According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for physician assistants is expected to grow by 38% by 2022, which is much faster than average for all occupations. To get started on this career, you’ll need to attend the right training program. There are numerous physician assistant schools out there, so how do you find the best one? Here are some things to consider that will guide you in making your decision.
Finding a Program
Due to their training requirements, few online programs are available. To find one in your area, visit the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CAPSA) website. CAPSA is provided as a service of the Physician Assistant Education Association, and is designed not only to help you find a program, but to simplify the admissions process.
After finding a few programs in your area, you’ll then need to compare them against one another to see how well each one fairs. Cost will naturally be a factor; however, you should not base your decision solely on the price of tuition alone. Rather, you should determine which school offers the best education for the money. Some things you should ask an admissions counselor include:
- How long has this program been established?
- What credentials do your faculty members have?
- Do you offer the latest equipment for training purposes? How often is laboratory equipment upgraded?
- What is the length of your program?
- Is an internship or practicum required? If so, am I required to coordinate this practicum myself, or will I have assistance from my program advisor?
Style of Learning
Some schools provide a more traditional format involving classroom lectures, while others use a problem-based learning model. A problem-based learning model is more student centered, and allows you to learn through solving dilemmas. You may prefer this approach if you enjoy working with other students as a team. The former might be better if you are competitive, because traditional schools tend to rank students according to their grades.
Not all schools require a thesis in order to graduate. Some students see this as an advantage, particularly if they struggle with writing or time management. One the other hand, performing a thesis can give you an incredible sense of accomplishment, and will also provide you with something you can provide to a potential employer as a testament to your knowledge.
Each school has its own admissions requirements, which you should carefully review to ensure you qualify. You should also compare the admissions requirements of different schools, as doing so can give you a better idea as to the quality of education you might receive. The most rigorous academic programs tend to be more selective when it comes to accepting new students. This is because they often have a better reputation to uphold in the medical community. A degree from one of these institutions is usually considered more prestigious, which means you may have hiring preference over others.
Benefits after Graduation
Knowing how a particular school helps graduates is also important. For this reason, you should ask questions such as:
- What is your placement rate and how is it determined?
- What percentage of graduates pass the PANCE exam on the first try?
- Do you have an alumni association? If so, what does this organization do to help graduates find a job?
There are many things to consider when choosing a physician assistant program-so many in fact that the process can often seem overwhelming. If you’re struggling with finding the right PA program, please feel free to contact us so that we can help point you in the right direction.