If you’ve decided to become a physician assistant, the next step in starting your career is to choose a PA program. With hundreds of physician assistant programs across the country, how do you determine which schools will prepare you best for your future?
Once you have narrowed your list of prospective physician assistant programs by non-negotiables like location and cost, the following questions can help you determine the quality of the remaining programs on your list.
1. What percentage of your graduates pass the PANCE?
Once you finish your physician assistant program, you will need to be certified in order to practice. The certification process requires you to take (and pass!) the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE). As part of your decision to apply to a PA program, ask admissions staff what percentage of the program’s graduates pass the PANCE on the first attempt. This will give you an idea as to how well the program prepares aspiring PAs for practice.
2. Where will I complete my clinical rotations?
Time spent in the clinic or hospital directly involved in patient care is the crux of your physician assistant education. This is where you will master the real life skills you’ll need in your job. If you have a particular practice interest such as surgery or women’s health, make sure the schools to which you apply will be able to accommodate these interests. Also, inquire as to where clinical placements are likely to occur. Some PA programs may require a lengthy commute for certain clinical rotations. This isn’t a deal breaker but certainly an inconvenience to consider.
3. What percentage of your graduates find jobs within a few months of graduation?
Once you graduate from your PA program, you plan on finding a job, right? Inquiring as to the percentage of grads placed in a job shortly after graduation gives you insight into your own post-graduation prospects. This is partially reflective of the job market in the area where your program is located but also is an indicator of how employers perceive your program of interest. Aim to attend a school with a near 100% job placement rate within six months of graduation.
Doing your homework when it comes to choosing a physician assistant program is a must. Putting in adequate research on the front end and talking with admissions staff will pay off ensuring that your experience as a physician assistant goes smoothly.
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