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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Choosing the Right Physician Assistant School

Choosing the Right Physician Assistant School
Updated: 08/08/2015
By December of 2012, there were 168 PA programs nationwide. At the update of this article, there are currently 196 ARC-PA accredited accredited programs listed in the PAEA program directory, 8 of which are on probation, and 22 currently in development.

It’s up to you to decide which program you will graduate from, but there are several characteristics you might use to help you decide between programs, especially when programs have so much similarity in what they offer.

I suggest you use the PAEA program directory as a guide to help you search for schools in your area or state. Some students have found that the most reliable way to search for programs was to go through the CASPA website directly, but not all programs participate in CASPA. They have a page of all participating programs, here. It includes the direct links to the individual program websites, each program's application deadline, and whether or not each program requires a supplemental application and the respective costs. Other students have used PAed.com because you can search by area and see a list of prerequisites before even going to the school website.

Where Do I Start?
-Narrow your schools down by where you wouldn’t mind living during and after PA school
-See what schools in those states/areas you meet admission criteria for
-Check out each program based on criteria below
-Visit programs, information sessions, talk with faculty and current or past students; see if they match with your expectations and standards
-Do your own homework (i.e. read more on their website) and narrow your result down further, consulting friends and family for advice where needed

Choosing your PA program fit isn’t meant to be a last minute ordeal. You should have done plenty of research to ensure you are applying to appropriate programs, otherwise you will just be wasting your money applying to schools you aren’t really interested in or don’t have a shot at admission to. Emphasis placed on saving money here! Please note that the information in the following categories is from the 29th Annual PAEA Report, which surveyed 171 PA programs during the 2012-2013 academic year.

Community Programs vs. University Associated Programs
The majority of PA programs are universities, whereas 4% are associate level colleges. 36.5% of programs surveyed by PAEA claim their sponsoring institution is an academic health center (AHC). 16.7% of programs claim to be associated with a medical center or medical school, while 4.8% are centered around a health professional school. If you attend a community PA program not associated with a medical school, chances are you will still get a fantastic education, but you probably won’t interact with medical/pharmacy/physical/occupational therapy students at all until clinical rotations. At major medical schools, where allied health programs exist, interaction among allied health students will probably be more prominent in classes like anatomy, physiology, or neuroscience and again in rotations. At other programs, namely the University of Iowa, integration of allied health students and PA students is provided in most courses. Students learn, study, and test together and are scored evenly against one another. It can be to your advantage to interact with these people because you’ll be working with people just like them in an everyday setting.   

Degree Requirements and Preprofessional Degree Programs:
According to the 29th PAEA annual report, 1.2% of PA programs offer associate level degrees, 2.9% (5 programs) offer certificates, 3.5% offer baccalaureate degrees, 92.4% offer master’s level degrees.

Since the year 2000, there has been a rapid shift toward master’s level degrees (from 43% to about 92%). As far as admission goes, 86.9% of master’s degree programs require at least a baccalaureate degree. 60% of associate’s degree programs do not require any degree for admission, while 78.3% of baccalaureate degree programs do not require a degree for admission. Only 10.9% of master’s degree programs do not require a degree for admission. A few examples of master’s programs that do not require bachelor’s degrees are Touro College’s Manhattan and Bay Shore PA programs, where they require 90 hours of credit in lieu of a degree. Drexel University, Texas Tech University, Pacific University Oregon, and the University of Oklahoma - Tulsa are other programs with similar requirements.

According to the report, 6 (2.8%) PA programs award both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree upon completion and are called preprofessional degree programs because they prepare you for a master’s level PA program. As of 08/08/2015, there are currently 43 PA programs like this, but I will only list a few. DeSales University has a 5 year bachelor’s to master’s degree option, but you must enter directly from high school. Seton Hill University offers a BS/MSPA with a bachelor of science in biology and a Master of Science in PA in 6 years. Rochester Institute of Technology offers a 5 year BS degree transitioning into a MS degree. Le Moyne College and University of Detroit Mercy (Michigan) offer students a 3+2 accelerated track leading to BS/MS. It is very common for current and past PA students to be confused about the purpose of these “5- or 6-year” PA programs. Many “traditional” PA students criticize these programs before they understand their role, so just be aware of that when asking students about them. It would be best to get advice or opinions from the program directors, faculty, or students of the program you are interested in. This is a huge decision to make early on (as early as high school), so I recommend trying to shadow a PA/physician/NP before deciding what route is best for you, or check out this article.

Certificate programs are also available as an option, as you are not required to obtain a master’s degree to become a certified physician assistant (PA-C) until 2020. The only current requirement is that you pass the PANCE. According to the report, 2.9% (5 programs) offer a certificate of completion. St. John’s University is one example of a PA program that offers a certificate program for people possessing a bachelor’s degree - this is a 2-year certificate program. Anne Arundel Community College is another program offering a 25 month certificate program. Unfortunately, certificate programs are being weeded out by the move to improve educational standards and more PAs and PA programs are choosing to deal away with them.

Online/Distance PA Programs:
Online (better named Distance) PA programs, are among the few and extremely competitive, requiring you to have lots of intense hands on experience prior to admission. Please read more about online, distance, and post-graduate online PA programs in this article, which may help clarify some of the newest information.
 
Research Based Program:
The current PAEA report did not include the percentage of programs offering research, but the last known percentage was around 30%, which is surprisingly less than I would imagine. While most master’s programs require some form of research as part of your master’s project, it may or may not be the research you might have done in undergraduate studies. Some PAs continue research after school with their supervising physician(s) and if this is something you’re interested in, you should seek opportunities to rotate with physicians who do research.

Gender, State, Veteran Bias:
If you’re suddenly feeling a bit overwhelmed by all of the female PA applicants out there, you’re not alone. On average, 71.9% of PA programs surveyed in 29th annual report were female, while 28.1% were male. Men are definitely outnumbered in this profession. These percentages don’t necessarily mean that programs are accepting more women than men, but rather, they reflect the population of people that are applying. This just simply means that more women apply to PA school than men. In my opinion, many programs embrace diversity and are looking to increase the percentage of male students in their programs.

Only 1 PA program is military based (IPAP) out of 171 programs surveyed, according to PAEA’s 29th annual survey. Rumor is that the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill will begin a PA program in 2015 for veteran medics.

A few programs have state bias, meaning they prefer students from their home state before accepting students from out of state. This has a lot to do with funding. States give schools funding in return for graduates that will return on their investment, i.e. add to the state workforce in primary care, etc. One such program I personally interviewed at that maintains state bias is the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Reputation and ARC-PA Accreditation:
So your program is old, or new? The advantages of newer programs are that they’re usually cheaper when they first open. Disadvantages are that you are a guinea pig and you have no idea what to expect from the program. Newer programs have no PANCE records and you will have to wait until testing time to figure out whether the odds were truly in your favor or not. Newer programs can also have new professors and faculty, new curriculum with constantly changing structure, problems finding good rotation sites, and have no alumni support. One important fact to be aware of is that as long as the new program has provisional accreditation status when you matriculate, you will still be able to take the PANCE at the end of your program, regardless of whether they are granted full accreditation or put on probation. From Figure 3b we notice that there have been 2 peaks of new program enrollment between 1970-73 and 1995-2000. Since 2009, it shows that we might be in the middle of yet another peak in new PA programs.  


Reputation can sometimes be more than just about being new, though. Sometimes accreditation can be lost for a number of reasons and it’s up to you to decide whether it is worth applying to programs that have lost accreditation and for what reasons they lost it. Currently, there are 8 out of 196 programs that are on accreditation-probation. “Probation is an active accreditation status and those entering a program that is on probation are entering a program that is ‘accredited.’ If the program remains on probation or is removed from probation and granted full accreditation by the time of your graduation, you would be graduating from an accredited program...in order to be eligible to take the PANCE, students must successfully complete a program that was accredited at the time the student matriculated.” (ARC-PA FAQ). This means that even while attending programs on probation, you can still sit for the PANCE. They can even lose their accreditation while you are in your program, just not before you matriculate. It can hurt your chances of gaining licensure and practice in some states. Many residency programs also require graduation from an accredited program.
 
If you want to know about when programs were first accredited, or when their next ARC-PA review is, check the ARC-PA website here. Otherwise, information about provisional, probationary, and accreditation status can be found on PAEA’s program directory.

Program Length:
According to the 29th annual report, the average length of PA programs is currently 26.4 months. The range was between 21-36 months in the 2012-2013 academic year. The average didactic phase length was 58.8 weeks and the average clinical phase length was 54.1 weeks. The mean total program length was 124.5 weeks (or 28.8 months), including holidays. There is no right or wrong answer to choosing an “appropriate” program length for yourself. There are several reasons you might choose a longer program over a shorter one: lack of clinical experience (maybe your program offers longer clinical rotations), you want to spread out your didactic education, you want more time off (holidays). Other folks might choose shorter programs simply to finish sooner or because they want to start a surgical residency, etc.

Full-time vs. Part Time:
Whether you’re looking for part time or full time PA programs, its helpful to know what your options are. There are currently still only 3 programs offering part time according to the PAEA program directory: Drexel University, Rutgers University, and the University of Detroit Mercy.

Program Start and End Months:
Most programs begin between the months of May and September, with 32% having start dates in August. The most common end months are May (24.8%), August (29.3%), and December (24.2%), which hasn’t changed much from the last report. The importance of these dates can have harboring effects on your family and moving situations if you are out of state applicants. For example, when I was accepted to a school in Boston that began in January, it would have been extremely difficult for me to travel there during late December/early January and move all of my stuff in the worst possible weather. This is something to consider before applying.

PA Program Budgets:
PA program expenses can be difficult to come by, especially at information sessions and interviews, but they are especially helpful in discerning what type of program you will be attending. For example, you might want to know what percent of the budget provides support for student travel for clinical training, if any. You might also want to know what percentage of the budget goes into your education (i.e. instructional equipment and technology).

Overall Program Cost:
The average resident tuition (in state) in 2013 was $61,489, while the average non-resident (out of state) tuition was $71,184. Incidental costs are total costs incurred by students during their PA programs and includes anything but tuition. This could be transportation, living, food, textbooks, diagnostic equipment, computers, etc. The average total incidental cost per student was $5,106.

Public vs. Private Programs:
Today, 62.5% of PA programs are private, while only 35.6% are public. The average resident tuition (in state) for public institutions was $38,794 and was $74,426 for private institutions. Non-resident (out of state) costs between public and private institutions do not vary greatly, with the average non resident tuition at $68,311 and resident tuition at $74,523. Incidental costs between public ($5,937) and private ($4,672) were about the same.

Student to Faculty Ratio and Class Size:
On average, in 2013, the student to faculty ratio was 17.8 for the 2010-2011 academic year. This is an important factor to consider in your decision for a PA program, as more 1-on-1 time will be available to you at your exposure if you have a lower SFR. This number was calculated by dividing the total number of enrollees by the total number of core faculty FTE.

In 2013, the average enrollment for first-year class size was 47 students. Make sure you choose an appropriately sized program. If a small class size is important to you, then don’t pick a school like the University of Texas Medical Branch that accepts around 90 applicants annually or the University of North Texas that accepts around 73 candidates per year. Programs like the University of Wisconsin La Crosse accepts around 19 candidates per year.

Faculty and Student Opinion:
In 2001, a survey of 95 PA faculty was conducted by Dr. Blessing and colleagues to assess factors important to school rankings. The 95 directors strongly agreed that faculty to student ratio was important. Other important factors included faculty educational level, faculty in clinical practice, length of faculty clinical experience, and teaching or publishing awards by faculty. One item opposed by faculty was the number of faculty in tenure tracks. Currently, approximately 20.9% of faculty are on a tenure track, while another 12.7% are already tenured. More than 71.1% of faculty members have a Master’s degree, whereas 22.1% have a doctoral degree (including MDs). A whopping 77.1% of faculty members are PAs.

49% of faculty performed clinical work in the 2012-2013 academic year at an average of 9.3 hours per week. Student opinion can mean a great deal to you, for newer and older programs alike. You may inquire about quality or availability of rotation sites, traffic, living costs, weather, faculty accessibility, program reputation, mentorship programs, study groups, student run clinics, cadaver labs, PANCE preparation, available scholarship funding, and the quality of assessment skills.

Health Care Experience (HCE) and Prerequisite Requirements:
In 2011, PA programs surveyed were asked select prerequisites from a list of common science courses. Physiology (91%), general chemistry (90%), anatomy (87%), microbiology (80%), and biology (70%), statistics (63%), organic chemistry (55%), biochemistry (39%), algebra/calculus (37%), and genetics (19%) were the most important. If you’re wondering at all what they are looking for, these courses might give you a hint. Additionally, some programs want all prerequisites completed by December 31st of the year you apply, others want them completed by the time you submit your CASPA, and even others allow you to have a few courses in progress. A few schools will interview you and accept you with contingency status - meaning you have conditional acceptance based on the grades you will submit for courses you have not yet finished.

In 2011, 46% of programs required applicants to have prior health care experience, while 14% did not require any. 40% “prefer,” but do not require applicants to have prior health care experience. Schools range from preferences of 0 to over 2000 hours of HCE. If you don’t have a ton to offer, you might seek programs that accept students with less direct HCE than others. In 2013, 94% of responding programs reported their students accrued patient contact experience and only 21.2% said they had accrued research experience.

If your GPA is less than a 3.0, have no fear! There are PA programs that accept students with GPAs less than 3.0. A helpful student named Matt recently put together a list of those schools, here. Some schools weigh heavily the last 45-60 credit hours, but it is useful to check with the programs you are applying to to see what their requirements are.

GRE/TOEFL Requirements:
There are currently 129 PA programs requiring the GRE for admission. 153 out of 196 PA programs accept international applicants. Scores for the GRE and TOEFL are used as indicators for success in PA school, although most programs do not weigh them too heavily and they are a small fraction of the admissions process. Generally, GRE scores above the 50 percentile are considered competitive for PA school. The fact is, if you struggle with this standardized test, what does that say to schools about your performance on the PANCE?

There really is not an advantage to programs that require these tests versus programs that do not. There are plenty of good and bad programs that require them and do not require them, so GRE and TOEFL requirements are not good indicators of good schools per se.  

Interview Requirements
Interviews may not be your thing. If not, have no fear. In 2011, only 95.2% of PA programs surveyed required interviews, which means there are 4.8% of programs that don’t require them.

Background Check and Mandatory Drug Testing
82.8% of programs require students to have a background check upon matriculation, while 78.7% require drug testing.

Graduation and Attrition Rate:
The average graduating class in 2013 had 41.5 (93.5%) graduates with 1.5 (3.4%) students withdrawn. 71% of 95 PA faculty surveyed in 2001 agreed that student attrition rate for the past 5 years should be accounted for in PA program rankings. While this data is available individually on a per annual basis, it has not been compiled as a composite value.

More male students withdraw (4.6%) than female students (2.9%). The most common reason for withdrawal in 2011 was academics (61%), followed by other personal reasons (27%), career change (9%), financial reasons (3%), and medical school (0%). Instead, it is at the will of individual programs to post their attrition rates on their websites or in information sessions. Some students have claimed that attrition rate is one of the highest components you should consider in what schools you apply to. A high attrition rate could be indicative of poor admissions standards or poor curriculum/faculty. In this article on PA Student Essentials, I write about transparency from PA programs about attrition.

Program Rigor, Curriculum, and Failure Policy:
Program rigor can be determined by a variety of factors, so there isn’t a direct answer to this component. Exam difficulty, study time, comprehensive testing, PANCE preparation, PANCE pass rates are all components you might consider part of program rigor. You could start by asking students in the program about their experiences with each of these and draw your own comparisons. You want a program that isn’t terribly difficult to get through, so that you’re not miserable, but you want it to be challenging enough to ensure you’ll pass your PANCE. Everyone will have a unique experience in PA school because it all depends on your background in your prerequisites.

Curriculum is an entirely other ballpark. Although it can contribute to program rigor, this is where you might variation between programs. For example, some programs lack pathophysiology, however, this can sometimes be integrated into other coursework like clinical medicine. In essence, you’ll want to focus less on what subject matter is taught and instead on how it is taught. Names might be interchanged between programs, but accredited programs will teach the same subjects to get you to pass your PANCE. According to ARC-PA’s accreditation standards (page 13), programs are directed to teach specific topics, but are free to structure them how they see fit.

Some programs emphasize “self directed learning.” If you don’t know what this is, it is essentially student directed learning. Traditional students learn using PowerPoints and lectures. Other programs teach using “organ” based learning or “system” based learning, collaborative or “team” based learning, traditional or “case” based learning, “asynchronous” learning, or “problem” based learning. For example, in system based learning, you learn everything you need to know about each system and then move on (e.g. cardio, ob/gyn, etc.) There are many methodologies for teaching available, even some I have not listed, but finding the right learning style for you matters significantly.

Failure policies can vary from program to program. It is best to check with your individual programs on what the policies are. Some are more strict than others. For example, some programs require you to make grades of 85 and above on every exam. If you do not, it is considered failing, and you might be allowed to fail one exam the entire program before you are put on probation or asked to withdraw from the program. Other programs curve grades based on class averages and some throw out bad questions when students perform poorly on them.  
Program Emphasis and Values:
Whether you attend a primary care or a surgical focused PA program, you will never need further certification to practice in any specialty you wish. Say you attended a primary care program, but now you decide you want to become a surgical PA. You can either find a supervising physician willing to train you, or elect to attend a surgical residency (although not necessary) or fellowship. There are a few surgical focused PA programs out there including the University of Alabama in Birmingham and Cornell University in New York. The idea is that you still take the same board exam as every other PA (the PANCE), but you come out of PA school more equipped for surgery (by having more specialty training in surgical rotations). Some programs may place emphasis on integrative medicine, such as Duke University. In the Integrative Medicine Unit, practitioners at Duke share information about their specialty, types of patients to refer, services offered, etc. from specialties like accupressure, accupuncture, ayurveda, and massage. The University of North Texas in Fort Worth, Texas, is known for its osteopathic or alternative medicine emphasis. The University of Colorado - Denver has long been known for its focus in pediatrics. Other unique programs, like Marywood University allow you to specialize  in your clinical year in either emergency medicine, orthopedics/sports medicine, pediatrics, hospitalist, or general surgery. While most programs will place emphasis in primary care or underserved areas, it will be up to you to decide what program emphasis is best for your needs. Keep in mind that primary care and underserved areas doesn’t necessarily mean practicing in rural areas. You can practice primary care for an underserved population in a metropolitan area. However, if primary care is what you are looking for, schools like the University of Nebraska with a 12 week primary care rotation might be what you want.  

The values of each school may also vary and you’ll want to ensure that these align with your values and goals in life. If they aren’t a match, it could potentially be problematic later on down the road. Read over the program's website and get a feel for the school. Read their mission statement and decide if the program is a right “fit” for you. The only way to tell if a program is the right one is to put in the work yourself and do the research. When you go to information sessions, take notes. Jot down things admissions personnel say and take it home with you and look it over. If you have second thoughts about a school, then don’t submit your supplemental applications or withdraw your application completely.

Quality of Clinical Skills:
Clinical skills can vary from program to program. This is definitely something you’ll want to consider in each program. When you graduate, your supervising physician will teach you what you need to know specific to his or her specialty, but other skills you may be expected to know. Common clinical skills taught at programs (not all) are suturing, physical exam skills, intubation, chest tubes, IV insertion, ACLS, simple codes, PALS, splinting, wound care, joint injections, phlebotomy, casting, biopsies, lumbar punctures, and ultrasound imaging.

Prosection vs. Dissection Cadaver Labs
Prosection refers to cadavers that have previously been dissected by another individual. This is usually a professor, a medical student, an allied health student, or an upper class PA student. Full dissection cadaver labs are sometimes offered where you are the primary investigator and are allowed to dissect the cadaver yourself or in a team. Other programs won’t offer either. Instead, some programs offer technological resources, such as computerized cadavers that you view along a glass computer screen or anatomy courses online. Programs with full dissection have been scrutinized for “wasting valuable time” because of the time it takes PA students to perform such dissections. However, many students find full dissections very useful and often perform better on anatomy exams. Prosection may provide more time in PA school for other learning, but it might not give you the spatial relationships you need for anatomical organs. Most PA students say that this factor was definitely one of the “deal breaking” components when choosing a school.   

Location, Resources, and Facilities:
Location can be difficult to decide between as there are lots of factors to consider. Do you want to live close to home? Do you like large metropolitan areas or small towns? Do you want to attend a program close to a medical school or lots of health centers? Would you need to commute to school? Do you have a strong family or support base nearby? Is the program in a state you would be willing to work in after graduation? After considering many of these questions, you might find that other characteristics of school weigh heavier than these. This is because the quality of a PA program should weigh much more than the location. Regardless of the location or any other excuse you can come up with, the quality of the program defines what type of graduate you will become afterward. Subsequently, what type of employer will hire you afterward depends on where you go to school. Choose a quality PA program over the location, please. Do yourself the favor. Several PAs have made this decision and have even moved their families over 2,000 miles across the country to do so.

Resources and facilities should be taken on a case by case basis. You should make your own assessments of the quality and quantity of libraries, guest lecturers, study rooms, recording technology, dummies, cadaver labs, simulation labs, student run clinics, lecture halls, simulated encounters with actors, nearby food courts, gyms and any other resources you see conducive to learning. You should also consider your access to those resources and what times they offer (e.g. 7 AM - 11 PM).

Availability and Location of Clinicals and/or Preceptorships:
Personally, I think the quality of the rotations is a huge aspect of choosing your program, but admissions won’t come right out and say their rotation sites aren’t very good. You’ll have to dig deeper and ask students (lots of them) to get a good feel for how they really are. You might want to ask questions like, are lots of the clinical sites located far from campus? Are you required to relocate for clinical rotations? Are you required to set up any of your own rotations? Does the program offer short term housing options? Most clinical rotations last between 4-8 weeks each, and some programs offer elective rotations where you have the option to choose where you want to go. You might also want to know about the quality of these rotations and if your school has a database containing surveys from prior students about each one. These types of tips can be very helpful in choosing a program as many PAs say that the quality of rotation sites is key to jobs.

Some programs claim to end clinical rotations with a preceptorship. Preceptorships are essentially just extended rotations. For example, you might do 6 5-week rotations followed by 2 12-week rotations (preceptorship). Other programs might have you start with a four month family practice preceptorship, followed by one month rotations in other areas.

Dress Code & Attendance Requirements:
Some programs require a dress code while others do not. This can range from business casual, white coat, scrubs, “casual wear,” to no requirement at all. Some students at programs where there is no dress code requirement at all complain that some students wear clothing that is highly inappropriate for school, especially graduate education. Most programs advise against athletic wear, flip flops, and pajamas. If comfort at school is important to you, this is something you might consider looking into.

While most medical schools don’t make a fuss about attendance, almost all PA programs require attendance in lecture and laboratory. The majority of programs hold class Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, but reports of class outside this time are not uncommon.

PANCE Pass Rates & Program National Ranking:
In a study conducted by Dr. Blessing on 95 PA faculty in the year 2001, 86% believed the overall PANCE pass rate was significant for program rankings, while 84% believed the 5-year average PANCE pass rate was important. While a score of 350 out of 800 on the PANCE exam is required to pass, most students won’t score above a 700. First time PANCE pass rates are probably more important than 5-year or overall averages, because anything could have happened in the last 5 years, 10, or 15 years, including change of directors or faculty, etc. Additionally, each year is dependent upon the quality of the students matriculating, so scores can vary. PANCE rates are ultimately what determine if you become a PA, so weigh these pretty heavily in your list.

Program national rankings by U.S. News & World Report can be found online, here, although they are conducted periodically and the last one available is from 2015. Their methodology is also highly debated and has been criticized by many PAs and programs as not being a good indicator for program success. Also, USN&WR only surveys master level programs and some of the best programs might offer certificate, associate, or bachelor level degrees.  Other people, such as Rhee et al. have proposed new methods for ranking PA programs.  

Overall, be careful in choosing a school and listen closely as you attend information sessions or interviews. Take time to get to know yourself before applying, visiting, and interviewing. The closest school, the cheapest, or the easiest route may not be the best fit for you. There is no number of PA schools you should shoot for, although cost will end up limiting you in the end.

My stats: Ultimately, I applied for about 15 by end of July and I received interviews for about 12 of them by December. Two of which I never finished my supplemental applications and didn’t submit transcripts to 1 because of program costs. Of the 12 I received interviews at, I only attended 4 interviews and I was accepted at 3 and waitlisted at 1.

Read this article to help determine whether you are a PA competitive applicant or not. Best of luck applying!
Sources:
An Investigation of Potential Criteria for Ranking PA Programs (Blessing et al., 2001)
Predictive Modeling the Physician Assistant Supply: 2010-2025 (Hooker et al., 2011)
A Novel Approach to Ranking Physician Assistant Programs (Rhee et al., 2010)
27th PAEA Annual Report, 2010-2011 (Physician Assistant Education Association) http://www.paeaonline.org/index.php?ht=a/GetDocumentAction/i/149930

145 comments:

  1. I'm jumping the gun a bit on this question, I've already been accepted to a program, but I've also been holding out hope for an acceptance at a different school. However, I just found out that they are now on probation. I know I could sit the PANCE if I attend the program on probation and they lose their accreditation, however I've looked at pa job listings before and many of them list graduate of an accredited program along with PANCE, state license, etc. If that were to happen does that mean there would be jobs I wouldn't even qualify for bc the program wasn't accredited when I graduated?

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    1. Personally, being accepted to a PA program (whether on probation or not) is a huge deal. There are thousands of students that do not get even one acceptance, or interview for that matter, every year. I would applaud yourself for getting accepted! Don't think just because a program is on probation that it means you won't pass your PANCE or won't get a job. Clearly, people before you have completed the program and are out in the workforce somehow. Think about this - why did you choose PA school in the first place? To be competitive? To become a PA? To save on time and money? Obviously those are not good reasons to become a PA, but they are considerations. If waiting another year to apply next cycle is what you wish to do - it almost seems counterproductive to apply to PA school again, when you could almost have just applied to medical school and been done with first 4 years around the same time. If it were me, I would be eager to begin and ready for any challenges that come your way. Accreditation is dependent on the students and faculty and I'm sure those faculty are doing everything possible to regain their full accreditation! Think about what it would mean if they lost it completely - they'd lose their jobs and the program would cease = no $$! I highly doubt that would happen.

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  2. Amazing resourceful blog post, THANK YOU! I would like your advice on a situation. I already have a Masters of Medical Science degree with an extensive medical background and great health care experience. I only am considering two PA programs seriously. The problem is one offers a Masters in PA Studies degree (a very reputable state university) versus a certificate/associate degree PA program (Stanford). How relevant is the level of degree? I know the certificate programs are getting weeded out however would it benefit me to go to the state school for the MS degree? Since I already have MMS degree will it matter? Will more specialized options only want a Masters of PA Studies degree?

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    1. I would say that the level of the degree at this point in time should be considered. About 10 years ago, this probably was not the case. As we move forward into the future, more programs will be moving toward the masters degree, and I believe more employers will be requiring them. Much like you see employers primarily hiring nurses with their BSNs instead of their ADN/ASN/LVNs, I believe this will be the same concept for PAs in the future. Even though you will only need to be nationally and state certified to practice as a PA, I still believe that employers will want their practitioners to have the elevated level of education on paper. It's literally always about what is on paper, unfortunately, instead of what you know.

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    2. Sorry, I completely did not address your MMS degree. I think that even though you have the MMS degree, they will still want to see a degree in MPAS. I'm not sure what "more specialized" options means, but if you are referring to things like surgery, etc. I don't think there is a difference in what employers look for there.

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    3. Thanks for your insight and advice, I appreciate it! Especially on my MMS and the MPAS perspective. For more specialized, I did mean cardiothoracic surg, neuro surg, etc. Thanks again. I appreciate it!

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  3. I'll be graduating high school in June of 2015, and I've applied to 12 PA schools this week. I have the required gpa, sat scores, and a decent amount of community service. My biggest concern is that I'll get accepted to the school but they won't have enough seats for the program or I won't get accepted into the program. I've looked into every school, but I need some guidance with this :(

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    Replies
    1. I hope you also have some shadowing or health care experience to go along with that as well ;)

      According to PAEA, if you applied to 12 programs, you have about a 50% chance of acceptance. I think you should spend less time worrying about getting accepted and more time focusing on why you want to go to each program specifically and figure out if each one really is a good fit for you. Learn more about each city - the climate, the people, things to do. See if you would enjoy living there. PA school isn't always about PANCE scores and rankings.

      Delete
    2. How is it possible to apply to a PA program, a Master's program, with a high school education? Just curious.

      Delete
    3. Hi Nicole85,

      What you are referring to are "preprofessional programs" that have bachelor-degrees built into the curriculum. So you apply to them as a high school student, obtaining both your bachelor + masters degree in PA studies.

      Delete
    4. Awesome post. Can i ask you questions about applying to some of the schools you mentioned that earn a bs+ms? Im a veteran so im not out of high school, and i have around 70 credits, most pre reqs completed, at a community college, are they more than likely to xfer?

      Delete
    5. Unfortunately the bachelors + masters (dual 'pre-professional' programs) are only offered to high school students. I'm not sure why that is - I don't make the rules. It sounds like you have the pre requisites and I'm not sure if they'd transfer. You'd have to check with the PA programs you're looking to apply to. If I were you I would look at bachelor's PA programs for now - see which ones you qualify for and go from there. Do you have any healthcare experience? Any volunteering, community service, shadowing of a PA? Recommendation letters?

      Delete
  4. Thanks so much for posting this helpful information. This post has helped me tremendously with navigating where to apply for PA school.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hello, I just had a question about which bachelor's degree would be the best path into PA school. I just switched from a Molecular Biology degree to Nursing; I did this as a fall back plan in case I don't get accepted into PA school as well as experience to put down for applying to PA school. I am a junior in college now and need one semester of classes before getting accepted into the nursing program. Do you think getting a degree in Nursing is a bad decision? Would a PA program look down on a nursing degree since the structures of education/training are different? Or should I just switch back to Molecular Biology? Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would not say that getting a nursing degree is a bad decision. I think it would help in PA school or even in NP school, if you ever chose to go that route. One thing to be aware of is when you apply to PA schools with a nursing degree, during your interviews and your essays, be prepared to talk about why you didn't choose to become a nurse practitioner and why you want to be a PA instead. Meaning - you need to know the difference between the two. I have a blog post on here comparing them. You shouldn't switch back and forth between majors. Sticking with nursing is fine. There are tons of biology majors that apply to PA school and honestly, you might have a better shot with the nursing degree because it is different. Uniqueness is a good thing!

      Delete
  6. Thanks for the informative post! I will be taking a course called "Anatomy and Physiology for Health Science" I an II (over 2 semesters for a total of 8 credits). The lectures are in-person with the professor, but all the lab exercises (e.g. dissections) are performed online. Do you think this will be acceptable for most programs? My transcript does not mention anything about the online component and the websites of programs do not specify whether online labs matter. Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. I think that most programs (albeit - it was the programs I applied to) require the labs to be in-person. I would double check with the programs you apply to because even though it may not specify on the transcript, they may inquire about it or know about the course already (knowing that it has an online lab component) and not accept it. Better to be safe than sorry!

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  7. Great blog post, thank you! I would love to get an opinion on my specific situation. I applied to 4 schools, got interviews at 3, on the wait list at one, and have been accepted to another. The school I've been accepted to is one of the most expensive schools in one of the most expensive places to live. It is also a three year program. My question/concern is in regards to the debt I will accrue at this school.

    I want to know if it's worth it to attend a really expensive school now, OR if it's more advisable to wait a year to attend a cheaper two-year program. Waiting a year to attend a cheaper two-year program would mean that I would be graduating roughly the same time as I would if I attend the school that I was just accepted to.

    Also, does the reputation of the school have any impact on the future salary?

    Please comment and offer your words of wisdom!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Anonymous,

      That's a really tough question to answer. There are lots of factors involved and I think the route chosen truly depends on the person. Things you should consider: 1) if you choose to wait to reapply for the cheaper two-year program, what would you be doing in your year off? Would that experience or schooling really benefit your career in any way than it already has? 2) consider your wages during that year off (consider this a loss of wages as a practicing PA). Is it worth it? Will you benefit enough from the going to the cheaper program? 3) I have gone to a very inexpensive school, but I also have realized that no matter what school you go to, you will always have debt. I have applied for scholarships and I want you to know that there is always a way to pay back any amount of debt you may have in scholarships, grants, or a loan-repayment program. At the end of the day, cost should not be the barrier holding you back from entering a program. 4) Are you for sure that if you reapply, you will get into this 2-year program? If not, you will only be putting yourself back further. Is it worth the risk?

      Lastly, I want to remark on your question about the reputation of the school. Your future salary cannot be determined by what school you went to. Your salary will be determined by your experience. As a new grad, you won't have any experience, so you will be offered a similar salary to other new grad PAs. In other words, it does not matter where you get you get your education, as long as you get your PA-C, we are all equal. Some employers may recognize specific programs because they are well acquainted with their students, but that tends to only happen with the hospitals surrounding the schools themselves. Don't worry about that right now, though, you'll definitely find a job after your program!

      Delete
  8. excellent blog, can i have your opinion on my situation? i have been accepted to a school as a direct entry freshman pa program with a guaranteed graduate position as long as i maintain a certain grade point average. i also have been accepted to another good school but they don't have a direct entry option. I'm torn!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Again, it is not really my place to make decisions for anyone. If advice is what you want, you really need to consider both programs. What are the pros and cons of each - location, support system, overall cost by the time you finish each program, which school would you be most comfortable at and fit in best at? Asking yourself questions like this will help you narrow your search. You also have to consider the fact that the direct entry option bears a lot of weight. PA programs are extremely competitive to apply to once you complete a bachelor's degree. You can ask any current applicant and they'll tell you, the direct entry option is very appealing. You just need to make sure that you won't change your mind about going PA during your time in the undergrad program. Since I take it you are still young, you should also consider that some students do end up changing their mind during college about their career choice. Just make sure all of the stones are in place and the rest will fall in place accordingly.

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  9. Does anyone know of a program who will not necessarily hold your hand through the program but will provide full support if you struggle? I've heard of sink or swim programs so I'd like to get some feedback on what you guys think

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  10. Has anyone seen any statistics regarding overall percentage rate of being accepted to PA school? I have heard it is only 6%. Maybe easier to get into medical school? What are the best resources to gain information regarding if school has preference for in state students or number of applicants for # slots per year?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. http://doseofpa.blogspot.com/2014/12/am-i-competitive-physician-assistant-pa.html
      See the "applicants and applications" graph. It is around 6% per year. I would not say it is "easier" to get into medical school. If you are applying to post-baccalaureate education programs for that reason, you probably shouldn't be applying to them. You really need to decide whether you want to be a PA, MD/DO, nurse, etc. and why before you apply. They are all very different and admissions committees will know if you are not dedicated to the profession you choose.

      The best resource for gaining information about each individual school's preference for in state students is to contact the program directly. That information is not published anywhere. There are currently 3.4 applicants per seat. See the above article and sources for more information.

      Delete
  11. Hey! This is INCREDIBLY informative. Thank you so much! Right now, I'm in an A.A Pathway to Physician Assistant Studies (I;m in my second semester) and I'm worried about where to go for my Bachelor's. :/ I've been researching it for a WHILE and I just can't come to a decision. I feel pretty limited because I don't want to go too far from home (I'm actually hoping to stay in the same time zone lol) What do I do?

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    Replies
    1. Well, I have no idea where you live, so I wouldn't even know where to begin. I would probably start by using the PAEA program directory and go from there. At least you can sort it by state. I'm assuming you are talking about bachelor level PA programs, correct? Or were you talking about bachelor degrees in general? If so, I have no idea about schools outside the PA school world.

      Delete
    2. I know that there aren't many PA programs in the Bachelor level. (I live in Florida, by the way) I wanted to major in Biology (pretty cliche for someone going into the medical field, but I don't know if going into any other major would lead me in the right direction) My problem is that I don't really know where to go. I want to go to a good school (especially if I'm paying A LOT to attend) but I didn't really find much. :s

      Delete
    3. Why not Miami Dade College or South University - Tampa? Out of the two I would probably choose Miami Dade College. Neither of them require you to have a bachelors degree for entry, only pre-requisite coursework completed. You should check both of their websites out. If choosing where to go to school is a tough decision for you, then maybe PA school isn't the right route for you. In medicine,you will have to make many tough decisions for yourself, and you need to be able to think quickly and without hesitancy. I'm not trying to discourage you from pursuing PA; quite the contrary, rather. I want to encourage you to perform your own research on PA programs like I did and to make a venn diagram comparing the programs in Florida and make a decision on what school best fits your needs. You don't have to major in biology to go to PA school. You don't have to choose a science major at all! You just have to complete the science pre-requisites for the program you want to apply to. You can major in theatre if you wanted to as long as you completed the pre-requisites and performed well in them. It doesn't matter where you go to school. You could go to community college. People get into PA school after going to community college and university's alike. Point being - it doesn't matter. Choose your own route. There is not only one single path. The cheapest route? I don't know where that may be and you'll have to do that research on your own. Just know that you have many options available to you and if pursuing PA is really what you want to do - then never give up!

      Best of luck to you.

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    4. Thank you Paul :)

      Delete
  12. I live in Lancaster, California. I would love to go for PA programs in California that are Associate Degree level or Bachelors Degree level that do not have any degree requirement.

    Could you possibly name a few schools in CA that have such PA programs?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Brice,


      I would start with the PAEA program directory. http://directory.paeaonline.org

      You can sort using those criteria yourself and look at several other characteristics of the programs. It is a very useful tool! Good luck!

      Delete
    2. Thank you so much. I truly appreciate it

      Delete
  13. Hello Paul!
    This was very helpful! Thanks for all the hints!
    I have one question perhaps you can help me with it. I'm having trouble drafting my personal statement. What do you think I should focus on while talking about myself? Thank you for the help!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi anonymous,

      Let me redirect your attention to another blog post: http://doseofpa.blogspot.com/2014/02/caspa-personal-narrative-tips.html

      I know it may be difficult to navigate the blog and I apologize for that.

      Delete
  14. I am fortunate to have an offer from a very highly ranked program, and another from a moderately ranked program that is significantly cheaper and has been around about 15 years. Would you disregard cost and go with the more reputable program (are there enough advantages to top-ranked programs to justify the additional debt?), or make minimizing debt top priority as long as the end result is the PA-C? Also, how important is it that a school be affiliated with a medical center?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi anonymous,

      I guess it really just depends on the program and other factors involved. I was placed in a similar situation. You really need to consider other things like cost of living, in addition to tuition costs. Your support system - how close will your family and friends be from the more reputable program? Is it out of state vs. in-state tuition? How much of a difference in debt are we talking? Are there significant differences in teaching methods, PANCE preparation, PANCE scores, quality of faculty, or quality of rotation sites?

      These are important things to consider. It's not that it is important that the school be affiliated with a medical center, but in my personal opinion, it helps. It makes it easier for your program to find more clinical rotation opportunities if any others fallout or for any reason a preceptor cannot fulfill their duties one rotation, etc. Being in a medical center here at UT Southwestern, we are surrounded by several major hospitals and 2 new hospitals were built recently. One just opened and the other opens later this year. The enormity of possibilities for rotations has opened new windows for opportunity I never thought we would have and now our program will continue to grow.

      Delete
  15. So, I've been accepted to a PA program about 7 hours away from where I live. This program is amazing, stable, experienced, and has High PANCE scores every years (above nat. Average).
    Problem is, I am waiting still to hear back from a program I interviewed with that is in the same city as me.. It's a newer program, 3 years old. Although campus has a lot of experience training physicians, it may have kinks in their PA program not yet worked out.

    I am torn between the better out of town PA program, and the possible slightly worse, newer program in town. I have lived in this city for 20 years, all of my family and friends live here, I know it will be significantly difficult for me to leave my support group behind.

    Cost is negligible (about 10k diff) . Honestly the newer school has a better facility and a lot of new age technology to boot. The city I would possible be moving to is around the same size. I guess I've just had my heart on not moving, I literally live five minutes form the program in my city, with a great roommate who is currently in med school at the same University, so we have similar lifestyles and study habits. The rotations are probably better and more established at the away program.

    To put it this way, if both of these programs were in the same city, I would probably lean to the program that's 7 hours away, simply because they've been training PA students for 40 years, not 2 years in comparison.

    What I keep ruminating over is that although the further school may be a better program, I will probably be less comfortable and possibly more lonely, not allowing me to give 110%.

    Has anyone that has moved out of state, leaving everyone behind for PA school weigh in and tell me their experience? If I get into both schools how do I decide what to do!? I know I'm lucky to be put in this dilemma, but hearing other people's opinions and experiences would really help me out..

    ReplyDelete
  16. I attended dental school for one year. It was a miserable, expensive mistake. I had difficulty in one class, biochemistry, and they required that I repeat the entire year. Already $150,000 in debt, I chose to leave. I still strongly desire a career in medicine, so I am wondering if I should mention my dental school experience or just leave it out when I apply to PA school?
    Also do you know any PA schools where biochemistry is not a requirement? Obviously, I am apprehensive about failure and accumulating more debt. I am willing to travel anywhere.
    Thank you for you so much for your assistance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think being a dental school applicant may have pros and cons. Pros - you are well prepared for a science intensive graduate level masters program. Cons - you have proven that you give up when presented with a difficult situation. I am not sure if any PA school has biochemistry as a requirement? In my program we do not take biochemistry as a course - but biochemistry is integrated throughout several of our other courses. It is a fundamental aspect of understanding medical knowledge and you need to be able to communicate with your peers if you are going to be in the profession.

      As for your application - I would put your experience in dental school in your application if you think you can somehow talk about how you would have changed that experience or made that experience better. What would you have done so that you would have passed biochemistry and come out on top? The reality is that you will be presented with many difficult situations in medicine and you cannot just drop what you are doing because it is difficult to understand or too much to handle. You have to figure out how you would handle a situation like that and I cannot help you figure out what you would do in that situation - that has to come from within.

      Just be aware that in your interview they are going to ask you about your past experience and history and what you did prior to applying - what are you going to say? You should really consider this before writing your essay. Do you have healthcare experience now? Hands on health care experience not related to dental care? You will need hours accrued before you apply.

      Delete
  17. Have you looked into the length of time prereq classes are acceptable and can you comment on if there are any schools you know of that don't have an expiration date? I have a master's degree but even my science classes from my masters are nearly ten years old.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is generally the policy: It is strongly recommended that all prerequisite science courses have been taken within the last 10 years, especially for those applicants who have only been in clinical practice for a short time. For non‐science prerequisite courses, there is no time limit.

      This is the case with many PA programs. I'm not sure of PA programs without an expiration date. I would search the physicianassistantforum.com. Best of luck!

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  18. Hello Paul,

    Thank you so much for your insights and a well-written article. Similar to my peers, I too wish to pick your brains for a moment. I attended medical school and successfully completed the first two basic sciences years. But, unfortunately, I failed USMLE Step 1 three times and was dismissed from the medical school. After that moment, I thought that I should shift my focus from medicine to business. So, I attended an accredited graduate school and attained an MBA degree. However, since receiving my MBA degree, I have realized that my true calling is in the medical field. I have been exploring becoming a PA. I'm becoming increasingly interested in this field of medicine the more that I read about it. So, now my question to you is... how attractive of an applicant do you think I would seem to PA school admissions committees? Would the fact that I was dismissed from medical school be a huge negative point that is just too difficult to overcome on my applications?

    Thank you so much in advance for reading and providing any valuable advice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In my honest opinion - yes. If there is one thing that any PA program director or admissions committee ever talks about not liking, it is medical school "rejects," and I only use that term because that is what they are calling people who get denied entrance to medical school; not really what happened in your case. I'm sure they would see similarities, though. Truthfully, I think your odds are slim. You really would have to have some solid healthcare experience (2000+ hours) of hands on experience and shadow physician assistants and have some outstanding recommendation letters detailing the fact that you were interested in becoming a physician, but for reason "x, y, and z" you now have decided that the PA route is the best one for you. You also need to relay this message in your application. I really think that is the only way you could ever get admitted anywhere. I don't want to say "no," I just want to give you my honest opinion so that you don't walk away with high hopes.

      Best of luck!

      Delete
  19. Hi Paul,

    I was wondering if you could speak to your experience, if applicable, choosing between multiple Texas programs and how you decided on UTSW versus other programs. I have been fortunate to receive offers from several Texas programs and am finding it difficult to choose. I am, however, leaning towards UTSW. Any insight would help!

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    1. Wow, that is a very difficult question to answer. Mainly because it's hard to answer without making one PA program shine and all of the others look bad. How about I just say a few things about the program I did choose?
      - Excellent rotation sites: when I was looking into UTSW it was building 2 new major hospitals within walking distance of its university (william P. clements and parkland memorial hospital). Those hospitals are now complete and are some of the largest in the area, they are state of the art facilities, and will offer many new rotation sites for our program allowing it to grow in number. In addition, our program phases out bad rotations if they find any not up to high standards (which does occasionally happen) and they find new rotations for students if that does happen. Some programs require you to find your own rotations. Many of our rotations are within the DFW area, requiring less travel. When you do have to travel out of city, many students before you often have apartments in those areas that you can rent from them. You have the option for international rotation and the school will pay 50%.
      Outstanding faculty - our school, including our program, have some of the most incredibly intelligent faculty you'll find anywhere. They are specialists that are most sought after in their field of study and authors of textbooks, etc. Our school is known for having the most Nobel prize winners than any other school in Texas. http://www.utsouthwestern.edu/education/medical-school/about-the-school/nobel-winners.html
      We are a school founded on research and innovation and if that is your thing, you most definitely want to find yourself here. Everything we learn here is the most current and innovative information available and that's what I love about the people here - they are so enthusiastic about what they teach. Additionally, our program has people like Dr. Jones, who used to be the PAEA editor and has been with ARC-PA as an auditor of PA programs. Other faculty have done the same and our program knows exactly what ARC-PA looks for in a program and it makes me confident that we will pass any type of accreditation standard we are examined with and that we always know our program is doing exactly what we should be. We even have people come in and look at our program materials from time to time to make sure everything we are learning/being taught is correct and up to standard with ARC-PA's rules. They are really on top of things here.
      -PANCE scores: we are 1 of maybe 5 programs that have 100% first time pass rate for the last 6 years. Not many programs can say that and it takes a lot of hard work to make a program that good. I am confident that what my program teaches me and the methods they use will prepare me for the PANCE and for the real world.
      -Reputation: not every program around here has this. Our program has one of the best reputations in Texas and the surrounding states. People love the PAs who come from our program and we are always told that when our students get into clinic or hospitals that they are above average and quality compared to other PAs or medical students.

      Delete
    2. Program length: the program length and start date for me was an issue. Other programs started later in the year and it didn't align well with moving, etc. I also had to consider my significant other's job, etc. The program length was perfect - 15 months didactic and 15 months of clinical rotations. I honestly don't think at this point I could handle taking this program any faster than it's going now. Looking back at my 2 year options - no way. The 3 year programs I could have done, but I might have been miserable knowing that I had more didactic education or half a semester longer in clinicals. I think by 30 months, I will be so tired of school, I will be ready for the real world.
      Tuition; this was the BEST deal you can find anywhere. The value of the education for the price. You won't find it anywhere. To be honest, what most currently practicing PAs told me was that it doesn't matter where you go, just find a school that you are confident will get you past the PANCE with the least amount of debt and that's exactly what I did! I could not imagine going to a school twice or even 3 times the cost of my program, and for what?!? Plus, my program offers scholarships within the program to its students, within the school of health professions and many scholarships within the school (UTSW).
      Full cadaver dissection: despite what other programs told me at interviews everywhere else, full cadaver dissection is not offered everywhere, but when it is, GO FOR IT! You'll learn so much from it and it's so worth it to have it. It's one of those things where if it was available to me I would most definitely want it and if it wasn't, I wouldn't know what I was missing out on. You'll have to trust me on this one. You will not regret it.

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    3. Thank you so much! I have committed to UTSW and I am so excited!

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    4. I actually had it wrong - we just received word today (2/12/15) that we are 100% first time PANCE pass rate for 8 years in a row! I hope we can continue this tradition! #trusttheprocess

      Delete
  20. I am an international medical graduate. I graduated from medical school in 2000 and went on to complete a residency program in Obstetrics and Gynecology in my home country in Africa. I relocated to the United States last year with my family. I consider that going into a residency program might be difficult for me considering my year of graduation. I am considering going for a PA program. What do you think are my chances of getting into a program.

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    Replies
    1. International medical degrees are not recognized by PA programs. You will have to take US coursework (pre-requisites) if you want to be recognized by U.S. PA programs.

      You will also need healthcare experience in the U.S. and to demonstrate that you are able to work in the U.S. (you must acquire a visa to be able to work).

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  21. I was hoping you could give me some advice on choosing a PA school. I applied to several schools this cycle and finally heard back from one that I really liked. The only problem is it's not that well-known. I was wondering if you knew if school ranking matters for job hunting later after graduation. I know it probably depends on where and what I am planning to do afterwards, but in any case, what is your opinion?

    Basically where I'm at right now is if I don't go to PA school I was accepted at then I will take a gap year and then reapply next cycle. However, I am honestly not too keen on the idea of taking a gap year because I would ideally like to begin working as soon as possible.

    Thank you for your help!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In my honest opinion - it does not matter. When you get your "-C" added to your name, as in "PA-C", the field is level no matter where you went to school. You might have trouble getting the dream job you've always wanted, but there are ways around that - it's called hard work and showing people you're worth their time. If they don't know your school's name, so what. Show them what type of students your school produces. Make your school proud.

      I would suggest accepting the offer and becoming the PA you've always dreamed of becoming. Let nothing stand in your way.

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  22. Hi.. i have a computer engg bachelor degree from 2005. I dint get to work afterwards. During this break somehow i got this extraordinary interest in pa prog. How much chances do i have if i take all those pre reqs and do those hours of work needed? Is it worth to give it a try considering the very different background and this long break in which i was pretty much nothing more than a home maker. Is there anything i can do extraordinarily to impress the committee before starting to apply? Note. Iam on a dependent visa and cant do any work in which i get paid.

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    Replies
    1. Your degree and pre-requisites are only good for up to 10 years at most PA programs, so now that is is 2015, you'll probably have to retake your pre-requisite courses.

      It doesn't matter what you did after your degree if it is too old to be counted toward pre-requisites. You'll have to start fresh and take courses over again. You'll have to gain heath care experience (at least 2-3 years worth). If you want to be able to work as a PA, you'll have to start by obtaining a different visa that allows you to work in the US. No PA program is going to accept you if you haven't demonstrated to them that you are able to work in the US prior to applying.

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  23. First and for most I would like to thank you for creating this kind of blog for people to get more information about PA schools. I am currently a junior in college and I would like to become a PA. I am also currently doing a medical assisting program as well, to gain experience in the medical field. I wanted to know in your opinion is it worth it for me to switch schools and get a BA degree or should I get my BA in something else and then get a MA degree for a PA? What do you think I should do?

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    1. I think I am partially confused by your acronyms. If by BA you mean bachelor of arts, then you do not need to obtain a bachelor of arts degree in anything specific. You actually don't need a degree at all to apply to some PA programs. You need to have completed the pre-requisites for the schools you plan to apply to. Even if you are applying to PA school, you don't need a bachelors degree in PA studies. You can obtain it in anything you want - economics, theatre, engineering, etc. Check out the link below for more information. Your medical assistant experience will be very beneficial for your journey to becoming a PA. Best of luck!

      https://www.aapa.org/twocolumnmain.aspx?id=288

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  24. Hello, I am in my final year of eligibility competing in division 1 athletics. I am applying to PA school this coming summer application period and I have a few questions regarding my chances of getting accepted. I have a 3.6 cumulative gpa in Exercise Science and as well as receiving multiple awards for academic and athletic success. I have also completed all of the required courses for the schools I am planning on applying to. This spring/summer I have been accepted to complete a 600 hour hands-on internship at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, MI in their cardiology department. I have been to information sessions at both EMU and Wayne State and they both have stressed the patient contact hours. At the time of application I will have between 700-800 hours of patient contact and shadowing hours. I am wondering if I will be competitive in this application process?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you look at any of the PAEA annual reports: http://www.paeaonline.org/index.php?ht=d/sp/i/243/pid/243

      You'll see that the average student applies with about 4,000 hours of experience. This equates to about 2 years worth of experience while working full-time. PA schools don't often require this much experience, but it allows you to realize what you are up against. There will be lots of applicants with LOTS of experience. Just brace yourself when applying that you may not be as competitive as some of the other students. That doesn't mean you won't get in - you seem well rounded in the other areas. If it were me, I would probably continue working for another year or so full-time before applying. You might use this experience you are gaining to find a paid position somewhere after you complete the program.

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  25. Reading this blog has helped me. I just graduated with my bachelors in December. Unfortunately, my GPA is low. I have some but not all of the prerequisites required for the PA program. What is your advice. Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My advice to you is to first read this article: http://doseofpa.blogspot.com/2014/03/postbaccalaureate-and-masters-programs.html

      Decide if pursuing a post-baccalaureate or Master's program may be right for you, depending on how low your GPA is and what types of grades you have for your pre-requisite courses. All of those should be taken into consideration before applying to PA school. Next, make sure you are working while in school and obtaining more healthcare experience. If grades are your downfall, you need to be well rounded and improve yourself in other areas. Volunteer and shadowing experience will also be helpful.

      Delete
  26. Great Blog - Real quick, are you aware of any PA schools that don't require Science Pre-Reqs?
    I'm a veteran medic, with my MBA and over 10 years as a Surgical FA. Just lacking a few of the Chem and Bio requirements for most schools. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello,

      Unfortunately, I do not think such a program exists, at least to my own knowledge. I think you would be a very competitive applicant with your experience. If it were me, I would take the courses and apply next cycle! I hope you have some experience with a PA (shadowing) and some volunteer work in there somewhere. Those are equally as important as your work experience. Take your courses at a community college - but most schools don't want them done online, so be sure to ask before you pursue that route.
      Best of luck!

      Delete
    2. Great - That was my plan. Appreciate the timely response. Cheers!

      Delete
  27. Hello.
    I am currently a junior in college. I wanted to know if you can give me advice on my educational path. I would want to become a PA. In New York a lot of the bachelors degree programs are changing into masters programs.There is one program in New York that is for Physicians Assisting. I wanted to know in your opinion, should I do my pre reqs and get into that bachelors program for Physician Assistant. Or should I get my bachelors in nutrition and then apply for a masters degree program in Physician Assistant.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In my honest opinion, I would shoot for the Master's option. Almost every program is shifting to a master's degree because they have to by 2020. Soon, employers will probably require a master's degree from all of us. It would be in your best interest to go ahead and get the master's now.

      Also, make sure you always use the name correctly - "physician" assistant. Never "physicians" or "physician's."

      Delete
  28. Hello,
    I am a junior in high school and I would like to attend a physican assistant program that would give me the most informative start in the field of surgery. Do you know of PA bs-ma programs that are notable for training PA surgeons? I live in upstate NY and would prefer to attend a college closer to home but I am open to all suggestions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Using the PAEA directory - I found all of the programs in NY that do NOT require a bachelor's degree for entrance. I would start there and check out each of their programs. You can also look by other states.

      http://directory.paeaonline.org/programs?utf8=✓&state=NY&degree=&caspa=&gre=&health_xp=&bach_required=0&min_gpa=&start_month=

      I do not know any off the top of my head.

      Delete
  29. Hi , I'm an IMG, you know it's very hard to get 3.0 GPA at International medical school , so is The 3.0 GPA effects my chance to get to the PA. Program?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. It will probably make you less competitive as an applicant. Your coursework probably will not count toward PA prerequisites though. You will probably have to retake the prerequisites in the united states.

      Delete
  30. Thank you so much for such an informative blog. I am a senior in high school and have been accepted to a number of BS/MS Physician Asst. programs. I understand how lucky I am to have so many choices, however I am having some difficulty making a decision. I live in CT and would like to return here to work after getting my degrees. I have been accepted at Desales, Philadelphia University, Seton Hall, King's College, Springfield College and LeMoyne College. The problem I am facing is this, I fell in love with Le Moyne College when visiting there. The way the students in the BS/MS program treat each other and work together really impressed me. I would be able to graduate with very little debt from this program. However the US News and World Report just updated their rankings today and LeMoyne has dropped to 104 from 70. Should this concern me and am I crazy to be considering going to the lowest ranked program I was accepted to? Thank you so much for any advise you can give me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The ranking is a bunch of bull. If you read the methodology you will see that it is complete nonsense. It doesn't matter what a program is ranked. You will still be a PA-C at the end. Go to LeMoyne!

      Delete
  31. Hello, I was just wondering where all the 37 Preproffesional programs could be found. I am interested in gaining my bachelors and masters degree at the same time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Go to the PAEA program directory and you can choose the criteria you want to search by.

      Delete
  32. Hello,

    I am an undergraduate pursuing a career as a PA. I will be applying to PA schools in 2 years. I am an immigrant, so due to my visa category, I do not have a social security number. Will this hinder my CASPA application if it asks for my social security for background check purposes? Will I still be able to apply to PA schools without a social security? I am also having a tough time volunteering at hospitals because they ask for a social security for a background check. Therefore, shadowing seems to be the only option for my health care experience. Any other ideas?

    Thanks for your time!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would recommend reading this article:

      http://doseofpa.blogspot.com/2015/02/from-international-student-to-physician.html

      Thanks for reading!

      Delete
  33. Do you know any programs that dont require interviews? I was trying to search online but couldnt find any. Would love to know which ones are out there that dont require interviews.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I could not tell you. I know there was once a way to sort by whether programs had interviews or not - there was a website someone created, but I can no longer find it.

      Delete
  34. I have clinical experience as a phlebotomist and a surgical first assist, however I do not have a bachelors degree. In your experience would it be worth finishing up a 4 year degree prior to looking into PA programs?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You would certainly increase your options and thus, your chances of acceptance to a program if you had a 4-year degree. It is not required though. There are still great programs that do not require a 4-year degree.

      Check out the PAEA program directory.

      Delete
  35. As a junior in high school, is there anything I can do now to get a head start on trying to get into a PA program? I want to stay in state and the only programs offered here require a Bachelor's degree so I wouldn't be applying for the next 5 years. But is there any kind of work I can do or extra classes I can take to build up my résumé and try to ensure that I am accepted into one of the programs? Thank you so much for this article!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you want to stay in state and attend a PA program, you just need to get into a university/college and complete the requirements (courses). Get into a hospital or healthcare setting and get direct patient care experience - I have an article on my site about this. You'll need to get recommendation letters and other things like leadership positions, volunteer work, and research are great for your resume as well. Good luck!

      Delete
  36. I was curious if you'll speak to your expertise, if applicable, selecting between multiple Lone-Star State programs and the way you made the decision on UTSW versus alternative programs. I even have been lucky to receive offers from many Lone-Star State programs and am finding it tough to settle on. I am, however, leaning towards UTSW. Any insight would help!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. http://doseofpa.blogspot.com/2015/03/why-i-chose-ut-southwesterns-physician.html

      I can't really say why I didn't choose other PA programs because I would not want to badmouth other programs. Every PA program in Texas is a great PA program. You need to decide whether our program is the right fit for you.

      Delete
  37. Hello Paul,
    I just want to start by saying that I love your blog and your dedication to posting on it. I think I will start some sort of blog myself when I begin PA school. So I'm in a bit of a pickle right now.
    I've gotten accepted to two schools: Touro College Manhattan and Midwestern Glendale. Touro is in Midtown, and I've always dreamt of going to NY (I've been in CA my entire life). However, I have not visited the school in person yet (my interview was online). Research online has led me to people saying both good and bad things (some really bad things actually) about the program. Also, the fact that they don't have a system to help students find housing bugs me. Their PANCE rates the past 2 years has been top notch though.
    Midwestern on the other hand is a great school; it's ranked 20 and has very high PANCE rates. The faculty, facilities, and students were awesome when I interviewed. However, it's not located in a big city, something that I prefer. The program also starts in June; I will be graduating from a rigorous, prestigious university mid-May, leaving me about a week and a half of break. And quite honestly, I feel a little burnt out from school and would love a short break.
    So in summary, I'm just worried about the quality and reputation of Touro. I'll be visiting the campus in 2 weeks to meet faculty/students and tour, and will most likely make my decision then. But in your opinion, after going through the application process and picking/attending a school, do you think it reputation matters when picking a school? My heart says go to NY but my logical side says go to AZ. Your input's appreciated and thanks for the article!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, and Midwestern is pretty much located on the outer edge of Phoenix by the way.

      Delete
    2. Hi anonymous,

      I actually have a close friend who attends midwestern's PA program and she loves it. It is located in Glendale, but very close to Phoenix. It is also a close drive to Las Vegas! Reputation was something I personally considered when choosing my PA program, but the ranking system you see online is flawed. It doesn't really have a sound basis and you should read about how they decide on the rankings from their website. I know that both schools would be great options. I would focus more on your support base - you would be very far from any family if you moved to NY. Also, consider the costs of each program for you and housing. Living in a smaller city might be a good thing if housing is less expensive? A program starting 2 weeks after you graduate from undergrad won't necessarily be easy, but it might be the best thing if the program is the right fit for you. That's really what choosing a PA program is all about! If it were me, I would go with Midwestern, but you should make your decision after you have visited Touro and can see the campus and living situation for yourself.

      Delete
    3. Hi Paul,

      Thanks a lot for your input. I ended up choosing Midwestern; it seemed like the best option out of the two. I'm excited to start in a little over a month now! Thanks again.

      Delete
  38. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  39. I have been an RT for 9 years in northern California and was planning to apply to PA school in a couple months. The school I am applying to seems to have a target area of counties in southern California and rural areas. Can you give any advice on increasing my chances even though i live in northern California?
    I am certified spanish interpreter at my hospital
    volunteer at a free health clinic and habitat for humanity 200+ hours
    will be done with my bachelors in respiratory care spring 2016.
    Thank you for your time and help!
    I have a letter of recommendation from a former PA alumni where i am applying and 2 ICU docs.


    ReplyDelete
  40. I am looking to apply to a PA program and don't have the highest GPA from my undergraduate degree. I still need to take a few pre-req courses, but don't know if I should take the remaining courses at a community college or at a 4 year university. I know they will accept courses from a community college, but since I did not have a high GPA in my undergrad, does it not look as good? I want to make myself as competitive as I can. It wasn't that the university I attended was difficult for me, I was just going through some things at the time. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  41. Thanks for the very informative & thorough article!! I'm applying to PA schools this spring and would really appreciate your opinion on letters of recommendation. My dilemma is I graduated college 7 years ago and haven't really kept in touch with my professors. I've taken some community college classes in the interim but didn't get to know the instructors too well so I don't think they could comment much on my character besides I got a good grade. I don't know if I should still try to get a letter from a prof if only to show I can succeed in school, or if I should stick to letters from work/volunteer supervisors who know me better. Some of the schools I'm interested in request a letter from an academician so I'm not sure if they would be open to a substitute letter, especially since CASPA only accepts 3 letters. What's your advice on reference letters? Thanks so much!
    -Cathy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would apply with the letters from people that know you best. Regardless of the requirements on their website, the professor won't write you an excellent letter of recommendation if they don't remember or know you. If schools "require" one from a professor, explain your situation to them and if they don't understand, don't apply there. It worked out for me because I didn't know a PA very well and I had 2 clinical letters of reference and one supervisor. Several schools contacted me after I had applied and asked for an additional letter from a PA which I was able to acquire by that time.

      Delete
  42. This is so helpful and informative! Thank you so much!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  43. I am planning to live in California. Is there a difference between associate/bachelor degree in PA comparing to master's degree in PA? Would I have more of a difficult time finding a job after graduation in California? Thank you Paul!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading Jenny!

      Yes, there is a difference between them. The level of education is different, but the coursework will be similar. Most programs are moving to a Master's degree, which has been set as the standard by 2020. I would say that most employers will probably require PAs to have a master's degree in the future, just as many nurse's are now required to have a bachelor's degree.

      Delete
  44. Hello I am Thea, I have been doing some research on PA schools in the New York area preferably anywhere in the five burroughs. I found St Johns and CUNY York because they offered the program in undergrad level. I dont want to have to do 6yrs in school. My question is how stressful is the 4yr program compared to the 6yr? How difficult is the PA program compared to a BSN or OT/PT program?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Thea,

      I could not accurately tell you how the 4 and 6 year programs differ. I would advise you to visit the school and see if you can talk to students who attend those programs to see what their thoughts are. If not, ask that question on physicianassistantforum.com. You might find better luck there.

      Delete
  45. I went to my second open house at SW PA school in Dallas. It was very obvious that some of the specific information in the second open house directly contradicted the first session I attended. Different speaker during both sessions but both are on the acceptance committee. I was wondering if you could give me your input.
    The first speaker mentioned that Statistics was the recommended math course. Human Anatomy and any labs for that matter should not be taken online. Also, the harder classes should be taken at a four year university because they needed to see that we could make it through a tougher curriculum. And that the age of the applicants really would not matter. I was under the impression that career changers were welcome. I have been in my current career 16 years and looking to change to PA.
    The speaker during today's open house mentioned that he considered applicants that were "young and smart". That Statistics was not the class he wanted to see for the mathematics pre-requisite, it was "too easy".He wanted us to take college algebra instead. (I just completed a stats class for this reason and it was very challenging. I earned my A but the failure rate for the class was 80%). He also said that online classes were fine in human anatomy and that community college classes were fine. That they had to accept them by law.
    this school is my dream school, it is 20 minutes from my home and I will do whatever I need to in order to be a competitive candidate, but I hate to waste my time. I work during the day, I have a family and study at night. Sometimes till 2 or 3 am.
    What bothers me is that I was following advise from the last open house and took this statistics class, that was intense to say the least. I could have taken college algebra instead.
    Should I take the online human anatomy class at a university or the "real class" at a community college? (those are my only options at this time)
    How do I make myself competitive and not waste time and money?
    should I try to attend more open houses with hopes to figure out what the different admission officers look for? I have 7 classes left. 8 if I take another math class. I was planing on finishing by DEC. 2016 with all my prerequisites.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Tessa,

      "Everything [you] addressed is on our web site – as it was in the presentation.

      1. Statistics has never been our preferred or go-to Math course – always has been College Algebra or higher math
      2. We are required by state law to accept courses taken at any accredited college or university, including online.
      3. We cannot discriminate between community college and “hard university” courses.
      4. Age does not matter. All that was presented about age was the slide showing mean enrolled student demographics, and that in the aggregate the students happen to be young and bright."

      Please see our PA program's website, as our director has ensured me that all of this information is readily available online. Our director also repeated many times during his sessions not to put your eggs in one basket simply because you live near a PA Program. No other professional school applicant has that expectation and it remains odd that people expect to be admitted to the PA Program they live closest to when the applicant pool is so extremely competitive. Essentially, apply to more than one program - please.

      Delete
  46. Hi Paul!
    Thank you for such an awesome blog!
    I'm really interested in finding programs that offer PA certificates so I can take the PANCE since you said "[potential PAs] are not required to obtain a master’s degree to become a certified physician assistant (PA-C)" but I can't find any except for the two you said, St. John's and Anne Arundel. Is there a specific list of these types of programs that offer certificates and not a master's degree?

    All the best,

    -Katherine

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Katherine,

      Check out directory.paeaonline.org. I think certificate programs are being phased out right now because of the NCCPA regulation to make the masters degree the minimum by the year 2020.

      Delete
  47. Thank you for creating this blog, it has been so informative! I graduated with a 3.64 GPA holding a bachelors of science degree in psychology. I have worked as a pharmacy technician for 8 years. I have spent a year volunteering at a suicide hotline and a year working at a suicide hotline. I have worked with YAI for 6 months now full-time and spent 3 of those months caring for someone under Hospice.

    With that being said, I believe these are all things that will make me a good candidate. However, I also understand that none of these experiences qualify as direct patient care experiences. Therefore, I need to attain those hours.

    I was hoping that you could provide me with a list of direct patient care jobs that will not require schooling or certifications.

    I would love to find a full time job and have been looking into medical assistant jobs but seem to only be finding job offerings that require a certification. I live in long island NY and would like to know if you know of any ways to become a medical assistant without experience/scholoing/certifcation. Do you recommend that I call doctors offices and ask if they would need and are willing to train me as a medical assistant?

    Perhaps there is another job that would be considered a great profession/volunteer experience that you would recommend?

    I am hoping to apply by June 2016

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Jackie!
      I saw your comment and wanted to offer my insight and experience.
      I started off working at a hospital as a Patient Transporter just to get my foot in the door. Many PA programs do not consider patient transporter as an acceptable patient contact/healthcare experience...which in my opinion is a load of crap, BUT the good news is, when I worked as a PT I met a lot of people in the hospital which helped me build up a great network. After 6 months of working I was allowed to transfer departments and so I switched to rehab aide because the position did not require any kind of licensure (other than CPR/AED, which generally all hospitals will train and pay for you to obtain that).

      My advice to you: when job searching through a hospital database look for "aide" or "assistant" and avoid keywords like "tech." Lots of tech jobs like, Ortho Tech, Anesthesia Tech, Radio Tech, all require you to obtain your own licensure. With "aide" and "assistant" jobs, the hospital doesn't require anything and if they do they will offer paid training.

      As for a list, off the top of my head: Patient Transporter, Lab Assistant, Cath Lab Assistant, Rehab Aide, Unit Clerk, Medical Scribe, and in some cases Physical Therapist Aide. (With the hospital I'm working at Unit Clerks get free paid training to become a Certified Nurse Aide)

      Hope this helps! Best wishes!

      -KAT-

      Delete
  48. Hi, Fantastic blog. My cousin has a BA in Surgical PA from Iran and 3 years of work experience. She will get her green card in 6 months and will move to the USA. It seems that she needs to complete an accredited entry level PA program and pass the PANCE before working in the USA. Does she need to pass toefl? Does she need GRE before attending such program? How long does it take to complete such program and how much is the tuition? Would some of her BA course credit be transferable towards this program? Is the accreditation fee of $10,000 per year? Any other guidance would greatly be appreciated. Thanks in advance

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Farid,

      Yes, she will probably need to pass a TOEFL in order to get accepted into a PA school. Most programs require the GRE. Please visit directory.paeaonline.com for information about program costs and length.

      There is not an accreditation fee of $10,000 per year, I'm not sure where you got that from. Her coursework would depend on whether the program accepts it and it is a case by case basis. She will need to call the school and see if they'll accept her school work but most programs will want coursework from the US.

      Delete
    2. http://doseofpa.blogspot.com/2015/02/from-international-student-to-physician.html

      Delete
  49. Hi, I was going through google searching about the PA info and here I landed, I was really impressed with the info You provided with, now about me, I am from India and did my MEDICAL SCHOOL from india, I couldnt passed usmle step 1 and now thinking to go with the path of PA, that is my background, now what are the steps I need to take ahead to get in to PA school, like any pre requisite courses from community college or volunteer work or any sort of such thing and how much are the chances of my getting into PA school, I am a permanent residence of US so no problem about visa and all. I would really appreciate it if you can guide me little with my query please.
    Thank You.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. http://doseofpa.blogspot.com/2015/02/from-international-student-to-physician.html

      Delete
  50. I was accepted to a PA program with full ARC accreditation, but the university was placed on a warning sanction but the regional accreditation body (SACS). The possible outcomes range from restoration of full accreditation to loss of accreditation. In the worst case scenario would the program maintain ARC accreditation without university accreditation, and would I be eligible to sit for the PANCRE?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To my knowledge, as long as the program had ARC-PA accreditation at the time you matriculate (start), then you should be able to sit for the PANCE, regardless of what happens afterward. I would call or email someone at ARC-PA and explain your situation to be sure. Best of luck!

      Delete
  51. Dear Paul Gonzales,

    I am a Physician in Brazil, Cardiology Specialist, graduated in 1996, with Cardiology Resident Program finished in 2002, working as Cardiologist and General Practioner since this date. My husband is a Plastic Surgeon, also graduated in 1996 and with his Resident Program finished in 2001, working in ER and as Plastic Surgeon since this date. All our graduation and work experience were developed in Brazil. Actually we are brazilian citizens.
    We have 2 daughters, and we are planning to move to US, where we intend to continue our profession as doctors. We would like to have your opinion about applyng to be PAs, and if it's possible, what directions may we take for that.
    We appreciate your attention.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sure!
      http://doseofpa.blogspot.com/2015/02/from-international-student-to-physician.html

      Delete
  52. Hi! I am a junior in high school and know that I would like to be a PA. I read on your blog that there are currently 43 schools that offer both a bachelor's and master's degree in 5 years. I was wondering how I can reach that list of all 43...? Thank you so much!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. PAEA directory and select pre-professional programs:
      http://directory.paeaonline.org

      Delete
  53. Hi I'm very new to all of this. I've been a Medical Assistant for 22 years and have never thought about becoming an RN. I just decided that I want to become a PA. I have an Associates Degree and that's about it. Where do I start in this process? I would have to do my studies online because I still work full time. What steps do I need to take to get started? What online school do you recommend?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi anonymous,

      There are not currently any online entrance PA programs offered. Not all programs require a bachelors degree, so I would contact a few PA programs and see if your credits would transfer or if you'd have to complete the pre-requisite courses. Your medical experience will definitely be in your favor. You might just have to take a few courses +/- the GRE for entrance. You'll need community service, leadership experience, shadowing experience and other extracurriculars to make you more well-rounded.

      Delete
  54. I read the section that states there are some PA schools that do not require the GRE. Is there a list of schools that I can see that do not require it? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. the PAEA directory: http://directory.paeaonline.org/

      Delete
  55. THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR HELP!

    ReplyDelete
  56. Hi, My name is Tim and I would like to thank you for sharing all these great resources with us.

    First of all, I wanted to introduce myself briefly before I ask you for the advice.
    I went to community college for a bit after high school and had no purpose of my life.
    As time went by, I started to see what I wanted to do with my life and really planned everything and studied to transfer to 4-year university.
    I got accepted to one of the 4 year college with biology major.
    There were lots of struggles in the meantime and finally I got my undergraduate degree.
    But as I have said, back in community college I did bad in one of the classes which is a first chemistry class that I took and it is part of prerequisite for PA school.
    So I am going to retake that Spring of 2016. But Also, I did get a bad grade from Zoology which is a class for graduation requirement. I got a D from that class.
    So I am planning to retake that class as well from my college as well.
    I know that Zoology is not part of the prerequisite, but since it is a science course and I heard the committees look to the science classes more carefully.
    Do you think it’s worth it to retake it? because many of the students who retook the class didn’t do so well maybe a one or two letter grade up.
    Also, I have about 100 hours of volunteering hours from the Kaiser permanent ER and about 150 hours of shadowing experience from clinic (MD/PA’s)
    Currently, I work at a Opthomology center as an Opthomology technician. And also, working at a clinic for the billing staff.
    My direct patient care hours should be around 600 hours by April of next year.
    I am planning to apply next year for the schools that does not require GRE.

    So my bottom line question is.. do you think I have a chance to get into decent PA school?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Tim,

      I can't reply to everyone on my blog as I have in the past - it's simply not possible with the traffic that comes through and with every student asking about their own personal experiences.

      Savannah Perry is a licensed PA and offers services for people just like yourself! Check out her site here: http://www.thepaplatform.com/services/

      Delete
  57. Wow, this was an excellent post. I do have a question, and it is one I am really ashamed of, but it has been weighing on my shoulders. I have a 3.7 GPA, I'm a junior/senior?, I have taken most of the pre-requisites, and have 7 years of hands on experience. Unfortunately, in September I made one poor choice to meet up at a bar with a few friends. I was pulled over, and inevitably charged with a DWI, my BAC was .09.... when the legal limit was 0.08, now obviously I know what I did was wrong, and I would assure any program, that it would never happen again, I am still working through the court process. I also do NOT have a drinking problem, that was my first time going out in over a year, because I work overnights every single weekend, and am in school monday through friday. I am so nervous that I will not be accepted based on this one mistake I made, after working so incredibly hard to have the best grades I could achieve, all while managing work, and trying to keep a social life, and over full time school.. This happened this semester and I am taking 20 credits, so to say I'm stressed out is a huge understatement.... Do you have any words of wisdom? Do you know of anyone in my situation? Do I give up on my dream?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi anonymous,

      I cannot say that I know anyone in your exact predicament, however, as with most candidates, I would hope that this type of mistake could be resolved. I know that you'll probably have to endure some lengths of legal action, including probation, etc. I would encourage that before you apply to PA programs, you'd inquire about your specific circumstance after you've talked to a lawyer about your situation to see the best case scenario of having everything absolved. I would never recommend someone give up on their dream, but I also cannot control the laws regulating entrance into PA programs or any health profession. Again, figure out your legal situation first, then ask PA programs for their opinion on the matter.

      Best of luck to you

      Delete
  58. That is truly very informative.i am interested in joining mspa program..its been a while am trying to get some info as I don't have any volunteer experience, and I am on dependent visa.i have masters degree in pharmaceutical science from India.i was wondering what are my chances of getting into the program with hell lot of competition.or am i even eligible for joining the program? I am confused..please enlighten me...thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Joe,
      There are a plethora of PA programs that do not require any type of healthcare or volunteer experience, or have minimal requirements. The PAEA program directory may help you with this. I also am not a pro on Visas or international degrees. I do have some information on my blog for international students, such as yourself. Feel free to search my blog for this. I cannot determine your chances of getting into a PA program either, and I don't think anyone can. Your eligibility would be based on each individual program so my suggestion to you is to contact the programs you plan to apply to and ask each one.

      Delete
  59. Hi
    This is very informative artical. I am foreign trained dentist and I am interested in PA program. I am going to take my pre req from winter. I have more than 2000 hrs of health care experience as a dentist back in home country so my question is that this experience counts or not?

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    1. Hi anonymous,
      The experience you are asking about would probably be program-specific. You would need to contact PA programs individually to figure out whether they accept dental experience or not. Also, visit my page on healthcare experience (HCE) for more information.

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  60. Hi Paul, so above you wrote, "you are not required to obtain a master’s degree to become a certified physician assistant (PA-C) until 2020."

    For Anne Arundel Community College (AACC)/UMB Collaborative Physician Assistant Program, you get "a Master of Science in Health Science from UMB and a Certificate of Physician Assistant Studies from AACC." Since you get a Master of Science--although you still get a Certificate of Physician Assistant Studies from AACC--would that Master of Science fulfill the above quote, i.e. if I became a PA from AACC/UMB's program, in 2020, would I still be a certified PA at that point in time?

    Thank you!

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    1. Hi anonymous,

      As we discussed previously, I think the program will suffice in meeting this requirement. Good luck!

      Delete
  61. Just re-posting my comment to make sure you got it (edited a bit for more clarity):

    Hi Paul!

    So above you wrote, "you are not required to obtain a master’s degree to become a certified physician assistant (PA-C) until 2020."

    For the Anne Arundel Community College (AACC)/UMB Collaborative Physician Assistant Program, you get "a Master of Science in Health Science from UMB and a Certificate of Physician Assistant Studies from AACC." Since you get a Master of Science--although you still get a CERTIFICATE of Physician Assistant Studies from AACC--would that Master of Science fulfill the above quote ("you are not required to obtain a master’s degree to become a certified physician assistant (PA-C) until 2020")? In other words, if I became a PA from AACC/UMB program, in 2020, would I still be a certified PA at that point in time, having gone to the AACC/UMB program?

    Thank you very much!

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  62. Hi Paul,

    Thanks so much for this blog. It is so help. I have been accepted to 3 PA programs and am so torn about where to go. I was accepted to USC, MCPHS-Boston and LIU. I am from New York. USC definitely is the most well know but it is 33 months and also the most expesnive. However, it seems like a very nurturing group of professors and students. MCPHS-Boston is 30 months but it is 2 full years of didactic before starting rotations and also has a 4 month summer break after the first year. I really liked the students there but it seems like such a long amount of time to wait for rotations to begin. LIU is the lowest ranked but it is the cheaptest and shortest. It is 28 months with rotations beginning after 13 months. The students didn't seem as tight knit of a group as the other 2 schools I've visited.

    I know no school is perfect but I am so torn on where to go and would appreciate any insight or advice you could offer.

    Thanks so much.

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  63. Hey Paul, I just need some insight on how to get into PA school. I applied last cycle to over 15 schools, I have a cumulative GPA about 3.2 science and non science and a plethora of healthcare hours working as a PCT/EMT. Although my GRE score is average, I applied to some schools that don't require the GRE, but i wasn't even able to get invited to a single interview! Any tips or advance for re applicants?

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    1. Hi Mustafa,

      Just looking at your stats, and I'm not entirely sure about how many hours constitutes 'a plethora' but it might not be your experience. It might be your GPA. Overall and science GPA play a large factor and depending on what your schools require, you may have a lower GPA than your peers. Have you ever inquired about what your application is missing?

      Do you think it might be your essays? Check out myPAresource.com if you think that might be the issue. Use code DoseOfPA and let them know that you are a REapplicant. You might not be including anything in your essay that tells the committee what you've done to better your application since last cycle.

      Do you have solid rec letters and volunteer/shadowing experience? Those also play a role. Leadership experience definitely helps.

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  64. Fantastic resource. Thank you!

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  65. Hi Paul,I am interested in PA program.I have Master's degree in Microbiology.I am looking into some PA schools and they are asking for HCE (Healthcare experience).I do not have any healthcare experience especially direct patient contact.I have worked as a Microbiologist in a Laboratory which is working only with laboratory tests etc.Now i am thinking if i really want to choose PA field i should at least have some HCE and was thinking to join Medical Assistant where i can get some direct patient contact as an experience before applying to PA school.Can you please suggest me what other options are there except being a Medical assistant which counts towards HCE?What about Emergency medical technician certification?I want to do something real quick and gain HCE.This a nice Blog and i have been following this for a while.Thank you!

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    Replies
    1. Here you go: https://doseofpa.blogspot.com/2014/02/health-care-experience-and-pa-school.html

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  66. Hello Paul, I have a question about what happens after being accepted. I put this question here because I feel it falls under the "choosing the right school" title, just after the application process. I am very happy to say I received an email today for my 1st interview, and I am very excited! However, this interview takes place in early October, before some of the other programs I applied to even require application submission. I know this may be a bit presumptuous, but If I am accepted to this school, and say, would like to see if I can get into another school (closer to home, cheaper, ect.) How long does one have to decide on a school after receiving acceptance? Does the school give enough time to do other interviews, and to make a decision? Or is it a "bird in the hand is better than 2 in the bush" sort of situation? I am not a gambling man, so I would not like to have to decline something in blind hopes that another school would work out. Also, is it common to accept, pay a deposit, then cancel it if something more desirable comes up? (for example the tuition difference would more than make up for the wasted deposit.) I know all these problems would be considered very good problems to have. Sorry for the confusing nature of the question, and thank you for this wonderful resource.

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    1. In my experience I had less than 7 days to accept an offer (one program gave me 24 hours and it had a $500 down payment that had to be paid within a certain period of time). Even if you do accept an offer, you can always rescind that offer, but keep in mind you may not get your down payment back if you put one down - this happened to me. But sometimes securing that spot is worth it in the long run - the tuition difference does make up for the lost security deposit. You and I think alike.

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  67. Hi Paul, I've been researching the PA path because I'm highly interested in this route. I'm currently a high school senior and I have been looking into options for PA Programs. I'm based in NYC but I don't mind traveling but certificate programs have piqued my interest. I know that these certification programs are being weeded out but I was wondering if for ex. St. John's I complete my BS there would I be at a major disadvantage even after receiving my certification compared to PA's holding a master degree. If I go back to school after my 4 year undergrad and want to receive a masters in a related healthcare post-grad field will this degree count towards needed a master degree for jobs? I know that most hospitals or potential employers prefer that PA's have a masters but I guess I'm trying to say is that does it necessarily have to be in PA. This would be St. John's last year of admitting students for this program because of the movement towards a masters program.

    I have also been comparing my options with different schools that offer combined degrees that would allow me to finish in 2+3 or 3+3 years. Am I better off doing this program receiving my masters? I could also possibly do 4 + 2 years but I heard that applying to PA schools is a bit tough and I would lit to avoid that by going through a direct entry program from my undergrad. I want to finish school quickly basically with the least amount of debt.

    I guess my most important question is that if I intend to pursue a masters in a healthcare (administration, public health, etc) will I still be put in a disadvantage because this degree isn't for PA?

    Thank you so much in advance and for still helping people 2 years after you posted this entry. I know that my situation might be a bit specific but I hope you can give me some insight on my options.

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    1. I don't think you'll be ad a major disadvantage compared to PAs who have a masters degree - because once you finish PA school everyone sits for the same board exam - the PANCE. However, you should be aware that by 2020 every PA will be required to obtain a masters degree. I am not entirely sure about the answer to your question about obtaining a masters degree in a field unrelated to PA studies and whether that would fulfill the requirement or not. That is a good question for ARC-PA.

      Those combined degree programs are called "pre-professional" PA programs. Applying to PA school is extremely competitive because there are such limited spots and the requirements for each program become more competitive every year. That is one of the main advantages of doing a pre professional program - some of them offer direct admission after successful completion of pre-professional coursework (aka prerequisites). The only downfall to this would be that you have to be REALLY sure that you are dedicated to the PA profession because if you're not, then you end up stuck in a degree plan that probably doesn't have many fall back options.

      By completing a masters degree in HCA or MPH, you won't put yourself at a disadvantage, but that's a decision you have to make financially in accordance with your own life goals. What do you intend to do with the degree and how will it help you achieve those goals as a PA? Ask yourself that question. There are PA programs that combine MPAS with MPH and MHA. They are few and far between but they exist.

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  68. Hi Paul. Lovely post. I would appreciate you input on my situation if you can please.

    I am a foreign medical graduate (12 years ago), I am interested in the PA program in Illinois. I also have a MBA ( in the US 2009). I have been working in home health (Administrator) with limited direct patient contact.

    I wanted to know about my chances of getting into a program. And also do you know of any online program in Illinois. And would I need to take all the prerequisite courses again. Thanks

    Adams. Sorry for comment as anonymous

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    1. Hi anonymous,

      So technically you are considered a non-traditional student because of your background. I can't predict your "chances" of getting into any PA program and no one can, really. If they try, they'd be lying to you. You definitely have to retake the prerequisites, just like every other applicant.

      Just like every applicant, most programs want well-rounded students who have volunteer work, leadership experience, shadowing of a PA, and great letters of recommendation. As for your indirect healthcare experience, you'd have to talk to the PA program in Illinois to see whether they'd consider your experience and go from there. Good luck to you!

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