Physician assistant acceptance rates in Canada are even lower than med school acceptance rates in Canada, which sit at around 20%. However, there are far fewer PA schools in Canada compared to med schools, and the class sizes are much smaller as well, which means there are fewer chances for applicants to get accepted. On average, the acceptance rate for Canadian PA schools is below 10%, which is also lower than PA school acceptance rates in the US. Even with the fierce competition, there are ways to boost your chances of getting into PA school in Canada. In this blog, we’ll look at what PA schools in Canada are like, admission requirements, acceptance rates and how to improve your chances of acceptance.
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Physician assistant acceptance rates in Canada
Physician assistant acceptance rates in Canada vary a bit but are generally quite competitive. Physician assistant acceptance rates in the US hover around 31.6%, which is even lower than average US med school admissions statistics. The Physician Assistant Education Association estimates that the average chance of getting into PA school is just 20%, and the acceptance rates for Canadian PA schools are even lower, ranging from 2% to just under 10%.
There are only 4 physician assistant (PA) schools in Canada with very small class sizes, which contributes to their low average acceptance rate. The health profession is also a relatively competitive program of study, and is fairly new to Canada, so this increases the competitiveness of being accepted to a Canadian PA program. Right now, there are only two PA schools in Ontario, one in Manitoba and one PA program offered through the Canadian Armed Forces training program. If you’re considering a career in PA vs MD or weighing your options to study medical school in Canada, becoming a physician assistant can be a rewarding and lucrative career. However, there are some things you need to be aware of before you apply.
Interested in becoming a PA? Learn how by watching this video.
Physician assistant admission requirements in Canada
Becoming a physician assistant in Canada comes with some limitations. The profession was only recognized as a health profession by the Canadian Medical Association in 2003, and not all the Canadian provinces have the proper legislation in place to allow PA schools to open and graduate students.
The 4 existing PA schools in Canada, however, have excellent and recognized programs. They are only able to admit Canadian citizens or Canadian permanent residents, though, so international students and students from the US will not be able to apply to PA school in Canada. Canadian Indigenous students may also be eligible for facilitated admissions to PA school in Canada.
US-trained PAs, however, may choose to practice in Canada provided they pass the necessary licensing examinations. Canadian PAs who went to school in Canada are only permitted to practice in their home country at the moment, since the Canadian PA degree is not recognized by US licensing bodies.
Here's a quick summary of PA school requirements
PA school requirements for Canadian PA schools are similar to PA schools in the US. Applicants need to have completed a Bachelor’s degree and maintained at least a 3.0 GPA on the OMSAS scale. Some programs may require a minimum number of hours of health care experience, meaning experience working directly with patients or in a health care setting. Some programs will also list required pre-requisite courses applicants need to have completed before they apply.
PA schools will also list supplementary application components that are required, including PA letters of recommendation, a PA personal statement or even a Kira Talent interview, which is becoming more commonly used in Canadian universities. All the PA schools in Canada also use the multiple mini interview (MMI) when interviewing applicants for admissions.
It should also be noted that PA schools in Canada do not accept or require any standardized tests to apply, including the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), the MCAT, the PA-CAT or CASPer.
Physician assistant programs in Canada
Next, we’ll look at an overview of the 4 PA schools in Canada, their acceptance rates and admission requirements. Some schools have stricter admission requirements than others, but all are fairly competitive to get into given the limited seats available. Applicants might think about hiring a medical school consultant in Canada, who can offer some advice on applying to a health care program in Canada and provide feedback on your application before you hit send.
McMaster University Physician Assistant Education Program
Located in Hamilton, Ontario, McMaster University offers the Physician Assistant Education Program. Students will graduate with the Bachelor of Health Sciences Physician Assistant (BHScPA) degree after two years of full-time study. McMaster admits only 24 students per year and receives the largest number of applications than any other PA school in Canada. The average acceptance rate is around 2%.
All applications to Ontario universities, including McMaster’s PA program, must be submitted through the Ontario Universities Application Centre (OUAC) system. McMaster PA program asks for a minimum of 2 years of undergraduate study to be completed before applying.
Students should maintain a minimum of a 3.0 GPA before applying, but there are no required courses or required health care work hours or experience necessary. The supplemental application includes all written components, including essays, a student may choose to submit and a timed video. McMaster uses Kira Talent for the supplemental applications.
McMaster’s PA school does not consider any letters of recommendation as part of the admissions process and will not review any letters that are submitted. The MMI interview format is used for all admission interviews.
The PA program at McMaster’s is highly competitive, but the application is not as thorough, so your opportunities to really wow the admissions committee come down to the interview and written components. It goes without saying that you should aim to present as high a GPA score as possible, as well.
PA Consortium (University of Toronto, Northern Ontario School of Medicine, The Michener Institute for Education at UHN)
The Physician Assistant Consortium, composed of the partnership between the University of Toronto, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine and the Michener Institute offer students the chance to enroll in the Bachelor of Sciences Physician Assistant Degree (BScPA). This is the second Bachelor’s degree in Physician Assistant studies offered in Canada. Students attend classes in Toronto, Ontario at the U of T campus.
The program accepts 30 students every year, and receives several hundred to up to 1,000 applications each year on average. The estimated acceptance rate is 5%. The program is also a 2-year, full-time PA degree. To apply, students must complete at least 10 full-year courses or 4 semesters of undergraduate study. Just like applications to McMaster’s University, applications are completed through the OUAC system.
There are no pre-requisite courses to apply, although studies in the sciences could help improve your overall application. The minimum GPA required to apply has been raised to 3.0 on the OMSAS scale. Students are also asked to earn at least 100 hours of health care experience, to be included on a resume or CV.
Supplemental application components include a written section of short answers and mini essay questions on health care experience. Only one reference letter is required for the application. All other written components of the application are optional but may be an excellent way to improve your overall candidacy and increase your chances of success. The U of T physician assistant program uses a virtual version of the MMI interview or admissions.
University of Manitoba Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS)
The University of Manitoba, located in Winnipeg, Manitoba, offers the Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS). The program takes 2 years of full-time coursework, and only accepts 15 students per year. The university receives an average of 180 applications per year, so the acceptance rate for this program works out to about 8.3%
Only Canadian citizens or permanent residents can apply, and they must have completed a four-year degree prior to applying. The program at the University of Manitoba also requires a minimum GPA of 3.0 out of 4.5 to apply, and courses in Human Anatomy, Human Physiology and Biochemistry are also listed as required courses. There are no required clinical or work experience hours in health care to apply.
Supplementary application components include two letters of recommendation, a 1,000 statement of intent, a resume or CV, a ‘self-declaration statement’ or statement of purpose, and a complete CASPer test. The PA school at the University of Manitoba is the only program which requires the CASPer test. The program also uses both the MMI interview and traditional panel interview formats.
The University of Manitoba PA program also notes that a GPA of 3.5 or higher is considered competitive, and that complete undergraduate courses in Microbiology and Psychology are considered an asset on your application to help you stand out.
Canadian Forces Health Services Training Centre Program
Applicants to this program must be a member of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). A physician assistant with the CAF is a recognized health care provider who assists the supervising physician as part of the military health care team both domestically and abroad. Physician assistants with the Canadian military may serve anywhere Canadian military members are based, including at home, abroad, on operational missions and even at sea. Physician assistants help to provide primary care, emergency care and health education to Canada’s military.
Enrolled PAs must first take basic training with the Canadian military and can then enroll in more advanced professional training at the Canadian Forces Health Services Training Centre in Borden, Ontario. Further information on applying is available on the Canadian Armed Forces website.
How to improve your chances of getting into PA school in Canada
Given how competitive PA school acceptance rates in Canada are, and the very limited number of spots open to applicants, its crucial to create the strongest application possible. Overall, you’ll want to focus on maintaining a very high GPA, writing excellent grad school essays and nailing the admission interview for your best chance of success. While it is possible to get into grad school with a low GPA, you might need some grad school application help to boost the remainder of your application package. Most schools will accept supplementary applications too, so consider filling one of these out as well or seeking some physician assistant application help so you can get feedback and advice on your qualifications.
While getting into PA school in Canada has fewer opportunities for success, it is still feasible to get that acceptance letter. Despite the very low admission rates due to small class sizes, low number of schools and competitive admission stats, you can make your PA application stand out with excellent written components, a high GPA and a few extras thrown in.
1. How many physician assistant schools are there in Canada?
Right now there are only 4 physician assistant programs offered at universities in Canada. There are two in Ontario at McMaster University and the University of Toronto, one in Manitoba at the University of Manitoba, and the final program is offered through the Canadian Armed Forces Health Services Training Centre.
2. Is it hard to get into PA school in Canada?
It is generally fairly difficult to get into PA school in Canada. This is because of the limited number of schools, the very small class sizes each intake year, and the general competitiveness of getting into a PA program.
3. What GPA do I need to get into PA school in Canada?
PA schools in Canada won’t consider applicants with a GPA lower than 3.0, but to be considered a competitive candidate, applicants should aim to maintain a GPA of 3.5 and above.
4. How competitive is PA school in Canada?
Physician assistant school in Canada is quite competitive, with fewer than 10% of applicants being accepted to a program, on average. Due to the small number of schools and the small class sizes, only the very best applicants are accepted each intake year. On average, applicants have a GPA of 3.7 or higher.
5. Can I work as an American PA in Canada?
Yes. PAs with degrees from US accredited programs are able to practice in Canada as long as they pass the proper licensing examinations and meet the requirements.
6. Can I work as a Canadian PA in the US?
No; US institutions do not yet recognize the PA degrees offered by Canadian PA schools, so it is not possible to practice as a PA in the US without a PA degree granted by an American graduate school.
7. How long is PA school in Canada?
PA school programs in Canada are two years long if courses are taken on a full-time schedule.
8. Should I apply to more than one PA school?
Yes; it’s generally a good idea to apply to multiple PA schools given how competitive acceptance rates can be, both in the US and Canada.
9. Why aren’t there more PA schools in Canada?
The physician assistant profession was only recently recognized by the Canadian Medical Association as part of the health professions. Many Canadian provinces do not have the proper legislation and regulations in place to offer physician assistant programs at their universities.
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