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Scholarships, Financial Aid, and Study Guides for Physician Assistant Students

June 18, 2021

What Is a PA?

A PA is a physician assistant. PAs are licensed medical professionals and providers who work in primary care and across all specialties in a variety of settings. PAs have rigorous educational standards they must meet to obtain a license. They work to make sure that all patients have access to evidence-based and patient-centered health care.

What Education Does a PA Have?

PAs first obtain a bachelor’s degree before applying to one of the almost 300 PA programs scattered across the country. It can be very difficult to obtain a place in a PA program because they are highly sought after by very qualified candidates. A PA degree is a master’s-level degree. During the course of their education, PA candidates will spend about 3,000 hours on direct patient care under the supervision of licensed PAs and physicians. The average PA program lasts about three years.

What Do PAs Do?

The actual scope of a PA’s practice depends on the state in which one works. Each state has its own laws about what PAs are allowed to do. It also depends on their experience level and who they work for. Typically, PAs conduct physical exams, obtain medical histories from patients, diagnose illnesses and create treatment plans, order tests, prescribe medication, and provide preventive care. Those employed in hospitals conduct rounds as well.

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Scholarships for Physician Assistants

Physician Assistant degrees can be pricey, but there are quite a few scholarships available to students who want to become PAs. These scholarships range from one-time, relatively low-dollar awards that don’t come with any strings attached to larger awards with certain requirements; for instance, some may require the student to agree to serve in certain specialties or work in a specific community for a set number of years after graduation in exchange for a full scholarship. It pays to thoroughly research all available scholarships. Remember, completion is fierce, but there are ways to increase the chances of being awarded a scholarship. First, do the research and make a list of when each scholarship opens. Get all of the application materials ready in advance, then submit them to the scholarship committee as soon as the application period begins.

Financial Aid for Physician Assistants

Physician assistant degrees are similar to all other professional post-graduate degrees in that other than private scholarships, there’s not a lot of non-loan-based financial aid. The federal direct loan program is administered through the U.S. Department of Education. These loans are typically offered at a lower interest rate than private loans, but they aren’t always large enough to cover a year of schooling, which puts students in the position of needing private loans. There are some programs available to help physician assistants receive forgiveness for their loans in exchange for working in certain areas.

Study Guides for PAs

After a student receives their physician assistant degree, it doesn’t mean that they are ready to practice independently. Like other health professionals, PAs must pass licensing exams. Students with a degree from a program that is fully accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) are eligible to take the PANCE, or Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination. The PANCE is a multiple-choice test based on questions about surgical procedures and medical knowledge. Test-takers must apply and pay for the exam before receiving a test date. There are more than 200 testing administration sites across the country. Many people struggle with standardized tests, but there are a wealth of study guides and test preparation materials available for the PANCE. PAs are also required to obtain continuing education credits and to take a recertification exam every ten years. This exam is known as the Physician Assistant National Recertifying Examination or PANRE.

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