Jump to content

If you ever considered PA school...

Spartan16 Spartan16 (New) New

Hello friends, I am wondering what helped you make the decision to go the nursing route if you were considering PA or NP careers. Right now I am weighing tuition costs(ABSN + NP vs PA), admission requirements i.e. GPA, clinical experience. I have worked in a hospital for a few months as a PCA to log clinical hours for applications. The frustrating part is seeing that the pre-reqs for accelerated BSN programs are the same , and often more, credit hours than P.A. school requirements which is going to be my first step. I know the individual programs are totally different but in the end NPs and PAs can offer such similar careers that the decision to go Accelerated BSN-NP or PA seems to be the biggest factor.

If you have had to make this decision before or if anyone has any perspective to offer on this please drop a post! I would appreciate it very much!



Has 10 years experience.

I'm just a student but I'm pretty sure you have to work as an RN for a year before entering an NP program, which makes being a PCA irrelevant for NP. PA is held to medical model standards while NP's are under the nursing model. PA's have more flexibility if they want to move around specialties while NP's would have to return to school to change specialties. NP's can practice ( in most states independently) PA's under the supervision of an MD.

I don't think the decisions is usually so hard unless you are doing it primarily for money. Usually, RN's will choose the NP route because they are half way there and as for PA's the ones I have met seemed to be making a career change and it was the fastest way into the medical field from being in a non medical field for so long. I also hear a lot from PA's that it was something that had always interested them.

As for going into it for the money..I'm all for wanting money and being compensated for the work I do. I have just seen so many people who have come into this field primarily and I say "primarily" for money, burn out and regret it. Money is a good motivator to get through school but unless you have a strong interest in either patient care or medicine I don't think money is enough to keep you going.

I hope this helped some.

Thanks for the response!! My main concern is the cost of going to school for PA or ABSN+NP. I do appreciate the advice! I will have to do some more research on the medical vs nursing model. When you mentioned the NPs can provide on their own, do you know what that consists of that the PA does not?

Thanks again!


Specializes in I'm thinking ER or ICU someday.

Hi! I just wanted to say that I had planned on becoming a PA, but decided on nursing once I learned more about the difference between nursing and medicine. I really learned a lot about how nursing really is its own field and nurses have a really different, holistic approach with treating patients. I highly suggest you shadow a nurse in your local hospital. That's what I did and I fell in love. My ultimate goal is to become a mental health nurse practitioner so I'm really happy that I know nursing is my calling. Hope that helps! Good luck!!! ;)

First: the poster above me was wrong. You do not need an RN to get into an NP program. If you have a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field, you can enter a direct-entry master's program for the NP. So tired of seeing this misinformation spread all over the site.

I chose NP for a couple of reasons ...

1. I didn't have the clinical hours to apply for PA, even if I wanted to. Getting hours would have delayed me at least one more year in starting school.

2. I've always viewed PA's as physician wannabe's (I KNOW this isn't true but it's a stereotype I can't shake). So I was afraid I'd always have a complex about that if I ended up a PA. Silly I know ...

3. I switched careers to get more human contact, and NP seemed more appropriate for that.

4. Time v. Money, +/- Loans. I could become an NP in two years and make the same salary as PA, which would require 3-4 years of schooling. Same cost per hour for tuition and same job at the end of the day, so basically I come out 2 or 3 years ahead salary-wise with the NP.

The only other decision I made was ABSN versus direct-entry MSN (which ends up being an RN/NP). I chose the MSN because it was the same amount of time with a higher salary at the end but honestly ... I love what I have seen of floor nursing and a small part of me wishes I had chosen the ABSN. financially, the MSN made more sense so I'm hoping to work out how to be both an RN and an NP when the time comes.

hope that helps !

Wow Thanks! That is great information! How long was the MSN program and did you have trouble finding a job without the floor nursing experience? I have considered the MSN for some time knowing that I can get in a direct entry program if my pre-reqs are solid and my only concern was the job search. I went through it once before with a Business degree in Michigan; nearly impossible to get a decent job!


Has 10 years experience.

First: the poster above me was wrong. You do not need an RN to get into an NP program. If you have a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field, you can enter a direct-entry master's program for the NP. So tired of seeing this misinformation spread all over the site.

I actually said I was pretty sure you needed an RN and for your information a family member of mine is in the same situation as Spartan and there aren't any schools in this area that do not require an RN first! So instead of telling the world what IS how about tell them what is likely.

Also Just because you see PA's as doctor wannabes doesn't mean it's true.

Now to add to my answer to the OP.. Keep in mind the time it may take to get excepted. PA school might seem like a quicker route but in most schools they take only 30 people a semester out of hundreds of applicants. So you may not get in on the first try. So in the end NP may be the shorter route. I'm not sure how flexible you are when it comes to relocating as applying to more then one school would up your odds.

Also I'm not sure how set in stone this is and when you would be finishing your degree, but it has been spoken of around here that most NP's will require a Doctorate by 2015. Please ignore any posts stating that is mis information as I already said I'm not sure, but you can always look that stuff up yourself:)

One last thing to keep in mind, there are MSN programs that are NOT NP programs.

As for working independently, you should check your BON for the scope of practice for your area. Every state is different. Research areas you are interested in working in as well. It's my understanding that PA's get to work more in surgical settings in assisting the doc then NP's.

Good luck!

I didn't apply to PA school because I didn't want to leave Arkansas to go to school. That said, there's a PA program at a private college here, but it's a small class and the likelihood of me getting in is, of course, statistically small. Also, Arkansas isn't a very PA-friendly state.

I already have a biology-oriented B.S. degree and healthcare experience as a paramedic, and PA programs like that type of thing.

All that said, getting into this BSN/RN program involved only a phone call. I'm learning things that interest me, and I can go on to do things of interest so I'm satisfied.

The ER is about the only RN-level clinical environment I could work in. Critical care is interesting, but that's about it. I'm not sure I'd want to do that. I rotated through there in medic school and didn't like the environment. That leaves becoming a CRNA out. I'd be interested in going through a FNP program, but jobs for them are hard to find here.

Regardless, I'm content.

I saw some mention made of the nursing v. medical model. A couple of things come into play there. Nursing consider itself more holistic encompassing not only physiologic needs but also psychological, social, familiar, cultural, spiritual, etc. That's fine, but I'm interested in physiology, pathophysiology, and pharmacology. The biomedical influence is what interests me. Also, nursing, as a profession, treats the response to a condition. I know nurses and instructors that call that hogwash, but it's what the profession is about. To make an example, rather than diagnosing and treating someone with CHF you would instead diagnose and treat them for "decreased cardiac output" or some other such phrase. There's a list of nursing diagnoses. Just Google for NANDA.

I'm not criticizing. I'm just pointing out some nuances that not many people know about.

Edited by ImThatGuy

OB-nurse2013, BSN, RN

Specializes in Labor and Delivery. Has 3 years experience.

I have ro say the post above who appears to be so well informed is not either. It may be that way where he is but it is not in my state. Every university in my state requires the applicant to be an RN and most almost all but not 100% on this to have 1 to 2 years working experience as well.

Another difference is PA degrees also differ state to state. Some states require associates (although the PA association website states there are not many), some bachelor's, and most master's (which is what is required in my state) In my state the schools that offer PA programs also have higher tuition rates something you may also want to take into mind. If your state requires their PA's to have a master's then obviously if you weren't going for your BSN you would still be spending a similiar amount on a bachelor's of another study so there isn't much difference.

For me the decision came down to the fact that nursing is what I wanted to do. I looked into PA programs because my GPA is high, I am a junior and I knew I wanted to do something medical. I also am not very young and didn't want to have to wait forever to get into nursing school, which is not easy in my area. I got very lucky and got accepted my first try so I am obviously not pursuing the PA route. My advice is to look into your schools and plan out what you would need to do to get in and the time it would take to complete, cost, and go from there. Theres a great web-site for PA's if you just search it on google, I think its called the National PA association or something like that..Good Luck!

I actually said I was pretty sure you needed an RN and for your information a family member of mine is in the same situation as Spartan and there aren't any schools in this area that do not require an RN first! So instead of telling the world what IS how about tell them what is likely.

Also Just because you see PA's as doctor wannabes doesn't mean it's true.

Here is a list of accelerated BSN and direct-entry MSN programs: http://www.aacn.nche.edu/publications/issues/aug02.htm . So sorry there wasn't a program within driving distance of your random family member. There are 65 programs on the list at the link provided. That's a lot of choices for someone who has a BA/BS and wants an MSN.

I also clearly stated that I knew my view of PA's was ridiculous. I was presenting it as a personal hang-up about going the PA route ... I think I made that pretty clear.


Has 10 years experience.

Wow a WHOLE 65 degrees in the country! So many too choose from.. are you kidding me? I live in NY every program in NY is at least 2 hours from here. So me and my random relative and the other hundreds of people living around me are screwed I guess. Sorry the world is so black and white to you. Anyway, like I said.. what is likely is he will need experience, and he probably could be benefit from it since it would be good for him to get some experience dealing with Know it all nursing types.

Yea you made it pretty clear that you pointed out your perception of PA's was ridiculous, but you also ignored me pointing out that I wasn't a 100%. Next time maybe just answer the OP instead of making comments to people who actually DIDN'T ask for your advice.

I am in the same shoes...

I am 40 and have a non-science BS degree.

My biggest question has been trying to figure out WHICH area of the medical field I'm most drawn to. At any given time I could get excited about almost anything. I finally decided that I need clinicals to help me decide. Score 1 point for nursing school. Secondly, because my degree is non-science I'm going to have to do RN-MSN bridgework. If I go PA I'll have to do pre-reqs. Another point for nursing school is that I can work as an RN while doing my bridgework which expands my clinical experience prior to grad school. Finally, I'm not sure I want to be under an MD's thumb.

iPink, BSN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care, Postpartum. Has 8 years experience.

I haven't read all the responses, but I agree with some points coast2coast said. I've wanted to be a PA when I was in high school, but ended up choosing a different path. I'm now going back for my ABSN. Then I plan to get the NP. I chose ABSN over direct-entry MSN, because I wanted to get experience first before specializing. In addition, when I researched NP roles, the profession was more appealing to me than PA.

IckuRN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care. Has 9 years experience.

If tuition is your only concern, then you probably don't know enough about the programs you're considering. Talk to MSN's and PA's, mainly those who considered or were the other first. Consider that your state, and even facility, has different expectations than others could, should you relocate.

Despite deeply appreciating the holistic approach of nursing, the medical model will always handle medicine better (IMHO). However, 30 seconds on the PA forum instantly turned me away from that option...sadly. In addition to the thought process, I was considering PA because of level of responsibility, length of program, and salary as compared to NP's in the same environment.