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Physician Assistant Schools in California

By Team Medgeeks - Apr 19, 2022

Physician Assistant Schools in California

With so many new PA programs popping up across the country, it can be difficult to sort through the large amount of information about each school. Such as, PANCE pass rates, requirements, the overall school profiles, etc. Upon my 2018 trip to Medgeeks headquarters to film our board review lectures, I was floored by all of the physician assistant schools in California and the huge Pre-PA following in Southern California. It got me wondering, what are the best PA schools in California, is the best school USC PA school or Western University PA School or a new up and comer making a name for itself. Today, we will talk all things Golden State.

All Things West Coast - California

Throughout our process of reading personal statements and doing mock interviews with prospective PA students, I have been amazed my how many of our students are on west coast time. Not only has this confused me a little bit, sometimes showing up to an interview an hour or two early, but it started to make me wonder about our demographic of students. So in this week’s article, we will focus on everything California to help our west coast students narrow down the application process.

How many PA schools are there in CA?

According to my research, I came up with a list of 15 PA programs in the state of California, with one in the making. This was also verified by researching the California Academy of PAs website. Wow, 15 active programs all in one state, how could someone ever figure out how to narrow their list?


Determine which schools are best for you

As we have discussed before, there are numerous financial, academic, personal, travel, style factors and choices that weigh into an applicant’s choice to apply to a PA school. Beginning early on in the process determining what schools you like and do not like is important. See past articles on PA school requirments, program rankings, how to get into PA school, the cost of PA school and many other articles that have discussed the topic of pre-PA, and PA schools.

  • California Baptist University
  • California State University, Monterey Bay
  • Chapman University
  • Charles R. Drew University
  • Dominican University of California
  • Keck University School of Medicine (USC)
  • Loma Linda University
  • Marshall B. Ketchum University
  • Samuel Merritt University
  • Stanford University
  • UC Davis
  • University of La Verne
  • University of the Pacific
  • Western University

Above is a list of all of the PA schools that are available for students to apply to. As I have mentioned before, it is very important to read up on all of the information regarding PA school requirements for each program. If you’ve been with us a long time, you might remember that I applied to one of the above programs many years ago, completely neglecting the fact that they required Spanish as a pre-requisite to apply! Fastest $50 I have ever spent in my life!

Methodically reviewing a PA Program’s website

Being methodical about reviewing a PA program’s website is important and each individual student will look at things differently, so make sure that you carve out time to determine what is important to you, what you like about a program and what you do not.

Standard Information for the more popular California schools – USC and Western University

I will now go through some information for two of the more popular programs in California, USC PA program as well as the Western University PA program. Take a look at our recent article on USC’s PA Program and PA school tuition.

USC PA Program

We have talked quite a bit recently about the USC PA program, as it is one of the more popular programs in the state, so I will not go too far in depth into the program. Some basic research let me know the following information:

  • The average incoming science GPA - 3.41
  • The Overall GPA – 3.48.

I was unable to find specific data on acceptance rates, but noted that based on popularity; it is reasonable to assume that the program does receive many thousands of applications each year.

Concerns about USC PA Program

As we have discussed before, one of the main concerns that I have with this program from a personal standpoint, is that it is incredibly expensive. I guess at this point in time, it’s nothing against the individual program itself, PA school tuition and costs have risen dramatically over the past few years, leaving freshly minted PAs with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt very early on in their careers.

USC - Cost as listed on the website vs Actual Cost

According to their website, the total estimated tuition for the USC PA program is roughly $187,000 dollars without room and board (to my knowledge). So tread lightly, as the specific cost of PA school is always much more than actually listed on the program’s website.

USC - PANCE Pass Rate

According to the USC PA program website, their average PANCE pass rate for first time test takers is 95%, over the past 5 years. This is perhaps one of the most important pieces of the puzzle when considering a program because at the end of the day, if you can’t pass your boards, that is a big problem. Students should be aware and look for trends to assure they are going to a program with a great chance of getting them certified.

Western University PA Program

In contrast, I did take a look at another popular California PA program, the Western University PA program. This 2 year program is bit more accelerated and would allow a student to become certified quicker.

  • The average GPA of incoming students for both science & total GPA sits right around 3.66.

I was able to find admission data based on number of applications. During the previous cycle:

  • The program received a total of 2,568 applications
  • Conducted about 593 interviews
  • Admitted 98 students (3.8%).

Western - Tuition

According to the program website, the total tuition for the two year program, including room and board is about $152,000. If you have not caught the theme yet, it is that PA school is insanely expensive. It was when I was a student and unfortunately will continue. The good benefit for new PAs is that salaries also continue to rise as well.

Western – PANCE Pass Rate

According to the Western University program page, their PANCE Pass rate over the past few years has been variable.  

  • 2015 it was 92%
  • 2016 it was 94%
  • 2017 was perfect at 100%
  • 2018 was 98%
  • 2019 took a significant dip to 85%. This compared in the last year to USC’s 86%.

For both programs, this would be a trend to watch when data for this spring is released over the next few months.

Find the best fit for you

We’ve talked about a few different PA schools with this article and I hope that this has been helpful. If you are a California student looking to apply, the best next step for you would be to take a look at the remainder of the programs listed and find out what might be a good fit for you.


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This article or podcast should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever, including but not limited to establishing standard of care in a legal sense or as a basis for expert witness testimony. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on the podcast, video, or blog.



  1. CASPA
  2. California Society of Physician Assistants.
  3. University of Southern California PA program Page.
  4. Western University PA Program page.