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Physician Assistant Course In The USA: Universities & Job Prospects

physician assistant

Pursuing a physician assistant course in the USA opens up numerous opportunities for realising your medical aspirations. U.S. universities are renowned for their high-quality curriculum and distinguished faculties. This blog is a valuable reference for those considering a career as a physician assistant. 

Physician assistants work under the direct supervision of physicians, providing crucial support to healthcare teams. They undergo rigorous advanced education and intensive training in a medical setting. Through comprehensive coursework and clinical experience, aspiring physician assistants acquire the skills needed to assist in surgeries, devise treatment strategies, and operate effectively in dynamic healthcare environments. 

What Does A Physician Assistant Do? 

Physician assistants operate similarly to physicians. They conduct patient examinations, diagnose diseases, prescribe medications, and issue referrals to specialists. It’s essential to note that these professionals must work under the supervision of a licensed medical doctor.

Regardless of their chosen specialisation, physician assistants dedicate themselves to patient interactions, conveying essential healthcare information, and making crucial decisions about patient healthcare. 

PAs are responsible for a variety of duties, including:

  • Taking patients’ medical histories
  • Ordering diagnostic tests
  • Interpreting test results
  • Conducting physical examinations
  • Diagnosing injuries, illnesses, and health conditions
  • Prescribing treatments and medications
  • Educating patients on disease prevention, management, and healthy lifestyle choices
  • Assisting physicians with surgery

Specialisations For Physician Assistant Courses In USA For International Students 

Physician assistants are versatile and crucial to the healthcare industry. They practice in nearly every specialisation that physicians do. Here are some of the most common PA specialisations. 

PA SpecialisationsWhat They Do
Family MedicineOne of the most common practice areas, according to the NCCPA, is that PAs in this field may work with some autonomy and often serve as a patient’s primary care provider.
Emergency MedicineTreating patients with life-threatening conditions in emergency rooms is among the highest-paying specialities.
Urgent CareWork in urgent care clinics treating minor illnesses and injuries. This speciality is growing as more urgent care clinics open. It is high-paying and offers greater autonomy, as PAs may work without a physician on-site.
DermatologyOne of the highest-paying specialities for PAs, involving the treatment of medical skin conditions and performing elective procedures like Botox and cosmetic surgery.
Internal MedicineFocus on disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, often working in a hospital setting.
ObstetricsProvide prenatal and postnatal care, assist with childbirth, and perform routine gynaecological exams.
General Surgery/Surgical SubspecialtiesWork under the supervision of general surgeons or speciality surgeons in areas like cardiology and orthopaedics. PAs may assist with surgeries, order diagnostic tests, and provide preoperative and postoperative care.

Steps To Become A Physician Assistant In The US

A physician assistant course in USA for international students involves the completion of the below-mentioned steps:

Get a Bachelor’s Degree

  • Obtain a qualifying bachelor’s degree for PA graduate programmes.
  • Consider a relevant field like health science or nursing.
  • Take prerequisite undergraduate biochemistry, organic chemistry, immunology, and genetics courses.
  • Some schools offer combined BS/MS programmes for time and cost savings.

Master’s Degree

  • Achieve a bachelor’s degree for admission to an ARC-PA-accredited PA master’s programme.
  • Study didactic science courses and engage in clinical rotations. 

PANCE: Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination

The PANCE or Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination is a standardised and comprehensive examination that aspiring physician assistants (PAs) in the United States must pass in order to become certified and practice as PAs. It is administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).

  • Graduate from an ARC-PA-accredited master’s programme to be eligible for the PANCE.
  • Take the PANCE, which covers organ systems, diseases, and assessments.
  • Up to six attempts are allowed within six years.
  • Obtain a state licence to practise, adhering to state-specific requirements.

Step 4: Consider Certification

  • Pursue speciality or board certification to enhance skills and career prospects.
  • Specialise in areas such as cardiovascular surgery, paediatrics or psychiatry.
  • Meet experience, education and examination requirements for speciality certification.
  • Pay a fee (as of early 2020, $350).

Step 5: Maintain Certification

  • Accumulate 100 continuing education credits every two years.
  • Pass the PANCE again during the 10-year recertification cycle.
  • Up to three additional attempts are permitted for a PANCE retake.

Documents & Eligibility For Physician Assistant Degree  

When applying for a Physician Assistant (PA) course, it is important to be prepared with a comprehensive set of documents to support your application. Below is a table outlining the commonly required documents to ensure you meet the admission criteria for PA programmes.

Completed Application FormOften through CASPA or the institution’s application portal.
Official TranscriptsAll post-secondary institutions attended, showing academic history and completion of prerequisite coursework.
Letters of RecommendationTypically 2-3 letters from professors, employers, or healthcare professionals attesting to your academic performance, clinical skills, and character.
Personal Statement/EssayAn essay describing your motivation for becoming a PA, your understanding of the profession, and your career aspirations.
Resume/CVOutlining educational background, work experience, volunteer activities, and relevant skills or certifications.
GRE ScoresSome programmes require Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores of  320 or higher.
Healthcare Experience DocumentationEvidence of direct patient care experience, including verification forms, a detailed log, or a summary of hours worked in healthcare settings.
Shadowing Experience DocumentationProof of hours spent shadowing a practising PA if required by the programme.
Prerequisite Coursework VerificationConfirmation of completed prerequisite courses if not clearly shown on transcripts.
Criminal Background CheckSome programmes require eligibility for licensure or employment in healthcare settings.
English Proficiency Test ScoresTest scores from tests like TOEFL or IELTS may be required for non-native English speakers. English ProficiencyIELTS: 7.0TOEFL: 100

Physician Assistant Course In USA Curriculum

A physician assistant course in the USA for Indian students can be highly competitive which often necessitates prior work experience as a prerequisite. Common choices for accumulating this experience include roles like EMT, paramedic, medical assistant, or emergency room technician. Once accepted into the programme, students engage in a curriculum covering a range of subjects similar to those typically found in pre-medical programmes. These are some of the areas which you will be studying while pursuing a bachelor’s or master’s degree in PA in the US: 

Bachelor’s Degree

  • Professionalism and Ethics in Physician Assistant Practice
  • Principles of Clinical Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Community and Public Health
  • Principles of Emergency Medicine and Surgery

Master’s Degree

  • Introduction to the Physician Assistant Profession
  • Fundamentals of Clinical Medicine
  • Pharmacotherapeutics
  • Pathophysiology
  • Research Methods for Health Professionals

Universities Offering A Physician Assistant Course In USA

The first step to embark on this path is finding the right university or college that offers a Physician Assistant programme. Below, we’ve compiled a list of some reputable institutions in the USA that provide this sought-after course:

Name Of The UniversityQS Ranking 2023Average Tuition Fees
Harvard University1$19,140
John Hopkins University3$62,850
Stanford University5Nor specified
University of California, San Francisco9$151,515
University of Pennsylvania 18$13,369
Yale University13$111,784
Columbia University22$32,784
University of Chicago54$17,979
Washington University16$17,478
Duke University23$46,843

Scholarships For Physician Assistant Course In USA 

Pursuing a career as a physician assistant (PA) demands rigorous schooling. The expense of tuition, medical supplies, and learning materials makes PA school a significant financial investment. Fortunately, there are many options available to alleviate the financial burden for PA students. Below, we have compiled a list of PA scholarships and grants to assist you in your search. Continue reading to discover the educational awards that are available.

Scholarship NameEligibilityAward/Benefit
National Health Service Corps Scholarship (NHSC) – HRSAMedical students pursuing primary health care training; commitment to a minimum of two years of full-time serviceCoverage of school expenses; one year of scholarship support for each year of service
Health Professions Scholarship – Indian Health ServiceAmerican Indian and Alaska Native PA students in the medical fieldFinancial aid; commitment to full-time practice post-graduation
Association of Physician Assistants in Oncology (APAO) – Student ScholarshipAAPA member (or applicant); enrolled in an accredited PA programme; strong interest in oncology$2,500 award, with $2,000 classified as unrestricted
Health Professional Scholarship Programme – Veterans Affairs ScholarshipPA students; commitment to serving at a VA health care establishment for at least two years post-graduationTuition coverage; monthly stipend; multiple recipients selected each year
Naval Association of PAs – Navy Health Professions ScholarshipPA students; commitment to joining the Navy Medical Team as Officers post-graduationFull tuition and payment during school; competitive salary, excellent retirement and educational benefits, further training, and rewarding clinical practice
American Association of Surgical Physician Assistants – Susan and Tom Lusty Memorial ScholarshipPA students with demonstrated financial need; interest in surgical practice; letter of recommendation from a preceptor or faculty member$1,000 award

Job Prospects After Physician Assistant Course In USA For Indian Students 

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, physician assistants earn a median annual salary of $121,530. Your salary may vary based on your location, the type of clinic where you work, and your area of specialisation.

The job outlook for physician assistants is also very positive: from 2021 to 2031, the projected job growth is 28%, significantly faster than the average for all occupations. This high demand is encouraging for those pursuing a healthcare career without committing to medical school.

Cost Of Living In The USA

In addition to tuition fees, students are responsible for covering their living expenses in various cities across the country. Therefore, it is crucial for international students to thoroughly examine the cost of studying in the USA before making a university selection. The table below highlights the costs which students will have to incur while studying in the US: 

ParticularsCost (Monthly)
Off-Campus Accommodation 1,150
On-Campus Accommodation1,300
Food Cost660
Total Cost of Living with Off Campus Accommodation 2,035
Total Cost of Living with On Campus Accommodation 2,185
Annual Cost of Living24,420


If you’re passionate about healthcare and looking for a career that combines your love for medicine with a shorter educational path than traditional physicians, consider embarking on the journey to become a Physician Assistant in the USA. It’s a challenging yet rewarding path that can lead to a fulfilling career dedicated to improving the health and well-being of others.


1. Are there online physician assistant programmes available in the USA?

The Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences provides a fully online physician assistant programme. This programme offers two options: a complete three-year programme and an accelerated two-year programme. 

2. Are there any scholarships or financial aid options available for physician assistant students in the USA?

The U.S. Public Health Service has several initiatives that provide scholarships, stipends, and loan repayment assistance to Physician Assistant students who commit to working in medically underserved areas for specific durations. For more details on these programmes, you can inquire through the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) or visit their website.

3. Can Indian physician assistants work in the USA?

Physician Assistants trained in India may not meet the eligibility criteria to sit for licensing exams in countries such as the US and UK; nevertheless, they can work in other countries after successfully passing the respective licensing examinations.

4. What is a physician assistant’s course duration in the USA?

A physician assistant course in the USA typically has a duration of around two years. 

5. What is the difference between a physician assistant and a nurse practitioner?

Physician assistants follow the medical model, concentrating on disease testing, diagnosis, and treatment. In contrast, nurse practitioners adhere to the nursing model, emphasising patient testing, diagnosis, and treatment within the context of their disease.

Thank you for reading our blog on Physician Assistant Course in the USA. You might also love reading the following articles:  

1 thought on “Top PGDM Courses In Canada: Universities, Specialisations & Eligibility”

  1. I have done Bachelor’s in Culinary Arts from India and completed my graduation in the year 2022 .I am 22 years old. After graduation, I have done 1 year paid internship from USA .Now, I would like to take occupational experience and learn culinary skills and also do masters in Culinary arts.How can I find the college n best course / country where I can persue studying further

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Physician Assistant Course In The USA: Universities & Job Prospects

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