Physician assistants work to obtain a patient’s history, perform examinations, order and interpret lab tests, diagnose illness, develop treatment strategies, counsel patients and, in many states, write prescriptions.
However, becoming a physician assistant (PA) requires intense schooling. With the cost of tuition, medical supplies and learning materials, PA school comes at a high price. Fortunately, there are numerous options to ease the financial burden of PA students. Below, we’ve compiled a list of PA scholarships and grants to aid you in your search. Read on to see what education awards are available.
As an added benefit, becoming a PA offers an additional layer of career flexibility that is not as readily available to physicians. While the majority of PAs end up working in physicians’ offices, there is demand for their expertise in hospitals, outpatient facilities, urgent care facilities, virtual care centers (telehealth), educational settings, and psychiatric practices. Once licensed, PAs can transition between specialty areas in any of these environments often without any additional training.
What is the Average Tuition for a Physician Assistant Degree?
Understanding the length and the cost of PA school allows you to plan accordingly. According to The American Academy of PAs, “PA programs are approximately 27 months (three academic years), and include classroom instruction and more than 2,000 hours of clinical rotations.”
Whether you are looking to attend school as soon as possible or wish to save up before taking the leap, having an idea of the costs can inform your decisions. Keep reading for a breakdown of average PA school costs.
Public Resident (in-state tuition): $48,413 Non-resident (out-of-state tuition): $84,372
Private Standard tuition: $88,987
In addition to tuition, students must pay fees to cover other costs. Some of these include laboratory fees, clinical fees, and student services fees. According to the PAEA, the average cost of these fees is $3,775.
Keep in mind, these numbers are averages, meaning that roughly half of PA program prices are above this amount, and half below. There are also many schools that offer online PA programs.
Now that you have an idea of costs associated with a PA degree, it’s time to look at ways to offset the expense. Thanks to multiple foundations, PA scholarships and grants are available. Learn more about them below.
Grants for Physician Assistant Students
Providers of grants offer PA students funds that do not have to be repaid. While many grants focus funds on professionals who have already obtained a physician assistant degree, there are still options for PA students. Check out some of them below.
1. Rural Prep – Micro Research Grants
For students researching rural health, Rural Prep is offering a grant of up to $4,000. Because rural communities are often underserved when it comes to medical care, more foundations are rising to tackle the issue. Recipients are eligible for further support, including travel costs associated with research.
2. Health Resources & Services Administration – Physician Assistant Program
The HRSA is a great resource for medical students in search of financial aid. This program also deals with rural medicine, with the goal “to increase the number of primary care physician assistants (PA), particularly in rural and underserved settings.” The grant amount is not specified.
3. College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC) – FELS Grant
The Forgivable Education Loans for Service (FELS) program is available to North Carolina residents. While not technically a grant, this program offers significant financial aid. As the foundation frames it, “Generally, a loan for one academic year will be forgiven for one year of full-time employment.” The CFNC outlines what positions qualify for loan forgiveness in this list of approved education programs.
Beyond the grants above, many universities offer school-specific grants, so check with the financial aid office of your institution.
Physician Assistant Scholarships Guide for Graduate Students
Fortunately for PA students, there are multiple sources of funding up for grabs. Medical foundations make up a large portion of available financial aid. Explore available awards and learn about the eligibility requirements below.
1. National Health Service Corps Scholarship (NHSC) – HRSA
Perhaps one of the best-known scholarships for medical students, this award offers generous coverage of school expenses. The program works as an exchange between the student and the Service Corps. “You commit to a minimum two years of full-time service in exchange for a full year of scholarship support.” Applicants must be pursuing primary health care training.
2. Health Professions Scholarship – Indian Health Service
For American Indian and Alaska Native PA students, the IHS is a great financial resource. The program offers financial aid to students in the medical field. The IHS outlines details of the program in the application handbook. The Health Professions Scholarship provides funding in exchange for the student’s commitment to serving in a full-time practice post-graduation.
3. Association of Physician Assistants in Oncology (APAO) – Student Scholarship
For PA students interested in oncology, the Association of Physician Assistants in Oncology offers generous awards. You must be an AAPA member (or applicant) and be enrolled in an accredited PA program. Applicants should possess “a strong interest in pursuing a career in the oncology field.” The award is $2,500, with $2,000 of it classified as unrestricted.
4. Health Professional Scholarship Program – Veterans Affairs Scholarship
This is another program that offers funding in exchange for post-graduate service. The scholarship covers tuition and provides a monthly stipend to recipients. New PAs who receive this award in school will serve at a VA health care establishment for at least two years. Multiple recipients are selected each year.
5. Naval Association of PAs – Navy Health Professions Scholarship
Like the Veterans Affairs Scholarship, this award offers full tuition and payment while in school. Although in this case, graduating students “join the Navy Medical Team as Officers, with the opportunity to earn a competitive salary … excellent retirement and educational benefits, further training, and a rewarding clinical practice.”
6. American Association of Surgical Physician Assistants – Susan and Tom Lusty Memorial Scholarship
This $1,000 award is open to students with demonstrated financial need and an interest in surgical practice. The association requires a letter of recommendation from a preceptor or faculty member in the student’s PA program.
7. Physician Assistants in Orthopaedic Surgery – Susan Lindahl Memorial Scholarship
For PA students interested in orthopedic surgery, this award offers $5,000 of financial assistance to two students each year. To apply, you must submit multiple letters of reference and a description of your history in orthopedics.
8. Society of Emergency Medicine Physician Assistants – Paul S. Robinson Award
This award was created for physician assistant students in their final year of schooling. Applicants must be pursuing a career in emergency medicine. After submitting letters of recommendation and other required materials, students are entered into the candidate pool. Two PA students are then selected to earn $1,500 each.
10. PA Foundation – Timi Agar Barwick Scholarship for Humanism in Medicine
This $1,000 scholarship is open to students who “ identify as an underrepresented minority and/or economically disadvantaged and/or educationally disadvantaged.” The foundation defines underrepresented minorities as well as economic and educational disadvantages here.
As you can see, there are many scholarships available to current and future physician assistant students. Plus, many of the foundations listed above roll out new scholarships each year.
Stay Informed of the Latest PA Scholarship Resources
Getting into PA school is a big investment. However, there are steps you can take to mitigate costs. Take advantage of the many organizations and government programs available as you pursue a career as a PA. Additionally, remember to apply for scholarships and grants throughout your academic career, not just at the start. After doing your research, only you will be able to decide whether a PA degree is worth it.
With the employment of physician assistants (PAs) expected to increase by 31% from 2018 to 2028, the field is one of the fastest-growing in the United States. To put this in perspective; the BLS projects only 7% growth for physicians in the same time frame.
A career as a PA offers versatility, as physician assistants can practice in every medical setting (hospitals, nursing homes, workplace clinics, etc.) and a wide array of specialties. Furthermore, PAs are well-paid. According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for a physician assistant is $108,610.