Working part time or PRN can be difficult while in PA school. In fact, most PA programs strongly discourage students from working in any capacity, particularly during the didactic year.
It can be hard to predict, even 1-2 weeks in advance, how heavy your PA school workload may be. I worked two jobs steadily through college and continued to work leading up to PA school, but I chose not to work in PA school. I didn't feel like I could feasibly commit to a set schedule, even just a week in advance.
After PA school, I worked like a maniac in an effort to pay off my student loans. I found opportunities that did not require committing to a set schedule that I could do in spare hours between my full-time and part-time jobs. These, along with a few others, could be income opportunities for you as well during PA school.
The options included in this post require very little advanced commitment, allow you to create your own hours, and are doable on short notice, all things you need in a potential job when you are in PA school. Here are some ideas.
1. Medical transcriptionist
Web-based freelance sites, like Upwork and Fiverr, have opened up opportunities to work from home on your own schedule. Being a medical transcriptionist does not require certification, and those with experience working as a medical scribe who are well versed in medical terminology and have good typing skills would be well suited for the many one-off jobs that can often be found on these sites.
2. American Journal Experts, Freelance editor
American Journal Experts (AJE) is a company that made its foundation in providing editing services to non-native English speakers for manuscripts prior to submission to journals and publishers. AJE hires freelance, contract editors in many different fields of science to edit the grammar, formatting, and punctuation (not the scientific merit) of manuscripts and pays contractors based on the word count and requested turnaround time.
I did this while I was paying off my student loans, and it is a really flexible way to make money. There is “test” paper that you receive to edit and submit so you will learn what is expected of you in the editing process.
To qualify as an independent contract editor, applicants must either be enrolled in a graduate program or possess a graduate degree, have native English proficiency, and have a documented current or former affiliation (in the form of a degree, current enrollment, or employment) with one of the US schools or institutions specified for each field. Check out the current openings to see the school affiliations for each specialty.
The sciences classes that you mastered while preparing for PA school (organic chemistry, microbiology, anatomy & physiology, and biochemistry) are the same ones that many other undergraduate students struggle to pass. Put up fliers for your tutoring services around campus, and post your services on Craigslist. You can choose to take the opportunities that best fit your schedule.
4. Standardized Patient
Standardized patients are used by many medical, PA, and nursing schools. A standardized patient is someone who portrays a patient, usually with a certain assigned diagnosis, to simulate a patient encounter and allow students to practice their diagnostic skills.
Students will obtain a history and perform a physical exam, and the standardized patient will respond with the symptoms and scenario they have been assigned. You probably do not want (and won’t be allowed) to be the standardized patient for your own PA school class, but where there is a PA school, there is usually a nursing and/or medical school nearby. The pay is typically quite good for the time you will spend and not much commitment is required.
While not as scholarly as the other options, flipping items for a profit is super easy to do if you have a good eye and a little patience (and it is a nice mental break).
A couple of months before I got really serious about paying off my student debt, I moved from a one-bedroom to a two-bedroom apartment. I hunted on Craigslist for furniture to fill my extra space, and found a dresser and a pair of nightstands that were a good deal. While they looked great when I bought them, they didn’t quite fit when I got them home. I cleaned up the set and, because I got a good deal in the first place, sold them a week later at a profit.
After this little revelation, I kept it up and was able to make a couple hundred dollars a month while I was in debt-payoff mode. This is really easy for anyone with a little extra space to do, and requires zero long-term commitment.
6. Scholarships as a side gig
Working to obtain scholarships is by no means a guarantee of money, but the time spent compared to the potential reward is typically worth it. Many scholarships available to PA students are small ($1000-2000), but a few of those would go a long way in offsetting your expenses. Check out your state PA organization and the different PA specialty organizations as most have an annual scholarship available for PA students. See more about PA school scholarships from this prior post.
Most prospective PA students who are asking the question of whether they can still work during a PA program are actually asking if they can continue to work their current job while in school. These are usually folks like EMTs and CNAs who have the ability to pick up shifts here and there on nights and weekends, but there are certainly options beyond being a regular employee.
The decision to work or not during PA school is yours to make. If you’d like to consider working in PA school without making much of a commitment or causing a major strain on your time, the options laid out here may be that middle ground you are looking for between not working at all and the obligation of being an employee.
See how to make your full PA school financial plan with this prior post.