-22. In these instances, positions are more accessible when you make contact through your network: preceptors, professors, PAs or physicians who are aware of your interests and accomplishments as a new graduate. Volunteering where you would love to work is a way of creating new and helpful contacts and deepening your understanding of a specialty and its unique culture, as well as insights into whether it’s a good fit for you. Consider, too, being hired for fields that are adjacent to your primary goal where some elements of transferable experience can be acquired.
A cover letter that expresses in detailed terms why you want to work in a specialty and that makes the case for the applicable experience you do have is quite helpful in breaking through the “no experience” logjam. The fact is, as a new graduate you likely do have relevant experience, if the term is defined flexibly. What are some of the key skillsets a clinician would need to be an effective provider in your field of choice? Reflect on your clinical education and/or previous work experience that are relevant and claim them with confidence, along with your passion for the specialty that calls you. Both will help you win that elusive position.
Finally, reach out to find a mentor PA who is established in your dream specialty through AAPA’s Mentor Match for their guidance, encouragement, and insights.
- How do I renegotiate my salary and contract?
When you feel that your pay is lagging behind where it should be, it’s important to pay attention to that perception and start to formulate a renegotiation plan. Several elements go into a successful renegotiation, and I suggest starting with a close review of your employment agreement to identify areas you’d like to improve and/or clarify. Pay is a very important issue but so is having a sustainable schedule and a benefits package that reflects your personal and professional priorities.
For most PAs, renegotiation comes with an annual review process. Prepare for your renegotiation by gathering all the information you can about your accomplishments, performance metrics, and recent patient success stories. Another crucial resource is the latest data from AAPA’s Salary Report, which you can customize to reflect your specialty, years of experience, and location to assess your current compensation. Prepare yourself mentally to make the case for your value in a calm, well-researched and positive way. While not every renegotiation process will yield all your goals, I’ve seen many PAs make beneficial changes to their employment terms in ways big and small.
Jennifer Anne Hohman is the founder of PA Career Coach of offers individualized career and contract coaching to help PAs find healthier and more fulfilling careers: contact her at [email protected].
You May Also Like
Distinguished Fellow Julie Theriault Strengthens PA Profession
Emergency Medicine PAs Say Preparation and Experience Lead to Success
A Day in the Life of a PA in Outpatient Obstetrics and Gynecology