15+ Easiest PA Schools To Get Into

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Physician assistants are healthcare professionals trained in the medical field at nationally accredited educational programs.

list of PA schools

PAs are licensed to practice under a supervising physician. In this guide, we will walk you through PA programs.

PA on the Best Jobs List

In 2021, leading consumer advice and analysis company US News & World Report ranked the PA job first on its annual Best Jobs list.

Physician Assistants (PAs) can work in different environments, including hospitals, medical offices, outpatient clinics, military organizations and sports teams.

In the US News & World Report Best Jobs rankings, the PA profession ranked as the second-best healthcare job and fourth across all occupations.

Rewarding as the career sounds, entering a PA program isn’t easy, as most good schools have low acceptance rates.

Even less-known ones receive way more applications from candidates than they can enroll, which can be discouraging.

It also doesn’t help that most online sites have inaccurate, misleading or incomplete information on PA programs and schools, making the application process even more complicated.

Easiest PA Schools in the US and Criteria for Selection

The best PA school to apply to depends on several factors and often comes down to individual needs and preferences.

Factors to consider when choosing a PA school

Here is a checklist worth keeping in mind when making your decision:

  • Program acceptance rate
  • Facilities and labs
  • Availability of student support and rotation sites
  • Accreditation status
  • Graduation and attrition rates
  • Cost of attendance
  • Student-faculty ratio
  • Learning modes and curriculum
  • Validity and must-have prerequisite coursework

In addition to the items in the checklist, it is important to thoroughly research and evaluate your individual achievements against the program’s admissions requirements.

You might also find our easiest Law Schools list, helpful.

Easiest PA Schools to Get Into

The list below features both private and public universities selected based on the requirements of their respective PA programs. Some made the cut based on the nature of their program, the merits of their program curriculum, facilities in the campus area, and available student opportunities.

1. AT Still University in Mesa, Arizona

The AT Still University (ATSU) in Arizona has among its trio of PA-related degree programs an entry-level Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies.

ATSU also has an entry-level Central Coast Physician Assistant program at Santa Maria, which welcomed its class of 2025 in September 2023.

The 24-month CCPA program has slightly lower requirements and strongly encourages applications from first-generation college students, economically disadvantaged students, and residents.

2. Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri

The Missouri State University offers a graduate PA program that stands out thanks to its modern facilities and relatively small class size.

Admission evaluation is based on several factors, including academic potential, quality and volume (hours) of healthcare experience, and rural upbringing.

Other experiences, including service, leadership, and culture, are highly regarded.

Preference is also given to other groups, including first-generation college students and long-term foreign and previous applicants who have strengthened their applications.

3. Milligan University in Milligan College, Tennessee

Milligan University delivers a 108-credit hour Master of Science in PA Studies program to be completed in 28 months.

Admitted students enjoy facilities like the Ballad Health Physician Assistant Center, which has three well-equipped private exam rooms and a separate area with a dozen patient exam tables. Milligan’s PA students can also access the anatomy lab in the Science Building.

The program enrolled its first class in January 2018 and has continued admitting a new class of students in January each year.

4. University of Utah in Salt Lake City, Utah

The University of Utah School of Medicine runs one of the oldest and most well-established PA programs.

The Utah Physician Assistant Program is co-sponsored by the Utah Medical Association.

The program has maintained its accredited status for over five decades and recently celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2021.

The school is generally more flexible in admitting competitive candidates who may not have a strong GPA but have offset the weak academic record with other desirable achievements.

Applicants from outside Utah are encouraged to apply but should be informed that the university itself regards regional factors, including Utah residency.

Table 1- PA Schools/Programs Requirements

  A.T. Still University Missouri State University University of Arkansas Milligan University
Program Arizona School of Health Sciences Physician Assistant Program Missouri State University Physician Assistant Program University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Physician Assistant Program Milligan’s Physician Assistant Program
Duration 26 months and 1 week 24 months (6 semesters) 28 months 28 months
Typical class size (No. of students) 70 36 40 26
Minimum cGPA 3.0 3.0 3.0 3.0
Minimum sGPA 3.0 3.0 3.0 3.0
GRE score Not required Required Not required 289
Healthcare experience requirement Minimum hours 1000 hours involving patient contact 500 hours of direct, hands-on patient care experience 500 hours of direct patient care 300 hours of direct patient care or observation experience
Other recommendations 100 community service hours Up to 250 hours of scribing or pharmacy technician can be accepted as direct patient care
Tuition + Other Fees  In-state ~$55,031 ~$59,125 ~$66,561 for the class of 2024 $835 per credit hour (totals $90,180) plus applicable fees
Out of state ~$89,227 ~$93,392 for the class of 2024
P.A. shadowing Strongly recommended At least 24 hours Recommended but doesn’t count towards direct patient care Not required
NCCPA PANCE scores First-time takers 100% for the class of 2023 100% for the class of Dec 2022 97% for the class of 2023 85% for the class of 2023
5-year average pass rate 93% for first-time takers.
Summary report here.
98% for first-time takers.
Summary report here.
86% for first-time takers.
Summary report here.
94% for four-year first-time takers.
Summary report here.
Attrition rate Class of 2020 ** 3.5% ** **
Class of 2021 5.7% 3% 2.5% 3.8%
Class of 2022 1.4% 13.3% 7.5% 3.8%
Class of 2023 1.4% ** 7.5% 0%
English Proficiency Requirement TOEFL iBT score of 80+ or IELTS overall band score of 6.5+ A course in medical terminology is strongly recommended TOEFL iBT score of 88+ or TOEFL paper version composite score of 570+ TOEFL or IELTS score of at least 6.5
Accreditation status Continued, with an approx. date for the next validation review of March 2024 Continued, with an approx. date for the next validation review March 2031 Continued, with an approx. date for the next validation review of September 2026 Continued, with an approx. date for the next validation review of June 2032

** Comparable data is not specified or available at the moment.

5. Rosalind Franklin University in North Chicago, Illinois

Rosalind Franklin University offers a 24-month program at the end of which students earn a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Practice.

For clinical experiences, the university, through the Director of Clinical Education and Clinical Coordinators, makes a point of ensuring its PA students are placed within a maximum 90-minute commute from campus.

The university makes no distinction by state of residency in its admissions policy or tuition costs.

6. Touro University California in Vallejo, California

The Touro University California is a graduate school under the Touro College and University System.

TUC has among its academic offerings a joint degree program that rewards students with a Master of Public Health and a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies.

The private university system also plans to open a separate 28-month PA program in Los Angeles, for which it is currently applying for Provisional accreditation status.

The Los Angeles PA program, if granted ‘Provisional’ status at the June 2024 ARC-PA meeting, will admit its first class in January 2025.

The University of Utah presents another option for candidates interested in a joint program like TUC.

Its dual degree offering delivers a blend of the MPAS and MPH programs in coursework meant to be completed in over 32 months.

7. Bethel University in Saint Paul, Minnesota

Bethel University admits about 50 students to its Physician Assistant Program each year. The program currently has a Guaranteed Interview Agreement with several institutions in Tennessee and Kentucky through.

Highly qualified students from these institutions can interview for admission into the program as part of the next cohort.

8. University of Kentucky in Lexington and Morehead

The University of Kentucky Physician Assistant program is offered in person with an ITV connection between the Morehead and Lexington campuses. All hands-on labs are, however, conducted at the campus location.

The school has a holistic admissions criterion that considers other non-academic attributes like volunteer, leadership, and diverse experiences.

Table 2 – PA Schools/Programs Requirements

  University of Utah University of Kentucky Bethel University Rosalind Franklin University
Program Utah Physician Assistant Program University of Kentucky Physician Assistant Program Bethel University Physician Assistant Program RFUMS Physician Assistant Program
Duration 27 months (7 semesters) 29 months 27 months (7 semesters) 24 months
Typical class size (No of students) 60 40 on the Lexington campus, 16 students on Morehead campus 50 67
Minimum cGPA 3.0 effective starting 2023/24 2.75 institutional undergraduate GPA, 3.0 graduate GPA (if applicable) 3.4 2.75
Minimum sGPA sGPA of 3.0 is emphasized ** Applicants are required to have completed 80 science hours. 2.75.
GRE score Not required but the CASPer test is needed. Currently required but to be removed in the 2024/25 admission cycle Required. No longer reviewed or required. A personal statement is required.
Healthcare experience requirement Minimum hours 2,000 hours Required, but there is no minimum number of hours Not required, but it is recommended.

Patient care experience is preferred

800 hours of direct patient contact.
Other recommendations All forms of health care experience are accepted Volunteer work, leadership, research, teaching, and diverse experiences At least 25 hours of community service/volunteering. Direct patient care experience is strongly recommended
Tuition

+ Other fees

 In-state ~$82,172.30 $68,099.50 for Lexington campus

$67,283.50 for Morehead campus

$96,320 $55,401 for Year 1

$53,758 for Year 2

Out of state $122,466.50 for non-residents who do not acquire Utah residency

$102,319.40 for non-residents qualifying for Utah residency

$128,507.50 for Lexington campus

$127,691.50 for the Morehead campus

P.A. shadowing Not required but is highly recommended No longer needed but is strongly recommended At least 40 hours Strongly recommended.
NCCPA

PANCE

Scores

First-time takers 92% for class of 2023 91% for graduated class of 2022 91% for graduated class of 2023 91% for graduated class of 2023
5-year average pass rate 90% for first-time takers.
Summary report here
92% for first-time takers.
Summary report here
91% for first-time takers.
Summary report here
93% for first-time takers.

Summary report here.

Attrition Rate Class of 2020 0% ** ** **
Class of 2021 0% 3.5% 6% 1.5%
Class of 2022 1.4% 3.4% 2% 3%
Class of 2023 ** 1.9% 2% 1.5%
English Proficiency Requirements TOEFL written version score of 550+ or TOEFL iBT score of 80+ or TOEFL computer version score of 230+ TOEFL iBT score of 104+ TOEFL iBT score of 87+ TOEFL iBT score of 100+
Accreditation status Continued, with an approx. date for the next validation review of March 2026 Continued, with an approx. date for the next validation review of March 2027 Continued, with an approx. date for the next validation review of March 2024 Continued, with an approx. date for the next validation review of March 2033

** Comparable data is not specified or available at the moment.

9. Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, California

Samuel Merritt University’s Physician Assistant Department runs the Master of Physician Assistant program, which admits 44 students annually.

Requirements for admission are attainable, i.e., a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.8. Applicants are not required to take the GRE.

SMU’S PA program also accepts all prerequisite coursework (including labs) completed online if the applicant completed them from an accredited institution.

10. Lincoln Memorial in Harrogate, Tennessee

The Lincoln Memorial University offers PA studies in its Harrogate and Knoxville campuses.

Students admitted to the PA-Harrogate program earn a Master of Medical Science (MMS) degree after completing the 27-month-long curriculum.

The Knoxville PA Program is structured similarly to the Harrogate program but focuses more on the surgical aspect.

The program has its cadaver lab and other resources owing to its connection to the medical school.

11. University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Arkansas

The University of Arkansas delivers a continuous 28-month UAMS Physician Assistant Program through its College of Health Professions.

The full-time program accepts new students to its lock-step curriculum once a year beginning in mid-May.

UAMS PA program boasts documented partnerships with several medical facilities, including Reynolds Institute on Aging and CHI St. Vincent’s Health System.

Though qualified out-of-state applicants are encouraged to apply, consideration is given to residents during admission reviews.

12. Brenau University in Gainesville, Georgia

Brenau University’s PA program is relatively new, having admitted its first cohort at the start of 2021 after receiving provisional accreditation from the ARC-PA.

The Department of Physician Assistant Studies at the university has continued matriculating one class each January.

The program received a green light the provisional monitoring site visit by the ARC-PA. The final provisional site visit is scheduled in February 2025.

Table 3 – PA Schools/Programs Requirements

  Touro University California

 

Samuel Merritt University Lincoln Memorial University Brenau University

 

Program Joint Physician Assistant / Public Health Program Samuel Merritt University Physician Assistant Program LMU Physician Assistant – Harrogate Brenau University Department of P.A. Studies
Duration 33 months 27 months 27 months 28 months
Typical class size (No of students) 48 44 96  33
Minimum cGPA 3.0 2.8 2.8 2.75
Minimum sGPA 3.0 2.8 2.8 2.75
GRE Score Not required Not required Not required Required. Applicants must also submit CASPer results
Healthcare experience requirement Minimum hours 1,000 hours of patient care experience 1,000 hours of patient care experience 150 hours of direct patient care  500 hours of direct patient care experience
Other recommendations 200 hours of volunteer work with community-based organizations. Preference is given to those with P.A. shadowing experience  The applicant’s knowledge of the profession and personal statements weigh in the admissions decision. Higher numbers of direct patient care hours are given high consideration
Tuition +

Other Fees

 In-State $18,735 per term for the joint MSPAS/MPH program.

$139,590 for the Los Angeles Physician Assistant program.

$150,205 $14,400 per semester $14,742 per semester.
Out of State
PA shadowing Not required but is recommended Not required but is recommended A minimum of 40 hours shadowing a P.A. with at least 20 of those hours spent shadowing in a primary care setting Not required
NCCPA

PANCE

Scores

 

First-time takers 82% for graduated class of 2023 97% for graduated class of 2022 84% for graduated class of 2022 **
5-year average pass rate 91% for first-time takers.
Summary report here.
90% for first-time takers.

Summary report here.

90% for first-time takers. Summary report here. **
Attrition Rate Class of 2020 ** 7% 2.09% **
Class of 2021 4% 2% 3.125% **
Class of 2022 10% 11% 11.46% **
Class of 2023 12% ** ** 6%
English Proficiency Requirements TUC does not accept international students. TOEFL iBT score of 100+ TOEFL iBT score of 79+ Applicants are required to submit records showing completion of 18 semester hours of study from an accredited higher learning institution.
Accreditation status Continued, with an approx. date for the next validation review of September 2029 Continued, with an approx. date for the next validation review of June 2029 Continued, with an approx. date for the next validation review of March 2025 Provisional. Final provisional site visit to be completed in February 2025 for consideration at the June 2025 ARC-PA Commission meeting

** Comparable data is not specified or available at the moment.

13. University of New England

The Master of Science Physician Assistant offered at the University of New England degree program is a good option for candidates with a strong last 60 credit hour GPA record.

The UNE MSPA also accepts international applicants and foreign-degree holders if they meet additional requirements.

GRE scores are not an admission requirement, but applicants are required to have at least 20 hours of PA shadowing experience.

14. University of Oklahoma

The University of Oklahoma boasts one of the best primary care PA programs.Though healthcare experience is not required for admission to the 30-month program, it is still recommended.

GRE scores are, however, needed. The university has a student-run free clinic (Bedlam evening clinic) and a Physician Assistant Longitudinal student clinic, among other opportunities to supplement the curriculum.

15. Union College

Union College’s inclusion in this list is not by merit of its program being among the easiest to get into but rather owing to its unique program curriculum.

The 33-month-long program (118 credit hours) is ideal for applicants who prefer a break between their first and second didactic years.

Matriculated students are expected to complete the clinical rotations part of the curriculum in the third year of the program.

16. University of Nevada

The University of Nevada, Reno Physician Assistant Studies Program is another option for aspiring candidates without an outstanding academic record.

The UNR Med PA program requires that candidates have a minimum GPA of 2.75. The program’s curriculum is modeled after successful PA programs and consists of seven total semesters, three being clinical clerkships.

PA shadowing is not a requirement but applicants must have 2,000 or more hours of direct patient care experience under their belt.

17. University of North Dakota

The University of North Dakota has one of the best programs in terms of academic quality. Its PA program has a 98% five-year aggregate PANCE pass rate.

The program’s curriculum entails both classroom learning and clinical experience aspects. The department also delivers a combination of synchronous and asynchronous online coursework.

The path to becoming a PA

Training

To be a licensed physician assistant in the US, one must satisfactorily complete a PA program degree from a nationally accredited college or university.

These academic institutions typically matriculate learners according to the program’s requirements.

Prospective applicants must submit their applications via the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) or through the supplemental application approach if the school is not a CASPA participant.

The requirements are usually a resume, college/university transcripts, recommendation letters, a personal statement and records proving healthcare experience.

If invited to the interview stage, it is crucial that you know the mission of the school and, more importantly, show how your values align with it through your professional experiences.

PA programs’ curricula focus on coursework in various medical modules like anatomy, therapeutics, and medicine principles.

Most also have clinical rotations or clerkships to impart advanced knowledge and skills required to pass the national certifying exam.

Overall, schoolwork is demanding, and some rotations can be extremely exhausting. That said, the coursework is doable for the most part.

Rotation hours are also accomplishable with proper time management skills and discipline.

Certification

The standards of quality observed by PA programs in the US are established and maintained by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant.

The ARC-PA achieves this by awarding accreditation to programs that are in compliance with its standards.

One must successfully undertake an accredited PA program before sitting for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE).

Success in this exam administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants earns the taker a certified physician assistant (PA-C) credential.

PA-C is recognized as the primary licensure accepted in all states, the District of Columbia and the majority of the US territories.

To maintain this credential, a certified PA must meet the five two-year Continuing Medical Education (CME) requirements, which include submitting a certification maintenance fee of $180.

These CME requirements determine eligibility for the recertification exams.

Within the 10-year certification maintenance cycle, board-certified PAs must take and succeed in the Physician Assistant National Recertifying Examination (PANRE).

In the most recent development, NCCPA introduced a new alternative to the traditional PANRE, which features longitudinal assessment elements.

Job Market & Industry Forecast

Occupational Employment and Wages data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics as of May 2022 showed the physician assistants’ median annual salary to be $126,010.

For context, the median yearly wages of healthcare diagnosing or treating practitioners is $93,710.

Factors like industry profile, experience level and geographic profile go on to determine the eventual salary figure in the profession.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment for physician assistants will increase by 28% between 2021 and 2031.

Frequently Asked Questions about PA Schools and Program Selection

What is the PA-CAT, GRE, and MCAT?

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE), Physician Assistant College Admission Test (PA-CAT), and the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) are forms of standardized tests sometimes required by PA schools for the admission process.

Some programs also require results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) assessment for international students and non-native English speakers.

What are the responsibilities of a physician assistant?

The responsibilities of a physician assistant may include but are not limited to:

  • Taking and following up on patients’ medical histories
  • Carrying out clinical research
  • Interpreting diagnostic tests
  • Offering assistance in surgical procedures
  • Providing counseling patients
  • Monitoring patients’ recovery progress

The specific roles of a PA also depend on their setting, experience, specialization, and the laws in the states in which they practice.

Where can I apply if I have low GPA scores?

Truth be said, there are no easy PA programs to get into, given the demands and nature of the profession. Most schools typically accept applications from students with a minimum cumulative and science GPA of 3.0.

Some, however, recognize the effort of individuals who put in the extra work to present themselves as better applicants or whose background shows an upward trend and willingness to work.

Be realistic about the schools you are considering and try to look for those that prioritize the best attributes and requirements you meet, such as PCE hours, volunteer work, PA shadowing experience, or military service.

Also, consider looking into newer schools with provisional accreditation and are on the path to earning Continued-accreditation status.

The ‘easiest’ PA schools to get into are usually those with a minimum GPA requirement of (or below) 3.0, those without standardized test requirements, or those without extensive healthcare experience, depending on the applicant’s shortcomings.

Be wary of programs with very high acceptance, especially those with lower admission criteria.

Though they are less competitive, more often that they don’t deliver a solid education.

There are many decent PA schools that are strict with high admission criteria but still accept average candidates.

These schools assess the academic scores, but beyond that, they consider the applicant’s file and, for those it invites, their performance in interviews.

What are the various accreditation statuses that a PA program can hold?

Accreditation-Continued‘ is the recognition granted to a program holding accreditation when it becomes fully compliant with the standards enforced by ARC-PA.

This status remains in effect until the program shuts down, withdraws from the accreditation process, or is stripped for failure or violation of the standards.

Accreditation- Provisional‘ is, on the other hand, granted when a proposed program yet to matriculate students presents plans and resource allocation, which, if fully implemented and realized, reflect the program’s ability to attain the specified standards.

This status is also the only entry way for proposed new programs seeking approval from the ARC-PA, but it doesn’t guarantee or ensure any subsequent accreditation status.

Programs holding ‘Continued’ or ‘Provisional’ status can be stripped of the same at the discretion of the ARC-PA if they fail to meet the standards or when the ability of the program to meet its objectives and learning outcomes is threatened.

These programs are effectively assigned ‘Accreditation-Probation’ status for not less than two years.

This can sometimes be extended for another two years if the program demonstrates significant progress toward meeting stipulated standards but needs more time to attain full compliance.

A program can also be placed under probation for violating or failing to adhere to administrative requirements like submitting required reports. These are granted the ‘Accreditation-Administrative Probation’ status.

Programs placed on probation can have their accreditation status withdrawn entirely if they are unable to comply with accreditation requirements in the period specified by the ARC-PA.

References

  1. US BLS Publication – Occupational Outlook Handbook
  2. PA Applicant US Citizenship Status and Likelihood of Program Matriculation
  3. NCCPA Certification Maintenance Resources
  4. ARC-PA Program Accreditation Resources
  5. LendEDU Physician Assistant Student Loans Guide
  6. PA School Finder Online PA Program Directory
  7. US BLS – Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics
  8. US News & World Report Best Jobs Rankings 2021
  9. The Journal of PA Education Study – Factors Affecting PA Student Attrition Rates
  10. Physician Assistants Play a Crucial Role in Today’s Healthcare
  11. Physician Assistant, Nurse Practitioner, Doctor, or Resident? What’s The Difference
  12. NCCPA Certificates of Added Qualifications (CAQs)
  13. AAPA – PA Profession Outlook
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