Common Mistakes When Choosing a PA School

January 9, 2015

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Becoming a physician assistant can be an exciting career choice. In many cases, physician assistants work alongside doctors caring for patients in a variety of specialties. The field continues to grow, and more opportunities are arising for physician assistants.  

The first step on the way to becoming a physician assistant is choosing a PA program. Currently, there are about 200 accredited physician assistant programs in the United States. Finding a program, which is a good fit, is important to start your career off on the right foot. When deciding which PA school is best, avoid some common mistakes, such as the following:

Not doing enough research on the school

Applying to a PA school before you have researched the program is never a good idea. Some students apply because a school is located near where they live, or they have heard about the program from a student advisor. But it is important to do your own research. Most PA programs have a lot of information on their website. You can find out what the curriculum involves, the qualifications of the instructors and other essential information with just a mouse click.

Ignoring accreditation

When a PA school has earned accreditation from the Accreditation and Review Commission on Physician Assistant Education, it means the program has met a certain standard. Accreditation status shows the program curriculum, program organization, instructors and clinical sites have all been reviewed and meet the requirement set by the accrediting organization. In addition, to be eligible to take the state licensing exam, you must graduate from an accredited program.

Picking only schools you think you have a shot at

It is helpful to determine the qualifications different schools require. It is also helpful to apply to schools where you appear to meet the qualifications, such as grade point average. But don’t limit yourself to only those schools. If a school seems to have requirements that appear to be a little out of your league, go for it away. You never know how many applications a program receives in a particular year. You may have more of a shot than you think.

Not considering hospital affiliations

During physician assistant school, you will have the opportunity to complete clinical rotations at various hospitals and medical centers. Some hospitals will offer more opportunities than others. For example, a large teaching hospital may use advanced technology and offer complex treatments for a wide variety of conditions. As a student, you may have the chance to learn more than you would at a small facility. Determining which facilities you will rotate through can help you decide if the program meets your needs.

Picking a school which is way too expensive

Although you do not want money to be the number one reason you select a school, it may make sense to consider finances. The cost of PA school can vary. It is a good idea to consider how you will pay for school. If you attend a very expensive school and do not have the means to pay, it will mean taking out loans and being in debt when you graduate.

Not working to strengthen your application

Finally, the biggest mistake you can make is to find your perfect school, and then spend too little time polishing your application. One of the many ways that you can make a good impression is by completing some overseas work shadowing with us. This lets your potential PA school know that you have fully researched the role and been able to see someone at work before you apply.


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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives, and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.