How Much Does it Cost to Become a Physician Assistant?

So, you’ve decided to become physician assistant.  The next step on the path to your career is choosing a PA program.  A major factor in your decision should naturally be cost.  Just how much does it cost to become a physician assistant?  Do certain types of schools offer savings over others?

Physician Assistant Program Costs

According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants, the average cost for a physician assistant program was $50,567 for an in-state resident and $61,088 for an out-of-state student.  Fortunately, some types of programs are much less expensive than others and can offer students significant savings.

How much can you save by attending a public rather than private PA program?  The average cost of attending a public school in-state runs about $31,210 while a public, out-of-state program costs on average significantly more at $56,934.  Private school averages are even higher.  On average, tuition for out-of-state students in private PA programs run about $66,014.  Tuition averages $65,573 for in-state PA students at private universities.  If you plan to attend a private university for your physician assistant program, tuition rates are almost identical regardless of your state of residence.  The most cost effective way to become a PA is through an in-state, public university.

Unanticipated Costs of Physician Assistant Programs

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Unfortunately, tuition isn’t the only cost you can expect to incur in your physician assistant program.  Most PA programs are full-time making it nearly impossible to remain employed during your time in school.  But, you will still need to pay the usual living expenses like rent while you are in your PA program.

Some schools may also require travel to clinical sites throughout your PA program.  If your PA program requires you to complete clinical hours off-site, make sure to plan travel expenses into your budget.  Some programs anticipate that students could spend close to $10,000 each year on travel to and from PA program clinical sites.  Make sure to consider travel expenses and location when deciding which PA program to attend.

Carefully calculate cost of living, travel and additional school fees such as books and a laptop computer into the cost of your PA education.  This will be essential in helping you accurately determine the loan amount you need to complete your physician assistant program.

How Can You Offset PA Program Costs?

The good news?  If you get a little creative, you can probably find a more cost effective way to become a physician assistant than simply attending the university closest to where you live.  When looking for a PA program, perform a nationwide search.  Many universities offer online or distance programs requiring you to come to campus a few times each year, it at all.  If these programs are significantly less expensive than schools closest to where you live, you may save thousands of dollars even after factoring in occasional travel expenses.

Financial Aid for Your Physician Assistant Program

Strapped for cash?  Not to worry, there are several programs that help prospective physician assistants pay for their education.  For example, the National Health Service Corps offers significant loan repayments to PAs practicing in underserved areas.  The U.S. Army also offers opportunities or qualified officers to become physician assistants in exchange for serving in the military.  If you aren’t interested in working in a rural area or serving in the military, ask you PA programs if interest if they offer scholarships for qualifying students.

Yes, becoming a physician assistant is costly and taking out a loan to finance your education is intimidating.  But, it will be worth it- the average salary of a physician assistant is over $90,000.


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