Physician Assistant

Physician Assistant Resume & Cover Letter [Free Template]

By January 9, 2020June 26th, 2020No Comments
Composition with PA Resume Elements

Do you wonder what happens when you hit send and your CV loads in a huge hospital ATS (Applicant Tracking System) or lands on the desk of a HR (Human Resources) Manager? Does it feel like it moves into a “black abyss”? Does anyone really see it?

The truth is that technology is changing things, even with CV and resume review. Your CV has to be formatted and focused to stand out. Many medical hiring systems, both hospital and corporate are moving to automated first pass screening.

This means a computer will scan your CV or resume and decide if you move on. To get to a human review requires knowing exactly what to add to your CV. Then you move to an opportunity to pass the second glance and hopefully, move to interview.

To attract the attention of a new employer, you must know what physician assistant recruiters are looking for in a PA CV. That way, you guarantee your best outcomes with your physician assistant resume. Here are some highlights on how to make sure your CV/resume gets the notice it requires and not become lost in the “black abyss”.

We should note that this process will be different for those who recently graduated versus those that have years of experience.

Rather than trying to create a resume and cover letter from scratch, we recommend starting with a template and then modifying it to fit your needs. You can use the templates we provide you with below, or any others you’re able to find online.

If you recently graduated, use the following:

If you are a practicing PA, use the following:

17 Tips To Creating A Winning Physician Assistant Resume And Cover Letter

1. Select The Best Physician Assistant Resume Format

If you are applying for a creative role, employers might appreciate a resume that goes slightly off-script and showcases your innovative side. But, a PA resume is not the place to do that.

Stick with a format that medical recruiters will recognize. Doing so helps these recruiters to quickly identify your relevant work history, educational accomplishments, and awards you have received.

If you are unsure about what a PA’s Curriculum Vitae should look like, use the templates we have provided above.

2. Choose Professional Contact Information

Make sure that you not only have contact information that is up-to-date, but is also professional. If you have been using an email address for personal mail that has cute words or is silly, choose another for your resume submissions.

It is very easy to create a professional-looking (and sounding) email address for this purpose. If your name is not available (i.e. through the various email service provider websites like Google or Yahoo, you can try modifying the order in which it appears or by adding your middle initial.

3. Optimize Your Resume

Did you know that a human may never see your resume? In most hospitals, healthcare systems, and medical practices, a software program will first review your CV. CV optimization refers to adding specific words in your resume that are most likely to appeal to the person writing the job posting.

Magnifying glass looking through a resumeHow To Do Resume Keyword Research

You can determine what keywords to include by completing the following:

  • Review the physician assistant job description for words not included in your CV
  • Consider what is essential for this role or position
  • Use your industry knowledge and expertise
  • Perform online research by looking at similar job postings

Remember, keywords are specific to the job posting. Broad terms like hospital, comorbidity, and Physician Assistant are not keywords. Think about particular tasks that are performed or diseases that are encountered and work them into your CV.

Also, include any words that may differentiate the type of patients (i.e. inpatient vs. outpatient). If you are applying to different subspecialties, keep one main CV and make keyword modifications to match each job posting.

While adding keywords is very important, a person still needs to read it. So, in your efforts to appease the machine, don’t make the misstep of writing something that a recruiter won’t also find intriguing.

4. List Jobs In Reverse-Chronologically

So you’re applying for a job in primary care. If you worked for primary care, internal medicine, or a similar role before your current job, it might seem logical to move that role to the top.

We’re not questioning your logic, but this confuses recruiters who are trying to assess how long you’ve been in different roles, gaps between positions, and most recent experience.

So it’s best to list your jobs in reverse-chronological order.

5. Pay Attention To Formatting

Your font should be easy, so stick with the basics.

We recommend Arial, Callibri, or Tahoma. These fonts display well on both desktop and mobile devices. If you still want some more options, try Times, Cambria, or Helvetica.

Need some more space? Have too much white space on the page? Remember to change the content and not the font size. Generally, 10 or below is too small, while 11 or 12 pitch font is preferred.

Make sure you balance the white space on your document with the text that is included. An easy way to accomplish this is by allowing for margins. This makes your resume more aesthetically pleasing and allows the person reviewing your resume to add notes without obscuring the information contained on the paper.

Subheadings should be included for each section of your resume. These titles can be very simple and should briefly explain what is contained in that portion of your CV. Choose standard words for these heading to optimize applicant tracking software. These can include words such as experience, education, and skills. Avoid words such as work history and about me.

Make strategic use of bold, capitalization, and italics without overusing them. If you choose to use these options, be consistent in their use. Remember, if you use boldface with a subheading, use this with all subheadings.

Review your resume for repeat words and phrases such as “responsible for.” Try using different action verbs so that your resume doesn’t read like a legal document with repetitive words that begin to bore the reader. This can be easily accomplished by referencing synonyms in a thesaurus program.

Also, avoid the use of current buzzwords that may make your resume information appear outdated and unprofessional.

6. PA Summary Vs. Objective: Know Which To Use

Recruiters look at CVs every day, and many applicants exclude a Summary or Objective statement.

It is OK to skip the Objective statement – mostly because employers know the objective is to get the job! If you are a recent graduate, you can consider including an objective toward the top of your resume that details your desire to find a job in the type of practice, but an even better practice is to include this information in a cover letter.

If you have more experience, then use this space to summarize your resume. A resume summary is a paragraph (no more than six sentences) that includes your top medical skills and experiences.

This is the time to stand out! Highlight your path to becoming a PA. Your path is different than your classmate’s, mentor’s, and colleague’s around the country.

Key tip: don’t write the summary or objective until you finished the other parts of your CV. It will be much clearer to you what should be included here after you have created the resume.

7. Reduce Job Description Details As You Go (Only Practicing PAs)

Include more specific details for your most recent positions. But as you go back, you might stick with 1 to 3 bullets per position.

What you did 10, 15, or 20 years ago is less relevant. It’s best practice only to include your most recent positions up to ten years ago, and to explain any large gaps in your career over this time.

8. Standard Resume Words Don’t Always Work

While most recruiters love action language like spearheaded or accomplished, as a Physician Assistant, you need to think more about what the practice needs from its practitioners.

Stay clear of adding soft skills like team player, self-starter. Leave these for the cover letter.

Try to express that you can provide care to a wide range of patients efficiently and independently.

We suggest that you include some of the following subjects:

  • Patient Volume – Let the practice know the type of patient load you currently manage.
  • Call – Are you accustomed to providing on-call services? Let the employer know this, as it shows your ability to practice independently.
  • Specialization – If you have cared for a significant volume of patients with a particular comorbidity, list these.
  • Language Skills – Many practices seek multi-lingual practitioners. List all languages you speak, read, and write beyond the common language where you will be practicing.

CV Diagram and Glasses

9. Build Your Professional Experience Section Around A Position

Are you applying for family medicine or emergency medicine? What diagnostic tests and physical examinations are you familiar with? Can you complete follow-up for treatment plans or provide post-operative care?

Every recruiter is looking for different things when hiring for physician assistant positions. So read the description several times before submitting your final resume for submission.

Next, tailor your clinical experience around that description (if applicable). By doing so, you can also determine if you are qualified for this position based on your current skills and previous experience.

10. Do Not Over-Sell Your Experience

You should always do your best to highlight what you know, but never over-sell your experience in an area just because it is in the job description. When you prepare for the interview, you will likely be asked specific questions about your listed skills – including the number of procedures, how many were performed independently, and hypothetical treatment plans.

Show them you’re the perfect candidate by meeting their needs and providing them with accurate, truthful information.

11. New Graduate? No Problem. Do This!

Some people have years of experience. But everyone has to start somewhere.

Your physician assistant studies do count for something. Showcase this in the education section.


  • Academic achievements (not GPA unless it is very close to a 4.0)
  • Coursework that’s relevant
  • Honors
  • Awards
  • PA shadowing
  • Relevant volunteer work

Box full of PA skillsYou may even consider listing education as the first subheading on your resume.

If you have more than two years of experience, it is alright to skip the less relevant information.

12. Skip High School On Your PA Resume

If you’re in a small town, they probably know where you went to school. If the job is in a larger metropolitan area, they really don’t care.

Leave this off the resume. It has nothing to do with your higher education, clinical experience, and your current qualifications.

13. Prioritize Your Most Relevant Coursework (Only New Graduates)

What is relevant to a PA CV?

  • Internal medicine
  • Cardiology
  • Critical care medicine
  • General surgery
  • Clinical rotations

Highlight your specialties and areas of focus.

14. Don’t Let A PA Resume Template Stifle You

Do you speak Spanish, Polish, or Cantonese? That’s very relevant. But it may not appear on a resume template. So don’t leave things out just because they are not listed.

However, it is important to view the right sample resume template.

When reviewing this template, consider if it is applicable or if it is relevant. If so, add it.

These might include:

  • A special project you spearheaded
  • Awards
  • Certifications: NCCPA, PALS, ACLS, etc
  • Memberships – AAPA and otherwise
  • Volunteer work
  • License – list all states where with active licenses
  • Interests that apply

But be selective. Noting that you have a certain pet or specific collections, may not apply or do you any favors.

15. Include A Cover Letter When Applying For Physician Assistant Jobs

According to CareerBuilder, 50% of PA resumes can’t stand on their own. They get overlooked and cast aside.

An exceptional physician assistant cover letter can change that.

  • Format it like a formal letter
  • Keep it to one page and edit vigorously
  • Use your introduction to draw the reader in
  • Use impactful language
  • Address the company directly and when possible the recruiter or hiring manager
  • Include contact info, formatted appropriately
  • Highlight essential skills and experience to back them up
  • Highlight achievements
  • End this as you would a formal letter (Sincerely, Best Regards, etc.)

Cover Letter Opening with Skills

16. Include A Call To Action (CTA) In Your Cover Letter

People respond to calls to action. It’s human nature… Or perhaps social engineering.

But we’re not talking about hard CTAs like “BUY NOW.” Think straightforward yet respectful.

Something like, “I’m looking forward to meeting you in-person to discuss how I can contribute to this role. Call me at your convenience.”

17. Review Physician Assistant Resume Samples, Templates & Cover Letters

Whether you are a physician assistant looking for a locum position or looking for a more permanent role, you can save time and frustration by reviewing what physician assistant resumes should look like.

You should always use a PA resume template. Why?

A sample physician assistant CV keeps you from recreating the wheel. A good sample applies tried and true techniques to create a winning resume and PA cover letter.

Quality physician assistant resume examples follow best practices and guide the PA resume-building process. Through the right resume template and these tips, you can create a winning resume.