What to Look For in a PA Program

When choosing the best PA program for you, it may be hard to weed through all the choices. The stress of figuring out which programs you’re a strong candidate for may obscure the fact that 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.

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

Is it a well-established program?
New PA programs seem to pop up every academic 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 have to deal with administrative roadblocks on top of your course load. They’re also more likely to have established clinical sites and you won’t be treated as a test subject for a still-developing program.

What are the associated costs?
Its no secret- PA programs can be expensive. That being said, 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 comfortable borrowing in loans and do some research to see what scholarship opportunities are offered through each program.

Where do you want to be?
Going along with the previous point, residents of a state typically pay a lower tuition rate than out of state students. In addition, you may 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 will impact your family 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, it’s easy to infer that the program is successful in preparing its 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 an indicator 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, but the length of a program typically varies from 2-3 years.   This may be a crucial factor once you’ve narrowed down your search to a handful of schools.

How do you learn?
Each school has its own curriculum style and program structure. In addition, factors like class size, teacher to student ratio, and how competitive a program are great things to consider. If you know you need extra attention or would prefer to problem solve with your class rather than being pitted against each other, you can find programs that best fir your learning style.

Are you a strong candidate?
You may find your dream program only to find you don’t meet their minimum requirements. When this happens, you may want to consider if starting a different program now makes more sense than waiting a year and working on whatever 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?