Welcome to a special section of our website specifically for PA students. PAEA offers a variety of information, resources, and tools to support future PAs, including study tools for certification, fellowships, the annual PAEA Student Writing Competition, and the Pi Alpha National Honor Society for Physician Assistants.
An Online Community for PA Students
PAEA has created a Professional Learning Community (PLC) exclusively for PA students, in which students can share resources, articles, and tools to support one another. PAEA knows that spaces for candid conversation and connection are critical, and we are honored to be able to leverage our digital learning space for those conversations to occur. To ensure that this remains a safe and brave space for students, program faculty and staff will not have access to the PLC.
Current PA students with a valid program-affiliated email address ending in .edu can sign up for an account here. Please feel free to share this link and information with any students who may be interested in joining the conversation.
PAEA fellowships offer PA students an invaluable opportunity to engage at the national level on issues around education and health care policy, allowing them to develop leadership skills and gain experience that they will take with them into their professional careers.
The application period and portal is now closed. Visit each fellowship page to learn more.
There are 250 accredited PA programs in the United States. Click here for a Directory of PA programs. The average length of a PA program is 27 months.
PA programs consist of intensive classroom and laboratory study, as well as clinical practice. PAs are trained in the same medical model as doctors. Of all the health professionals, only doctors receive more clinical education than PAs. The PA curriculum is based on a primary care foundation and PAs are educated as generalists in medicine.
There are four primary organizations that are associated with the physician assistant profession:
Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA)
PAEA is the only national organization representing physician assistant educational programs in the United States. Currently, all of the accredited programs in the country are members of PAEA. PAEA provides services for faculty at its member programs, as well as to applicants, students, and other stakeholders.
The Association was founded in 1972 as the Association of Physician Assistant Programs. Member programs voted to adopt the current name in 2005.
American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA)
AAPA is the national professional society for physician assistants. It represents a profession of more than 131,000 certified PAs across all medical and surgical specialties, in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the majority of the US territories, and within the military.
AAPA advocates and educates on behalf of the profession and the patients PAs serve. AAPA works to ensure the professional growth, personal excellence and recognition of physician assistants. It also works to enhance their ability to improve the quality, accessibility, and cost-effectiveness of patient-centered healthcare.
For more information on AAPA, visit the AAPA website.
The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA)
The ARC-PA is the recognized accrediting agency that protects the interests of the public, including current and prospective PA students, and the PA profession by defining the standards for PA education and evaluating PA educational programs within the territorial United States to ensure their compliance with those standards.
There are three categories of accreditation:
- Provisional Accreditation: Provisional accreditation is the status of accreditation granted for a limited, defined period of time to a new program that, at the time of the site visit, has demonstrated its preparedness to initiate a program in accordance with the Standards.
- Continuing Accreditation: Continuing accreditation is the term used to describe accreditation that is granted when an established program is in compliance with the Standards.
- Clinical Postgraduate: Accreditation of clinical postgraduate programs is voluntary. It serves to provide programs an external validation of their educational offering.
For a list of accredited programs, applicant programs, or more information on the ARC-PA, visit the ARC-PA website.
National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA)
NCCPA is the only certifying organization for physician assistants in the United States. NCCPA is dedicated to assuring the public that certified physician assistants meet established standards of clinical knowledge and cognitive skills upon entry into practice and throughout their careers. All US states, the District of Columbia and the US territories have decided to rely on NCCPA certification as one of the criteria for licensure or regulation of physician assistants.
For more information on NCCPA, visit the NCCPA website.
The growth of the profession has been substantial since its origin in 1965. Currently, there are more than 140,000 practicing PAs. The job outlook for PAs is bright. In U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Healthcare Jobs” list, PAs were ranked as the number two job, with a projected 31% growth rate over the next 7 years. The average pay for a PA is $108,000.
With an ever-increasing shortage of primary care physicians, an aging population, and increased numbers of Americans receiving health care under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), PAs will continue to be in demand.
The development of HMOs and other prepaid plans and the growing acceptance of PAs by other health care professionals have combined to strengthen the job market for PAs. The team-based PA practice model fits well into the patient-centered medical home concept outlined in the ACA and expected to dominate our health care system in the future.