Physician Assistant Programs in California with Degree Options

Research physician assistant programs in California, which currently has eight schools accepting students to its programs. Read an overview of degree programs, tuition info and program options for these schools, and decide which program is right for you.

Essential Information

In California, physician assistant studies are widely available as 2-year master's degree programs at various public and private universities. Undergraduate certificate and associate's degree programs are other education options that are found at a couple of 2-year colleges within the state. All of the schools in this article, except Foothill College, have ARC-PA accreditation. Details about this school's accreditation status are listed below. Students should note that since most of the PA programs are at a graduate level, they need to have at least a bachelor's degree and experience before training as a PA. Additionally, in addition to lectures and labs in the classroom, students must complete extensive clinical training within these programs.

Foothill College

Individuals at this school in Los Altos Hills can enroll in a PA program called the Primary Care Associate Program. Admission requires applicants to complete specific coursework like anatomy, physiology and microbiology. Additionally, applicants must have at least 3,000 hours of hands-on patient care experience.

The 21-month program is offered in cooperation with Stanford University. Since Stanford University has an ARC-PA accredited program, graduates are eligible for licensure exams. In addition to coursework, students gain practical training through preceptorships. Graduates may be awarded a Certificate of Clinical Proficiency by Stanford University and either a certificate or associate's degree from Foothill College. The program has an articulation agreement with the PA master's program at Saint Francis University.

Loma Linda University

The Master of Physician Assistant program at this Christian-based university in Loma Linda accepts students who completed specific prerequisites and have 2,000 hours of healthcare experience. The 2-year program requires students to spend the first year completing classes like medical ethics, patient diagnosis, anatomy and pathophysiology. During the second year, students learn about PA issues and complete a series of clinical rotations in various medical specialties.

Samuel Merritt University

Those in the Oakland area can find a PA master's degree program at this university. To be one of the 36 students accepted into the program each year, applicants must have 1,000 hours of patient care experience. Work experience in healthcare trumps volunteer experience in this competitive application process.

Once accepted, students spend 27 months completing the program's requirements. The didactic portion takes up the first 15 months and teaches students about clinical and behavioral science, patient evaluations and clinical duties. The remaining 12 months make up the clinical training portion of the program. Students complete several clerkships in areas of pediatrics, geriatrics and surgery.

Stanford University

Stanford University offers a primary care program at its campus in Palo Alto. Students learn how to become physician assistants by taking classroom courses and clinical rotations. Applicants need to have at least 3,000 hours of healthcare experience. Graduates of the program earn a certificate from Stanford University, but they can also transfer their credits to Foothill College's associate degree program. Graduates may also opt to complete Saint Francis University's online Master of Medical Science program for physician assistants.

Touro University California

A dual degree program that leads to a Master in Public Health and a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies is offered at this university in Vallejo. Students can complete the program in 32 months. To be considered a competitive candidate, applicants need to have at least a 3.0 GPA, more than 20 hours of job shadowing experience and at least 1,000 hours of healthcare experience.

Students in the program spend the first four months completing classes like anatomy, biostatistics and pharmacology. The remaining portion of the program is spent acquiring clinical training. Additionally, students may complete a public health fieldwork experience and capstone course.

University of California - Davis

To be considered for the PA track of this school's Master of Health Services program, applicants must have a minimum of 1,000 hours of healthcare experience. Accepted students can expect to complete clinical training in underserved areas. The university has more than 40 faculty members teaching students. The program is full time, and students may earn their degree in 27 months. Students take courses like pharmacology, advanced clinical skills, healthcare systems and thesis research.

University of Southern California

This Los Angeles university also offers a PA master's degree program. Admission requirements include completing prerequisite classes, submitting GRE scores and obtaining professional clinical and community service experience.

The program's curriculum focuses mainly on providing medical care to areas that are medically underserved. In the first year, the program requires students to complete classes in medical science, clinical procedures, behavioral science and medical topics. The second year provides clinical training through rotations.

Western University of Health Sciences

In order to apply to this Pomona school's PA master's program, individuals should have completed prerequisites. Unlike many other physician assistant programs, applicants aren't required to have previous healthcare experience; however, applicants may need to exhibit community involvement.

The first year of the program is mainly spent in the classroom and laboratory completing coursework. First-year students may also have the chance to gain clinical training through volunteer work. Majority of the second year is spent performing clinical rotations in healthcare settings. Students also work together to compile a research project during this year.

Career Requirements

To practice as a physician assistant (PA) in California, individuals must first obtain licensure from the Medical Board of California's Physician Assistant Board. Meeting the eligibility requirements for this licensure means that applicants must first pass the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants' (NCCPA) certifying exam - the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE). And to be eligible for the PANCE, applicants must first complete a degree program approved by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). Read on for details about physician assistant training programs in California.

School Comparison: At a Glance

School Name School Type & Setting Physician Assistant Programs Offered Tuition and Fees (2015-2016)
Foothill College 2-year, public; large suburb Certificate of Achievement - Primary Care Associate,
Associate in Science in Primary Care
$1,551 in-state, $8,391 out-of-state (undergraduate)*
Loma Linda University 4-year, private not-for-profit; large suburb Master of Physician Assistant $27,170 (graduate)*
Samuel Merritt University 4-year, private not-for-profit; large city Master of Physician Assistant $40,017 (graduate)*
Stanford University 4-year, private not-for-profit; large suburb Certificate of Clinical Proficiency in Primary Care $46,320 (graduate)*
Touro University California 4-year, private not-for-profit; midsize city Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies/Master of Public Health $24,958 (graduate)*
University of California - Davis Campus 4-year, public; small suburb Master of Health Services in Physician Assistant Studies $13,164 in-state, $28,266 out-of-state (graduate)*
University of Southern California 4-year, private not-for-profit; large city Master of Physician Assistant Practice $40,670 (graduate)*
Western University of Health Sciences 4-year, private not-for-profit; large suburb Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies $23,371 (graduate)*

Source: *NCES College Navigator

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