How Long Does it Take to Become a Physician Assistant?

Fortunately, the path to becoming a physician assistant isn't quite as confusing as that of a nurse practitioner, but if you want to become a PA you still need to do some planning ahead.  Where you are on your educational path will determine how long it takes you to become a physician assistant.  

Regardless of where you fall currently in your education, there are a few things you need to know that will help you become a physician assistant most efficiently.

First, most schools require multiple prerequisite courses before applying.  Make sure you know which courses are commonly required by PA programs and complete them before submitting your application.  Ideally, these prerequisite courses are completed as part of your bachelor's degree to maximize efficiency.  If you have not completed these prerequisite courses, this will increase the amount of time it takes for you to become physician assistant.  These courses must be completed before applying to a PA program. 

Second, many PA programs require that students have hands-on patient experience before applying.  Amount of experience varies from 500 to 2,000 hours.  Factor the time it will take you to complete this extensive experience into how long it will take you to become a physician assistant.  In order to get this much hands-on patient care experience, you may also need to factor in obtaining a medical certificate such as becoming a medical assistant into your educational plan.  

The following outline will give you an idea of how long you can expect it to take to become a PA depending on your current level of education.  

I am currently a high school student...

If you are currently a high school student, you have two paths you can take to the physician assistant career.  First, you can attend an accelerated physician assistant program designed specifically for students graduating from high school.  These programs usually take about five years to complete and award students both a bachelor's and master's degree. 

If you don't choose to attend an accelerated program specifically for recent high school grads, your next step is to get a bachelor's degree.  Make sure you complete courses required for application to PA programs during your undergraduate education.  Getting your bachelor's degree will take four years.  Then, you will have to attend a physician assistant program.  This will require an additional two years.  So, if you are currently in high school and choose not to attend an accelerated program you can expect it will take you at least six years to become a physician assistant. 

I am currently a college student or I already have a bachelor's degree...

If you currently have, or are working on your bachelor's degree, your next step is to apply to a physician assistant program.  PA programs typically take between 24 and 27 months to complete.  So, it will take you about two years to become a physician assistant.  If you want to work during your PA program, some schools offer a three year part-time option.

Planning ahead for your PA education is imperative.  In addition to completing basic educational requirements like getting your bachelor's degree, you should become familiar with the course and experience requirements of your programs of interest.  PA programs are very competitive so having these essentials in order is a must. 

 

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Comments

I have a bachelor's degree in psychology and a masters in population studies. I did all of these in Africa where I'm from. I want to do PA in USA will the prerequisites consider some of the courses I did in my 1st and 2nd degree. Are there different requirements for US citizens
Are there different requirements for non US citizens?

Dorcas Adjoa

I am an Urologist from Brazil and would like to become a PA in USA. What should I do?

francisco costa neto

i am interested in becoming a pa and i need information on becoming one. i currently have a masters degree in public administration. so what is my next step.

william edwards

Good Morning ,
I just graduated with my Associates in Science I will be going into the MA program. I was thinking about becoming PA after I'm financially stable and completing the MA program. How should I go about that? Approximately how long does it take to become a PA after having the MA completed. I also currently work as an office assistant and have about a year working with an Internal Medicine Doctor.

Dulce Quintero

Hello!

I currently have a bachelor’s degree in History Secondary Education. If I work as a CMA, will I be able to apply to a PA school? Or do I have to get a bachelor’s degree in science?

SMQ

I have a Bachelors in Education but I would like to join the medical field and I wanted to try PA .How long would it take me and what subjects do I need to major in?
Thank You

Carol

Hello.
I currently have an Associate's Degree. I have been in healthcare for quit some time. I have been CNA for 4 years and MA for 9.5 years. Would I be able to sign up for an accelerated dual course?

Noemi A.

Hello,
I am 62 years of age, & have been taking care of my folks over 20 years of intense critical care, and mother in law for nine. I have tremendous experience.I'm treated like a experience nurse by our medical team, etc.with no text experience. Would any of my years count with a few Doctors letter ? May I apply any of these hours as credit to a specific subject or test out ?
I am starting from scratch, with both parents gone and Mavis 90' I would like to continue
to care for seniors ,in the capacity where i can make a difference in their quality of life with my years of proven results & knowledge.
I welcome any ideas~
Warmest Thanks,
Sincerely,
Debbie

Debbie tragethon

Hi Sameen, 

First you will need to complete the prerequisite courses to apply to PA school. The time this requires will vary depending on your previous education. Once you apply and are accepted to a physician assistant program, you can expect your PA program to last about 2 years or a bit longer. 

Good luck! 

Erin Tolbert

Hi,
I completed my undergrad in Economics as major in 2010. I am looking to do change my field to healthcare. PA looks interesting to me. How long can it take me to get certified as PA? I have no past experience in healthcare.
Thanks in advance.

Sameen

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