8 Best Physician Assistant Schools in Virginia – 2023
Written By: Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH
From busy tertiary care hospitals in the state’s largest metropolises to frontline clinics battling the opioid epidemic in rural districts, you’ll find physician assistants everywhere in Virginia. In the 2019 General Assembly session, Virginia legislators voted to give physician assistants more autonomy in their scope of practice; thus, opening the way to freeing physician assistants from current stipulations that maintain they may only practice under the supervision of a licensed doctor. We’ve made it simpler for you to find the physician assistant training program you’d like to pursue by ranking the best physician assistant programs in Virginia.
RECOMMENDED ONLINE HEALTHCARE SCHOOLS
What Kind of Courses are Offered by Physician Assistant Programs in Virginia?
Coursework at physician assistant schools in Virginia is equally divided between classroom instruction and experiential learning opportunities in hospitals, ambulatory care clinics and community health agencies. You’ll study many of the same topics that are covered in medical school such as cardiology, hematology and emergency medicine, but you’ll also learn about the fundamentals of medical history taking and the legal stipulations the state of Virginia places upon your scope of practice. By the time you graduate, you’ll understand how to be a focal point for the patients you interact with and a resource who can help those patients obtain the services they need.
Length & Cost of Physician Assistant Programs in Virginia
Physician assistant programs in Virginia involve a 27-month to 36-month commitment. At the end of the program, you will earn a master’s degree. Costs range anywhere from approximately $23,000 at a publicly funded school if you’re a Virginia resident to $85,500 at a private university.
| Type of Program|| Length|| Cost|
|Master's||2 - 3 Years||$23,000 - $85,580|
WHAT ARE THE BEST PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT SCHOOLS IN VARGINIA (ONLINE & CAMPUS) FOR 2023?
(Based on our Ranking Methodology, the following are the 8 Best PA programs in Virginia.
About the PA School:
If you are shortlisting physician assistant schools in Virginia that emphasize leadership, interprofessional collaboration, compassion, and health equity, then you may want to learn about the University of Lynchburg. This PA school prepares you with evidence-based knowledge to serve across diverse patient populations, especially focusing on the underserved and vulnerable areas. Here, the small-sized classes, modular organ-based format, training in sonography, and wide-ranging clinical experiences make this program a rather sought-after choice. Furthermore, the advanced simulation learning at its state-of-art lab, including an anatomy lab, fitted with 21 cadaver stations enhance critical thinking and clinical decision-making skills. As a graduate of this program, you will be adept at offering direct patient care in any type of clinical setting.
Program Details: Unlike most other physician assistant programs in Virginia that mainly comprise two phases, this program takes you through three phases of didactic learning, clinical rotations, and the final one month of the summative phase. The 110 credits that you are required to complete take 27 consecutive months. During the first 12 months of didactic training, you will master concepts in medical practice, critical thinking in medicine, human anatomy, pathophysiology, physical diagnosis, pharmacotherapeutics, social & cultural aspects of healthcare, health ethics, and medical informatics. Thereafter, you enter the 14 months of clinical training, where you complete rotations in various specialties. During the final summative phase, spanning one month, you complete a master's research project and a certification exam preparatory course to finally earn your Master of PA Medicine degree.
Application to this program must happen through CASPA. The college admits students on a rolling basis, so you can apply through the year. To qualify for this program, you must have a bachelor’s degree in any field with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Other requirements include completion of pre-requisite courses and having healthcare or volunteering experience.
2. Shenandoah University - Winchester
Programs Offered: MS-PAS and PA & MPH
About the PA School:
A healthcare career is not only fulfilling but also highly rewarding as primary healthcare providers are in demand across the globe. If you are passionate about helping others, then what better than a career as a physician assistant, that offers a promising job outlook nationwide, growing faster than any other healthcare job. To get started, first foremost you must enroll in one of the accredited physician assistant programs in Virginia such as the one offered by Shenandoah University. This PA school offers a caring and supportive environment, where small-sized classes and individualized mentorship prepare you for the several challenges of patient care. Here, you will focus on the primary care of underserved and vulnerable populations. Also, to provide you with global exposure, the college offers study abroad programs during the breaks in winter, spring, and summer. These trips not only add up for academic credit but also greatly enhance skills in cultural sensitivity and adaptability.
Program Details: To prepare for a PA career, here you can either enroll in the Master of Science In Physician Assistant Studies (MS-PAS) or a PA/MPH dual degree. While the PA program will make you adept at assisting a physician in various types of specialties, the dual degree additionally broadens your knowledge in public health. With the dual degree, you will be prepared to play a wide range of roles where you will address population healthcare issues. As such, the MS-PAS program requires completing a total of 86 credits and takes about 30 months to complete, whereas the dual degree having 15 shared credits between the PA and MPH courses requires completing a total of 115 credits. The MS-PAS coursework first starts with 16 months of didactic courses, followed by 14 months of clinical training in various types of clinical settings. With the dual degree, you first complete 30 months of the PA coursework and then take additional two semesters of MPH courses.
To qualify for either of these two physician assistant programs in Virginia you must have an accredited bachelor’s degree in any field with a minimum GPA of 3.0. You are required to submit your application through CASPA. To fulfill the admission requirements, you must complete pre-requisite courses, submit a GRE score, and preferably have some hours of healthcare experience.
About the PA School:
When one counts the best physician assistant schools in Virginia, James Madison University certainly appears high on the list. Several reasons make this PA school a popular choice among aspiring physician assistants, some of which include engaged learning, community & civic engagement, and the option of completing a 4-week clinical rotation in Peru. Additionally, the college takes pride in small-sized classes, high PANCE pass rates, and having all of its graduates secure suitable placements within six months of completing the program. Also, you will engage in learning opportunities by providing direct patient care under the supervision of a licensed physician assistant at its free medical clinic. Furthermore, the college’s Suitcase Clinic, which is a mobile clinic that travels to various homeless communities to provide care, not only serves as a valuable out-of-class learning experience but also addresses the special healthcare needs of the underserved and vulnerable populations.
Program Details: This physician assistant program in Virginia, leading to an MPAS extends to the fall semester of the third year and comprises a total of 103 credits. During the first four semesters of the program, you will mainly take didactic courses in human anatomy, pathophysiology, physical diagnosis, clinical medicine, pharmacology, medical biostatistics, healthcare environment, physical diagnosis, pharmacology, and diagnostic methods. You also learn about women’s medicine, behavioral medicine, pediatrics medicine, research design & implementation, and health promotion & disease prevention. Before proceeding to the clinical rotations, you must complete the capstone project. Thereafter, the clinical rotations that follow, take you through various specialties, including family medicine, primary care, internal medicine, gynecology, pediatrics, general surgery, emergency & behavioral medicine. Also, the clinicals include two elective rotations which you can complete, based on an area of your interest.
To become a physician assistant in Virginia, you must first ensure to fulfill the admission requirements of this or any other PA program you plan to apply to. Here, to be considered, you must have a bachelor’s degree in any field with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Additionally, you must submit all official transcripts & letters of recommendation, complete the pre-requisite courses and have at least 1000 hours of direct patient-care experience.
About the PA School:
If you desire a career in medicine but feel overwhelmed by the academic rigor and long timeline of a medical school, then the next best option is to become a physician assistant, as not only can you graduate in a quarter of the time it takes to complete medical school, but you will also enter a career which is one of the fastest-growing in the healthcare field. As an aspiring physician assistant in Virginia, Eastern Virginia Medical School’s PA program can be a good option to obtain your professional training. Counted among the best physician assistant programs in Virginia, this program is not only offered on the campus of a medical school but also models its instructions after the medical school curriculum. Furthermore, in an endeavor to give back to the community the college provides PA students with several volunteer opportunities through community-engaged experiential learning.
Program Details: This master of physician assistant program in Virginia spans 28 consecutive months, beginning with 16 months in didactic training, followed by 14 months of supervised direct patient care experiences. During the first phase of the program, didactic courses are well complemented by simulation learning at the college’s Sentara Center for Simulation & Immersive Learning. In the second phase, where you undergo clinical training, you will hone skills at various sites throughout Hampton Roads. To graduate, you are required to complete a total of 99.5 credits through which you will learn the business of medicine, legal & medical ethical issues in medicine, foundations of interprofessional practice, patient counseling & education, clinical medicine, medical diagnostics, and epidemiology & evidence-based medicine.
To apply to this PA program, you must submit your CASPA application and take the CASPer test. To qualify, in addition to having a bachelor’s degree, you must complete pre-requisite courses, have patient care and volunteer experience.
About the PA School:
One of the well-known physician assistant programs in Virginia, Radford University Carilion’s PA program welcomes students from various disciplines, so, as a student, you could be rubbing shoulders with other members of your cohort who are nurses, medical assistants, respiratory therapists, or mental health counselors. This broad-ranging professional experience that comes to the classroom through its students not only enriches learning but also creates a platform where you learn to collaborate with other health care providers. The college’s PA education is based on evidence-based medicine and emphasizes interprofessional collaboration. Here, apart from engaging in didactic lectures, case scenarios, simulation technology, and supervised patient care experiences, the college also fosters participation in professional conferences to develop a strong network. In fact, if you choose to actively involve yourself in these professional activities you can even hold a leadership position at the national level.
Program Details: This PA program boasts of high pass rates on the certification exam and ensures successful placement of its graduates, little surprise that it gets counted among the best physician assistant programs in Virginia. The 27-month PA includes 15 months of didactic, followed by 12 months in clinical rotations. The 101-credit PA coursework requires you to complete sequential courses in clinical anatomy, foundations of interprofessional leadership, clinical medicine, pathophysiology, behavioral medicine, pharmacotherapeutics, research & evidence-based practice, and ethics & laws in healthcare. Thereafter, the clinical rotations take you through various specialties including primary care, internal medicine, pediatric medicine, women’s health, general surgery, orthopedics, psychiatry, and emergency medicine. After completing the rotations, you come back on-campus for the capstone and summative evaluation process.
This program is open to students with a bachelor’s degree in any field, however, to be eligible you must have at least 500 hours of healthcare experience, either paid or volunteered. Also, you must complete program pre-requisites in anatomy & physiology, chemistry, microbiology, statistics, medical terminology, genetics, and psychology before matriculation. Other factors that you must fulfill, include submitting references, a GRE score, and a compelling essay.
About the PA School:
To become a physician assistant in Virginia or anywhere else in the country, apart from gaining stellar professional training, you must carry a compassionate attitude and be committed to holistic patient care across all types of communities. Emory & Henry College’s PA program can be a good option to acquire relevant professional skills in evidence-based medicine, leadership, and primary care. Here, with an emphasis on rural primary care, the college strives to impart an education that not only helps you develop into a competent PA but also as a better being. Its student-centric approach and small-sized classes make learning effective so that when you leave the college, you are equipped with the tools to excel as a primary care provider. The college complements clinical training with didactic courses, starting with clinical experiences as early as in the second semester. Its new facility, comprising a 10-room simulation suite, high fidelity manikins, patient exam rooms, and a cadaver lab exposes you to ample practice before you head straight into direct patient care.
Program Details: To graduate, you must complete a comprehensive 113 credit curriculum that takes 27 months to complete. The program is offered as full-time on-campus coursework and requires you to complete all the courses with a minimum grade of C. Divided into two phases, the first 14 months of this program mainly entail completing didactic courses in medical physiology, pharmacology, clinical medicine, behavioral medicine & psychiatry, and emergency medicine and advanced clinical & surgical procedures. Unlike other physician assistant programs in Virginia, here, you will start with patient care experiences right in this first phase of didactic courses. So, along with learning theoretical concepts, you will undergo clinical training in the lab and assist in treating patients at the college’s free clinic. This exposure can be rather helpful in understanding what to expect in the next phase of clinical rotations. During the following 13 months of clinical training, in addition to going through rotations at various sites, you also complete the remaining didactic courses, research, and summative evaluation.
To be considered for this Master of Physician Assistant Studies program, the college requires you to fulfill various requirements. Some of these factors include a bachelor’s degree, completed pre-requisite coursework, a GRE score, direct patient-care experience, shadowing hours, and letters of reference.
About the PA School:
To serve as a physician assistant, you have to constantly keep pace with the changing dynamics of the healthcare industry. Well, to stay relevant, you must consider earning your PA degree from one of the best physician assistant schools in Virginia such as Mary Baldwin University. Here, PA education is designed to prepare graduates to offer the highest quality of patient care in a constantly evolving healthcare environment. Whether you intend to practice in the ‘Old Dominion’ state or anywhere else in the country, by gaining skills in team-based interprofessional collaboration and leadership, you will be able to explore a wide variety of job avenues.
Program Details: This MSPA program comprises 15 months of didactic courses, followed by 12 months of clinical training. During the first phase of didactic training, you go through intensive lectures, interprofessional group discussions, case studies skill scenarios, and hospital-based experiences. The 73-credit didactic curriculum takes you through courses in clinical medicine, human anatomy, lab & physical diagnosis, critical inquiry, research & epidemiology, ethics & populations, clinical skills, and procedures. The following 12 months where you complete 49 credits in clinical rotations require you to undergo rotations at a variety of clinical sites, with each rotation lasting for six weeks. The clinical phase also includes an elective rotation and advanced comprehensive assessment, before you finally graduate with a master’s degree.
To start with, you must have a bachelor’s degree in any field with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Unlike other physician assistant programs in Virginia that do not accept transfer credits, here if eligible you can transfer up to six graduate-level credits, provided you have completed them within the last three years, at an accredited partner institution with a minimum grade B. Other admission requirements include completion of pre-requisite courses and submission of reference & the GRE score. Also, it is highly recommended that you complete shadowing hours with a PA to enhance your chances of admission.
About the PA School:
As a nationally certified physician assistant, you will play a vital role in healthcare, providing safe and high-quality patient care. If you are keen on entering this field, then graduating from one of the accredited physician assistant schools in Virginia must be your top priority. Accreditation not only assures quality education but also makes you eligible to sit for the PANCE to acquire your licensure in the state you to intend to practice in. South University, Richmond is one such PA school that not only prepares you to excel on the certifying exam but also trains you as a compassionate caregiver who is committed to serving the community. Upon leaving the college, you will demonstrate enhanced skills in interpersonal & communication and interprofessional collaboration.
Program Details: This 174-credit Master of Science in Physician Assistant is a comprehensive program that spans 27 months. While the didactic courses require completing 100 credits, through the clinical rotations, you will earn the remaining 74 credits of the program. Whether you come from a healthcare discipline or any other area of professional expertise, at South University by completing one of the most comprehensive physician assistant programs in Virginia that covers every aspect of primary care, you will be prepared to work in various types of rural and urban healthcare environments. Some of the didactic courses you take include medical interviewing, physical assessment, medical anatomy, lab diagnostics, issues in contemporary medicine, and clinical medicine. You also learn about behavioral medicine, musculoskeletal care, fundamentals of surgery, epidemiology & biostatistics, and essentials of emergency medicine. On the other hand, the clinical phase includes eight core rotations in various specialties, three electives, based on your interest, and finally towards the end of the program, a capstone course.
To qualify, South University requires you to have an accredited bachelor’s degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0. Also, you must have a science GPA of at least 3.0. Furthermore, you are required to submit three letters of reference, your GRE score and have prior healthcare experience. The college also requires that you complete pre-requite courses before submission of your application.
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How Many Physician Assistants are Currently Employed in Virginia?
Where do Physician Assistants Work in Virginia?
In Virginia, the overwhelming majority of physician assistants—more than 2,200—work in private medical offices under the supervision of a doctor. Their responsibilities center upon direct patient care. They often function as gatekeepers, taking patient histories, performing physical assessments and ordering the necessary laboratory work. They make diagnoses and decide upon treatment plans. If their patients need medication, physician assistants write the prescriptions.
Just like physicians, physician assistants can be assigned hospital privileges. Nearly 600 Virginia physician assistants work in hospitals. A fair number of hospital-based physician assistants specialize in emergency medicine. Depending upon an individual hospital’s policies, a physician assistant’s ER responsibilities can vary widely. In addition to routine intake, most physician assistants are allowed to stitch lacerations, reduce fractures and drain abscesses. In some hospitals, they perform intubations and thoracenteses. Hospital physician assistants are also likely to be found in orthopedics units, surgical operating theaters and medical wards.
Slightly more than 400 physician assistants work in outpatient clinics where they perform more-or-less the same set of duties that they do in doctors’ offices. Around one hundred thirty physician assistants work in academic institutions where they provide patient care and perform research
| Industry|| Number of Medical Assistants|
|Offices of Physicians ||2,290|
|Hospitals; State, Local, and Private ||990|
|Outpatient Care Centers ||410|
|Educational Services; State, Local, and Private ||130|
|Offices of Other Health Practitioners||60|
What is the Average Salary of a Physician Assistant in Virginia?
In Virginia, physician assistants earn just under $118,920 a year on average. There’s variation in the levels of physician assistant salary in Virginia: Hospital physician assistants may be compensated at a higher rate, particularly if they work swing shifts or night shifts where they’re paid a differential. Physician assistants command handsome benefit packages, too, that typically include health care insurance, retirement savings options and paid leave.
| Type|| Salary|
(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
PA Salary Based on Years of Experience in Virginia
| Years of Experience || Hourly || Monthly || Annual |
| Less than 1 year (Starting) || $41.50 || $7,190 || $86,310 |
| 1-4 years || $49.45 || $8,570 || $102,860 |
| 5-9 years || $57.42 || $9,950 || $119,440 |
| 10-19 years || $65.31 || $11,320 || $135,840 |
| 20 years or more || $73.47 || $12,730 || $152,810 |
|(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)|
Physician Assistant Average Salary Comparison: Virginia vs. National
Physician assistants in Virginia make approximately $6,350 less than the national average. This may reflect the fact that physician assistants have less autonomy in the Old Dominion State than they do in certain other locations throughout the nation.
| Virginia|| National|| Difference|
| Number|| %|
|$118,920 ||$125,270 ||-$6,350||-5.07%|
|(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)|
Job Outlook For Physician Assistants in Virginia
The demand for physician assistants in Virginia is expected to grow by a whopping 32 percent by 2030. Several factors are responsible for this demand. Like many other states, Virginia is facing a physician shortage: The Old Dominion State only has 256 physicians for every 100,000 individuals, and more than 25 percent of those physicians are over the age of 60. Physician assistants can perform many of the same services physicians perform, particularly in the area of primary care.
Additionally, health disparities based on income and geographic factors continue to exist throughout Virginia that derive from disadvantaged groups’ ability to access the care they need. Physician assistants most often deliver care in non-teaching hospitals that are well positioned to serve the health needs of populations that would otherwise be underserved, particularly in rural areas.
| Employment|| Employment Growth (2020-2030)|
| 2020|| 2030|| Number|| Percent|
Annual Job Openings For Physician Assistants in Virginia
| New || Replacement|| Annual Job Openings (New + Replacement)|
Virginia Metro Wise Employment & Salary Data For Physician Assistants
The highest concentration of physician assistants in Virginia is to be found in the cities of Norfolk, Newport News and Virginia Beach. It’s also one of the areas where physician assistants earn the highest salaries. This is one of the most densely populated part of Virginia where the need for health care providers is most acute. The Richmond metropolitan area is another populous region where nearly 25 percent of the inhabitants have incomes below the federal poverty line; among such populations, the need for primary care services is traditionally high, so it’s not surprising that many of Virginia’s physician assistants are employed in Virginia’s capital city.
The Blue Ridge Mountain communities of Roanoke and Lynchburg also have high numbers of working physician assistants. These communities are popular retirement locations, and aging populations typically have a higher demand for health care services than their younger cohorts.
| Metro || Employment || Average Salary |
| Hourly || Monthly || Annual |
| Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News || 990 || $55.43 || $9,610 || $115,290 |
| Richmond || 630 || $52.03 || $9,020 || $108,220 |
| Roanoke || 200 || $56.51 || $9,800 || $117,540 |
| Lynchburg || 140 || $52.59 || $9,120 || $109,390 |
| Charlottesville || 120 || $58.79 || $10,190 || $122,280 |
| Winchester || 100 || $55.27 || $9,580 || $114,970 |
| Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford || 60 || $53.54 || $9,280 || $111,350 |
| Harrisonburg || 50 || $52.72 || $9,140 || $109,660 |
| Staunton-Waynesboro || 50 || $58.77 || $10,190 || $122,230 |
|(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)|
Useful Physician Assistant Organizations & Associations in Virginia
Virginia Academy of Physician Assistants:
The Virginia Academy of Physician Assistants maintains an active job board where you can look for positions both inside and outside the Old Dominion State. This organization also offers the continuing education classes, which physician assistants must take in order to maintain their licensure in the state of Virginia.
Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH
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Pattie Trumble is a nurse who worked in both California and New York for many years as an emergency room nurse. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and an Associate Degree in Nursing from the Samuel Merritt Hospital School of Nursing. After 10 years of providing direct care, she went back to school and earned concurrent Master’s degrees in both public policy and public health from the University of California, Berkeley. Thereafter, she worked for various public health agencies in California at both the community and state levels providing economic and legislative analysis.