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Five Tips for Selecting a PA Program

Due to the competitiveness of getting into PA school, many applicants feel that getting into any program would be just fine with them. However, there are many factors to consider when selecting a PA program, because all programs are not alike. If you choose to apply to the wrong program(s), you may be in for a rude awakening when it comes to getting a quality training experience and/or being prepared to take the certification examination (PANCE) when you graduate.

If you choose a program that is a good fit for you and a program that is well established, your chances of getting a quality education and passing your certification exam (PANCE) will be excellent.

 Here are five tools to consider when selecting a PA program:

  1. Look on my Home Page to find a listing of current PA programs.The list contains all of the accredited PA programs in the United States. It also includes programs that are provisionally accredited and those that are seeking accreditation. Additionally, you can search for information on tuition, prerequisites, financial aid, test scores, essay requirements, content, curriculum, and clinical rotations.

  2. Check the accreditation status of the program(s). You must make sure the program you are applying to is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. If you do not graduate from an accredited PA program, you will not be eligible to sit for the national boards (PANCE), administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).

  3. Find out the focus of the program(s). Certain programs mention a particular focus in print literature or on the Internet. For instance, the City University of New York (CUNY) Harlem Hospital Center PA Program focuses on practice in underserved areas.

  4. Find out the program’s first-time pass/fail rate on the NCCPA certification examination. I stress the first-time pass/fail rate on the NCCPA exam, because if you don’t ask the program representatives in those specific terms, you will get the overall pass/fail rate; eventually most students pass. Look for a program with a first-time pass/fail rate in the mid to high 90th percentile. This number is usually listed on the program’s website ( and on my home page.)

  5. ​Set up meetings with the program director and some students. Set up a one-on-one meeting with the program director. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the program and demonstrate your passion for the PA profession. It is also a good idea to make contact with some of the students. Find out what they like and don’t like about the program. This information can be invaluable at the interview. There are PA student societies at many programs.

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