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"Setting" an Income Level

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I am a new grad (soon, at least) gearing up to apply for my first job. I'm open to working in a variety of settings, but I've received some worrisome advice from a friend:


"Make sure you don't accept a job with a lower pay, not because you desperately need the extra income, but because you set the bar for income level at all future jobs."


How true is this advice with regards to the PA profession? I was told that prospective employers frequently call previous employers to find out their salary. And because of this, employers tend to "low ball" these applicants and view them as less deserving of a higher salary than others with previously higher incomes.


While I can see how this could be true for other professions with more flexible requirements and employment history, I'm wondering if this applies to PAs. I'm wondering especially with providers who switch from clinic to surgery or vice versa. This seems more apples to oranges than clinic to clinic or surgery to surgery, where the comparison might be clearer.


I'm curious what everyone thinks.

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Let me preface my response by saying that I absolutely want to see all PAs thrive in the current market and get due compensation for services rendered.

That said...new grads should be informed that you are negotiating from a place where you cannot expect to get top dollar when you don't have any experience to justify the premium salary.

I certainly don't suggest new grads take jobs that are below market value,however, the focus should be on finding the right niche to gain experience in a supportive clinical practice.

Very few PAs stay at their first job for extended periods so making the first job about experience should be the focus.

I've seen new grads turn down jobs over a few thousand dollars yet are willing to extend  the job search  ultimately discovering that the salary driven job search doesn't pay off in terms of gainful employment in the vast majority of cases.


Unless you work in a large institution with set salary ranges and make a transfer within the institution, potential employers do not base their salary offers on previous salaries of other employers.

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I am not aware that a previous employer is allowed to discuss your salary.

 Right! Employers can only verify employment and dates of employment when contacted about a previous employee from a legal standpoint. 

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I definitely agree with the advice of seeking a first job that will give me a broad range of experience as a PA. In fact, that is why I was curious about this issue in the first place. I have a high interest in both surgery and family practice. My friend had me convinced that taking a family practice job would ensure my future income never climbed to the level as my peers, even if we were in the same specialty.


I know not to expect "top dollar" because I am a new grad. I am humble enough to recognize the value of a seasoned provider over my mostly-theoretical knowledge. That said, several of my classmates have already applied for and accepted positions. A few of them will be starting >$100k. The state I'm in pays PAs very well, so I know this is probably not the norm nationwide. During my ortho unit, a new PA said, "Never accept less than 6-figures if you're a new grad in ortho surgery."


While income isn't everything, it does play a role in my decision, as I'm sure it does for most PAs. My main deciding factors are:


1. Will I be a good fit for the team?

2. Will this be a good learning opportunity with supportive staff?

3. Income/benefits/retirement/vacation/etc.


I was just wondering how much incomes varied between jobs, for those of you who have switched several times. (No need to share numbers, just discussion.) My friend says his current employer told him during the hiring process he had received his previous income information from his previous employer. I thought that was unethical or illegal, but he seems to think it is common practice. Perhaps this varies state-by-state? Or perhaps this varies amongst professions?


I'm open to thoughts and feedback.

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