Tips for Choosing the Best Physician Assistant Program for You

Choosing the best PA program for you can be difficult. There are plenty of websites that list the “top 10 PA programs”, but a good fit is based on more than price and acceptance rate.  You should be looking for the right school that fits your needs.  If you’re too focused on being a perfect applicant, you may end up applying to a program that doesn’t end up serving your best interests and may end up getting less out of your time in school.

When searching for programs, try to focus on the following:

Is it a well-established program?
New PA programs seem to pop up like wildflowers every year. While every school boasts about their success rates, you’ll want to be sure these are based on long-term facts and not the quick turnaround of 1 or 2 classes of students. Programs that have been around for over 10 years are more likely to have any logistical issues worked out so you won’t feel like you’re a test subject for their program while you’re pursuing your training. They’re also more likely to have established clinical sites.

What are the associated costs?
PA programs can be expensive, but the cost of a program doesn’t always correlate directly to the quality of the program. For example, state schools are frequently less expensive that private institutions yet the quality of training and education can be exactly the same. Consider how much you’re willing to put yourself into debt and do some research to see what scholarship opportunities are offered through each program.

Where do you want to be?
Residents of a state typically pay a lower tuition rate than out of state students, so location can have a direct result on cost.  You may also find school much more difficult if you’re in a location you don’t like. Consider if you want to move and, if you have a family, how the move may impact your family and emotional life.

What is the PANCE pass rate?
The PANCE pass rate is an excellent indicator of the quality of a program. If a program has a consistently high PANCE pass rate and few of the students transferred or dropped from the program, the program typically does a great job at preparing their students. If a program has a low PANCE pass rate or has a large number of students transfer out of the program, it can be a red flag that the program is lacking in certain areas.

How long do you want to commit to school?
As more PA programs are created, varying lengths of programs are becoming available for students.  Programs typically last from 2-3 years, so keep this in mind when scouting potential programs.

What is your learning style?
Each school has its own curriculum style and program structure. In addition, factors like class size, teacher to student ratio, and competitiveness are important things to consider. If you know you need extra attention or would prefer to work with your classmates rather than being pitted against each other, you can find programs that best fit your learning style.

Are you a strong candidate?
There may be some programs where you simply don’t fit their minimum admission requirements. When this happens, its up to you to decide if you’d rather choose a different program where you’re a better fit, or if you’d rather wait a year and work on the aspects you’re lacking. Is it worth it personally and financially to wait longer and invest more time or should you pick a program that will allow you to start your education now?

By working out these few points, you’ll be able to curate a fantastic list of programs to apply to.  Taking some time to search for any vet potential programs before you start applying to them will save you time in the long run and may actually make your application process easier.