So Many Opportunities!
Without the professional training provided at almost 260 PA educational institutions across the nation, close to 10,000 people per year would be unable to become physician assistants. The delivery of healthcare across the nation would suffer. Every year, well over 25,000 candidates apply to PA programs across the United States in hopes of being chosen for an interview, then selected as a student to be trained as a physician assistant.
We often say that with this excellent number of applicants compared to the overall seats available, no PA program should have unfilled seats. Yet it routinely happens that on the first day of classes, cohorts have empty seats where qualified students could be learning— and paying tuition—which should never be taken for granted when it comes to maintaining a great PA program. Why does this happen? How are PA programs nationwide failing to take advantage of a booming seller’s market? These are the puzzles we’re here to solve.
Booming Seller’s Market?
You bet it is, for now. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of physician assistants is projected to grow 31% from 2019 to 2029. Compare that to the projected growth of all occupations in the U.S. economy combined (only 4%) and it’s easy to see that PA careers are skyrocketing.
“Well, obviously!” you might be thinking. “With the aging baby boomer population, the healthcare industry is without a doubt bigger than it ever has been.” That’s true, but consider this: PA careers’ projected growth of 31% outpaces the projected growth of healthcare diagnosing/treating practitioners (10%) three times over. It’s not simply the baby boomers who create the demand, either. Increasing rates of chronic obesity-related illnesses like diabetes are upping the need for preventative and maintenance healthcare.
The benefits of training and employing PAs are apparent in this climate.
- PAs can be trained more quickly and at less cost than physicians.
- PAs fit well into the team-based healthcare provision models.
- States are constantly expanding the autonomy of PAs and the procedures PAs are allowed to perform.
- With a median annual salary of $112,260, PAs have well-paid and rewarding careers.
A brief overview of current market analysis clearly shows that, like many graduate medical educational industries, the PA educational industry has experienced significant growth over the last 15 years. That growth rate will continue for years to come, presenting new opportunities.
Those opportunities will come with challenges; the number of PA programs is increasing with this demand, so the number of your program’s competitors is also on the rise. More opening seats mean more competition for applicants to fill them. The buyer’s market is on the way.
So, who will the buyers be?
More about Your Applicants
Here are some interesting statistics about PA program applicants. As you review these, take note of certain populations or groups that your program can reach out to. Look for areas in which new focus and opportunities can be created.
PA applicants have an average non-science GPA of 3.50 and an average science GPA of 3.30. Are you surprised that the average isn’t higher? Actually, high GPA often doesn’t mean what we assume. We’ll discuss this further in our upcoming issue on grade inflation.
Matriculant students have an average non-science GPA of 3.71 and an average science GPA of 3.45.
The top ten majors of PA program applicants: