Becoming a physician assistant, or PA, is the start of a rewarding career of helping patients solve medical issues. The first step is to complete a physician assistant master’s degree, and to do that you’ll have to figure out how to pay for PA school.
There are many ways to pay for PA school and become a physician assistant. There are federal loans and private student loan options that you can use to cover education costs and living expenses. There are also options to pay for PA school without loans. In this article, we’ll cover different scholarship programs, grants, and loans you can use to pay for PA school.
How Much Does PA School Cost?
According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), the average physician assistant school tuition costs anywhere from $30,000 to $120,000. Keep in mind that the cost of tuition is only part of the equation, you’ll also have to buy books and materials and cover your living costs. When you research different degree programs, make sure you learn how much each one costs.
The cost of tuition PA school students pay depends on the school, state, and residency. To become a licensed PA, students have to complete a PA program accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA), and the tuition rates for different programs vary.
Can I Pay for a PA School Without Loans?
Yes, you can pay for a PA school without loans. According to Statista, over half of college graduates are in debt after graduation, and it’s a good idea to avoid unnecessary loans. Some students get financial help from their families, while others take advantage of scholarships and grants. With scholarships and grants, you don’t have to repay the money with monthly payments like a traditional loan.
Top 5 Tips to Avoid PA School Loans
- Apply for scholarships. Before exploring loan options, you should apply for scholarship programs. Some scholarships cover the full cost of tuition, while some only cover part of a physician assistant program.
- Apply for grants. Grants are like scholarships in that you do not have to pay them back, and they are usually awarded based on financial need. Most grants only cover a small part of school costs, but they can still substantially reduce the amount you will have to pay overall.
- Save up to pay for college. Starting to save money for school early can reduce the amount of money you need to borrow to get your degree. After high school, consider getting a job to save up some money for your education.
- Choose an accelerated degree. An accelerated master’s degree allows you to finish PA school faster and pay for fewer semesters overall. However, taking an accelerated program means you will have to complete more coursework per semester, and you have to be sure you can handle the workload.
- Enroll in a work-study program. Work-study programs help you get a job on campus while you are in school. You will need to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to see if you qualify for this federal program.
How to Pay for PA School: 7 Ways to Pay for PA School
Scholarships usually require an application with one or more essays and are awarded to students with strong academic backgrounds. The American Academy of Physician Associates offers many scholarships through its PA Foundation, which has given over $2,300,000 of scholarships to PA students.
2. Federal Student Loans
A popular way to pay for PA school is through federal loans funded by the United States government. These are fixed-interest rate, income-driven repayment loans, which means you don’t start making monthly payments until you start working. To apply for this kind of educational loan, you need to submit the FAFSA every year you are in school.
3. Federal Work-Study Program
The federal work-study program lets students work part-time while enrolled in school. Students earn money to pay for school expenses, and the amount earned depends on the number of hours a student works. Full-time and part-time students are eligible to enroll in the program. Under this program, students will have to apply for jobs available at the school.
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4. Federal Pell Grant
Students who demonstrate great financial need can qualify for the Federal Pell Grant. The maximum Pell Grant award is $6,895. Unlike loans, students who get this grant do not have to pay it back. You are automatically considered for a Federal Pell Grant when you submit the FAFSA.
5. National Health Service Corps
The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) loan repayment program offers scholarships to certified PAs to help them pay off their student loans. Recipients must make a two or three-year service commitment as primary care providers in a facility approved by the NHSC. You will have to take out loans during PA school, but this program will help you pay off your PA school student loan debt.
6. Private Student Loans
You can take out private student loans to cover your PA school expenses. These physician assistant student loans can come from banks and other financial institutions. If you decide to take out private loans, you should only borrow what you need and find a loan with the lowest interest rate. Do your research on variable rate loans, they can be more expensive in the long run. Private lenders often require a co-signer, like a parent, spouse, or relative.
7. Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students
If you are still working on your undergraduate degree before going to PA school, you might want to consider a US Department of Education Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS). Parents of dependent undergraduates can apply for a loan that covers the total cost of attendance minus federal financial aid awarded to the student through the FAFSA.
Is Going to PA School Worth It?
Yes, going to PA school is worth it. Physician assistants earn high salaries and have many job opportunities, and it is one of the best professions if you are looking for a career change at 30. In this line of work, you’ll work directly with patients and help them with common questions and medical problems.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary of physician assistants is $115,390, with 31 percent job growth predicted over the next decade. Both the salary and growth rate are well above the average for all occupations in the US, so going to PA school is worth the investment.
How to Pay for PA School FAQ
Yes, you can pay for PA school without loans through a combination of scholarships, grants, family support, and work-study programs. You should only consider loans when other options are unavailable or do not provide the amount you need. Loans burden you with interest rates, and it can be hard to meet repayment terms for even the lowest rates.
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Physician assistants make a median salary of $115,390 across the US, but location can make a big difference. PAs in Rhode Island, Alaska, and Connecticut have the highest median salary for PAs by state.
To see if you qualify for federal student aid, you have to complete the FAFSA online form. College students are required to do this every year. Federal student aid includes scholarships, grants, and student loans.
Yes, if you are enrolled in a part-time PA program, you will have some time to work while in PA school. With a full course load, it is more challenging to work while in PA school, and in an accelerated program it would be extremely difficult. Some schools have a work-study program that lets you earn some money working part-time while in school.
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