How Many PA Schools Are There in California? Comprehensive Guide to 16 Accredited Programs

How Many PA Schools Are There in California? Comprehensive Guide to 16 Accredited Programs

Thinking about becoming a Physician Assistant (PA) in the Golden State? California offers a wealth of opportunities for aspiring PAs, with numerous accredited programs designed to equip you with the skills and knowledge needed for a successful career in healthcare. But just how many PA schools are there in California, and what makes them stand out?

In this article, we’ll explore the number of PA schools in California, providing you with a clear picture of your options. Whether you’re just starting your journey or looking to transfer, understanding the landscape of PA education in California is crucial for making informed decisions about your future.

Key Takeaways

  • Over 15 Accredited PA Programs in California: California boasts over 15 accredited Physician Assistant programs, offering a variety of educational opportunities for prospective students.
  • Major Hospitals and Medical Centers for Clinical Training: The state provides ample clinical training opportunities through its robust healthcare system, including major hospitals and medical centers.
  • Various Program Types: Aspiring PAs can choose from master’s degree programs, dual degree programs, online and accelerated programs to fit their specific needs and career goals.
  • Importance of Accreditation: Attending an accredited PA program ensures high educational standards and eligibility for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE).
  • Factors in Choosing a PA School: Key considerations include program accreditation, reputation, faculty expertise, location, facilities, program length, and curriculum specializations.

Overview of Physician Assistant Programs in California

Why California is Attractive for PA Students

California attracts PA students due to its diverse healthcare landscape and numerous educational opportunities. The state offers over 15 accredited PA programs, providing various options for prospective students. Additionally, California’s robust healthcare system includes major hospitals and medical centers, which offer ample clinical training opportunities. The state’s emphasis on progressive healthcare policies makes it an ideal place to start your PA career.

  • Master’s Degree Programs: Most common, typically requiring a bachelor’s degree and healthcare experience.
  • Dual Degree Programs: Combine a PA program with another graduate degree, such as a Master’s in Public Health.
  • Online Programs: Offer flexibility for students who need remote learning options, though they still require some in-person clinical components.
  • Accelerated Programs: Allow completion in a shorter time frame, designed for students with substantial prior healthcare experience.

Counting PA Schools in California

Counting PA Schools in California

Accredited PA Programs

California hosts 16 accredited PA programs as per the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). These programs include those at Stanford University, University of Southern California, and Samuel Merritt University. Accreditation ensures these institutions meet specific educational standards, providing quality training for aspiring PAs. The curriculum typically covers essential medical knowledge, clinical skills, and patient care delivery. Attending an accredited program enhances your credentials and ensures eligibility for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE).

Emerging PA Programs

Several institutions in California plan to develop new PA programs in response to the growing demand for healthcare providers. These emerging programs will provide more options for prospective students and help address the state’s healthcare needs. While they await full accreditation, these programs undergo rigorous planning and development phases to meet ARC-PA standards. Exploring these emerging programs early can provide timely information on application requirements and educational offerings.

Choosing the Right PA School

Factors to Consider

When choosing a PA school in California, it’s essential to evaluate several factors. Accreditation, program reputation, and faculty expertise can significantly impact your education quality. Investigate each program’s accreditation status to ensure it meets high educational standards. Consider the school’s reputation among healthcare professionals and its overall standing in national rankings. Faculty with extensive clinical experience can enhance your learning through practical insights.

Additionally, assess the location and facilities. A program based in a major metropolitan area like Los Angeles or San Francisco might offer more diverse clinical experiences due to the variety of healthcare settings. Cutting-edge facilities with up-to-date medical equipment can provide a more efficient learning environment.

Program Length and Curriculum

Program length and curriculum are critical when selecting a PA school. Most accredited PA programs in California range from 24 to 36 months. Shorter programs, while more intense, allow you to enter the workforce quicker. Longer programs might offer more in-depth training and various specialization options.

The curriculum should cover core medical sciences, clinical skills, and hands-on patient care. Check if the school offers specializations that align with your career goals, like pediatrics, surgery, or emergency medicine. Integrated clinical rotations in different specialties can provide a comprehensive experience, preparing you for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) and future practice.


Choosing the right PA school in California involves careful consideration of various factors. With 16 accredited programs, including prestigious options like Stanford University and the University of Southern California, you have a range of choices. Focus on accreditation, program reputation, and faculty expertise to ensure you receive top-notch education. Additionally, think about the location, facilities, and the unique aspects of each program, such as curriculum and clinical rotations. These elements will play a crucial role in your preparation for the PANCE and your future career as a Physician Assistant.

California is home to 16 accredited Physician Assistant (PA) programs, each offering unique opportunities for students to pursue a rewarding career in healthcare. These programs are designed to provide rigorous training and prepare students for the PA certification exam, as detailed by the Physician Assistant Education Association. Prospective students can explore various program offerings and admission requirements to find the best fit for their career goals, as recommended by Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I consider when choosing a PA school in California?

When choosing a PA school in California, consider factors such as accreditation, program reputation, faculty expertise, location, and facilities. Also, take into account program length, curriculum, specializations, and clinical rotations, as these elements are crucial for your preparation for the PANCE and your future career.

How many accredited PA programs are there in California?

There are currently 16 accredited Physician Assistant programs in California, including prestigious ones at Stanford University and the University of Southern California.

Why is accreditation important for PA programs?

Accreditation ensures that the PA program meets the necessary standards of quality and rigor. Graduating from an accredited program is also a requirement for taking the PANCE and obtaining licensure as a Physician Assistant.

What role do clinical rotations play in PA education?

Clinical rotations provide hands-on experience in various medical settings. They are essential for applying theoretical knowledge, gaining practical skills, and preparing for real-world medical scenarios and the PANCE.

How does program reputation affect my decision?

A program’s reputation can influence your education quality, networking opportunities, and future job prospects. Programs with strong reputations often have robust curricula, experienced faculty, and excellent clinical rotation sites.

What is the PANCE and why is it important?

The PANCE (Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination) is the certification exam that all PA graduates must pass to become licensed to practice. The exam assesses your medical and surgical knowledge, ensuring you are qualified to provide patient care.