Creating your first resume as a near or new PA graduate can be simple and straightforward. Sure, you probably don’t yet have much experience to include, but that should not stop you from being able to create a professional-looking resume.
To create your most effective resume, your content should stand up to two important questions:
Is this concise?
Is this relevant?
Filtering information and determining what is and is not essential is a primary function of a PA in practice. Showing a potential employer that you have the ability to do this will create a good first impression.
Let’s walk through each section, one by one.
As a new graduate, Education should be your first resume section. Here, you will list your degrees (including pending PA degree if you are a near-grad), granting institutions, and graduation dates. You can include your master’s thesis topic with your PA degree information.
Do not include any education or training that did not count towards a degree, like CNA certification or prerequisites.
Do not include your GPA, it is not relevant (gasp). Hear me out. People who interview and hire new graduate PAs (like me) are fully aware of the average undergraduate GPA of PA students (currently 3.58). Unless you blow this out of the water, listing your GPA does you no favors.
Secondly, PA school calculations of GPAs are even more variable than undergrad. My PA school GPA was 0.00. Seriously. My program was pass/fail where you got 90 or above or you were out.
Employers care that you got through PA school, have the ability to pass the PANCE, and are eligible for a state license, not what your GPA was. Additionally, including your GPA at the start of your resume (where it would naturally go) reminds employers that you do not have much experience. You do not want them distracted by this thought while you are trying to wow them with the rest of your resume.
The next section of your resume should be Clinical Experience, where you concisely list your clinical rotations. This is the resume section that I see go astray most often. Avoid adding unnecessary clinical rotation details in an effort to lengthen to your resume. Those reading your resume will wonder why you think it is relevant or assume that you did not bother to tailor your resume to the position.
Simply list your clinical rotations as a summary of your experience, as outlined.
Here, you have the opportunity to make your resume relevant to a particular position. If you had a rotation in the specialty for which you are applying, expand it. If you do not have experience in the specialty, you can highlight relevant skills from another rotation or two. For instance, if you are applying for a dermatology position, you might expand like this:
You should change this section as appropriate when applying for new positions, making sure that each version highlights your skills for that particular position. If you do not have rotations that are relevant to a position, just keep them as a list.
Remove this section from your resume after you start your first PA position.
Licenses & Memberships (or just Licenses)
In this section, include your NCCPA and license information, or state that they are pending. You can include your state PA organization or AAPA member information here, as well as any CPR or ACLS certification. Memberships are not necessary, so do not feel obligated to join a PA organization just so you can list it here.
This is where you give 3 (and only 3) professional references. Do not put “available upon request.” This makes an employer think that you have to scramble to find three people who would be willing to vouch for you.
If you are including additional sections beyond the required, consider abbreviating your Clinical Experience section further to keep your resume to a single page.
If you have professional experience other than a pre-PA job (CNA, EMT, etc), list it here. If you had a prior career, it can help to explain any gaps in education and also highlight your ability to work with others professionally.
You may also consider including pre-PA experience if it is relevant to that specific position - you were a CNA at a hospice and you are applying for a palliative care position.
Include this section only if you have a legitimate publication (in a medical journal) or presentation (at a medical conference). Most people will not have this section, so don’t sweat leaving it off of your resume.
You should include a volunteering section only if your efforts have been substantial. If you volunteered at a few 5K races, leave it off. If you have a lot of varied volunteer experience, pick out 3 and list them. This section should not be larger than your other more relevant sections.
Include this section only if you have more than one award. You promised us “awards” in the header, so it should be more than one. Changing the title to “award” would make it seem lonely and strange.
This should include PA-school only items. Making the dean’s list or being summa cum laude in undergrad can be included in your education section.
Do you know a second language well enough to speak to, educate, and consent patients? If so, create a section and list it. If not, an employer does not need to know about it.
Sections no one ever needs
You do not need any objective section. Someone with a marketing degree may need to explain that they are looking for a digital marketing sales position, but having a PA degree and looking for a PA position is fairly self explanatory. Your resume will be made position-specific in the “experience” section, so an objective is unnecessary.
A skills section is entirely unnecessary. We will assume that you can perform an H&P, provide patient care, and make treatment decisions. Additional skills are not necessary.
Please, don't do it.
As a new graduate, your resume should be no longer than one page (without any margin or font size manipulation). If you are having trouble keeping it to one page, go back and ask yourself if each item of your content is both concise and relevant. Be sure to save it as a PDF file so that your formatting remains consistent once you submit it.
Most new-grad resumes will have 4-6 of the sections discussed. Do not feel obligated to include additional sections if they feel like a stretch. A well composed, concise resume that is edited for relevance is far superior to one that simply fills the page.
Be sure to download your free Killer Resume Checklist. If you would like personalized guidance on creating your first PA resume along with one-on-one sessions focused on optimizing your job hunt, improving your interview skills, and learning how to negotiate, check out the Dream Job Package.