Education and Training Required to Become a Successful Physician Assistant

Becoming a physician assistant requires a minimum of a college degree or accredited training program, training in the healthcare industry and the passing of a state licensure exam. While the requirements are less rigorous than those that doctors face, there is a great deal of overlap as a physician assistant will need to be prepared to consult with as well as assist doctors and surgeons.

Undergraduate Requirements

Before you begin your path to a PA career, you should check your state requirements. Many states present PA training as a Masterís degree, which means that you will first need to earn a Bachelorís degree. Other states require only the completion of an accredited training program and relevant healthcare experience. A Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences is preferable, with some colleges offering a specific physician assistant degree, or BPA. To enroll at a top university, you should expect to pay up to $40,000 per year in tuition and living fees plus $500 to $1,000 yearly in textbooks and supplies. Attending a college in your home state may provide you with a better deal on tuition.

PA Program

Once you have completed the initial study, be it with a Bachelorís degree or an equivalent program, you will need to seek out a certified PA program. Most colleges and universities that offer an undergraduate program also offer the chance to complete PA training either with certification or a Masterís degree, usually depending on the requirements of the state the school is in. Regardless of the specific certification type, this program will include classroom presentations and hands-on medical experience. The average cost for these programs is approximately $15,000 per year plus $1,000 per year in textbooks. Most of these programs reach completion in about two years.


In order to practice as a PA anywhere in the United States, you will need to pass a licensing exam. It is best to pursue licensure in the state you wish to practice, although some states will allow a license to be transferred for a processing fee. The licensing exam is overseen by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, or NCCPA, and will judge your base of knowledge, your clinical expertise and your communication abilities. The examís cost differs from state to state, but usually averages around $300 with a renewal fee of $130 to $150.

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Continuing Education

A PA license is not something that you get to keep for life without additional action. In order to keep your license, you will need to stay practicing in a healthcare center and meet certain educational requirements. If you practice at a large hospital or medical university, you can likely get some of your education reimbursed by your institution. Courses can be taken at the university in which you studied or through online institutions. You should strive for at least six to nine continuing education credits per calendar year in order to make sure you have all the appropriate requirements.

Becoming a physician assistant means putting in a lot of time when it comes to studying, training and certification. However, the end result is a career that pays well, serves an important role in providing healthcare, and is expected to grow by as much as 30% over the next ten years.

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