How long is PA school? On average, physician assistant programs are around 2 years long, but the path to becoming a PA can take anywhere from 6-8 years. If you want to and find out how long it will take you to become a PA, you’ll first need to get a bachelor’s degree and complete prerequisite courses. From there, you’ll need to meet all PA school requirements and apply to programs. As a graduate of a PA program, you’ll then have some options to specialize. In this blog, we’ll explore how long it takes to become a PA, what you need to do to become a PA and how long the different pathways to physician assistant are.
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How long is physician assistant school? A typical PA program is 24-26 months long, resulting in you earning a Master’s in Physician Assistant Studies. Most PA master’s programs are around 2 years long, although some are as long as 3 years.
The total length of your journey to becoming a physician assistant can be anywhere from 6 to 9 years on average. The total time it takes you to become a certified, practicing physician assistant will depend on a few different factors, including whether or not you decide to take a gap year, whether you complete a PA residency to pursue one of the and whether you are a full-time or part-time student.
If you’re looking to become a PA fast, there are some options for you to accelerate the timeline but on average you’ll still need at least 5 years to complete all the , licensing and certification requirements before you can practice.
PA School Year 1 – Didactic Year
This is the classroom learning portion of your physician assistant studies. You’ll be taking courses in a variety of subjects, including anatomy, pathology, clinical medicine, patient assessment and core sciences. You can expect many lectures, small-group learning, regular content exams and even labs.
PA School Year 2 – Clinical Year
Just like medical school, PAs go through clinical rotations. These typically last 4-6 weeks each and cover rotations in common medical specialties like internal medicine, family medicine, psychiatry, pediatrics, general surgery, women’s health and emergency medicine. Your rotations will take around 40 hours per week at least, so be ready to be busy!
This will be your opportunity to pursue any elective rotations, as well so if you’re interested in a PA specialty such as , OBGYN, psychiatry or , this is your chance to gain some valuable experience in the field.
Here’s a look at the general timeline for becoming a physician assistant:
How to accelerate your journey to physician assistant
1. Online physician assistant programs
are usually 2 years long, so most of them don’t save you much time on completing your PA studies. However, since online programs are more flexible and allow you to complete your studies at your own pace, there are some that can see you complete your program a little fast.
2. Accelerated PA Programs
There are also accelerated PA programs, which are a sort of dual degree program. You earn both a bachelor’s degree and a Master’s in Physician Assistant Studies in 5 years, instead of 6 or 7. You’ll spend the first 3 years taking bachelor’s degree courses in core sciences and maths, so you meet all , followed by 2 years of master’s level courses in PA studies. You’ll also complete the necessary clinical training hours during this time.
Keep in mind that these accelerated PA programs tend to be extremely competitive! You’ll need excellent grades and a very strong application to get accepted. These programs are also fewer than the traditional PA programs, and have fewer seats available. You’ll have your work cut out for you.
Is PA school worth it?
Aside from accelerated programs or trimming off some of your PA timeline, there aren’t many shortcuts to becoming a PA. Although it takes many years of commitment, becoming a physician assistant can absolutely be worth it for you. As a profession, physician assistants enjoy many pros when compared to other health professions, such as .
- High job satisfaction – PAs enjoy a high level of job satisfaction and a good work-life balance overall, working more regular hours.
- Good salary – PAs have a high average salary among healthcare professionals. If you’re a PA specialist, you can earn an even higher salary, depending on the specialty and which state your practice in.
- Career growth – Physician assistant is a rapidly growing profession in healthcare, and there are more job opportunities every day.
- High job impact – Physician assistants have a huge impact on patient care, improving and enhancing patient care in every environment they enter. They are essential to patient-centered care.
Admission requirements will vary a little from program to program, but here are the general ones to watch out for:
- Bachelor’s degree
- Minimum GPA
- GRE or PA-CAT scores
- CASPer scores
- Letters of Recommendation
- PA school interview
How long PA school is can influence your decision of which program to apply to, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you take into consideration when choosing the best PA school for you. There are definitely pros in applying to an accelerated PA program, such as finishing your degree faster and getting into your desired career a couple years earlier. However, these programs also tend to be more competitive and tougher to get into. It’s best to start out by researching programs, checking admission requirements and making a plan for application.
To find your ideal PA school, consider these factors in your research:
1. How long is PA school?
Most physician assistant programs are around 2 years long, although some take as long as 3 years.
2. Are there accelerated PA programs?
Yes, there are accelerated PA programs that combine a bachelor’s degree with a master’s degree in PA studies. These are usually completed in 5 years.
3. Are there any online PA programs?
Yes, there are many accredited online PA programs available. These are usually 2 years long and include a hybrid learning curriculum so you can still get the required clinical training and hands-on experiences.
4. Can you become a PA without a degree?
No, to become licensed and practice as a PA in all 50 states, you need to have a graduate degree in physician assistant studies. You’ll also need to get certified by taking the PANCE and get licensed according to individual state regulations.
5. Can I go to PA school in Canada?
Yes, there are currently 4 accredited physician assistant schools in Canada. They are located at the University of Manitoba, Dalhousie University, McMaster University and the University of Toronto in partnership with the Northern Ontario School of Medicine and the Michener Institute.
6. How long does a PA residency last?
A PA residency or postgraduate training program usually lasts 12 months.
7. Is PA a master’s or a doctorate?
A PA program is a master’s graduate program, usually a Master’s in Physician Assistant Studies.
8. Is PA school worth it?
Although it can take several years to become a physician assistant, getting into and completing PA school can be well worth it for you. As a profession, PAs are among the fastest-growing in healthcare, and they enjoy a high level of job satisfaction, impact on patient care and many different options for specializing.