Are you considering becoming a physician assistant? One of the most important factors to consider is the competitiveness of PA school.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: PA school is very competitive.

In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss the various factors that make PA school competitive and what you can do to increase your chances of acceptance.

Admissions Requirements

Getting into Physician Assistant (PA) school is a highly competitive process. Each year, thousands of applicants compete for a limited number of spots. The admissions requirements for PA schools vary slightly from program to program, but there are some common requirements that you should be aware of. Meeting these requirements will increase your chances of being accepted into a PA program.

GPA and Prerequisite Courses

One of the first things that PA schools look at is your undergraduate GPA. Most programs require a minimum GPA of 3.0, but some programs may require a higher GPA. In addition to your overall GPA, PA schools also look at your grades in prerequisite courses, such as anatomy, physiology, microbiology, and chemistry. It’s important to do well in these courses, as they are a good indicator of your ability to handle the rigorous coursework in PA school.

Healthcare Experience

Healthcare experience is another important admissions requirement for PA schools. Most programs require a minimum of 1,000 hours of healthcare experience, although some programs may require more. Healthcare experience can include work as a medical assistant, EMT, nurse, or other healthcare-related positions. This experience gives you a better understanding of the healthcare field and the role of a PA.

GRE Scores

Many PA programs require applicants to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). The GRE is a standardized test that measures your verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing skills. Each program sets its own minimum score requirements, but a good score is typically considered to be around 300 or higher.

Personal Statement and Letters of Recommendation

The personal statement and letters of recommendation are also important admissions requirements for PA schools. Your personal statement should explain why you want to become a PA and what makes you a strong candidate for the program. Letters of recommendation should come from healthcare professionals who can speak to your skills and abilities in the field.

It’s important to keep in mind that meeting the minimum admissions requirements does not guarantee acceptance into a PA program. The competition is fierce, and many applicants have impressive credentials. However, by focusing on these admissions requirements and putting together a strong application, you can increase your chances of being accepted into a PA program.

Number of Applicants

One of the key factors in determining how competitive PA school is the number of applicants. In recent years, the number of individuals applying to PA programs has increased significantly.

Increasing Popularity of PA Profession

The PA profession has become increasingly popular in recent years, which has led to a surge in the number of applicants. According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants, there were approximately 139,000 certified PAs in the United States in 2019, up from just 74,000 in 2009.

This increase in popularity can be attributed to several factors. First, the demand for healthcare providers has grown significantly in recent years, and PAs are well-positioned to fill this gap. Second, the PA profession offers a high degree of flexibility and autonomy, making it an attractive option for individuals who are seeking a rewarding career in healthcare.

Limited Number of Programs

Despite the growing number of applicants, the number of PA programs has not kept pace. There are currently around 270 accredited PA programs in the United States, which means that competition for admission can be fierce.

Furthermore, some states have significantly fewer PA programs than others, which can make it even more difficult for individuals who live in those areas to gain admission to a program.

Growing Demand for Healthcare Providers

The growing demand for healthcare providers is one of the main factors driving the increase in the number of applicants to PA programs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of PAs is projected to grow 31 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.

This growth is due in part to the aging of the baby boomer population, which is driving demand for healthcare services across the board. In addition, PAs are increasingly being used as primary care providers, which is helping to fill the gap left by a shortage of primary care physicians.

Program Selectivity

One of the key factors that makes PA school competitive is the program selectivity. This refers to the limited number of seats available in each program and the competitive applicant pool vying for those seats.

Limited Number of Seats

PA programs typically have a limited number of seats available each year, which can range from 20 to 100 seats depending on the program. This means that the competition for those seats is high, as there are often hundreds of qualified applicants applying for a handful of spots.

It is important to note that some programs may have higher acceptance rates than others, but this can vary year to year and is dependent on the applicant pool and other factors.

Competitive Applicant Pool

The applicant pool for PA school is highly competitive. Most applicants have already completed a bachelor’s degree and have some healthcare experience, such as working as a medical assistant or EMT.

According to the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA), the average overall GPA for accepted PA students in 2020 was 3.6, with an average science GPA of 3.5. Additionally, the average number of healthcare experience hours for accepted students was 3,000.

Therefore, it is important for applicants to have a strong academic background and relevant healthcare experience to be competitive in the application process.

Holistic Admissions Process

PA programs typically use a holistic admissions process, which means that they consider multiple factors when evaluating applicants. This includes academic performance, healthcare experience, personal statements, letters of recommendation, and interviews.

This holistic approach allows programs to consider the whole applicant, rather than just their academic credentials, which can benefit applicants who may have lower GPAs but have strong healthcare experience or other qualifications.

It is important for applicants to understand the admissions process for each program they are applying to and tailor their application materials accordingly.

Tips for Increasing Your Chances of Acceptance

Maintain a High GPA

One of the most important factors in getting accepted into a PA program is maintaining a high GPA. Most programs require a minimum GPA of 3.0, but the average accepted student has a GPA of 3.5 or higher. To increase your chances of acceptance, focus on your academic performance and aim for a high GPA. However, don’t sacrifice your healthcare experience or other important factors for the sake of a perfect GPA.

Gain Healthcare Experience

PA programs prefer applicants with relevant healthcare experience, such as working as a medical assistant, EMT, or nurse. This experience demonstrates your commitment to the field and gives you a better understanding of the healthcare system. In addition, it can help you stand out from other applicants. Consider volunteering or shadowing in a healthcare setting to gain experience and build your skills.

Prepare for the GRE

Many PA programs require applicants to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). The GRE measures your verbal and quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical writing skills. To prepare for the GRE, consider taking a GRE prep course or studying on your own. Practice exams and study materials are available online and through test prep companies.

Write a Strong Personal Statement

Your personal statement is your opportunity to showcase your unique qualities and experiences. It should be well-written, concise, and demonstrate your passion for the field. Be sure to highlight your relevant experiences, skills, and goals. Consider having a mentor or friend review your personal statement for feedback and suggestions.

Obtain Strong Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation provide insight into your character and abilities. Choose individuals who know you well, such as healthcare professionals, professors, or supervisors. Ask for letters of recommendation well in advance and provide your recommenders with a copy of your resume and personal statement. Be sure to thank them for their time and support.


In conclusion, PA school is very competitive. With limited spots available, a growing number of applicants, and rigorous admissions requirements, it’s important to take steps to increase your chances of acceptance. By maintaining a high GPA, gaining healthcare experience, and preparing a strong application, you can increase your chances of success. Good luck on your journey to becoming a physician assistant!

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