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What PA route is more beneficial?


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Hello everyone! I am a 23 year old male senior in college, I will be graduating this fall with my biomedical science degree. I was premed just a semester ago but I have made up my mind and decided that I want to do PA, currently I do not have any clinical hours to apply to PA. I’ve been considering the ARMY for quiet a while. When I talked to a recruiter he talked to me about the 68W and how I can get experience through it and the hours I need. Do you think doing this is a good idea? Or is just not beneficial at all and I’ll be wasting time instead.

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I am not army so I have no idea what 68W is. If you are considering enlisting in Army as an army medic and your goal is to become a PA, it sounds like a round about way of getting there.

The experience you will get will be great but if you want to be a PA, it is a longer route. If you were a pre med, I feel like you can get a lot of your pre reqs for PA already done. Might need to add few classes and while you are finishing those, you can get a job that will give you PCE hours like MA, EMT, ER Tech. All in all, you might be able to get all this within 1-2 years. 

I don't know the commitment for Army, 4 years maybe. So you might get experience but you might not have time to get the pre reqs completed. 

I don't think it will be a waste of time, it will be what you make out of it. What pre reqs to you have left to complete and what offers are being presented to you as a 68W? 

 

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army might also offer loan repayment for pa school, but there is the whole issue of getting deployed at a time that Afghanistan and Syria are heating up again, not to mention north korea, etc. army medic is certainly good experience, but there are other routes if you would not enlist otherwise.

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I am PRO Army in general.  I personally am thankful I went into the Army, but I did it at 19 with no college.  I was a 91W (medic) then the Army changed it to 68W (medic).  The Army basically paid for all of my education to become a PA.  I applied for PA school in Afghanistan and I think that made my application stick out.  Granted there was only like 1,100 applications for the 48 or so seats (now days it seems to be more applicants).  

Back on target.  You would get your HCE in the Army while being paid OK (consider cost of housing/food/uniforms covered).  You would also have the opportunity to apply for APAP (Military PA school).  You would get your school 100% paid for, you would get paid full military pay/benefits while you did APAP.  I am not a recruiter but you might even get your student loans paid off from your undergrad (if you have any).  Once you are done with honorable service you have access to the VA.  That means medical, home loans, small business loans, other opportunities.  

You have to realize you will leave for boot camp, will work a job that may not always please you, and may deploy.  Most people have to commit to 4 years active duty and 4 years inactive duty.  I personally tell people to go all in and do active first, then the reserves/guard if you want.  Hell you never know, you may love it and stay 20 years!

I am PRO Army, but the other services have opportunities too.

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The best advice I can give you is do not accept any loan repayment options for your undergrad debt (*unless IPAP (Interservice Physician Assistant Program) is a real option for you i.e. you have an excellent SAT score (yes I said SAT) and a decent GPA (3.4 +) and plan to learn your job over several years as a medic first. 

The 9-11 GI Bill is far and above a better deal than simply undergrad costs (usually if you take loan repayment you are not eligible for the GI BILL under your initial contract). You can pay off your undergrad debt as you go, which will likely be much less expensive then your grad debt. The GI Bill will cover PA program tuition at most schools and also provide you with a healthy monthly housing allowance (equal to E5 w/dependent BAH per geographic area) after three years of service. 

OCS (officer Candidate School) is an option for you as well. Low on the HCE side but will score high on the leadership and quality of life sections. Also, I was always jealous of the way the Air Force/Navy treated their personnel so at least consider speaking to those recruiters as well. 

Off topic: 

If you get the opportunity to deploy, take it. There is nothing like spending your entire time in the Army preparing to go to war and never actually going. My best memories will always be of my deployments where all of our preparation was put to the test. 

*Edited to reflect cc56 reply about IPAP*

Edited by Miked
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Assuming your GPA and GRE are good, the most direct route would be take a year working as a scribe, MA, EMT, whatever, and then apply to PA school, at that point you'll be competitive. I know the Navy is offering a pretty good deal, 3 years active service (going in as an O-2) and they pay for your PA school (tuition, books, etc), $20k bonus paid immediately, plus like $2k/mo while you're going to school. It's basically a $150k-ish signing bonus (more if you go to an expensive PA school). Other branches may have something similar.

Pros: Your undergrad degree is still fresh (only 1 year out of school) and more competitive (I've seen some programs basically say, "If your degree is 5 or more years old, don't bother applying"), you get paid to go to PA school that is now free, and minimal "down time" getting HCE between now and PA school. Excessive HCE isn't a big advantage.

If you do go this route, start applying for the Navy thing before you are even accepted to a PA program (basically the same time you are doing interviews), by January of your matriculation year, all the slots are filled. Happened to me, I missed the boat by a month.

Good luck

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6 hours ago, Anachronist said:

Assuming your GPA and GRE are good, the most direct route would be take a year working as a scribe, MA, EMT, whatever, and then apply to PA school, at that point you'll be competitive. I know the Navy is offering a pretty good deal, 3 years active service (going in as an O-2) and they pay for your PA school (tuition, books, etc), $20k bonus paid immediately, plus like $2k/mo while you're going to school. It's basically a $150k-ish signing bonus (more if you go to an expensive PA school). Other branches may have something similar.

Pros: Your undergrad degree is still fresh (only 1 year out of school) and more competitive (I've seen some programs basically say, "If your degree is 5 or more years old, don't bother applying"), you get paid to go to PA school that is now free, and minimal "down time" getting HCE between now and PA school. Excessive HCE isn't a big advantage.

If you do go this route, start applying for the Navy thing before you are even accepted to a PA program (basically the same time you are doing interviews), by January of your matriculation year, all the slots are filled. Happened to me, I missed the boat by a month.

Good luck

The Navy program you're referencing is the Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP). It isn't offered for PA school every FY, so you would have to contact a recruiter (medical officer recruiter) to determine this. Another program, which I am currently a part of, is the Health Services Collegiate Program (HSCP). This is different in regards to pay, time-in-service, etc. Google both and you can find more information

The caveat with these programs is that you have to be accepted to a PA program before a recruiter will take their time and work with you. Some will help you start your package while you are applying to PA programs, but most will want an acceptance so they know they aren't wasting their time.

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As much as the experience as a 68W will prepare you for being a PA, I wouldn't listen to the recruiter in this regard. Unless it was my only option, I wouldn't become enlisted with a Bachelors degree.  You can gain some good experience in a year and probably get accepted to a bunch of schools. If you enlist, there are a ton of things that can hinder you from getting into IPAP (rank requirements, etc). As a 68W, there is no telling when you could actually get accepted into IPAP, but it would likely be 5+ years from when you start out. Being enlisted Navy, we typically only get 8-10 seats per year in IPAP and it is exceedingly difficult to get in (many Corpsmen fail to get accepted with 15+ years of experience). I'm unsure how many seats the Army gets, but I'm sure it isn't easy.

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2 hours ago, hmmmm3 said:

As much as the experience as a 68W will prepare you for being a PA, I wouldn't listen to the recruiter in this regard. Unless it was my only option, I wouldn't become enlisted with a Bachelors degree.  You can gain some good experience in a year and probably get accepted to a bunch of schools. If you enlist, there are a ton of things that can hinder you from getting into IPAP (rank requirements, etc). As a 68W, there is no telling when you could actually get accepted into IPAP, but it would likely be 5+ years from when you start out. Being enlisted Navy, we typically only get 8-10 seats per year in IPAP and it is exceedingly difficult to get in (many Corpsmen fail to get accepted with 15+ years of experience). I'm unsure how many seats the Army gets, but I'm sure it isn't easy.

The Army gets a ton more seats. A ton.

Look at it this way, there are three IPAP classes convening every year, say there are 75 seats apiece (I don't know the real max size, but IIRC my class started with around 75 and graduated in the upper 50s/lower 60s). So say 225 seats/year. The Navy only sends students to one class (the August class) and gets 15 seats/year. The AF gets something like 15 per class, say 45/year. In the August class, we had a bunch of Army Reserve and Guard, but still less than active Army, but I heard that the August class is heavy with these guys.

These are rough numbers, but you can see if you do the math that the active Army ends up with the lion's share of seats - probably 100-150/year. It's a pretty staggering difference. But then, IMO, PAs are much more extensively utilized in the Army, and there are also a ton more applicants for all of those seats.

I'll also come out and say that the exclusivity of IPAP is a little overrated. I got selected with about 7 years in service, as an E-5 (although I put on E-6 before arrival). I was certainly not the most senior of the 15 students in my Navy cohort, but I was not the most junior, either. I was right around the middle. The largest hurdle to IPAP acceptance is being able to complete the pre-reqs, and doing so satisfactorily. Obviously you have to have good evals and letters of rec, etc., but I firmly believe anyone that is serious about putting in the work can get accepted. Most of the guys I see getting rejected for officer programs are putting in half-assed packages and sort of just calling it in, missing deadlines, etc.

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I'm a former Army Medic, current PA. It was 91W when I first joined, changed to 68W at some point during my enlistment. It was an incredible launching point for becoming a PA. A bulk of my procedure skills came from my time in uniform, and I'm confident I would not have been as successful in college had I not spent a few years in the Army beforehand. I have no doubt my military medicine background allowed me to stand out when I was applying to PA schools.

 

Being an Army medic was incredibly rewarding for me. I very much enjoyed providing care to service men and women while also doing humanitarian missions when I was deployed abroad. That said, doing 4-6 years as an Army medic strictly for the goal of becoming a PA isn't necessarily the most ideal path for most. If you're not all in on the idea of being a military medic, perhaps Reserves or National Guard as a 68W may be more your speed. You'd still get some of the experiences of being a medic, rack up some hours and build your resume but you'd also leave ample free time to pick up a civilian job and get more hours that way. Additionally, you could always get into civilian PA school once you're in the guard, then join as a PA once you've finished your training if the military turns out to be your thing.

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