About Inside PA Training

about inside pa training

Inside PA Training’s founders, Gabe and Paul, 2010.

Inside PA Training started in the summer of 2010 when I met my classmate and dear friend, Gabe, during our first week of classes at UC Davis School of Medicine’s Family Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant Program.  We quickly decided it might be fun to write about our experiences.

Since that time, we’ve heard from many readers about how hard it is to find solid, in-the-trenches information on becoming a physician assistant.  To close this gap, IPAT brings it all to the table in the hope that you’ll come away with a better understanding of whether being a PA is for you, how to get into PA school, and what life as a PA is really like.

We’ve had over 1.7 Million visits since that first post!  New content is added every month, such as:

Please tell everyone you know about Inside PA Training – the internet’s a big place, and our marketing budget is, well, let just say not big.


Paul Kubin, MS is a primary and urgent care Physician Assistant who writes and speaks passionately about physician assistant careers.  He is also a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and regularly draws from his knowledge of interpersonal psychology in his work with patients and readers of Inside PA Training.  He is the author of Crafting a Winning PA School Essay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Tipping the Odds in Your Favor, and has served as a consultant for the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics in the area of physician assistant careers.  He lives and practices full time in Sacramento, California

  • PA Coach July 18, 2011, 1:49 pm

    Paul and Gabe,

    You guys rock!! This is the best PA student blog on the net. Keep up the great work. I don’t know how you guys find the time to publish such great articles, but I commend you on a job well done.

    I will continue to support and recommend your blog to Future and Current PA student’s.

    “The PA Coach”

    • Paul July 18, 2011, 7:57 pm

      Thanks, Dave. We’re just having fun with it, and learning as we go. Finding the time is definitely the toughest part. Keep up your good work too!

      • Paul November 6, 2011, 1:09 pm

        Hi, Ashley –

        It’s a personal decision, and a really tough one for some. If you are interested but unsure, you should do some shadowing. Spending a day or two seeing patients with a PA should give you an excellent idea what the work is like. You might also watch my interview with my classmate Sundance about her decision to become a PA. You can find it on our PA student interviews page.

  • ashley November 6, 2011, 11:03 am

    Im very late on deciding what i want to do. Im 24 and pa is lookng very interesting.but how do yo kmow if right for you

  • Jessica Rodriguez December 21, 2011, 6:09 pm

    Great website! I am a EM PA in Fresno, CA. I’m encouraged by your time investment, enthusiasm, and efforts in promoting the PA Profession. Keep up the good work!

    • Paul December 21, 2011, 6:15 pm

      Thanks, Jessica! Emergency is a great specialty. If you have any interest in being interviewed, please let us know – we’re trying to represent all of the more common specialties for aspiring PA students.

  • Stephen March 10, 2012, 12:42 am

    Really Great Site Paul,

    I agree with all of the above comments. It is great to see more PA’s writing and creating interactive content for the web… especially as a student. As you move on into your profession this will remain an important resource that should scale nicely over time.

    Best of luck on your PA school journey, there is no profession like ours, so proud to be a PA!

    • Paul March 10, 2012, 7:42 am

      Thanks, Stephen! You’re site is terrific too! I particularly like your PA/MD/NP matrix – a clever way to help people keep them straight. Please keep in touch.

  • Jenna March 18, 2012, 8:34 am

    Hi Paul,

    Thanks for setting up a website like this and bringing attention to the profession! I had a difficult time finding more information about PA programs when I was first interested about 5 years ago. I am now a first year PA student. I started a blog this semester and you are welcome to post the link to it.


    • Paul March 18, 2012, 10:11 am

      You go, Jenna! I’ll add you to our PA Student Blogs list. And keep us updated, okay?

  • Gabe March 24, 2012, 8:23 am

    Thanks a lot for this site. I’m 35 and considering a career change from finance to PA. I would need to do 2 years of pre-requisites, and hopefully bolster my 2.8 undergrad accounting GPA :/ up to at least 3.0. I feel a bit intimidated being older and considering such a different career with uncertainty that I will even get admitted. I was a volunteer EMT for two years and really would like a job that helps serve others more directly than finance does. I’m open to any thoughts you may have, and my specific question is what it might be like for an older student, and if there is any time to date and possibly begin a family during the four years it would take me to complete the program? Thank you very much -Gabe

    • Paul March 24, 2012, 8:50 am

      Hey, Gabe – welcome aboard.

      Think about what you would want to see as an admissions committee member from someone applying for admission to your school. There might be some factors that you would be willing to overlook if you saw other things that made a candidate stand out. What would they be? For me, they might be a combination of:

      -verbal ability, including foreign languages
      -leadership and activism
      -someone who wants to serve the underserved
      -INITIATIVE – someone who doesn’t wait around to be told what to do. (writing letters to the editor, starting a program, getting involved with the field as if they already were in it, etc.)
      -Someone who thinks outside the box, takes calculated risks

      Maybe the biggest hint I could give you is to act the part. KNOW that you are right for the field. I mean, if you TRULY belonged in this field, and knew it, you would begin to act as if you were already in it, wouldn’t you? I don’t mean being cocky or acting entitled. I mean making it easy for an admissions committee to imagine you as not only a PA, but a GOOD PA. If you do that, I think your chances are good.

      I know this answer is a little vague, but I’m suggesting that you believe you can do it and show them that they would be crazy not to see it your way.

  • Gabe March 24, 2012, 8:59 am

    Thanks, really appreciate it.

  • Katie April 20, 2012, 9:38 am

    Thank you so much for your website, Paul! I was actually taking a short break from working on my CASPA application, haha… and I found your site! What luck! I was a middle school science teacher for five years before deciding to leave the profession to pursue PA school. Reading different articles on your website has motivated me even more. THANKS!

    Katie 🙂

    • Paul April 20, 2012, 9:42 pm

      Glad to hear it. Stay motivated any way you can – it will make a huge difference, and they’ll see it in how you carry yourself.

  • kimberly gilbert April 20, 2012, 10:58 am

    I appreciate any advise for getting into PA school!

    • Paul April 20, 2012, 9:40 pm

      Hi, Kimberly! That’s what the site is about. I suggest you read read read as much as you can – you should learn plenty. If you have a specific question that you don’t see addressed, please let me know and I’ll do my best to help you.

  • Susan May 5, 2012, 2:03 pm

    Love this website and love the podcasts!
    Thank you so much for taking the time and energy to provide this great resource for us PA school hopefuls!

  • Christena Gazave May 10, 2012, 1:14 pm

    Thanks so much for the time you’ve taken to put together this website! I first saw your website about a year ago when I was first deciding to go to PA school. Since then, I’ve read many of your blogs and watched your videos. I had almost decided not to apply to PA school until today when I happened upon the 2nd Sundance video on YouTube. I wrote down a note to myself as I watched it – watch Sundance video before interviewing – it is so inspirational. Thanks for the motivation! (P.S. Are you LDS? I thought I saw a missionary tag in one photo)

  • Lia May 16, 2012, 7:26 am

    I´m 26 and I graduated from psychology a few years ago but im not 100% satisfied. My boyfriend is a PA and when he talks about his job I found it very interesting. Right now im considering a career change but still not sure if ill go for PA or NP. I would like to know how long does it takes to study for each one. I know in both I can still using what i learned in psychology… I´m still trying to find out if this could be for me.

    • Paul May 16, 2012, 8:30 am

      Ignoring the course prerequisites for the sake of simplicity, PA school is 2-3 years full time, depending on the program. To become an NP, you need a bachelors in nursing (4 years) then a masters in nursing, which is often done along with the NP schooling in 3 years. So, clearly it would take you more than twice as long to become an NP.

      But don’t think it’s a simple 2 or 3 years to PA. In order to get in, you need some healthcare experience. You can argue that time spent with clients/patients in psychology is healthcare experience (I did), but you will almost certainly need more experience that is traditionally medical. EMT is a good route, but there are others. See the health care experience threads on the forum at http://www.mypatraining.com/forum for details.

  • Lia May 16, 2012, 9:33 am

    wow… seems like ill have to work hard to get there. Thank you Paul!

  • Cristina May 22, 2012, 7:48 pm

    I would like to get into the medical field and eventually become a PA. Is it difficult to get there if I haven’t yet completed my college courses and I’m 30. Is 30 too old to start a PA journey, in your opinion? My circumstances in life did not allow me to complete my college courses sooner, but I am now able to put everything I have through hard work and determination into a career path with the eventual goal of becoming a PA. Please let me know your thoughts. Thank you.

    • Paul May 22, 2012, 8:34 pm

      Hi, Cristina! I don’t think 30 is too old at all. I started mine at 41, and one person in our class was 52! We were, of course, among the older folks in the class, but there were a bunch of us non-20-somethings, and I think our years of life offered something to our candidacy that some of the younger applicants lacked.

      That said, becoming a PA from scratch is not something you do in a year or two. Start by finishing your bachelor’s degree. To save time, pick a major that you enjoy, but that includes the PA school science prerequisites, so that when you graduate, you won’t have any more coursework to do. As soon as you are able, you need to find a work or volunteer opportunity that exposes you to work with patients.

      There’s plenty more here on the site that you can use to guide your plan beyond that, but your degree and some health care work should give you an excellent start. Feel free to message me along the way to let me know how it’s going.



  • Monica June 11, 2012, 9:23 pm

    I have been searching for a website like this! It’s user friendly, informative and so interesting. I am torn between becoming an RN or PA. I am doing my best to gather as much information on the two. I am 36 years old and have 2 young children. Your website inspires me thank you! You might hear from me again soon with a question hope that’s okay.


    • Paul June 12, 2012, 2:12 pm

      Glad to have you with us, Monica!

  • babe p June 19, 2012, 11:28 pm

    hi everyone, new to the forum. its been daunting for me to go back to school, and its not getting any easier seeing as im a mom now. single one at that. but i figure i wont know my true potential till i try. i know it will require a lot of hard work and reading some of the posts on here its so very encouraging. i also wanted to know what are the absolute mandatory pre reqs that you must take before you consider the PA program? and if anyone knows of some great accredited online schools i can look at to take these courses. thanks in advance everyone!

    • Paul June 20, 2012, 10:15 am

      Programs vary, but typically the science prerequisites are
      -general chemistry
      -general biology

      Some require a year of these, some only a semester. Online may not be possible, since all of these classes have labs (usually a requirement). But nights, summer session, super-duper part time are all options that will eventually get the job done.

  • PA Student June 24, 2012, 1:46 pm

    Love your website! I just started my PA program last week and loving it so far! Can’t believe how much I’ve learned in just a week though. It’s nice to read what others say about their schooling, not many other people can understand what we’re going through, lol! Thanks!!

    • Paul June 24, 2012, 9:00 pm

      Thanks, Julie! Drop by the forum and lend you opinion sometime, okay? Good luck with school – it’s a blast!

  • Deb June 26, 2012, 11:01 am

    A new reader I had to add my positive thoughts for your test ! Good Luck !

  • Debra Ricci July 12, 2012, 8:49 pm


    Thank you for your website. As others have said, your site is informative and positive in nature. I have been a cardiovascular invasive radiology technologist for 9 years. My last job was to set up a lab, run it and work it. I was suprised to see what I have accomplished because it was so demanding. My fears and frustrations were always there when it came to knowledge and care of my patients; thus my inquiring about the PA position. I have an injury to my c-spine and cannot continue to be so physical. I have to work more with my mind than with my body, so to speak. Because I am a patient advocate for the rest of my life, I was wondering your thoughts of and experiences from the PA program. I truely care about each patient and do become emotional with the patients as well, but in a professional nature. My other fear is that because I am 41 y/o would I be met with challenges that I am unaware of and fail the program. I learned you were also 41 when you started and I feel much better about my age but could you mention any situations you had as a nontraditional student? My work ethic is to give 120% which means I take my career personal with a professional edge. Do you feel the emotional aspect of me would interfere with the program? I am facing a cervical surgery as well. What are your thoughts on me doing a few pre-reqs during my recovery? I am pretty much alone, no family but mom and single. This means I probably have to be a very good cheerleader for me..haha. Do you think this independance could cause me any challenges that I am unaware of? My plan is to qualify for grants and/or loans to support my education. Do you feel that when I work as a PA, my student loans would be an achievable goal to pay off? Thank you for your time. Thank you for your quality of care with this blog. I really don’t feel much alone now that I have a half-full mentality buddy, on-line struggling just like me. God bless and take care. I look forward to all your new postings.

    • Paul July 14, 2012, 10:24 pm

      I think that in medicine, it’s important to connect emotionally with patients, but only to a certain point. As a clinician, your objectivity and solid emotional state are needed by patients to 1) make the right decisions about their care, and 2) bolster them when they are in the dumpster emotionally. As a psychotherapist (my other calling), the rule was that you need to connect emotionally, but make sure that your psychotherapy remains about the patient, and not about you or you and them.

      In medicine, it’s more distant. You can be friendly, warm, caring, and emotionally supportive, but you need to be able to turn it off when necessary. Some examples:
      – you are working with a patient who is in chronic pain and she wants more pain medicine because she can’t take it, but you don’t believe that’s in her best interests, and is likely to cause a substance dependence.
      – you are working with a patient who may die. The family is very emotional and is looking for your guidance and support in making the right and admittedly very tough choices that they need to make. They need someone whose emotions are not going to interfere with helping them to make the right decisions about the patient’s care.
      – You are working during a fully-booked day, and sit with a patient who has a lot on his mind and begins to tell you all about it, maybe sharing a story of a loss or a traumatic event. Maybe they cry. You need to hear them out, but you also have other people to treat – you’re not a parent, psychotherapist, or best friend.

      If you think that situations like these would be too hard for you, then I don’t think this is the field for you, plain and simple.

      • Debra September 8, 2012, 8:29 pm

        Thank you for your reply. I can/have been in situations as you described. I agree with you 100%. I wanted to make sure that showing emotion itself is OK. I just don’t want to become calloused like many that I have worked with. I will continue to read and support your website. Thank you for all of your time; current, past and future.

        • Paul September 9, 2012, 11:17 am

          No problem, Debra. I agree with you completely. The other day I had to tell a patient that his cancer was clearly back, and that it was not looking good at all for him. It was tough for both of us. But I was glad that it affected me a little. I said to my supervising doc, “Man, that really sucks. I feel for him [the patient].”
          He said simply, “That’s what we do.”
          He clearly had more distance from it than I did, but I think it should affect you a little, or you won’t do your best in having that tough conversation.

  • Perry August 1, 2012, 10:16 am

    This website is a godsend. I started out leaning very heavily into healthcare when I was in high school, but somehow ended up in accounting. I’m now 30 and unfulfilled. I recently had a life-altering experience at a women’s health care clinic and realized that I want to work in that arena. Women’s reproductive rights is something I feel very strongly about. Now I’m trying to decide which route to take – RN, LVN, PA, there’s so many options and while I’m still young, I’m not *that* young. I am excited by the possibility of a new career route though. Anyway, this website is helping a lot. Seems I have a lot to think about.

  • Marina August 27, 2012, 12:46 am

    Im currently pursuing my associates in Respiratory therapy, which im almost done with. Would i be able to get into PA school with my bachelors in respiratory therapy? or what if i did my bachelors from university of phoenix? will that be enough? I feel like i have so many question but doesn’t know where to start from.

    • Paul August 27, 2012, 7:15 am

      I totally understand, Marina. A bachelor’s in Respiratory Therapy should be fine. You could do it with an AS/AA, but I wouldn’t recommend it; a bachelor’s has become a functional minimum education in the US, and it will give you more PA schools you can apply to.

      • Levi September 8, 2012, 6:03 pm

        If I may comment here, University of Phoenix is a great school with very flexible scheduling, but often lacks in good preparatory science courses. It may offer the sciences needed by P.A. programs, but often does not offer the lab courses to go with them, which most P.A. programs require. You can try local accredited community colleges to get your science pre-requisites/labs, and they are much cheaper in regards to tuition. Getting your bachelor’s from University of Phoenix shouldn’t be a problem at all, but I highly recommend getting your science courses elsewhere.

  • Mary September 5, 2012, 11:27 am

    Hi Paul,

    Awesome blog! I am a serious future applicant into the P.A. Program. I am finishing up my Bachelor’s in Public Health and have been in emergency medicine (EMS/Emergency-Trauma Dept) as a Technician for over 15 years. I have been serious in my intention to become a P.A. for many years now, just wanted to finish my bachelor’s degree first (it’s taken a while but I’m closer to that dream).

    Thank you again.

  • Levi September 8, 2012, 5:18 pm

    Hi Paul,

    First just wanted to say great job on this blog, it has made my research in this field much easier. I am a sophomore in college, and have 2 more years of pre-req’s to complete before applying to my area P.A. schools. I have done a lot of research on P.A.’s versus M.D.’s/D.O.’s and have noticed that P.A.’s have a very stressful job, and carry a lot of responsibility, even though they do not endure as much training/schooling as their physician counterparts (not that I am implying that being a physician is not stressful). This might be considered an irrelevant question by some, but has there ever been any debate on changing the name of this profession? Personally, I don’t believe the titles, “Physician Assistant” and the often misused “Physician’s Assistant” do this profession justice.

    As far as a question about P.A. school goes, I have had to work full-time ever since I started college, and will continue to do so until I am accepted to a program. Because of this, it has been very difficult for me to accumulate any relevant healthcare experience. It looks like the most I am going to be able to acquire is volunteer work at local hospitals, primarily in E.R. Would a P.A. school consider this as relevant experience? If the decision came down to myself OR another applicant, would the kind of experience we have affect the overall decision? For instance, if I only had some volunteer work, and the other applicant had experience working as an EMT or Paramedic would it make a difference?

    Your time, and response, is greatly appreciated

    • Paul September 9, 2012, 11:28 am

      Yes, Levi – there has been considerable debate about changing the name of the profession. I’ve never liked Physician Assistant OR Physician Associate. Neither really describes what we do well. Please read the article we did on the physician assistant name change a while back for details. You should also check out the thread on the topic on our forum.

      • Levi September 10, 2012, 2:54 am

        Thanks, Paul. Do you recommend anything other than volunteering to gain healthcare experience for someone with a hectic schedule?

  • Debra September 8, 2012, 7:47 pm

    Hi. I had just seen your comments on the PA website. Congratulations on you esta,blishing a solid base for becoming a PA. I wish you the best. I am giving Midwestern’s PA program a serious look for their program. I also have worked in the medical field, which is what made me to want to be a PA. I hope you don’t mind, but could I ask your age? I am 42 in November. One of my biggest fears is being to old. Also, I would like to improve my memory/recall skills, which is another fear of mine. Any suggestions so far? I still need to finish my BS too. Any info. is greatly appreciated.I wish you the best. Good luck.

    • Paul September 9, 2012, 11:21 am

      I’m 43. I was 41 when I started. There were students as old as 53 in my class. Memory: you won’t have the same recall than some of the younger students have. But you will have greater context due to life experiences. I suggest you avoid focusing too too much on perfection of detail, and go for familiarity with things in a general way. This is hard to explain. But you will see some students breaking their necks to memorize particular metabolic pathways or AIDs medication mechanisms of action in detail – detail that will make it hard for them to learn all the other things that are more important. PA school is about learning a VAST breadth of material to a depth of a few inches, as opposed to learning a few areas to a depth of a few feet.

  • Jasha September 13, 2012, 6:45 am

    Great site Paul!
    I am becoming more and more psyched about the PA field the more I learn of it. Have a degree in Graphic Design, working in Iraq as a contractor ( ground support mechanic), just turned 33…I guess being a PA is what I want to be when I “grow up.” = D

    Take care and look forward to checking out your site in the future!


  • Jeff September 16, 2012, 2:06 pm

    Greetings Paul,

    I am so glad I found this site. It has been extremely helpful for researching this profession. A question I gotta ask though is, how much science is involved in PA school that is included in the bio/chem degrees? This sounds like a silly question, but I’d much rather major in exercise health science or nursing so that I will have a backup plan in case things do not work out, and I would have a degree that would interest me as well. I know that exercise health science and nursing is not as science-heavy as bio or chem, so I am a bit worried.

    Jeff B.

    • Paul September 16, 2012, 11:56 pm

      Exercise health is fine. But whether you major in that or basket weaving or Biology or Chemistry, you will need to have the prerequisite coursework. Most of these are served up in a Bio major. But if you prefer, you can take the ones that are not part of exercise physio after you graduate. It’s really up to you.

      There’s PLENTY of general biology, physiology, and anatomy in the PA curriculum. Maybe less chemistry, but it’s definitely there to – just on more of a conceptual basis.

  • Leanna September 16, 2012, 7:06 pm

    Hi Paul!

    Why did you decide to become a PA over a NP? What do you like about the PA profession?

    • Paul September 16, 2012, 11:46 pm

      The first and biggest reason I decided against becoming an NP was that my bachelor’s was in Biology, not nursing. To become an NP I would have needed to go get another bachelors (in nursing). NO WAY.

      But I also was attracted to the medical model. My dad was an MD and that way of thinking was much closer to my own than the nursing model.

  • vans September 20, 2012, 10:25 am

    i have a big problem and i need some help from you guys. my dream is to be a physician assistant right now my GPA is 2.7 and i have not completed all the requirements im scared i will end up with a bad GPA and no school will allow me to in please help me what should i do. thanks

    • Paul September 21, 2012, 6:02 pm

      My strong advice: stop. Take a break from school. Work in health care and gain experience. After you take a step back, With some time and perspective, you may be better able to return to school refreshed, newly focused, and motivated to crush it. As it stands now, you don’t sound positive or even like you are enjoying school. So why force it?

  • Emila September 22, 2012, 5:22 pm

    Hi Paul,

    What exactly is the ‘scope’ of a PA? Is it the knowledge you learned from PA school + the knowledge you gain each year as a PA?

    • Paul September 24, 2012, 8:19 pm

      The laws for scope of practice are frustratingly vague. It’s basically anything your supervising doctor lets you do. For the majority of doctors, that amounts to whatever you feel comfortable doing. I will say that once you get into medicine, your interest in taking risks falls off pretty quickly, so you will definitely have enough to do. Your limit, in most cases will be what you feel comfortable with. And PA school will help you to know when you have crossed into territory in which you feel uncomfortable.

  • Jennifer September 25, 2012, 7:33 pm

    I stumbled across this website as I am finishing up my first application to a PA program. I am a grown-up of 43, so I am finding it very reassuring that there so many other people in my age cohort who are considering a career change and investigating the PA career. I continue to be one of the oldest, if not the oldest students in my prerequisite classes. I have a MPH and have worked in clinical reseach for 10+ years. While working in PH, I did a ton of patient interviewing-no treatment. I am concerned about how the schools will view this as my “direct patient care”? I have had a lot of exposure to the healthcare field while managing clinical studies and hope that schools feel that my past experiences have provided me with the proper exposure to a make a good decision about a potential career in healthcare. What are your thoughts about how schools may view someone coming with a background in public health and clinical research? I feel like I may present as a non-traditional applicant. Good luck to everyone in their career endeavors!

  • Taylor October 8, 2012, 5:09 pm

    Do PA schools accept withdrawals from college courses? I might have my first W in US History. I’m stressed out…

    • Paul October 8, 2012, 7:37 pm

      By accept, I assume you mean “Will they accept me if I have a withdraw on my transcript?”

      It depends, but generally, yes, particularly if it was a withdraw passing (W/P). With a withdraw failing (W/F), you might “have some ‘splainin’ to do.”

  • Beth October 10, 2012, 6:32 am

    Okay great. Thanks Paul.

  • Sadie October 15, 2012, 8:15 pm

    Hi Paul,
    I must say thank you for the good job you are
    doing helping us to get into PA school. Paul you are doing a wonderfu job.
    I now applied to D’Youville college my essay was email in they now ask me for references. I ask my boss whosr name wad refer on my application she is tell me that I have to have a bachelors degree to get in is this trur
    I am very worried for I am trying to get on for fall next year god willing.

    • Paul October 16, 2012, 10:27 pm

      D’Youville college is different than some PA programs. They accept a certain number of students into their PA program when they start the freshman year of undergrad. If you get in on this track, you won’t need a BS/BA, but you’ll be earning one before you move on to your formal PA training. The other students who are admitted do so as graduate students on a Masters track. To get in with this group, you will of course need a bachelor’s degree. Sounds like you should call their program to get some details.

      If you plan to apply to a PA school, you should become an expert in that school’s process. Ignorance is a one-way ticket to being left out in the cold (to mix two of my favorite metaphors!)

  • Isiah November 14, 2012, 6:06 pm

    I am a fit and wellness major. I want to become a PA, I heard of a school that offers PA as a four year degree. If i switched to that school I feel like i would have a better shot to get in comparison to waiting ti hear back from a grad school. I want to be a PA I think I would be a darn good one at that but I only have decent grades ( range from A-c and 3.2 gpa) I’m just looking for some advice

    • Paul November 15, 2012, 4:38 pm

      The programs I think you are speaking of are bachelor’s in physician assistant science. They really aren’t any better than any other major. In fact, in my podcast about majors, I argue against such degrees. I say get your bachelors in anything that interests you as long as it has SOME connection to health. Then finish any other prereqs. Then apply to PA schools. It’s that simple.

  • isiah November 18, 2012, 10:01 pm

    Thanks I’m willing to go where ever I am accepted.

  • Latricia Roquemore November 26, 2012, 10:17 pm

    I just came across this website and it is great! The tips and information
    Paul gives is worth learning and internalizing. I love the medical field and allied health.
    I will be starting PA school sometime next year. My career field now is Medical Assistant.
    Thank you so much.

    • Paul November 27, 2012, 6:32 am

      Thanks and welcome!

  • Latricia Roquemore November 27, 2012, 10:03 am

    I sent you my comments and remarks this morning. Check spam: I had sent it from both my emails. Latricia729@gmail.com

  • Maria December 1, 2012, 9:27 pm

    Hi Paul,

    I have a few question…I want to attend PA school, but the things is I was told that you couldnt work due to the committment required to schooling…is that true? If it is, does financial aid and other monies cover not only your education, but also exteranal bills. I ask this because I am a single parent of two, and im soon to be 35…so im wondering if i cant work (so ive heard) how will i support my family. P.S. I would like to attend either Barry University or Nova Fort lauderdale.


    • Paul December 1, 2012, 9:49 pm

      There are a few students who work during their first year, but I wouldn’t count on it. You DEFINITELY can’t work your second year, when you will be doing plenty of clinicals. Most people borrow enough to cover all their expenses, including living expenses.

  • Daphne December 6, 2012, 9:01 am

    OMG you rock I found this website quite by accident yesterday(SMILE).I’m a non-traditional student i.e.older who has an B.S. in Biology.For the last 15yrs I have been a practicing pharmacy technician working in all sorts of patient care settings. Recently I have returned back too school to do 1yr of pre-requisites for a P.A program.It seems as though once you have been out of academia over 10yrs most schools want you to do this I honestly at first balked at the idea.However,after sitting
    through my recent anatomy and physiology class holding a B. I understand why.The material was not foreign but I felt like I was looking at it through a “new set of eyes”.With all that said just wanted to encourage all older,non-traditional students to just go for it.I’ve always wanted to practice medicine being a P.A. is the culmination of everything I’m seeking in healthcare.Gabe and Paul thank you for such a fantastic website every other website I have encounterd is soooo complex this one is simple,straigthforward,honest,educational,and insprirational.If I could leave everyone with this quote by Joel Osteen “whatever follows the words I AM will come looking for you”. Blessings All Daphne Rice,Washington D.C.

    • Paul December 7, 2012, 11:33 pm

      I heartily agree. Thanks for compliments!

  • Emma December 7, 2012, 12:20 am


    I love this site my dream is to become a PA right now i am in my second year of college majoring in the bachelor of science in psychology. i am a nurse aide, i being for 4 years now do you think that will cover my clinical experience or i need to do something else. please let me know thank you.

    • Paul December 7, 2012, 11:31 pm

      I suggest you get some more and different HCE. Variety is good. You might look into EMT – it’s pretty quick to get, and a fun job in which to develop health care experience.

  • Jen December 7, 2012, 8:56 am

    This site is very helpful! I have so many questions and not enough answers -I have spent the past 3 years after high school working towards my associates in Radiologic Technology- It took me all of one week of clinicals to realize that this was not at all what I want -I greatly enjoy working in health care but i need more of a challenge! I also work at a wonderful local chidren’s hospital with the Oncology patients and pediatrics is deffinitly my calling. I am going to graduate in May with this degree and I have had my heart set on becoming a Pediatric Physicians Assistant for almost two years. I have already job-shadowed a Trauma PA and loved every second of it.

    -I am considering getting an undergrad in Biological Sciences with a minor in Biochemistry at a nearby University. By the time i apply to PA school i will have over 6,000 hours of clinical experince between RT and working as a peds nursing assistant. I am interested in a certain PA program that doesnt require a specific major just certain pre-reqs. I am choosing a difficult science major so that i can be ready for the workload once i get into a program.

    -My issue is will my under grad be too much of a cookie-cutter major? Should i maybe look to an alternative major? Or will my diverse background and clinical experience be enough to set me apart. -I really appreciate any light you can shed on the subject.


  • Aaron December 10, 2012, 7:00 pm

    I am 26 and earned my bachelors in 2009 from Miami University, Ohio. My degree was in sports medicine, while being a student athletic trainer there as well (working in the supervision and with ATC’s and our collegiate sports teams). I currently work full-time as a rehab. specialist at a chiropractors office, where my duties are to plan and carry out treatment plans for patients that are receiving care at the office. I also work as a licensed massage therapist part-time as well… With that being said, I am actively pursuing the route of becoming a PA, and attending a local college here in Indianapolis to fulfill some of the prerequisites that I need to apply to school. For a few months I was considering Med School, and shadowed many successful doctors around the area- but I realized that being an MD wasn’t the right fit for me, and I liked and appreciated the role of the PA much more.
    I have a few questions based off of what I just said, and was hoping to receive your advice. First, by me working in the health field, does that meet the standard or requirements that schools would like to see, as far as experience or time in the field goes? Or are they looking for something more specific? Second, I am currently speaking with an adviser at school, and since I work full-time, she gave me a rough estimate of around 3 semesters before I finish my classes (since I am taking one at a time), but I was wondering when I should start to apply for the GRE, or start applying for financial aid, or even apply to PA schools in general? I have read your information, but I just feel overwhelmed, and just need assistance and maybe a finger pointing in the right direction. Third, I have never really thought about or had to rely on grants, or financial aid, so I am venturing in uncharted territory, and was wondering if you had any suggestions? I’d love to find a job where I could work for them and they pay for my school- but I don’t know the first place to look, or how to even begin the process? I was also considering the Military… Is it something I want to do? Not really- but my schooling would be paid for and it is guaranteed work. Any suggestions?? Finally, I KNOW PA is what I want to do, but from reading my background, what do you think?
    I have a ton a things to ask, I am the only person in my family that has graduated college, and definitely the only one pursuing such an advanced medical career. If anything I am looking for guidance, or a mentor, and any help is amazing help for me. For you and anyone else who reads this, I’d appreciate the support and/or help.

    • Paul December 11, 2012, 8:22 pm

      Hey, Aaron. Yes, your work sounds like it would be considered health care experience – you are working directly with patients, and you are assessing and treating. Massage therapy is okay, but not as good as what you seem to be doing now. If you wanted to round things out a bit, you might take a look at volunteering in an ER so you have some hospital/critical care experience. A broad fund of experience is a plus.

      The GRE is offered all the time, and is very quick to set up, so I wouldn’t worry at all about that until you need your scores (and have prepared for it).

      Financial aid for pre-PAs is nonexistent. For PA students, it’s scarce. Most students rely on student loans for the bulk, and supplement with grants and scholarships as they can attain them. You should register as Fastweb (www.fastweb.com) to learn about what grants and financial aid you might qualify for. Being the first in your family to go to college is often a biggie to get scholarship help. We have several articles on financial aid for PA school, so check them out.

      As for jobs when you are out of PA school that will help you pay your loans, think about places that need medical providers badly – Planned Parenthood, rural health clinics, tribal health, etc. The military is an option, but I don’t recommend it if you think that the fit might not be for you. Once you are in the military, Uncle Sam owns you.

      Is PA for you? That’s a tough question where I prefer not to weigh in heavily. You might read our forum thread on the topic.

      Finally, some time back we did an article on mentors and mentoring. You should check it out!



  • Glendys December 23, 2012, 7:40 pm

    I am almost done with college and I would like to know what is the best path to get into PA school. Please, I have been struggling with that a lot and would really appreciate some advice!

    • Paul December 23, 2012, 9:41 pm

      That’s a pretty broad question. Maybe you should start by reading articles. Try the ones in the Getting Into PA School category.

  • isiah December 24, 2012, 2:32 pm

    I do not have the highest gpa, however I work 2 jobs and go to school full time I really want to be a PA but I have to keep my jobs. I am doing college all on my own with no family support. My gpa is a 2.8, would my dream of becoming a PA be improved if after I graduated went back to another school that offers PA as a four year degree?

  • Phetsamay December 27, 2012, 10:55 am

    Hi Paul! So glad to have found you guys on here! I researched PA materials online about a month ago and found this and am always referred back to your AWESOME website/blog! Finally, I decided to subscribe and read others’ comments and your responses. I am so grateful for you, your time, and knowledge for anyone who is thinking about, becoming, in the process, and already in the PA program and beyond. If we had 14646134864 of you in the world, we would live in heaven on earth!

    Well, I am currently reviewing and prepping to take the GRE and will attend an info night at TREVECCA in Nashville. My undergrad is Business Administration, Corporate Management and obtained an associate in Pre-Nursing. I’m working at a ballroom dance studio for 6 years, so no HCE hours under my belt. I have recently volunteered for a hospice, two local non-profit clinics, and shadow a physician incurring about 20 hours as of now, and plan to continue my volunteer work until I can no longer put them in my schedule. What are your thoughts about my HCE hours? Also, while I was seeing a patient, a RN recommended me to take the free CNA classes so I can work for a few months to see the reality of healthcare and becoming a great PA. How do you feel taking this route as one of my advantageous points in being accepted to my choice of program ? My passion is in health care and helping people, especially passionate on healthy lifestyle!

    I will email you directly with my specifics and questions later on. Thank you so much! Looking forward to hearing from you.


    • Paul December 27, 2012, 12:50 pm

      Kind words! Thanks for that.

      You sound like you are on the right track. If you have time, doing a job that involves health care could give you an extra edge. This could be working as an EMT or other type of medical technician, or just helping staff an office as a medical assistant.

      • Phetsamay December 27, 2012, 1:25 pm

        Wow! Very quick response…thank you for your guidance.

  • Tahra L. December 30, 2012, 8:02 am

    Dear Paul,

    Thank you very much for taking what little free time I am sure you don’t have 🙂 to create and update this amazing site! It has pretty much everything I want to know about a PA in one place! I am prepping for my first PA school interview at Nova Southeastern Ft. Lauderdale, and I am extremely excited! This site is so wonderful, and again, can’t thank you enough for it!

    Best Regards,


    • Paul December 30, 2012, 9:44 am

      Thank you, Tahra! Please keep us posted! -P

  • Tina January 6, 2013, 10:57 am

    Hi Paul,

    Does undergraduate science/lab research strengthen one’s application for PA school?

    • Paul January 6, 2013, 1:26 pm

      It’s a good thing to have on your application, but it doesn’t weigh hugely in the acceptance process. Experience working with patients is much more highly valued.

  • Vanessa January 15, 2013, 3:46 pm

    Hello Paul,

    Thank you for all the time you put forth for creating this website, as I found it to be extremely helpful/insightful. I have a couple of questions regarding PA school that I could not find on here (and if the answers are already on here, I apologize).

    1.) Do ALL PA programs require that you take the science pre-reqs within the last 5 years before applying?

    2.) You mentioned on the podcast that psychology is one of the ideal majors to have for PA school. Although I would not be taking nearly as many science courses as the bio/chem/biochem majors, would I be at somewhat of a disadvantage for not having a heavy-science background (PA schools of course seem to have a lot of science involved!)?

    • Paul January 18, 2013, 5:15 pm

      No, they all have their own requirements. Some programs have 15 year cutoff – it just depends on the school. You’ll need to contact the schools directly for that information.

  • Kimberly Potter January 26, 2013, 4:38 pm

    Thank you SO much for a great website, what an amazing resource you are providing to us PA-wannabes! I made the decision to become a PA 3 years ago and have been taking prerequisite courses over 8 consecutive semesters now. This was with a full-time day job for half of it, 2 small children and a professional music career (I’m an oboist), I am 43 years old. It has BEEN extraordinarily challenging and unbelievably stressful and very time-consuming, it’s a true sacrifice. However, I’ve managed to get all A’s except for 3 classes, when I got B’s (precal, Gen Chem I and II). My sheer enthusiasm for the journey took me far, however, I will say I’m a bit worn down, the ‘newness’ of the experience has definitely worn off so your advice, Paul, to the lady above about staying motivated because it shows in how you carry yourself, and therefore how well you interview, was extremely valuable to me. Yes, I must find a way to get the joy of it back. I have been working as a CNA in a nursing home for the past 5 months but very part-time, only 32 hours per month, which is a problem. It is so hard and it kills my back, it’s hard to get someone to pick my kids from the school bus, etc. but I know I need to get more hours and there’s NO time to waste (at a minimum I need 1000 by Oct. 1st, I have about 300 now). I desperately need to get in a hospital somewhere very soon especially since I don’t know any PA’s well enough to get a recommendation letter from them. This is a problem but it’s harder to get hired at a hospital with only 5 months experience, although I recently came close. I do know from my nursing home experience that I truly care about people and am a very compassionate person. Anyway, I have been struggling to deal with the possibility that I might not get into PA school my first time around, I think I have a great chance to get into at least one but, still, the not knowing, the sheer numbers of applicants, etc. can make you lose sleep at night, for sure. Since my ex-husband has a great job here and a house I can’t really move too far so I only have the schools in my state of NC to choose from. I have gotten very positive emails back from several PA schools stating that I will be a competitive candidate (provided I get more hours, etc) but, still, it is possible I won’t get in. The sheer thought of that sends shivers through my body! All this really hard work and endless stress (about grades) for NOTHING???!!!! Oh, and to think 3 years ago how happy I’d be when I got to this part of the process, having taken NONE of the prereqs (I was in Intermediate Algebra my first semester), thinking I’d actually be applying to PA school…well now I’m here and it’s a very scary place to be. 🙂 Thanks SO much for the page. Oh, and congrats for making it happen with 3 little kids, I LOVED your story, thanks for sharing it.

    • Paul January 29, 2013, 11:04 pm

      Thanks, Kim – very kind words.

      Your time will come. Maybe now, maybe a little down the line. My advice: work those connections. You probably know someone who knows someone who knows a PA or a doc or a hospital administrator who might be just the person to hire you / mentor you / let you shadow. And it is from these relationships where letters of recommendation and HCE are born.

      Timing is everything in life, so don’t force it. If you need to wait longer, you’ll just be than much more ready!

  • Merry February 2, 2013, 1:27 pm

    Thank you guys! Let me just put it this way…. I have started a love affair with your blogs and you guys are my lovers. Good luck in PA school and wish me luck too.

    • Paul February 4, 2013, 4:55 pm

      Thanks, Merry! You can never have too many lovers! Wait…did I just say that?

  • Melsadie February 4, 2013, 7:38 pm

    Hi Paul,
    Compliments for the new year,I saw your blog but was unable to reply for i lost my dad in december. thanks for setting up a website like this and bring attention to profession! I am now
    considering a career in PA. I did apply to D’youville college i did not get through they were waiting on my boss to send them some information, when they got it it was too late, regardless of this Paul i am not quiting still trying other colleges i wont stop until i achieve my gold.I am still working as a healthcare assistant. i feel a bit intimidate being older and considering such a different career with uncertianty that i will be admitted. I wont be discourage for i feel more confident each day when i get on e-mail from u. I am open to any thoughts you may have, my specific question is,is there another college that i could apply to before the year is out i am very anxious to start. Thank you again Paul for your website it motivates me alot. May god bless you while you keep up the good work to help us to get a good profession.

    • Paul February 4, 2013, 9:37 pm

      Hi, Sadie – Thanks for your kind words. I’m also so sorry about the loss of your dad.

      It’s pretty late to be applying. I don’t keep all of the application deadlines in my head as there are so many. Have you used our PA Program Directory? You can pretty quickly and easily check the deadline for any program that interests you.

  • Harleen July 27, 2014, 12:04 pm


    I have a friend who is 26. He has Bachelors in psychology. He also has clinical experience. He is thinking about either doing PA course or going to a med school. But he is not able to make decision. He is also confused about how to complete the pre requisites for it. Should he take classes or should he go for a post bac. Also, because he is working so he feels that its difficult to get loans for part time study. Please advise me. I am new to all PA stuff. Thank you for your time and this wonderful site.

    • Paul July 31, 2014, 9:18 pm

      Hi, Harleen – we have many, many articles on getting into PA school. Dig right in.

      To answer your question, I don’t usually recommend a post baccalaureate degree unless his undergrad grades are low, and maybe not even then. He should just take the prerequisites and apply.

      PA schools have financial aid offices just like medical schools do, and they are a tremendous help in lining up, grants, scholarships, and loans. If you get in, you will find the money to attend.

      As for his dilemma, he should watch our PA student interviews, particularly of Sundance.

      • Harleen August 1, 2014, 12:54 pm

        Thank you so much Paul for your reply. My friend found it very helpful.
        These were his exact words:” Wow u got that guy to respond!
        I go to the website all the time. That was great about the post bacc
        I’m glad I know to cross that off now”

        Thank you and Best wishes for everything.

  • Kendall December 30, 2014, 8:26 pm

    Hi Paul,

    I am considering a few different professions and I am interested in being a physician’s assistant. The only problem is that I have cystic fibrosis. I am in pretty good health, considering my condition and age, but I worry about if the work would endanger me or if cross-contamination rules would disallow me to apply. I am still in high school, so I am very versatile at this point.


    • Paul January 11, 2015, 2:21 pm

      First get clear on the title: it’s Physician Assistant — no apostrophe S!

      I don’t think cross-contamination is the issue. You could pick a specialty that wouldn’t expose you to any more infection than your life now. This could include radiology, psychiatry just to name a couple.

      The bigger issue, I think is how consistently available you could be for your work. It makes sense to take stock of how often your illness is controlled. As you know, CF tends to make you sick often — sometimes little, and sometimes big, like hospitalization. And that says nothing about how much you need to do when you’re well to PREVENT becoming ill. It’s hard to take a job caring for others when you might need to be away from work periodically to take care of your own illness.

      I’m not saying that it can’t be done, but it’s a huge factor. Also as you know, CF used to be an illness that took victims’ lives in their 20’s and earlier. Nowadays it’s less deadly, but still a lot to manage.

  • Jordan June 6, 2015, 6:13 am

    First off, I love your website – so very helpful! I currently have a bachelor’s degree in Biology and am working on completing my master’s in Public Health. In addition, I work as a volunteer EMT and a paid Patient Care Technician in the Emergency Department. What is your perspective on how my master’s degree will be percieved in the application process? I am extremely passionate about the duality of public health and the role of physician assistants. However, at the same time, I don’t want to appear less competitive compared to say a nurse with 5 years of experience given I took time to complete my MPH degree. What are your thoughts?

    • Paul June 6, 2015, 7:45 pm

      I think they will consider it a good thing. It’s actually a degree that many people pursue while in PA school, as a combined degree program. Your patient care experience sounds very good. So just keep accruing hours. I don’t usually recommend nursing as a route to PA, but there are people who make it work.

  • Karen January 9, 2016, 7:11 am

    Hi Paul,

    My daughter, a junior in high school, is very interested in becoming a PA. My concern is will the field be over saturated by the time she graduates college? So we are looking at 7 to 8 years from now. Thank you in advance for any advice you can offer.

    • Paul January 18, 2016, 9:00 am

      The Bureau of Labor Statistics continues to project that PAs remain in high demand. I’ve read several projections that state that they will continue to be in short supply for at least another 15 years. The new health care reform just increased the size of our nation’s health care system by an enormous amount, and we were already quite short of primary care physicians. Those projections DID take into account that med schools are trying to graduate more doctors, but the limiting factor is always residencies, which are funded with Medicare dollars. And we all know that Medicare is in crisis, so there’s not likely to be a new influx of money to make a noticeable dent in the shortage of doctors.


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