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Side Gig or Side Hustle: The APP Career Growth

Being a healthcare provider is a full-time job. It starts in PA school when you are not “suppose” to work while in the program. Why? Because it is intense like drinking from a fire hose! Long hours in the classroom, endless studying and all those extra hours during clinical rotations. Nearing graduation, you have to find time to apply for jobs, interview, freshen up your CV and LinkedIn profile. Don’t forget about studying for the PANCE!

During NP school, the balancing act of work and graduate school suddenly magnifies any spare time you used to have. Finding out how to transition your career into a healthcare leader and prescriber is not an easy task. How will your handle those hospital/clinic relationships as you progress through the healthcare hiearchy?

Then, you start your first job. Talk about being green! Generally speaking, PA school does a great job preparing their students for the real world. But it turns out the real world is a convoluted mess! There are rarely textbook patient presentations and finding your spot in the ever-changing hierarchy of healthcare can be quite the challenge. It takes several years to begin to feel comfortable and become a proficient PA. After that, you made it! You have achieved your goal of becoming a PA-C and are making a difference in your patients’ lives! What else could you possible need in your career?

The Massive Raise

The raise you received after PA school, anywhere between $75,000 - $100,000, suddenly isn’t enough! It begins with staying late for a little overtime. Then you begin picking up weekend shifts once or twice per month. Before you realize there is a problem, your perfect 40/week job turned into 60 hour/week with evenings, weekends, on-call, holidays AND YOU ARE STRESSED! We told ourselves a 40 hour/week job making $130,000 per year would be all that we ever needed! Remember saying that to yourself? Why are we always looking for more?

PAs constantly strive to achieve the ideal work/life balance. Working hard, taking good care of patients and standing out among your peers is the goal. An hourly rate of $62.50 sounds pretty good. $62.50/hr x 40 hours/week x 52 weeks = $130,000 per year. Why would you need to work evenings, weekends, holidays or be on-call when the average PA salary is about $115,000? Oh that’s right…STUDENT LOANS! And, what about the $45,000 Jeep Wrangler you bought three months after graduation? Oh, and what about your condo payment of $2,000/month? Don’t forget about all the vacations put on your credit card(s). How much have you been trying to "fit in" with your new colleagues and workplace? Realistically, your income pays for your basics and loans, but NOT your lifestyle or savings!


Burnout begins to set in. Your life is now consumed by work. Patients have become annoying. Your boss now expects you to work harder and longer than your peers. The need to “get away” or make a big purchase because you “work too hard” and you “deserve it” becomes real. The cycle continues and you begin searching for non-clinical ways to make more money. Suddenly, your passion for healthcare dwindles and you question whether you made the right career choice. Many of your PA friends are considering a doctorate or already have one. You find those rapidly advancing in their health system have other advanced degrees (i.e., MBA, MHA, MPH), all of which require more money, and ultimately more STUDENT LOANS! The PA title change somehow makes you question your career even more. What about the Instagram influencers touting their ability to make smart financial choices? How much about any of these people do you really know? Since when do high-level professionals lean to a stranger on your phone screen for advice? How much do these toxic comments on Facebook get to you?

The Non-Clinical Search

You begin searching for ways to make more money without being stuck seeing patients any more than you have too. Social media platforms are telling you about the wonderful lifestyle you can achieve by starting a side gig/hustle. Here are some side gigs commonly discussed:

  • Botox/Filers

  • Pharmaceutical Speaker

  • Advisory Board Member

  • Freelance writing

  • Health coach

  • Real estate investing

  • YouTube channel

  • Stock day trading

  • eBay

  • Beekeeping

  • Selling baked goods

  • Photography

  • Cosmetics

  • Podcast

  • Drive for Uber/Lyft

The list goes on. A side gig should be more of a hobby that you enjoy bringing in extra income. It should not feel like work. Use your time to do what you love. Ideally, it turns into enough income to decrease the burden to pay for your expensive lifestyle. When it truly comes to making money, (referencing the list above) most of the side gigs result in less than the hourly rate of your PA jobs. But that’s ok! A fulfilling life does not necessarily equate to spending every waking hour on the clock and maximizing every opportunity to make money. Happiness is hard to put a value on...

The Switch

Going from being a PA 60 hours/week to 30 hours/week and doing something you enjoy 10 hours per week sounds great! No one ever said seeing patients wasn’t enjoyable. Rather, diversifying your time and income sounds more attractive. Imagine seeing patients 3 days per week and doing something you love 2 days per week and still making the same amount of money. What about making even more money? That’s the goal, whether we want to admit it or not...Finding ways to make more money that does not require working as a clinician 50-60 hours per week, evenings, holidays or weekends.

Making the switch isn’t easy for most. Your friends, family and colleagues question why you are stepping away from medicine. This can be hard to answer in the face of uncertainty and merely needing to back down from your current work load...Take the time to make a list of what matters most in your life. Prioritize your spending and create short, intermediate and long term personal and financial goals.

What Is Your Why

Before any major changes occur in your life, ask yourself this question, “Why am I doing this”? It sounds so simple. It is typically easy to come up with reasons for your decision making. But, be honest with yourself. Why do you want change?

  • Are truly burned out?

  • Do you work too much?

  • Do you just need a new job?

  • Did you actually choose the wrong career?

  • Can we blame COVID?

  • Do you need more career satisfaction?

  • Did you get yourself into too much debt?

To become an experienced practicing clinician, you have dedicated many years of your life. Don’t let burnout, COVID or debt take you away from your passion. Natural career progression changes our views on what is most important to us and how we want to spend our time. Do what makes you happy. AVOID COMPLACENCY! Find ways to spend your time that is not dreadful or stressful. At the end of the day, a job is a job. People often say, “Love your job and you will never have to work a day in your life”. While this has some truth, time away from you home and family is work. Your work can be enjoyable but still takes away from your personal time.

What Should You Do

Take some time to find out a little more about YOU. Does work make you stressed? Do you have a problem with spending? Are you able to make all your debt payments on time? What is most important to you?

  • Work?

  • Family?

  • Money?

Make a list of short-term, intermediate-term and long-term goals. Don’t jump ship on a whim when things are tough. It has definitely been a rough last 24+ months, but take the time to lay things out and plan. Do you plan to transition out of being a full-time clinician or just decrease the amount of hours worked per week? OR, do you truly enjoy practicing medicine and want to broaden/increase your career by taking on more work? Believe it or not, plenty of APPs fall into this category (I am one of them)!

Does your lifestyle personal/family plans match up with your transition? With a major life event in the near future (i.e., birth of child, marriage, moving, ect.), consider holding off on any major career changes. The last thing you want to happen is to regret the change before you have a chance to enjoy it.

Lastly, and arguable most importantly, are you in a financial place to make the transition? Secure, steady income can be hard to replace. Particularly when it comes at an hourly rate of $60-$80. You may have already found this out but good luck finding a “hobby” that pays the same as your PA/NP job. It is not impossible, however. Many professionals believe in the 10,000 rule. This means you have to work at something for 10,000 hours (40 hrs/week x 52 weeks x 5 years) until you can be viewed as an "expert" or merely just be a proficient clinician. Think about that for a minute. How many years have you been in practice? How many hours per week have you done your hobby or side gig?

The unique personalities and professional abilities of APPS combine to create tremendous financial opportunities! Understand yourself first and take the time to create a plan. Continue your journey by becoming the best version of yourself and establish a basis of financial education. After all, the reason you are considering a side hustle is because of money…

Financial literacy is the ability to make smart financial decisions to achieve the life you want. Colleagues, social media, friends and family have a way of influencing our decisions in life. But, they don’t know everything about us or the details of our personal financial situation or our individual goals. Before you make a transition that could either be the best or worst decision of your career, look deep at the personal, professional and financial aspects of your life. Only you can decide what is best!

Your Unique, Personalize Journey

Check out The PAs Guide to Financial Planning or the The NPs Guide to Financial Planning to use as a financial blueprint as you navigate through your career! These comprehensive guides cater to your career and how to get ahead financially. Save 10s to 100s of hours doing research, phone calls and meetings. For only $10, this is the best return on investment on the market!

POCN is a company designed specifically for PAs and NPs. POCN offers great educational and professional resources for PAs and NPs. Their Ambassador Program offers PAs and NPs unique opportunities for professional growth:

  • Unique Earning Opportunities: Ambassadors may earn an honoraria through a variety of initiatives

  • Be a Leader & Recognized Expert: Gain leverage and influence others with clinical and professional content

  • Improve Patient Outcomes: Help improve patient outcomes and elevate their practices

  • Support your Colleagues: Exclusive opportunities to access and contribute clinical research studies

Take this opportunity to consider and visual yourself growing as an individual and professional. Take control of your future today. Create a plan and never look back!

"Commitment does not have an exit plan."

Connect with Andrew Baker, PA-C, MBA in Indianapolis this weekend at the AAPA National Conference! In addition to being a full-time practicing PA in Dermatology, Andrew is the Owner/Operator of PA 4 Finance. He is also a speaker for a international genetics and prognostics company, Castle Biosciences. Later this year, Andrew will be incorporating "Aesthetics and Injectables" into his career model.



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