facebook noscript

Best PA Programs

By Daniel Champigny - Jun 30, 2020

Best PA Programs


It is difficult to believe that we are already almost two months into the 2020-2021 CASPA application cycle! For the pre-pa students in our following, it is only a few short weeks or months until the excitement of submitted applications and interview invites begins. So, with this in mind; how do we figure out whether your program is in the best PA schools category? Also, with the ever changing response to COVID-19, what programs are now physician assistant programs online? What are the new PA programs 2019 that we have, perhaps overlooked with our application?


What is a good PA program?


We’ve talked about this topic many times before and it may resonate differently depending on your personality, personal views, and experiences. I am a firm believer that a PA program should help guide you toward passing the PANCE. Duh, right? After all, I just covered an article on PA school tuition, which was staggering. So, if at the end of it, your program did not make you “ready” to pass the PANCE, what was it all for?


With this thought in mind, the program should help guide and prepare you for the PANCE, but they also need to take care that you are a competent clinician. Our education is unique in that unlike physicians, we do not get a three or four year residency to start building your patient care skills. We are expected by our employers to hit the ground running upon employment, giving good, competent patient centered care only a few weeks after graduation.


The program itself should cater to much more than just your academic and professional needs. We’ve said it before and it will be said again many times, PA school is tremendously difficult. Hence how difficult the application process is. At the same time, a program should ready you for working, but it should not be a miserable experience. One of the major things I talk to prospective students about during our interview prepping is to take a look at the students who are already attending the program. Do they seem happy? Do they look miserable? Do they regret anything about their choice? Do they seem strung out on caffeine, cranky, and sleep deprived? If so, run far and fast! Another BIG things to look at, which I never would’ve thought about is the schools attrition rate!


There are so many other intangibles within what makes a program a “best PA program” or a “worst PA program”. The individual choice and ranking is entirely up to you and your own personal value set. Moving forward during this article, we will discuss rankings and other numbers, but the important thing to keep in mind is that the most important ranking is the one that you come up with throughout your own research and interviewing.


Which programs are the “best”?

You may also be most familiar with the U.S News and World report rankings, as this is one of the few pieces of literature that are published each year to “rank” the available PA programs. It is based on a Peer Assessment Score of core values related to providing a good PA education. According to the report, both Duke University as well as the University of Iowa came in a tie for 1st place, followed closely by Baylor and then the University of Utah and Emory University in 5th place.


Where do the rankings come from?

The nice thing about the website list is that you can click on a particular school and get information about other types of rankings for the institution and it does also give you information about the program. The downside is that it is fairly difficult to determine where the “ranking” came from. For a $30 fee, you can sign up for their “Grad compass” which allows you access to more information, GRE scores, salaries, etc. As I have mentioned above, I am a fan of making your own ranking based on your own experiences and preferences.


Online Programs

In addition to on campus schools and programs, we now also have to start thinking about the possibility of online programs. As discussed in previous articles, the most known online program at this point would be Yale University. Although I have helped interview students who have ultimately gone to the Yale PA program online, I have not dealt with a student who has been able to give me feedback directly on how the program is doing. In the age of COVID-19, many programs have had to adapt very quickly to doing online learning as well.



The online resources available to help you review the information needed is plenty. Along with the ranking information available, each particular student should do their due diligence about any new program that they are looking at applying. The ARC-PA has a great website that lists the program’s status, whether it be continuing, provisional, or probationary regarding program status, which can be very helpful. Imagine your disdain if you gave a cash deposit to assure your seat at a program, only to find out that they were recently put on probation?


What is the BEST for YOU

The moral of the story regarding any ranking or information available about a program is that you, as the possible student, need to do the necessary research to determine if the program is right for you and your needs, regardless of ranking. The program could be listed as one of the best in the country, but if it does not fit with your individual needs or you do not get a good general vibe from students when you visit, then the program is not for you! End. Of. Story.


New PA Programs

So with this in mind, let’s talk about new programs. A lot of students do end up having qualms regarding going to a new program. As someone who went to an inaugural program, I can agree. There were challenges, that is for sure, but at the end of the day when I met faculty on interview day, their confidence shined through and reassured me. Six years later, I have no regrets. New programs are always cropping up and it may be overwhelming for students to try to weed through who is legitimate and who is not. Do they have experience in education? What is their track record? Do they have experience not only teaching, but teaching PA students?


List of New PA Programs

With that in mind, I will close with a list of new PA programs that are currently coming down the pipes of production. For the students reading this, go through each program’s page and information, anything you can get your hands on, with a fine toothed comb, like your career depends on it, because it does! Here are just a few to get you started!

Ashland University (OH)

Assumption College (MA)

Brenau University (CA)

Kansas State University (KS)

Marshall University (WV)

North Central College (IL)

West Chester University (PA)

This article or blog post should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever, including but not limited to establishing standard of care in a legal sense or as a basis of expert witness testimony. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on the podcast or blog.