How To Become A Physician Assistant In 2024

The journey of a Physician Assistant isn’t one out of the air, there are processes that lead to getting licensed. In this article put together by The World Scholarship Forum, we’ll be looking at the details that answer the queries, how can I become a Physician Assistant, how much does PA schools cost, the nature of the job, how long does it take to become a PA and a whole lot more. Stay with me!

According to, the U.S. has about 118,800 physician assistants. The BLS predicts this number to grow by 31% between 2018 and 2028, following an increase of 37,000 jobs. The profession’s growth rate far outperforms the median growth of all occupations at 5%. 

In this article, we’ll talk about the processes involved in how to become a PA, the nature of the job, salary outlook and career prospects, cost of PA schools, and where you can earn a degree in Physician Assistant. Carefully read through!

Who Is A Physician Assistant?

Physician Assistants operate under physician supervision, providing assistance to teams in the healthcare field. In a medical environment, they require specialized schooling and comprehensive preparation. Furthermore, coursework and clinical hours train Assistant Physicians to provide support during surgical procedures, create treatment plans, assess the health condition of a patient, and a whole lot more.

SEE ALSO: Best Physician Assistant (PA) Schools In Alaska

What Does A Physician Assistant Do?

Physician assistants (PA) provide frontline medical care under the supervision of physicians as part of a team of healthcare professionals.

Physician assistants work like doctors. They analyze patients, diagnose diseases, prescribe medicines, and write referrals to specialists. However, PAs are obliged to work under a medical doctor’s supervision.

Furthermore, PAs may work in positions of medical specialties in roles such as anesthesiologist assistant, orthopedic physician assistant, pediatric physician assistant, radiology practitioner assistant, and surgical physician assistant. Regardless of their specialty, Physician Assistants spend their time meeting with patients, sharing vital knowledge about healthcare, and making conscious decisions about patient management.

It is also worthy noting that the duty of a Physician Assistant differs according to specialty and state. For example, in some local areas, a Physician Assistant might serve as a primary healthcare provider, examine patients, prescribe medication, and even correct bone disorders. Whereas, in a more developed setting, a PA may take a narrower function such as exclusively closing incisions after surgery or giving pediatric patients vaccines.

How Can I Become A Physician Assistant?

The path to becoming a PA takes hard work, commitment, and a genuine desire to help others. That is to say, to become a Physician Assistant, you need the right formal training and experience. In addition to the formal training, it is important to know how much PA schools cost.

Doctor Assistants require a master’s degree and expertise. Upon graduating with a master’s degree, prospective physician assistants have to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) and meet any applicable state-specific licensing criteria.

The admission requirements into the master’s program will vary, but you can expect to need two to four years of undergraduate coursework with a specific focus on a related science. Basically, you’re looking at six years of intensive education in total to become a physician assistant.

Therefore, to become a PA, you have to follow the following steps;

  • Get prerequisites and healthcare experience
  • Earn a PA masters degree
  • Pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) and Obtain a state license
  • Become certified
  • Maintain your certification

Get prerequisites and healthcare experience

Potential PAs need a qualifying bachelor’s degree to obtain entrance to a graduate program. Some graduate schools admit a bachelor’s degree in any subject, but a degree in a related area, such as health science or nursing, grants fitting background for a PA graduate program.

Ideally, students require undergraduate coursework in biochemistry, organic chemistry, immunology, pathophysiology, genetics, and molecular or cellular biology for admission to a PA master’s program. Furthermore, it is also pertinent for master’s applicants to hold previous healthcare experience. You can gain such experience by being a medical assistant, paramedic, medical corpsman, peace corp volunteer, surgical test registered nurse, and a whole lot more.

It is also pertinent to note that some schools grant dual BS/MS physician assistant programs, which allow students to save time and money.

Earn a PA masters degree

To earn entry to an ARC-PA-accredited physician assistant master of science in medicine program, proposed students need a bachelor’s degree. In addition, applicants typically need a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.25 and a minimum 3.25 GPA in science-related courses. They also need a minimum score of 300 on the GRE.

The master’s degree usually demands 147 credit hours and exerts seven semesters of full-time study to complete.

Students usually take 15 weeks of instructional science courses on subjects like; medical ethics, clinical radiology, and introduction to gynecology and obstetrics. At the end of the coursework, learners complete eight and six weeks of clinical rotations in fields such as; family medicine, pediatrics, behavioural and mental health, and general surgery.

Pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE)

After graduation, future PAs pass to take the PANCE. This exam covers organ systems and disorders, diseases, and assessments. Medical content makes up for 95% of the exam.

Candidates may make up to six attempts to pass the PANCE in six years. Upon succeeding in the exam, Physician Assistants must secure a state license to practice. Since requirements for licensure differ by state, PAs should communicate their state’s licensing board for more information.

Become Certified

After obtaining licensure, PAs may choose to earn specialization or board certification to improve their knowledge and skills and advance their careers in a particular area. Physician Assistants can concentrate on areas like cardiovascular and thoracic surgery, hospital medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry, and orthopedic surgery.

To acquire specialty certification, PAs must hold licensure and specialty experience, meet continuing education requirements in their specialty, and win backing from a physician. After satisfying these terms, they must pass a specialty exam. As of early 2020, PAs who wish to specialize must pay $350, which covers a $100 administrative fee and a $250 exam registration fee.

Maintain Your Certification

To maintain certification, physician assistants need to merit at least 100 continuing education credits every two years. They must also pass the PANCE during year 10 of their recertification cycle. However, be aware that PAs who do not pass the PANCE on their first trial may take the exam up to three more times.

Can I Gain Admission Into A PA school With A Low GPA?

Most PA schools often have stated GPA score requirements. However, the truth is that for you to scare through on it, you need to score at least a 3.0 GPA.

You don’t have to be a genius to be a PA, but PA schools need to believe that you have the academic competence to make it through an intense program.

In some cases, some PA programs consider a separate prerequisite GPA for candidates. If your target programs do this, retaking entry-level courses might be a good option.

Lastly, to balance a GPA score of 3.0, you need to be excellent in the other areas of application. Experience is also important for all PA school applicants, but it’s definitely more crucial if you have a low GPA. Research what the common health care, community service, and shadowing experience hours are for the average student admitted to your target PA programs.

Can I Get An Online Physician Assistant Program?

Although most curriculum credits for Physician Assistants include hands-on instruction and clinical experience, some courses may also be complete online. Since many students are employed, the versatility that online education offers is an appealing benefit.

Before considering an online PA program the following factors should be put into consideration;

  • Accreditation
  • Lab requirements
  • Faculty with experience

Accreditation – Accreditation guarantees that the training an organization offer meets strict quality requirements. Nevertheless, receiving a diploma from an accredited college serves another essential reason for the aspiring physician Assistant. Students must complete their training at an approved Physician Assistant college or university in order to receive a Physician Assistant License after graduation.

You may want to see: Accredited Physician Assistant PA Schools in Utah

Lab requirements – Doctor Assistants require extensive real-world experience to be successful in their professions, including opportunities to work directly with patients and as a team in a healthcare environment. All online accredited PA programs allow students to complete a combination of courses and lab instruction. Throughout clinical rotations, students are expected to complete a certain number of hours at a medical facility.

Faculty with depth of experience – The consistency of educational experience directly reflects in the teaching style of professors and program coursework. Therefore, determining whether faculty members have worked in the field during their careers in critical. This will help in the perfect shaping and mentoring of the PA students.

Do Physician Assistant Schools Require GRE Or MCAT?

According to the PAEA report, over half of PA schools demand the GRE. A handful of schools offer you the choice of the GRE or the MCAT, but none explicitly require the MCAT. Considering you’ll want to give yourself as many alternatives as possible, it would be in your best advantage to take the GRE test—and do well.

As one of your PA school requirements, the GRE is a more gratifying aspect of your application than others. You can take the GRE up to five times within twelve months, and you only need to wait twenty-one days in between test trials. 

You can also afford to retake the GRE test as much as you can until you hit your perfect score.

Many PA schools won’t set a definite minimum GRE score. The programs do usually set the minimum score around 295—but again, some will be higher and some will be lower.

How Much Does A Physician Assistants Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the salary of an Assistant Physician is $108,610 per annum. PAs employed in educational facilities tend to earn less as they take around $102,870 a year. On the other hand, those working at emergency centers earn some of the highest salaries at about $115,560.

It is also important to note that, wages vary from state to sector. Take a look at the top five states with high salaries:

  • Connecticut – Annual Median Salary: $126,320
  • Washington – Annual Median Salary: $122,710
  • Alaska – Annual Median Salary: $120,990
  • New Jersey – Annual Median Salary: $120,700
  • Nevada – Annual Median Salary: $119,570

What Are The Necessary Skills Required Of A Physician Assistant?

Other than schooling and technological skills, there is more to being a PA. Employers will be looking for you to show a range of ​soft skills, including:

  • Clinical competence
  • Compassion
  • Active listening skill
  • Effective communication skill
  • Critical thinking
  • Work ethics and service-oriented
  • Sensitivity
  • Confidentiality
  • Adaptability and flexibility
  • Operational management

Clinical competence

PA graduates will be in a position to address patient needs in hospitals, emergency care facilities and other medical settings. Therefore, they need to learn how to handle patient needs and situations of all types promptly and effectively.


A Physician Assistant should be compassionate in his dealings with patients. Compassion goes a long way in the healing process.

Active listening skill

As a PA you need to be able to understand what your patients are telling you. This will help you to respond appropriately.

Effective communication skill

Physician assistants are accountable for communicating directly with patients and colleagues in a variety of settings, often in high-stress conditions. Therefore, the ability to communicate clearly and effectively is a key part of success in this field. PA graduates will be furnished with the necessary skills to address the needs of their patients and their teams and ensure relevant information is given in an appropriate and timely manner.

Critical thinking

When attending to a patient, you’ll have to recognize the patient’s illness or injury and develop a treatment plan. The ability to think critically will enable you to assess all possible treatment alternatives before deciding the one that will have the best outcome.

Work ethics and Service oriented

As a PA, you must be reliable, hardworking, diligent and willing to work long hours. Physician Assistants are qualified to provide exemplary care, both to their patients and to the supervising medical professionals. With a service oriented mentality, they must approach their days and be able to carry out their duties both individually and as part of a team.


As a Physician Assistant, you’ll need to use intelligence and diplomacy to effectively handle a broad range of sensitive personal situations.


What this entails is that you’ll need to strictly follow patient privacy laws. You’ll also need to spot when it’s best to speak with a patient in private rather than in the presence of a family member or caregiver.

Adaptability and flexibility

During the course of the day, Doctor Assistants are expected to wear several hats. This tends to be challenging, nevertheless, as a PA, you have to deal with the unpredictable circumstances. In a nutshell, they’re expected to be versatile, adaptable, and able to function effectively in any environment.

Operational management

Apart from providing assistance during a procedure or treatment, Physician Assistants are also responsible for caring for clerical tasks and supervising operations. During the degree program, these vital organizational and operational management skills will be developed to ensure graduates are able to handle administrative and clinical duties.

How Much Does PA Schools Cost?

Like most college and advanced degree programs in the United States, the cost of PA school is on the rise.

Based on existing data presented by the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), the Association for Physician Assistant Education (PAEA), and the most recent NCCPA statistical report, PA schools fall under the following price categories;

  • The average cost of public resident tuition for a 27-month physician assistant program is: $79,941
  • The average cost of non-resident tuition for a 27-month physician assistant program is: $90,659
  • Average program length is 27 months

List of PA Schools

There are various PA schools in the world. However, not all hold accreditation and meet the set standard. See the list of accredited Physician Assistant schools below;



We hope this article provided answers to all your queries as related to Physician Assistant schools.


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