The Job Hunt

5 tips for landing your first job after residency

Salary shouldn’t be your only consideration when looking for your new gig.


After graduating medical school and hustling through residency, the anticipation to start working your dream job is building. While this day may seem far off, it’s never too early to plan your career strategy.

Here are five tips to help you find the best fit and ease the transition.

  1. Do some soul searching

Before applying for jobs, gauge what type of practice style best fits the vision for your career.

Wanda Parker, president of the National Association of Physician Recruiters, says physicians with an entrepreneurial spirit might consider practicing in a more autonomous small group instead of a large hospital system. It all depends on the setting that best fits your goals.

Seger Morris, DO, hospitalist and associate clinical professor of internal medicine at Magnolia Regional Health Center in Corinth, Mississippi, prioritizes an institution that values his leadership involvement in the osteopathic profession. He advises physicians to reflect on the vision they have for their careers and ask questions during the interview process to ensure alignment.

“If I got the impression they weren’t receptive and they just care about me seeing as many patients as possible, I crossed them off my list,” Dr. Morris says. “I wanted a place that recognizes that our profession and training for future physicians is important.” 

  1. Start early

Adam Ylitalo, DO, section chief of urology and chief of the department of surgery at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Hillcrest in Waco, Texas, started interviewing for jobs about three years before he finished his residency program. He signed a contract about a year and a half later. He suggests securing a contract as early as possible.

“I was looking for jobs nonstop. The day I matched in urology, I started looking at jobs so I had a feel for the field,” Dr. Ylitalo says.

If you plan on practicing in a different state, it’s also important to apply early for medical licensure in that state. The process can take a couple months or more.

“You can’t expect to land a job in June and start working in July,” Dr. Morris says.

Dr. Ylitalo, who completed residency in Michigan and moved to Texas to practice, applied for licensure six months before he finished his program to ensure an easy transition.

“Some physicians I know couldn’t start working because they didn’t have their license. They had finished residency and they couldn’t work yet,” Dr. Ylitalo says.

  1. Cast a wide net and work your network

Working with a recruiter can give physicians a broad perspective and help them find positions that haven’t been posted yet.

“The physician should always lead the search and establish their needs,” Parker says. “Physicians and recruiters can work well together when they’re both honest.”

Dr. Morris looked online in the region he wanted to practice in and reached out by way of hospital advertisements to find his first job.

“Search for what you want and don’t settle for less, with an understanding you might have to pay some dues in the beginning,” Dr. Morris says.

Dr. Ylitalo found jobs through his specialty organization, American Urological Association, and through recruiting services’ newsletters he had signed up for to find the right fit.

“Be open and listen to as many offers as you can to understand what a good deal is for you,” Dr. Ylitalo says.

  1. Hire a health care attorney

Dr. Ylitalo and Dr. Morris used attorneys to assess their physician contracts.

A health care attorney can help ensure you’re getting the best deal by looking for sections that need clarification and negotiation. They can also help you see beyond salary.

Dr. Ylitalo says to look for the whole package to include things like loan repayment, relocation expenses and signing bonuses.

“When your compensation is going up five- or 10-fold from residency when you see that first contract, it’s very easy to sign on the dotted line without asking any questions or negotiating,” Dr. Morris says.

  1. Know your worth

Dr. Ylitalo used a Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) salary book to gauge average compensation in his specialty, work expectations and more. Clocking in at over $1,200 for non-members, books like these can be pricey, but Dr. Ylitalo says it’s worth it.

“It saved a lot, I made up for it in negotiating for my first job,” Dr. Ylitalo says.

Dr. Morris also suggests looking to specialty societies and word of mouth to find information about salary benchmarks and expectations.

“In my field of hospital medicine, there’s some very clear industry benchmarks, so I made negotiations and made it very clear I wasn’t going to accept anything less than the industry benchmark,” Dr. Morris says.

More reading

Physician employment: 6 steps to locking down your dream job

Tips for crafting the perfect CV: Advice for residents and physicians

‘You feel you’ve created something’: What it’s like running a private practice

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