Strong Demand for Physician Assistants

Apr 10, 2014 12:00 AM

Author: The Office of Public Affairs

Physician assistant degrees continue to be in strong demand, particularly at the University of Utah where more than 1,000 applicants are expected to contend for 44 slots next year.

Forbes recently rated the physician assistant master’s degree as the best choice for long-term job opportunities. Graduates’ mid-career median pay is $97,000, according to And despite the aging of the population and the increasing number of insured, medical schools often take few students, creating opportunities for physician assistants, experts say.

Jennifer Coombs, PhD, PA-C, assistant professor in the Division of Physician Assistant Studies, believes the interest in Utah’s program is high because of the quality of the program and the fact that Utah is a leader in the field.

“The good news is we’ve got this really highly ranked, high quality training program in our state,” she said.

U.S. News and World Report recently ranked the University of Utah’s physician assistant program the second best in the country, based on peer assessment surveys completed by deans, administrators and faculty at accredited schools with PA programs.

Utah’s 27-month master’s program is one of the oldest in the country and has developed curriculum other institutions use. Students have the opportunity to do international training including a month-long program in Ghana.

At the same time, the school has a strong mission to train PAs to work in rural and underserved areas domestically.

“One of the issues everywhere is scarce resources to provide healthcare,” Coombs, said. “Because of their shorter training and because of the way they’re educated, [PAs] provide cost-effective, high quality care.”

Most incoming students hail from Utah and have an average of five years previous experience in healthcare. The majority stay in state after receiving their degree.

“We’ve got a ready, able, willing workforce ready to go,” Coombs said.

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