Most physician assistant training in Illinois is offered at the master's degree level at various public and private universities. One 2-year college offers an associate degree program, which is designed for individuals with 1,000 hours of practical experience. Master's program applicants may also need to have completed a certain number of hours working in the healthcare field. Additionally, students applying to a graduate-level program need a bachelor's degree and will need to meet minimum requirements for a Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score. Completion of prerequisite courses is typically required for all physician assistant programs. Within the programs, students complete extensive clinical training, in addition to classroom work and labs.
Practicing physician assistants in Illinois are required to hold a license. To qualify, candidates must first earn certification from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, which entails passing its Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). Eligibility for the PANCE requires individuals to complete a physician assistant or surgeon assistant program accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). Brief descriptions of the schools in Illinois offering physician assistant programs appear below along with a table comparing tuition information.
City Colleges of Chicago - Malcolm X College
Students at this 2-year college in Chicago can enroll in a physician assistant associate's degree program. However, as of April 2013, this program's ARC-PA accreditation was given a probationary status until its next review, at which point full accreditation could be restored or withdrawn.
Applicants who've completed 50 credits of prerequisite courses and obtained at least 1,000 hours of approved professional experience are admitted to the program. Once accepted, students complete 78 credits of coursework in two years. The first year includes classes in gross anatomy, pharmacology and pathophysiology. In their second year, students gain supervised clinical training in various medical specialties, such as internal medicine, emergency medicine, surgery and pediatrics. Of the 23 students who graduated in June 2012, 57% passed the PANCE on their first attempt.
Midwestern University - Downers Grove
This university in Downers Grove only offers graduate degree programs, including the ARC-PA-accredited Master of Medical Science in Physician Assistant Studies. Admission requirements for this program include a bachelor's degree and the completion of all prerequisite classes. Students need to meet minimum GPA requirements and submit GRE scores as well. It's also strongly recommended that applicants have previous healthcare experience.
Students can complete this master's degree program in 27 months of full-time study. The first year is dedicated to coursework in anatomy, physiology, immunology, genetics, biochemistry and neuroscience. Students then spend 15 months in clinical settings where they complete ten rotations in areas ranging from surgery and geriatric medicine to internal medicine and women's health. Of the 2011 program graduates, 96% obtained employment six months after earning their degree; 100% of this cohort passed the PANCE the first time they took it.
Northwestern University in Evanston accepts 30 students into its physician assistant program each year. To be considered for admission, applicants must have completed a bachelor's degree program along with prerequisite coursework and submitted acceptable GRE scores. Although not required, the school suggests applicants also obtain at least six months or 1,000 hours of relevant healthcare experience to give them an edge in the admissions process.
This 2-year ARC-PA-accredited program includes coursework, clinical experiences and a master's project. Through a combination of course lectures and group discussions, first-year students study such topics as pediatric healthcare, pathology, genetics and geriatric healthcare. The second year focuses on clinical rotations. Seven of these 5-week rotations concentrate on required medical specialties, such as internal medicine, pediatrics and women's health. Three elective rotations lasting four weeks each allow students to choose the medical specialties they're most interested in.
Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science
To be admitted to the physician assistant master's degree program at RFUMS in North Chicago, candidates need to complete prerequisite coursework and submit GRE scores along with letters of recommendation and undergraduate transcripts from their bachelor's degree program. Patient care experience is also recommended. The school receives close to 1,900 applicants each year and accepts less than 70.
It typically takes two years to complete this program. In the first year, students can participate in lecture courses, simulations and laboratory classes. The final year requires students to attend seminars and complete eight clinical rotations. These last six weeks each and focus on specialty areas like women's health, pediatrics, surgery, internal medicine, emergency medicine and family medicine. Two of these rotations are electives so that students can choose clinical settings that suit them. Graduates of this ARC-PA-approved program are qualified to take the PANCE, and 95% of the class of 2012 passed the exam on their first try.
This Chicago school's ARC-PA-accredited physician assistant master's degree program takes 33 months to complete. Curriculum includes 12 months of classroom instruction and 21 months of clinical experience. During this time, students can complete advanced study in such specialty areas as orthopedic and cardiothoracic surgery.
Admissions requirements for this program are similar to others in the area. Applicants need acceptable GRE scores and a bachelor's degree that meets minimum GPA and prerequisite requirements. However, Rush University also requires patient care experience for admission. At least 1,000 hours of experience are needed to meet minimum requirements, though prospective students should have 1,500 or more hours of experience to make themselves competitive.
Southern Illinois University Carbondale
Aspiring physician assistants can complete ARC-PA-accredited physician assistant programs at this Carbondale university. The school offers two pathways to a master's degree in physician assistant studies. The Masters Completion Program (MCP) is a 1-year curriculum for practicing physician assistants who already have a bachelor's degree in the field. Most coursework is completed online, but some on-campus attendance may be necessary. MCP students learn about healthcare ethics, best practices and research methods.
Those with healthcare- or science-related bachelor's degrees can enroll in the traditional 26-month program. Applicants need to have taken the GRE, MCAT or MAT and completed all prerequisite courses. Upon acceptance, students complete first-year coursework on campus. The second portion of the program consists of clinical rotations that might require students to relocate to another Illinois city. The final phase consists of an 8-week preceptorship at a clinical facility of students' choosing. Graduates receive a master's degree in addition to a Certificate of Completion in Physician Assistant Training.
School Comparison: At a Glance
|School Name||School Type & Setting||Physician Assistant Programs Offered||Graduate Tuition and Fees (2018-2019)|
|City Colleges of Chicago - Malcolm X College||2-year, public; large city||Physician Assistant Associate in Applied Science|| $1,752, in-district
|Midwestern University - Downers Grove||4-year, private nonprofit; large suburb||Master of Medical Science in Physician Assistant Studies||$43,883**|
|Northwestern University||4-year, private nonprofit; small city||Master of Medical Science||$54,620**|
|Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science||4-year, private nonprofit; large suburb||Master of Science in Physician Assistant Practice||$35,479**|
|Rush University||4-year, private nonprofit; large city||Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies||$36,788**|
|Southern Illinois University Carbondale||4-year, public; rural|| Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies,
Certificate of Completion in Physician Assistant Training
| $15,626, in-state
Sources: *City Colleges of Chicago - Malcolm X College's Website, **NCES College Navigator