10 Best PA Schools in California | 2023

The physician assistant profession is one of the most important careers in the medical industry. With their wide variety of skills, they play diverse roles in the medical field.

To become a physician assistant, you need the right formal training and experience and to acquire that, you must enroll in a good PA school.

If you’re eager to make an impact in the medical field as a Physician Assistant, you can give PA Schools in California a second thought. We have highlighted the 10 best PA schools in this article.

Besides saving a life, becoming a physician assistant can be a lucrative career path for those seeking support roles in a hospital or clinical setting.

This article contains the best Pa schools in Califonia. The first section describes the role and functions of a physician assistant, who a Pa is, and the work settings.

Similarly, the second part contains the 20 accredited best PA schools in Califonia ranking, their requirements, tuition, and locations, respectively.

Lastly, the third section summarizes the jobs and career outlook of the PA assistant.

Who Is A Physician Assistant?

The role of physicians is very essential in the health sector but, they cannot handle all the tasks alone that is why there is a need for physician assistants.

A physician assistant is a medical personnel who works with licensed physicians to provide medical care to patients by helping doctors, surgeons, and other medical professionals with various tasks. They serve multiple functions that help the hospital or clinic function efficiently.

To help the doctor perform their work, a physician assistant will review patients’ medical information, conduct essential examinations, write prescriptions, or monitor patients in medical facilities, give treatment, and educate or counsel patients according to their needs. While doctors diagnose and create a treatment plan, physician assistants conduct these tasks depending on the job.

In addition, a physician assistant will work in all areas of medicine, from primary care to emergency service and psychiatry. The amount of work they put in, and the amount of oversight needed from physicians will vary depending on the job and state or regional regulations.

Why Become a Physician Assistant?

Physician assistants play a crucial role in balancing the health sector by constantly using their professional services. Their versatility makes it easy for them to practice and be fully involved in any health care system, as they can function in areas like pathology, dermatology, and cardiothoracic medicine.

The ability to work in different settings and environments makes it attractive for you as a physician assistant. You can take some time off as you wouldn’t always be on call 24/7. And you’re not always scared of getting a call to come for an emergency at this time.

As a PA, you get paid well for your contribution to the medical industry. On average, a PA’s median salary is about $105,000. Although factors such as age, experience, and location can tweak the figures, you still earn enough to take care of your responsibilities.

Conclusively, the knowledge of not getting emergency calls and making good money don’t compare to the fulfillment that comes from this role. The joy on the faces of a family when you play a crucial role in revitalizing one of their loved ones or providing professional counsel and guidance on how they can recover their health is orgasmic. You can always make money and impact as a physician assistant.

How can I become a Physician Assistant?

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Earn a Bachelor Degree

The first step to becoming a Physician Assistant is to earn a bachelor’s degree in an accredited institution. Though prospective physician assistants can major in any area, a degree in health science provides the background knowledge needed when pursuing entry-level positions or advanced study. The undergraduate program available include the following:
> Medical Terminology
> Statistics
> Healthcare Ethics
> Quantitative Methods

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Obtain a Masters Degree

Master’s degree requirements vary by school but most degree program takes at least 2 years to be completed before entering the field. The options available for the master’s program include the following:
> Anatomy
> Physiology
> Pathology
> Clinical Medicine
> Medical Laws and Ethics
> Pharmacology

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Pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exams (PANCE)

Certified physician assistants need to take the Physician Assistant National Recertifying Exam (PANRE) during the last two years of the six-year certification maintenance or the 10-year certification maintenance cycle. The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) offers practice exams to help PAs prepare for the PANRE.

To even be eligible for the exam, you will have to graduate from an accredited school. 
The examination will involve many different topics related to the profession. 

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Obtain a Licensure

Candidates for physician assistant careers will need to complete the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination, also called PANCE, which is administered by the National Commission on Certificate of Physician Assistant (NCCPA) to be eligible for licensure.

10 Best PA Schools in California | 2023

The Physician assistant studies available are primarily 2-year degree programs at a graduate level in various public and private universities. However, you need to have at least a bachelor’s degree in medical-related fields and experience to qualify to enroll in the master’s program.

Only a few physician assistant programs in California community colleges are available at the certificate degree level. Also, note that all the schools in this publication are approved PA programs in California.

Below is the overview of 10 accredited best PA schools in California ranking, requirements tuition and program Duration for each school respectively.

1. California Baptist University

$97,380 ARC-PA 2

California Baptist University (CBU) was founded in 1950. The school is one of the top private Christian colleges and universities and also one of the best pa schools in Southern California.

CBU is one of the best PA schools that offers more than 80 majors, with more than 150 significant concentrations and more than 50 minors at the undergraduate level. Also, it provides more than 30 masters and five doctoral programs at the graduate level.

In addition, the institution is approved and accredited by ARC-PA for the Physician Assistance studies and generally approved by the following bodies.

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  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • California Commission on Teacher Credentialing
  • Board of Behavioral Science Examiners
  • Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
  • Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs
  • National Association of Schools of Music
  • State of California Board of Registered Nursing
  • Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education
  • Board of Registered Nurses
  • American Council for Construction Education

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2. Southern California University

$14,590 ARC-PA 28 months

Standard University is well known as one of the best PA schools in California and was founded in 1911 as a health science school.

SCU is regionally accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). The school offers students education-related financial assistance opportunities(direct loans and scholarships ) to cover their educational expenses.

The institution is generally approved and accredited by the following commissions.

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  • Doctor of Chiropractic Degree Program Accreditation
  • Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Program Accreditation
  • Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Program Accreditation
  • Master of Science: Physician Assistant Accreditation
  • Ayurveda Certificate Program Accreditation

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3. Western University of Health Sciences

$44,065.00 ARC-PA 2-years,

Western University of Health Sciences was founded in 1977 as the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific and is one of the best PA schools in Califonia.

WesternU prepares Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (MSPA) graduates for competency in core medical and clinical sciences, interpersonal and communication skills that result in effective information exchange with patients, families, health care providers, professional associates, and the health care system.

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4. Marshall B. Ketchum University

$36,654 ARC-PA 27-month

Marshall B. Ketchum University is a private, non-profit educational institution well known as one of the best PA schools in Califonia, ranking high.

Correspondingly, the School of Physician Assistant Studies at Marshall B. Ketchum University was founded in 2012 and offers a 27-month, post-baccalaureate program leading to the degree Master of Medical Science.

Also, the student-teacher ratio in MBKU PA school is 8:1, and that has given a collegial atmosphere making the school qualify as one of the best PA schools in Califonia.

In addition, the institution provides financial aids to students that will help meet their educational expenses necessary to achieve their career goal of becoming outstanding Physician Assistants (PAs).

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5. Samuel Merritt University

$117,356 ARC-PA 2 and a half years

Samuel Merritt University was founded in 1909 as a private, not-for-profit health sciences institution with campuses in Oakland, Sacramento, and San Mateo, California.

The Master Physician Assistant Department at Samuel Merritt University prepares graduates to be interdependent medical providers, demonstrate commitment to the community and the profession through active leadership, manifest critical and creative thinking, and utilize practical communication skills.

Additionally, the Physician Assistant program at Samuel Merritt University offers a variety of educational funding to students, including scholarships, work-study, and student loans. 

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6. Touro University California

 $29,141 ARC-PA 33 months

Touro University California is a private graduate health science school and located on Mare Island in Vallejo, California. 

The schools offer a dual master’s program in the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies and a Master of Public Health to increase access to quality healthcare.

TUC dual MSPAS/MPH Program awards financial aids and scholarships to the Disadvantaged Students (SDS) program through the assistance of the Health Resource and Service Administration (HRSA). Their program mission includes:

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  • Educating quality Physician Assistants to work with underserved populations.
  • To Recruit candidates or individuals with a demonstrated interest in serving these communities.
  • Increase access to care for underserved populations.

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7. University of California Davis

$164,925 ARC-PA vary

The University of California Davis was founded in 1961 and is one of the world’s leading physician assistant schools and teaching institutions in Davis, California. 

The UC Davis School of Medicine is among the best physician assistant schools in California and is committed to providing the best student-centered educational experiences. 

In addition, the school offers several sources of educational funding, including scholarships, loans program, and short-term loans to their students. Also, note that the tuition posted here are estimated based on currently approved amounts and are subject to change.

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8. University of the Pacific 

$119,252 ARC-PA 27-month

The University of the Pacific is one of the best Pa schools in Califonia. It is a private university with three campuses in Sacramento, San Francisco, and Stockton. 

The school offers 114 units in the full-time PA program, which consists of 54 didactic and 60 clinical and does not offer an online or part-time option.

Pacific trains the PA students to become proficient in completing medical histories, performing physical examinations, performing clinical skills and procedures, providing treatment, and counseling patients.

Additionally, the school acceptance and graduation rates are 66% and 72%, respectively, offering an average cost-after-aid of $31,000.

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9. Loma Linda University

$56,044 WASC  24-month

Loma Linda University (LLU) is a Seventh-day Adventist educational health-sciences institution in the Inland Empire of Southern California. LLU medical school was founded in 1966.

The school is one of the best PA schools in California and is dedicated to training highly skilled and dedicated healthcare professionals from diverse religious, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds.

 The school prepares students to demonstrate critical-thinking and clinical skills in patient care by applying the basic sciences to physician assistant sciences. Also, demonstrate a commitment to making the best out of the physician assistant and general medical profession.

In addition, the LLU medical school is accredited and approved by the various bodies listed below.

  • Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (JRCE-DMS)
  • Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
  • Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT)
  • The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT)
  • Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA)
  • Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE)
  • National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE), in collaboration with the
  • Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)
  • Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM)
  • California Department of Public Health (CDPH)
  • Laboratory Field Services (LFS)

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10. Standford University

$118,105 30-month

Stanford University was established in 1891. it is one of the world’s leading teaching and research institutions and one of Califonia’s best physician assistant schools.

However, the physician assistant studies at SU is a 30-month program that includes courses in stimulation lab, world-class clinical anatomy experiences, and early exposure to patient care.

In addition, the school admits between 25 and 30 students into the program each year and offers the following support to them.

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  • School/Life Balance Support
  • Academic Support
  • Accessibility Support
  • Student Life and Wellness Advising
  • Career Support
  • Children and Families Support
  • Dispute Resolution and Legal Issues Support
  • Financial and Administrative Support and Assistance
  • Health and Counseling Resources
  • Housing

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How Much is the Physician Assitant Salary and Job Outlook?

Data from the Bureau of Labour Statistics show that the median annual wage for physician assistants was $108,610 in May 2018. Correspondingly, the employment of physician assistants is projected to grow 31 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations.

In addition, Physician assistants work in physicians’ offices, hospitals, clinics, schools, outpatients and other healthcare Agencies. 

Where Do Physician Assisstants Work?

PAs are employed in hospitals, clinics, private physician offices, schools, and other health care settings. PAs can be found in communities of all sizes and in virtually every medical and surgical specialty.

What Do Physician Assisstants Do?

The clinical role of PAs includes primary and specialty care in medical and surgical practice settings. PA practice is focused on patient care and may include educational, research and administrative activities.

Are Physician Assisstants Doctors?

Nurses and physician assistants are independently licensed providers. They are not doctors, but they take on some roles traditionally taken on by doctors, including making diagnoses and prescribing medication. The PA tradition draws more from a medical model.

Are Physician Assistants Allowed To Work Alone?

A Physician assistant cannot run independently without the supervision of a physician. Many states allow physicians to determine exactly what constitutes supervision.


The role of a physician assistant is vital to the medical profession. While the physician diagnoses diseases, the PA provides preventive and health maintenance services.

The PA’s essential attributes include respect for self and others, adherence to the concepts of privilege and confidentiality in communicating with patients and a commitment to the patient’s welfare.

Note, before becoming a PA, you must first earn a bachelor’s degree in any medical-related discipline in an accredited college or university. Secondly, you must obtain a master’s degree in a similar discipline and, finally, obtain licensure after passing the required examinations.

And if you’d prefer to study in the United States, you can enroll in accredited best PA schools in California, including the University of the Pacific, University of California Davis, Samuel Merritt University, and Marshall B. Ketchum.

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