What are the best physician assistant schools?

By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 19 minute read

You may be a good fit for a physician assistant role if you are interested in medicine and how you can use your knowledge to make a positive impact on the world. In order to work as a physician assistant, students must first earn their associate or bachelor’s degrees in the field. We’ve compiled a list of the top 25 places to pursue a degree as a physician assistant.

Programs to become a physician assistant are called what?

Physician assistant degrees are graduate degrees in medicine that prepare students to practice clinical medicine under the supervision of a licensed physician. Physician assistant degrees are not doctorates, but rather master’s degrees, unlike the MD and DO degrees in medicine.

Master’s degree programs for PAs are much shorter than those for medical doctors. The average length of a physician assistant program is two to three years, while the average length of a medical school program is four years.. PAs, on the other hand, can begin working immediately after graduation, whereas newly graduated physicians must complete years of internship and residency training.

At a minimum, students in physician assistant programs must complete a year of classroom study (referred to as the didactic phase of their education) and a year of clinical training. For the clinical portion of their training, PA students rotate through a variety of specialties in medicine.

A bachelor’s degree is required before you can apply to a master’s degree program in PA.

Physician Assistants (PAs) are a vital part of the healthcare team.

In many ways, physician assistants are like doctors. They gather information from patients, conduct physical examinations, place orders for tests, and arrive at diagnoses. They also place orders for, administer, and prescribe medication. PAs, on the other hand, are not physicians. As a matter of fact, they are licensed medical professionals with advanced training who must be supervised by a doctor in charge.

Which Qualities Should You Seek in the Best Schools for Physician Assistants?

How do you know which schools have the best master’s degree programs for physician assistants in the country? We considered the following aspects when compiling our list:

  • For students, accreditation from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant is an important consideration when selecting a physician assistant degree program (ARC-PA). When preparing to become a licensed PA, it is critical to select a program that is accredited.
  • Scores on the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE), given by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, are reported by individual schools (NCCPA). Pass rates for the PANCE are 93% for first-timers and 91% for all test-takers in the United States.
  • Preferably, the vast majority of students accepted into a cohort of PA schools will complete their degrees in a timely manner.
  • PA school is not cheap, but we took that into consideration when determining our ranking. Financial aid packages are available to students who need them, and they should be taken advantage of if they can.
  • It is important to look at other publications’ rankings to get a sense of how schools are viewed in the general public’s eyes. We took into account the 2019 U.S. News & World Report ranking of the best physician assistant programs.

Other factors to consider include the length of time it takes to complete, specialization options, and the number of programs available.

Ranking of Pennsylvania’s Top 25 Colleges and Universities

1. Lowa State University

Physician assistant students at the University of Iowa are among the most successful in the country. Every year, the University of Iowa conducts 120 interviews with students vying for a limited number of open positions. As a result of their 28-month program, students are able to perform some of the health care tasks that are normally performed by a primary care physician.

In addition, the PANCE scores of graduates of this physician assistant program are also very high. The University of Iowa’s PA Class of 2021 passed the certification exam with a 100% success rate. More than 99.99 percent of the students who enter the program each year are able to complete it, according to recent data. U.S. News & World Report also ranks the school as one of the best in the country.

Iowans can expect to pay $54,573,25 in total, with tuition accounting for $47,427.50 of that. Non-residents had to pay $96,084 in tuition and $103,329.75 in program fees.

2. Yale University

There is much more to Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, than a prestigious research university. As an added bonus, the school offers one of the best programs for future physician assistants in the country.

Yale is the 26th best college in the nation, according to the publication U.S. News & World Report. Its high PANCE pass rates and graduation rates pushed it to the top of our list of institutions to attend. A Yale University physician assistant graduate’s PANCE score has always been 100%, with the exception of one year. Even the Class of 2019, the exception to this 100% pass rate, achieved a 95% success rate. The PA program graduation rate was 100% for both the Class of 2020 and Class of 2021.

Yale University’s PA program is 28 months long, with a 12-month didactic phase followed by a 16-month clinical period. Students can also get involved in research during both phases.

At Yale, you’ll pay a hefty price for a quality physician assistant education. This year’s tuition cost for all PA program students (regardless of residency) was $111,167 and the total cost of the program was $199,435.

3. Baylor College of Medicine

Colleges of medicine have some of the best programs for becoming a physician assistant. However, physician assistants are actually practicing medicine, just under the supervision of a doctor. Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, offers one of the best PA programs in the country.

The PA program at Baylor College of Medicine has it all. U.S. News & World Report ranked the program as the third best in the country. That the school has a long history of excellence in preparing students to take the PANCE certification exam was particularly impressive to us First-time test takers in the Class of 2021 passed at a rate of 97%, while those in the Class of 2020 passed at a rate of 100%. Since 1973, the school’s graduates have outperformed the national average PANCE score and first-time pass rates.

Baylor College of Medicine’s PA program has a maximum class size of 40 students. Class of 2021 had a 92.5 percent graduation rate, while the Class of 2020 and 2019 both had 97.5 percent graduation rates.

Students at Baylor College of Medicine will complete a 30-month curriculum that includes both interdisciplinary education and practical training in the Simulation Core. This is a unique opportunity for students. An emphasis on Lifestyle Medicine, in which future PAs learn how to help patients make lifestyle changes that can treat or prevent disease, is one of the school’s unique offerings. Baylor College of Medicine’s PA students learn in the same facilities and clinical sites as the school’s medical students within Texas Medical Center, which the school describes as “the world’s largest medical complex.”

Residents and non-residents alike pay the same price for Bayor. Tuition for all three years of the program was reported to be $80,075, with a total cost of $112,070.50 for the school years 2022-2023.

4. The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

At Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI, getting into the physician assistant studies program is not easy. There are between 850 and 1,000 applicants each cycle, but only 75 students are accepted each year.

Despite the program’s high standards, U.S. News & World Report ranks Marquette University in the top 26. The school’s high PANCE pass and graduation rates convinced us that it deserved to be higher on our list of the best schools for physician assistants. The 2021 graduating class at Marquette had a PANCE pass rate of 100%, which is in line with the average over the previous five years. Despite the fact that the 2019 graduating class was an anomaly in Marquette’s pattern of 100% pass rates, they still managed to achieve a 98% pass rate. The graduation rate for the Class of 2021 was 97.34 percent.

For PAs interested in specializing in emergency medicine, the school offers a postgraduate emergency medicine program in addition to the Master of Physician Assistant Studies degree.

For students who enrolled in the 28-month program during the 2022 through 2023 school year, the projected tuition cost was $110,250.

5. The Medical School at Duke University

The Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, NC, is an essential part of any ranking of the best physician assistant programs. To train “middle-level practitioners” of medicine whose work could expand access to much-needed medical care in medically underserved areas, Dr. Eugene A. Stead Jr. established the first two-year program at Duke in 1965.

The physician assistant program at Duke aims to prepare students for work in a wide range of healthcare settings. In addition to its role in the creation of the PA profession, the school is notable for a number of other reasons. The Class of 2021 at Duke scored a perfect score of 97 percent on the PANCE, and both the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021 had a graduation rate of 98.9 percent. As a result of these and other accomplishments, U.S. News & World Report placed the school in the top three of its list of the best PA programs.

The Duke University School of Medicine’s physician assistant program excels in community service. Students must complete at least 40 hours of community service while completing their clinicals. A final project involving community service is the culmination of these volunteer hours.

Without regard to residency, the cost of the entire program in 2022-2023 was $92,102, resulting in a total program cost of $164,723.

6. University of the District of Columbia

In 2022, George Washington University’s top-ranked physician assistant program in Washington, D.C., will mark its 50th anniversary. Two physician assistant programs are available through the George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences’ Department of Physician Assistant Studies.

Traditionally, a two-year program for physician assistants focuses on preparing students to work in clinical settings as an assistant to a physician. Physician assistants who complete the three-year PA/MPH program are awarded a bachelor’s and master’s degree in public health at the same time. In addition to the Community Oriented Primary Care track, which is the most popular choice for PA/MPH students, these students can also choose to specialize in other areas such as environmental health or maternal and child health, health policy, global environmental health, or health policy.

The Class of 2021 of George Washington University’s physician assistant program graduated with a 100% success rate. The school’s physician assistant graduates have consistently passed the PANCE, with the Class of 2017 reporting a 100% pass rate and the Class of 2018 and 2019 passing at 98 percent. The best schools for physician assistants, according to U.S. News & World Report, include George Washington University.

There was a $96,960 tuition and a total of $97,221 cost reported by the school for the Class of 2023’s two-year PA program.

7. The Rosalind Franklin Medical and Science University

A physician assistant program at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in North Chicago, Illinois, has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best in the country.

The traditional curriculum for a PA program includes a year of classroom instruction and a year of clinical rotations. Six core rotations in internal medicine, family practice, emergency medicine, surgery, pediatrics, and women’s health are required of all medical students. Students also have the option of taking two electives to tailor their education to their clinical interests.

High-achieving students in the Class of 2021 had a 98.5 percent graduation rate and a 97% PANCE pass rate.

As of 2022, the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science’s physician assistant program cost $104,819 in tuition and fees.

8. The University of St. Louis

The St. Louis University School of Physician Assistant Studies was a pioneer in the development of the profession. Only eight students enrolled in the school’s PA program when it began in 1971, making it not only one of the first in the country to offer this field of study, but also the first of its kind in the Midwestern United States.

A master’s in medical science (MMS) is awarded to St. Louis University’s physician assistant students. Over the course of the 27-month program, students are required to complete a wide range of didactic and clinical training in a variety of medical specialties. These include family medicine and internal medicine, as well as psychiatry and behavioral medicine.

Despite its U.S. News & World Report ranking of 37th (tied), St. Louis University has impressive exam pass and graduation rates. The PANCE pass rate for the Class of 2021 was 96%. The Class of 2019’s graduation rate was 97.5 percent.

The total cost of the program for the 2021 through 2022 academic year was $92,860.

9. The San Antonio campus of the University of Texas System

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio’s Master of Physician Assistant Studies program is one of two UT Health physician assistant programs to make our list. During the 30-month program, students devote 14 months to lecture courses and 16 months to clinical training..

A 90 percent graduation rate and a 100 percent PANCE pass rate were achieved by the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio’s Class of 2021 physician assistants. The university was ranked 33rd on the U.S. News & World Report’s list.

By the year 2022, in-state students would have to pay $40,431 in tuition and fees, while out-of-state students would be on the hook for $86,534.

10. School of Medicine, Emory

A physician assistant degree is available to students in Emory University’s School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. This outstanding program is ranked among the nation’s top five physician assistant programs by U.S. News & World Report, and for good reason. Graduation rates for the Class of 2021 were reported to be 100 percent.

Clinical training begins in the second spring semester and continues through the third and final fall semester of the Emory University physician assistant program, which lasts 29 months. PH/MPH dual-degree programs are also available for students interested in both public health administration and clinical medicine.

Non-Georgians and Georgia residents pay the same tuition at Emory University. The total cost of the program, including tuition and fees, was listed at $126,456 for the academic years 2021-2022.

11. Midwestern University is number

Midwestern University in Downers Grove, IL, offers a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Program (MMS). The didactic phase of this 27-month program consists of 12 months of classes in basic science, followed by 15 months of clinical rotations in the Chicago metropolitan area.

The graduation rate for the Class of 2021 was 94.3%, and the PANCE pass rate was 96%. According to U.S. News & World Report, Midwestern University is the 21st best college in the country.

Tuition for all students in 2022 was $120,542, and the total program cost was $134,659.

12. Wendell Berry College of Arts and Sciences

Physician assistant students at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, can expect to complete their master’s degree in this field in two years. The total number of credit hours in the program is 91, with 44 pre-clinical and 47 clinical credit hours.

For the Class of 2020 and Class of 2021, the PA program tied for 7th place on U.S. News & World Report’s best physician assistant school rankings, graduation rates were 96 percent and 94 percent, respectively. For the classes of 2019 and 2020, the pass rate on the PANCE exam was 98%, and for the class of 2021, the pass rate was 95%.

There was a total cost of $172,494 to be a physician assistant at Wake Forest University for the 2022-2023 academic year, which included $87,540 in tuition and fees, regardless of residency.

13. Colorado State University

It will take three years for students at the University of Colorado in Aurora to earn a master’s degree in physician assistant studies. U.S. News & World Report ranked this degree program as the seventh best in the country, with students spending two years in classroom work that includes lectures, laboratory classes and small group experiences.

Some clinical experiences are incorporated into the curriculum as early as the first year of study. In contrast, clinical rotations take over the curriculum in the third year. All students will complete 10 month-long rotations in various specialties during their final year of the program. These rotations will cover everything from pediatrics to neonatology to adolescent medicine.

Despite the difficulties of attending school during a global pandemic, the classes of 2019 and 2021 both reported graduation rates of 100 percent, and the class of 2020 even managed a graduation rate of 93 percent.

The PA master’s degree program is significantly less expensive for Colorado residents. Residents in the Class of 2025 can expect to pay $64,242 in total costs for the three-year program in 2022-2023, while non-residents will have to pay $139,086.

14. Wisconsin State University

Physician assistant master’s degree programs at the University of Wisconsin are worth considering if you want a variety of educational options. It has a variety of options for students, including in-person studies at various campuses and part-time distance learning, as well as the opportunity to earn a dual degree. For in-state students, this program has the distinction of being unusually affordable.

At the University of Wisconsin, Madison, the traditional 24-month in-person PA program is known as the campus track, and it is offered on campus. Wausau’s UW-Stevens Point campus also offers a campus-based program.

The University of Wisconsin offers two part-time distance programs for students who want to continue their PA education but are unable to commit to it full-time. Traditional and regional distance education tracks are used for students who live in areas that lack access to health care services and are not within commuting distance of the Madison, Wisconsin, campus. There will be 24 months of part-time didactic learning before a 12-month full-time year of clinical rotations in either distance track.

MPH-MPAS students can pursue both a career as a physician assistant and public health studies at the same time through this dual-degree program. It takes 33 months to earn both a Master of Physician Assistant Studies degree and a Master of Public Health degree at the same time from the same university.

The class of 2021 at the University of Wisconsin graduated with a graduation rate of 100 percent and a PANCE pass rate of 92 percent.. Physician assistant programs at the University of Wisconsin have been recognized by US News and World Report as among the best in the country.

$39,469.10 was the total cost of the program for Wisconsin students enrolled in a course of study at the Madison campus in 2021 and 2022. Non-Minneapolis residents had to pay $80,197.94 in total program tuition, but Minnesotans only had to pay $52,501.22 because of a tuition reciprocity agreement between the two states.

15. A medical school in Eastern Virginia

You might also want to look into Norfolk’s Eastern Virginia Medical School as a possible option for your PA education.

The Class of 2021 had a 90.7 percent graduation rate and a 95 percent PANCE pass rate. According to U.S. News & World Report, the school has the 33rd best P.A. program in the country.

Eastern Virginia Medical School’s aspiring physician assistants complete a 16-month sequence of pre-clinical courses and eight clinical field experiences over the course of 28 months. There must be rotations in family medicine, internal medicine, general surgery, emergency medicine, pediatrics, women’s health, and psychiatry and behavioral health. These are all mandatory rotations.

In-state students will pay $177,554 in tuition and fees, while out-of-state students will pay $199,230 in tuition and fees for the academic years 2021-2022. Tuition for in-state students was $87,865; tuition for out-of-state students was $108,661.

16. South Alabama University

An aspirant physician assistant must finish 121 credit hours of coursework in 27 months at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, AL. Pre-clinical work for 15 months and clinical rotations for 12 months are part of the program. It is required that students complete clinical experiences in the rural areas of primary care and pediatrics during these two rotations.

The Class of 2021 had a 95 percent graduation rate and a 95 percent PANCE pass rate. South Alabama University’s Master of Physician Assistant Studies program was ranked 46th on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the best programs in the country.

Compared to out-of-state students, in-state students at this university are given a substantial discount. Tuition accounted for $58,080 of the $114,986 total cost for in-state students for the 2021 through 2022 academic year. $135,278 in tuition costs were charged to out-of-state students.

17. Southern California University of the Sciences

Primary care medicine is ideally suited to the skills of a physician’s assistant. The University of Southern California’s program in primary care is excellent if you want to work in that field. A Master of Physician Assistant Practice (MPAP) degree is awarded by the Primary Care Physician Assistant Program at USC’s Keck School of Medicine.

More than 54 weeks of full-time clinical training are included in the 33-month program’s curriculum. students get a much-needed break from their hard work during the summer after the first year of this three-year program.

The graduation rate for the Class of 2021 was 92%, and the PANCE pass rate was 96%. This PA program was ranked as the 10th best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

The institution reported a total program cost of $190,713, of which $177,892 was tuition, for the school years 2021-2022.

18. Oregon Institute of Technology

Physician assistant students at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, OR, complete a 27-month program that includes both classroom instruction and clinical experience. Emergency medicine, surgery, inpatient medicine, pediatrics, and behavioral health medicine are all required clinical rotations, as are three rotations in primary care. Elective rotations in orthopedics, cardiology, neurosurgery, and dermatology are also available.

42 students have been the maximum number of students in the PA program since 2018. PANCE pass rates for the Class of 2021 were 93%, and 95.3 percent of students graduated. The university was ranked 14th in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

There is an option to pursue a rural track program at Oregon Health and Science University that emphasizes rural and underserved areas of medicine for students.

All physician assistant students had a total cost of $123,507 for the entire program in 2022, including $93,636 in tuition costs.

19. School of Health Professions at Stony Brook University

The physician assistant program at the Stony Brook School of Health Professions in southeastern New York is a 24-month program.

The PANCE pass rate for the Class of 2021 was 91%, but this is an anomaly. Pass rates for the PANCE exam were 100% for the Class of 2018, 98% for the Class of 2019 and 98% for the Class of 2020. The graduation rate for the Class of 2020 was 98.5 percent. According to U.S. News & World Report, the show came in 15th place overall.

In 2021, the total cost of the program will be $62,449.76 for New York residents, including $44,608 in tuition. There was a total cost of $100,851.01, which included $82,442 in tuition for non-residents.

20. First-ranked Quinnipiac College

Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, offers a physician assistant master’s degree program that is 27 months long and consists of 94 credits. Students start with a year of didactic coursework before focusing on a series of clinical rotations. First-year students spend half a day each week working with licensed healthcare professionals in clinical practice. From the very beginning, students at this college are exposed to real patients.

The physician assistant class of 2021 at Quinnipiac University had a 92% PANCE pass rate and a 92.6 percent graduation rate. The university was listed as the 15th best in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

Tuition and fees will be $105,810 in 2022, regardless of where a student lives.

21. Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, University of Texas at

UT Health Science Center at San Antonio should also be included in our top 25 physician assistant degree programs. The Master of Physician Assistant Studies program at the Dallas-based University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center dates all the way back to 1972.

Every year, the 30-month program begins in May and ends at the end of December. Summer, fall, and spring semesters of the first year of study, as well as the summer of the second year, constitute the didactic phase of the curriculum. Students begin their clinical rotations in the fall of their second year. There are four semesters of clinical experiences that make up 59 of the 112 total program hours and include rotations in primary care and internal medicine as well as emergency medicine and infectious disease, as well as in psychiatry, children’s health, and women’s health.

The graduation rate was 90.3%, and the PANCE pass rate was 93% for the Class of 2021. This particular pass rate, however, is an anomaly in the program’s overall data. The UT Southwestern Medical Center’s PA classes of 2017, 2019, and 2020 all passed the PANCE exam with flying colors. This program was ranked 7th in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

In 2022, UT Southwestern Medical Center’s estimated cost for Texas residents will be $43,791 and for non-residents it will be $89,487. The total cost of the 30-month degree program is shown in this figure.

22. The Drexel University of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Students at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, who wish to become physician assistants, must complete a 27-month program. In this program, students take 12 months of classroom instruction and complete 15 months of clinical rotations.

Attrition rates at Drexel are lower than those of other programs on our list, despite its 10th-place ranking by U.S. News & World Report. Only 86 percent of the students in the Class of 2021 completed their degree. It is worth noting that the school does have respectable PANCE success rates. Of the students who took the exam for the first time in the Class of 2021, 96% of them passed.

Drexel University reported a $843 tuition cost per credit hour for the 2022-2023 academic year, which equates to $98,631 in total tuition for the 27-month program. The total cost of the program rose to $101,386 when additional costs were factored in.

23. The University of Utah’s Medical Center

The University of Utah in Salt Lake City, UT, requires a 27-month commitment for its seven-semester Master of Physician Assistant Studies program. The didactic portion of the curriculum takes up the first four semesters, while the clinical training portion lasts the remaining three semesters. It’s a requirement for students in this program to lead a small group of faculty and community members in a community-engaged research project.

To our dismay, US News and World Report had placed it at number four, but our rankings were based on a slightly lower PANCE pass rate for the Class of 2021 (91 percent) than the national average (90%).

The total cost of the program was $78,120.70 for Utah residents and $116,314.26 for non-residents in the academic year 2021-2022. Students who enroll as non-residents but later qualify for Utah residency can expect to pay a total of $97,217.48 in tuition and fees.

24. University of South Carolina School of Medicine

Aspiring physician assistants can earn a Master of Science in Physician Assistant degree from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, SC.

Even though this program accepts a larger group of students, there are 97 spots available, and the school claims that this greater number of students means “more resources.” The program had a student-to-faculty ratio of 8-1, with 12 dedicated faculty members. With the help of patient-actors, students can practice their skills in the state-of-the art PA lab, which recently opened.

Over the course of the 27-month curriculum, students complete 15 months of didactic learning and a year of clinical rotations. St. Andrew’s Medical Clinic and the East Cooper Community Outreach program give students the opportunity to help the underprivileged.

A 93.5 percent graduation rate and an 84% PANCE passing percentage for the Class of 2021 are statistical outliers. Attrition rates for 2019 and 2020 were both reported to be 95.1 percent. PANCE pass rates for 2017 and 2018 were 98 percent and 95 percent for 2020, respectively. The Medical University of South Carolina was ranked 46th on the U.S. News & World Report’s list.

South Carolina residents who want to become physician assistants can take advantage of this program’s low cost. To put it another way, in-state students paid $57,918, while out-of-state students paid $103,509 for the 2021 through 2022 academic year.

25. University of Washington

Seattle, Spokane, Acoma, and Anchorage campuses of the University of Washington each offer a 27-credit PA program.

The University of Washington’s PA program boasts a graduation rate of over 90%. The attrition rate for the Class of 2020 is currently at 92%, but the school’s graduation rates for 2018 and 2019 were both at 98 percent and 94 percent. The PANCE pass rate is reported on a campus-by-campus basis. The Spokane campus had the highest pass rate among the Class of 2021. U.S. News & World Report ranked the school’s physician assistant program as the nation’s 14th best overall.

The University of Washington reported a total tuition cost of $85,365 for the PA student cohort that began in the summer of 2021.

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