How Long Does It Take To Become a Physician Assistant?

PA School • May 25, 2023

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question, “How long does it take to become a physician assistant?” The length of time it takes to become a certified physician assistant depends on several factors, including the type of program you choose. This video will break down the different types and tell you how long does it take to become a physician assistant!

How Long Does It Take To Become a Physician Assistant?

There is no cookie cutter answer to the question how long does it take to become a physician assistant, but today I’m going to break down for you the factors that can affect the length of a PA program and how long does it take to become a physician assistant.

Types of PA Programs

Traditionally, a PA program is a master’s program that is pursued after completing a four-year undergraduate degree. The duration of these programs can vary from 27 to 36 months, depending on the program structure. The program consists of a didactic phase and a clinical phase.

Didactic Phase

During the didactic phase, students learn a wide range of topics including Anatomy, Physiology, Medical Systems, Diagnostics, and Medical Ethics. This phase also prepares students for their clinical rotations. The didactic phase typically lasts about 12 to 15 months and is highly accelerated, with a lot of information being covered in a short period of time. Additionally, students learn clinical skills that will assist them during their clinical rotations.

Clinical Rotations

The second part of the program is the clinical rotations phase, which involves approximately 2,000 hours of practical experience over the course of a year. These rotations provide hands-on training and exposure to various medical specialties. In total, a traditional PA program comprises two to three years of master’s level education, including the didactic and clinical phases.

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Direct Entry PA Programs

There are also direct entry PA programs available throughout the country. These programs provisionally accept high school students into their PA program, and their structure varies. Some direct entry programs combine a bachelor’s and master’s degree in a three plus three model (three years of undergraduate study followed by three years of master’s-level education), while others follow a four plus two model (four years of undergraduate study followed by two years of master’s-level education). In both cases, the total training time is approximately six years.

Factors Affecting Program Length

So how long does it take to become a physician assistant? Medical illness or the need to take time off can extend the duration of a PA program. However, in general, traditional master’s programs last around two to three years for full-time students. Direct entry programs are typically intense and require full-time commitment throughout the program duration.

Part-Time Options

While most PA programs are full-time, there are some programs adopting a part-time or hybrid model. Opting for a part-time route will naturally lengthen the overall time required to complete the program.


In conclusion, the path to becoming a certified PA takes around six years, including undergraduate studies. Traditional master’s PA programs typically range from 27 to 36 months, while direct entry programs span approximately six years. It is important to research and understand the specific models and durations of PA programs offered by different institutions. By doing so, you can determine which program and time frame will work best for you on your journey to becoming a certified PA.

Also read: How Much Does it Cost to Apply to a Physician Assistant School

About me:

I’m Michele Neskey, aka The Posh PA. Welcome to my YouTube channel! My mission is to provide personalized guidance, education, and motivation to build confidence and promote wellness for aspiring physician assistants and beyond.   

Having been a PA for 17+ years and helped hundreds of students gain acceptance into PA school,  I understand the admissions process. I know what they are looking for, and I can help you tailor every component to make you shine, giving you the BEST chance of getting accepted to a program.  But it doesn’t end there. I create personalized plans for PA students and practicing PAs including test-taking strategy for the PANCE, contract negotiations, and tools to overcome and prevent provider burnout. 

My goal is to get you into a physician assistant (PA) school & survive the rigorous program, help you prevent burnout as a practicing PA, and help you take care of yourself so you can be the best version of YOU for your patients, family, and most importantly YOU!