The physician assistant (PA) profession began in 1965 when four U.S. Navy corpsmen were enlisted to become the first class of PA students at Duke University in North Carolina. The Duke program was specifically designed to help fill a gap in the number of primary care physicians.
A Great Career Move for Veterans
High Job Satisfaction
Veterans re-entering civilian life will find that a career as a PA offers a high level of job satisfaction. Most PAs state they would choose the profession again as well as recommend it to others.
$112,260 Annual Salary
PAs earn a median salary of over $112,260 annually. PA graduates enjoy ample employment opportunities as the profession is growing.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has consistently ranked the PA profession as one of the fastest-growing occupations in the country. The BLS projects a 31% increase in the number of PA jobs over the next seven years.
Federal initiative to help veterans become PAs
In the fall of 2011, the White House announced increased federal grant funding for those colleges and universities that train veterans to become PAs. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) works with PA programs to ensure that the field training and experience of returning medics and corpsmen can be applied toward their PA education.
Military health care experience
Many veterans are motivated to enter PA programs as a result of the health care experience they gained during their military service. Each program has slightly different requirements regarding health care experience, and this information can be found in the PAEA Program Directory.
Programs that require extensive experience in health care are a good choice for already practicing health care professionals, such as nurses, EMTs, and others in the medical field, including those with medical skills gained in the military. These programs evaluate clinical experience involving direct patient care on an individual basis.
Some generally accepted examples of health care experience include:
- volunteer activity or employment at a hospital, clinic, or nursing home
- paramedic or emergency medical technician
- medical assistant
- patient care attendant or nurse’s aide
- nurse (LVN or RN)
- military medic or corpsman
- Peace Corps volunteer or other cross-cultural health care experience
- health educator
- health technologist
- physical or respiratory therapist
- radiology technician
If you’re concerned about meeting the health care requirements, ask the program admissions office about the types of health care experience they have seen among students accepted for admission within the past couple of years. They can also give you advice on how you can gain similar experience.
PA programs offering assistance to veterans
The PAEA Program Directory allows you to search for programs that offer special veteran support and consideration, helping to make the transition into civilian life. Typical assistance includes:
- flagging and screening applications that indicate military service
- providing scholarships
- creating partnerships with military organizations and treatment facilities
- offering mentorship (or mentoring) programs
- fostering the visibility of former military personnel among the ranks of the faculty educators at the programs
A few PA programs offer year-long preparatory programs to position veterans to enter their programs. There are also well-established programs, such as the Yellow Ribbon and Service Members Opportunity Colleges (SOC) programs, that assist vets — and in some cases, their families — financially and in other ways when vets return to school.