Thinking about a career as a physician assistant or already on your way? If so, you’ve made a great choice, as the U.S. Department of Labor predicts the demand for new PAs through the next several years to be six times the national average. The path to becoming a physician assistant begins with a college degree, and earning that degree comes with challenges – from finding the money to pay for tuition to passing tough classes and getting through your clinical rotations. And once you’ve completed your degree program, you’re going to need help finding your first job and building a career.
The good news is that there’s a wealth of scholarships and grants aimed specifically at helping physician assistant students like you pay for their education, as well as lots of great online and campus resources designed to support you in launching a rewarding PA career. Keep reading to learn more about the available scholarships and resources ready to help you as a PA student.
Scholarships and Grants for Physician Assistant Students
Scholarships and grants are the most sought-after types of financial aid because, unlike student loans, they don’t need to be repaid. Grants are granted almost exclusively based on financial need and are typically offered by federal and state government agencies, private and public organizations, and colleges and universities. Scholarships have broader eligibility criteria and are offered by a wider variety of sponsors, including schools, nonprofit organizations, professional associations, private companies, individuals, and religious and civic groups. Here’s a closer look at what’s currently available for physician assistant students.
School-based PA Scholarships
In an effort to support the students in their physician assistant degree programs, many colleges and universities create scholarships exclusively to those students. Some of these scholarship programs are sponsored by outside organizations and individuals. To learn more about the scholarships available specifically to students in your PA degree program, contact your financial aid office or program director, or visit your school’s financial aid or PA department websites. To give you an idea of what you might expect, here are two schools that offer substantial scholarship opportunities exclusively for their PA students.
Located in Kalamazoo, Western Michigan University is home to a 24-month, full-time, entry-level PA program in which graduates earn a Master of Science in Medicine degree. To aid their students in financing their educations, WMU offers four scholarship programs exclusively for PA degree students. While eligibility requirements vary somewhat for each scholarship, all are awarded annually and require applicants to be in good standing in their PA programs. Information for all of these scholarships, including the one described here, can be found on WMU’s Physician Assistant Scholarships webpage.
Michael Dabaja Endowed Physician Assistant Scholarship
Varies (dependent on funding accumulation)
Must be a student in good standing with minimum 3.0 GPA following completion of two semesters in the WMU PA program. Demonstrated “financial obstacles” is also required. Preference is given to students from an underrepresented population.
How to Apply
Contact the PA scholarships program manager for application forms and instructions on how to apply.
Another excellent physician assistant program for Michigan residents is offered by Grand Valley State University. GVSU’s Physician Assistant Studies program, available on both the school’s Grand Rapids and Traverse City campuses, features a 28-month, full-time curriculum that results in a Master of Physician Assistant Studies degree. There are five scholarships (including the one listed below) currently available exclusively to GVSU PA students, each with its own individual purpose, eligibility requirements, and award amount. Details for all of these degrees can be accessed on the GVSU PA Studies Scholarships page.
Christos T. and Joan A. Panopoulos Physician Assistant Studies Scholarship
Open to GVSU PA students accepted into clinical phase two with a 3.5 or better GPA and enrolled in nine or more credit hours of coursework. Preference is given nontraditional students. Financial need is not required but may be considered.
How to Apply
Application is made through the school’s myScholarships portal. Students may begin the application process as early as October of the year prior to receiving the award.
National and Regional Physician Assistant Scholarships
American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA)/PA Foundation
Applicant must be an AAPA student member and enrolled in an ARC-PA accredited degree program. Applicants must additionally demonstrate leadership in their PA program and/or through participation in a community health organization/project
How to Apply
Fill out the PA Foundation online application, then return to the scholarship webpage to complete the application process.
California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD)
Open to students accepted to or currently enrolled in a California Board or Committee approved PA master’s program (or one of several other healthcare major degree programs) with a GPA of 2.0 or higher. Recipient must agree to a 12-month full-time service obligation at a qualified facility in California upon graduation.
How to Apply
Complete the application via the online OSHPD Funding Portal.
Open to students enrolled in a career entry-level degree program at an ASAHP institutional member school who have completed at least one term in that program. Candidates are nominated by their school (one nomination per institution per each round of scholarships).
How to Apply
Institution must submit nomination form online. Must include institutional letter of endorsement, and a current resume and short essay from the nominee.
Physician Assistants in Hospice and Palliative Medicine (PAHPM)
Applicant must be a PA student in good standing (3.0 or higher GPA) with demonstrated leadership in hospice and/or palliative medicine. PAHPM and AAPA/SAAPA memberships required.
How to Apply
Complete the online application form. Documents required include transcripts, a letter of recommendation and statement of purpose.
Department of Veterans Affairs
Varies. Award pays tuition, stipend, and some additional expenses.
Open to students accepted or enrolled in a Master of Physician Assistant Studies program. Requires a minimum two-year employment obligation at a VA facility after graduation and licensure/certification.
How to Apply
Complete online questionnaire and submit required documents. Full application instructions are on the scholarship website.
National Hispanic Health Foundation (NHHF)
Applicant must be enrolled in a full-time PA (or other listed healthcare-related major) degree program. Hispanic descent not required. However, applicant must have an affinity for the health of Hispanic communities and an interest in NHHF Student Alumni participation.
How to Apply
Full application instructions and online application on this application webpage.
Required supporting documents include a current resume or CV, unofficial transcripts, one letter of recommendation, and personal statement that includes discussion of career goals.
HOSA – Future Health Professionals
Applicant must be enrolled in a PA (or other stated career field) degree program. Factors considered in making awards include academic achievement, involvement in community activities, and quality of submitted personal essay.
How to Apply
Visit this Tallo website and open an account by filling out the free profile. Then, select the HOSA scholarships interested in and apply following the given application steps.
The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives
Open to members of a federally recognized American Indian Tribe or Alaska Native village, who are enrolled in an eligible degree program (including master’s PA program). Recipients must agree to a minimum two-year service commitment at a program-approved site following graduation.
How to Apply
Full application instructions can be found on the scholarship application site. Documentation required includes proof of Tribe or Village membership, transcripts, proof of degree program acceptance, and degree plan of study.
Physician Assistant Academy of Vermont (PAAV)
Open to applicants who are currently enrolled in a PA program or graduated within the six months prior to the award year. Applicant must also be current PAAV student member who has either worked or lived in Vermont in the past or hopes to live or work in Vermont after graduation.
How to Apply
Fill out and mail the application form (accessed on the scholarship website). Documentation required includes current resume or CV, education statement signed by the PA program director, two letters of recommendation, and personal statement.
Papa Ola Lōkahi
Varies. Pays school tuition and fees, and other reasonable costs, along with a monthly stipend for living expenses.
Open to applicants of Native Hawaiian ancestry enrolled in a full-time PA master’s (or other healthcare-related) degree program. Award winner must agree to a two-year service commitment in a program-eligible practice site in Hawaii. Degree program, however, need not be located in Hawaii.
How to Apply
Fill out online application and provide the required supporting documentation.
Applicant must be a student member of American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) student member and enrolled in an ARC-PA accredited PA program, with one completed term in that program. Must additionally identify as educationally disadvantaged and/or economically disadvantaged and/or a member of an underrepresented minority.
How to Apply
Follow the instructions on this PA Foundation online application page, then return to the scholarship page to complete the application process.
National Health Services Corps (NHSC)
Varies. Pays tuition and other reasonable fees, plus monthly stipend to assist with living expenses.
Applicant must be enrolled full-time in a postgraduate PA degree program leading to NCCPA certification. Requires two-year service commitment at a NHSC-approved practice site.
How to Apply
Complete the online application and submit supporting documents, including proof of citizenship, resume or CV, proof of enrollment in good standing, letters of recommendation, essays, and tuition and fee schedule.
PAs for Latino Health
$500 – $1,000 (Varies by specific scholarship.)
Open to PA students in good standing (minimum 3.0 GPA) with demonstrated leadership in the Latino community and interest in Latino health issues. Latino descent is not required. Applicants must also be PALH and SAAPA members.
How to Apply
Fill out the online application form. Must include a letter of recommendation and personal statement discussing background, career goals, and relevant experiences working with disparities in the Latino community.
African Heritage PA Caucus
Available to current PA students in good standing who have completed one term of their studies. African Heritage PA Caucus membership is required.
How to Apply
Contact the program for application instructions. Documentation required includes transcripts, two letters of reference, and a 1000-word essay on a given topic.
American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) & PA Foundation
Available to AAPA student members who have completed at least one term of studies in an ARC-PA accredited program. Applicant must also come from a rural area and be committed to serving a rural community.
How to Apply
Fill out the PA Foundation application and then complete the specific application requirements for the scholarship by following the link on the scholarship webpage.
5 Keys to Winning Physician Assistant Scholarships
There are two main elements to winning scholarship awards. The first is applying to the right scholarship contests. In this context, the right contests are the ones that you stand the best chance of winning. The second main element is applying to those contests in the right way. That means making sure your applications are made to impress the award selection boards. With these two elements firmly in mind, here are five keys to making the most of your scholarship campaign:
- Start small, local and specific:
There are lots of large, prestigious scholarship contests with big payouts. The problem with these contests, however, is that they are usually open nationwide and attract lots of applicants. What you might not know is that there are also tons of smaller scholarships, often open to students within a limited geographic area, particular major (like physician assistant), or particular school or program. And these scholarships tend to attract a much smaller number of applicants, meaning your chances of winning them are greater.
- Read the application requirements carefully:
You’ve heard it a million times: The devil is in the details. Nothing could be truer when it comes to scholarship applications. Read all eligibility requirements and application instructions carefully, and meet them fully and exactly. That way you won’t be wasting your time on contests that you don’t really qualify for and on applications that will be immediately passed over.
- Go for scholarships with lots of requirements:
Some scholarship contests require you to jump through a bunch of hoops to apply, with long questionnaires, essays, multiple letters of recommendation, and even videos. You natural reaction may be to pass over these contests. Think about it, though. If you’re willing to pass them by, so are others. That means fewer applicants. And fewer applicants means a higher chance you’ll win.
- Tailor your essays to each scholarship:
A big mistake many students make is to write one essay or personal statement and use it for every contest they apply to. Don’t do that. Take the time to tailor your essay to the unique purposes and goals of each sponsoring organization. Be specific and passionate about why you want to be a physician assistant. You’d be surprised at how much it matters. If you make the extra effort, you’ll likely make a real impression on the award committee.
- Watch Out for Deadlines:
All scholarship contests have deadlines. And if you miss them, you’re chances of winning are over, no matter how well you do on the rest of the application. So, be sure to mark down the deadlines for all of the scholarships you’re applying to on your calendar so you don’t miss one.
What to Do If You Still Need Help Paying for PA School
In addition to scholarships and grants, there are several other valuable sources of funding available to students pursuing a physician assistant college degree. Student loans, for example, are the most popular source of college financing for degree seekers in the U.S. today. Student loans are available from private lenders, but the vast majority of students will obtain their loans through the federal government. Additional popular college funding sources include employee tuition reimbursement programs, the GI Bill (for active-duty military and veterans), internships, and work-study programs. Student loan forgiveness or repayment options (such as the Federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness and NHSC Loan Repayment programs) may also be available to some PA graduates.
Check out EduMed’s student loan and financial aid guides to learn more about funding opportunities for your physician assistant degree program.
Academic and Professional Support Resources for Physician Assistant Students
Finding the right degree program and ways to pay for it are big challenges, but they’re not the only ones you’ll face. You’ll likely face many other hurdles in earning your PA degree, finding your first PA job, and building your PA career. Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone. There are countless campus-based and online resources you can take advantage of that are designed specifically to help PA students like you succeed. We’ve listed below a number of these useful resources to help get you started.
Physician Assistant Student Support Centers and Services
Whether you’re just beginning your PA degree program search, exploring financing options, need support during clinical rotations, or something else entirely, the first stop to find help is your school’s or program’s student support services center. There’s a good chance you’ll find access to all of these resources at your campus’s student services center office or on your school’s website. To get an idea of what you might expect at your school, we’ve spotlighted two colleges with excellent support services packages for their PA students.
It’s hard to find a more highly-regarded university anywhere than Stanford, whose School of Medicine is home to its own highly-regarded Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies degree. PA master’s students at Stanford can access a wide range of important resources via the school’s Student Support Services and Gateway for New Graduate Students webpages. Resource areas covered include diversity, family life, finances, health and wellness, housing, and transportation. PA students also have access to the academic support services of the Schwab Learning Center, Hume Center for Writing and Speaking, and VPGE Professional Development Resources, as well as the School of Medicine’s BioSci Careers program.
Marywood University’s Scranton, Pennsylvania campus is home to its MS in Physician Assistant Studies degree program. The campus is also home to a number of support services specifically for student in its PA program, as well as a substantial package of services for all Marywood students. Resources of note include the Student Life center, which offers such services as behavioral, sexual misconduct, and student emergency/crises intervention, the Counseling /Student Development Center, the Office of Student Success, and library services (including a PA Program Online Research Guide). A full list of the support services available to PA degree students can be found on the PA Program: Student Resources webpage.
Resources for Online Physician Assistant Students
The growing trend in distance learning at the college level has brought with it a growing base of resources for online students. That’s because online learning brings its own unique challenges, particularly regarding access to research materials. Students new to online study additionally need help becoming acclimated to the virtual learning environment (learning management systems, communicating with teachers and peers, etc.) If you’re a PA student in an online degree program (or thinking about enrolling in one), these resources will help.
- Inside Online Physician Assistant (PA) Programs
This EduMed guide provides an inside look at what it’s like to earn an PA degree online and helps students find the online PA degree program that best suits their unique academic needs and study preferences.
- NIH Library
One of the biggest challenges for students in online degree programs is gaining access to quality research resources without the use of their school’s brick-and-mortar libraries. The NIH Library provides a wealth of online databases, journals, tutorials, and other research tools for use in writing papers and theses, completing homework assignments and projects, and more.
- PAHx Research Library & References
Created and maintained by the Physician Assistant History Society, this website offers access to over 1,500 titles to books, articles, journals, reports, and more, all related to the history of the physician assistant profession and current PA practice.
- Tips for Taking Online Classes: 8 Strategies for Success
Learning online is different from learning in a classroom. This article from Northeastern University offers important tips to students for overcoming the challenges of online classes and achieving success in distance learning.
- Transitioning to Online School: A Guide for Healthcare Students
Another excellent EduMed resource, this guide provides a ton of great information and advice for making a smooth and successful transition into the online college education environment.
Student Organizations and Professional Associations
- American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA)
The preeminent professional association of physician assistants in the United States, the AAPA’s mission is to be a leader in the profession and empower its members in the advancement of their careers and in providing enhanced patient care.
- National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA)
The NCCPA is the only organization that provides professional certification to physician assistants in the U.S. It additionally offers voluntary certifications in several specialized areas of PA practice, including Cardiovascular & Thoracic Surgery, Emergency Medicine, Hospital Medicine, Nephrology, Orthopedic Surgery, Pediatrics, and Psychology.
- Physician Assistant Educational Association (PAEA)
The purpose of the PAEA is to represent the interests of, and advocate for, physician assistant education programs throughout the United States. The PAEA provides a range of resources (books, publications, learning tools, and more) for PA students, graduates, and program faculty and staff.
- Pi Alpha – The National Honor Society for Physician Assistants
Sponsored by the PAEA, Pi Alpha is the national honor society promoting the interests of its PA student and graduate members through the sponsorship of member activities, the publication of the Journal of Physician Assistant Education, and more.
- Society of Hospital Medicine (SHM)
The Society of Hospital Medicine is a professional association of hospitalists (physicians, physician assistants, nurses, and other caregivers) practicing in the field of hospital medicine. Members can access a range of professional resources (professional development, clinical topics, practice management, etc.) on the SHM website.
Online Communities, Networking Sites, and Other Social Groups
- Hospital Medicine Exchange (HMX)
The online discussion board of the SHM, the Hospital Medicine Exchange offers members a place where they can connect and collaborate with thousands of other hospital medicine professionals.
Sponsored by the AAPA, Huddle is a networking hub for PA professionals and students. Members can join or form new community platforms, post questions to peers, browse the membership directory, and find or become PA mentors. Access requires AAPA membership.
- Pediatric Emergency Medicine Physician Assistants (PEMPA) Facebook Group
Administered by EmpoweredPAs, the PEMPA Facebook Group page offers its members (PAs and other healthcare professionals) a platform from which to discuss issues concerning practice in the field of pediatric emergency medicine.
- @PhysicianAssist on Twitter
With currently over 8,300 followers, this Twitter account for PAs and others interested in the PA profession provides up-to-date information on the personal and practice interests of PAs throughout the U.S. and around the world.
- Pre-PA Mentor & Mentees Facebook Group With nearly 3,000 members, this Facebook group page provides a forum specifically for the purpose of connecting pre-physician assistants with mentors, as well as a place to network with other current and prospective PA professionals.
Articles, Videos, Books and Podcasts
Created as a blog by a practicing pediatric emergency physician assistant, EmpoweredPAs has grown into an excellent source of information and advice for pre-PAs, PA students, and working PA professionals in every practice area and at every level of their careers.
- JAAPA Podcast
This excellent podcast series from the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants offers monthly episodes, each taking a comprehensive look into diseases and conditions often encountered by PAs in the courses of their practices.
- PA School – What to Expect
Article from the Physician Assistant Education Association offering a slew of great advice to help PA students survive and prosper in their graduate degree programs.
- The PA Platform: Pre-Physician Assistant Advice + Coaching YouTube Channel
The PA Platform is a YouTube channel featuring a series of videos covering a variety of PA-related topics. Episode titles include “What PA School Admissions are REALLY Looking For” and “Personal Statement Mistakes!”
- The Posh PA
Written by a physician assistant and PA counselor, this well-written blog provides insights into the professional lives and personal lifestyles of both PA students and working PAs. Example posts include “PA School Survival Guide” and “How to Prevent Burnout as a Physician Assistant”. you.