This study aimed to describe the characteristics of physician assistant (PA) programs developed in 3 previously defined time periods.
Data were extracted from the websites of 238 PA programs, including admissions, curriculum, faculty, and program characteristics. Institutional characteristics were gathered from the Carnegie Classification website and the US Census Bureau. Program characteristics were analyzed in 3 groups based on when the program was first accredited—early (before 1980), middle (1980–1999), and current (2000–2019).
Early (n = 40), middle (n = 69), and current (n = 129) phase programs are similar regarding the number of admissions, curriculum, faculty, program, and institutional characteristics. Program phase had the greatest effect on undergraduate GPA of matriculating students, the number of PA faculty at the rank of professor, and the size of the admitted cohort. The effect size was medium for outcomes including the number of required biology, chemistry, or physics prerequisites; the probability that the program required a graduate record examination for admission; the number of PA program faculty at the rank of associate professor; the annual tuition and fees; and the probability that the PA program was housed with a medical school.
The data describe some of the similarities and differences among the programs established in the 3 previously described time periods in the history of PA education. With the recent surge in new programs, there is value in deepening our understanding of how newer programs compare with more established programs.