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I’m not sure if being a PA is feasible


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So I live in Tucson Arizona and my fiancé and I just bought a house from his father. I originally was going to be a Clinical Psychologist but the median salary to PhD/PsyD debt ratio is atrocious. I was speaking with a former mentor and internship director now friend who told me that I would be better suited to being a Physician Assistant and that therapy doesn’t seem to have professional fulfillment (based on my experience as a group cbt facilitator.) He is totally right, I believe that therapy is an immensely helpful tool in treating behavioral health conditions, I just don’t think I should be the one to provide said therapy.

My point is that Tucson does not have a school with a PA program. The ones in Arizona are all Northern or Central Arizona and I don’t think I could make living in Tucson and commuting work (the nearest school is a appx 6 hour round trip.) So I am not sure what my options are or if I can do this at all especially considering I only have 300 pce as a CNA and one prereq done (Gen Stats and Psych Stats.) I have been doing research and I really like the idea of being a Psych PA. I thought about the Yale Online program but as it stands I don’t think I’d be a competitive applicant and I live too far from Mesa, Glendale or Flagstaff. Would it be possible to do a post bacc to fulfill pre-reqs and boost my 2.9 GPA and get more PCE in order to apply to the Yale Online Program? I feel like banking on one school isn’t a wise idea? 

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In general, you can take your prerequisites any way you want. You can take them a few at a time while you work at something that pays, you can do a post-bacc (but you don't have to), etc.

Reading between the lines, the reasons you give for changing career direction sound like a mix of financial considerations and the experience you had as a facilitator. You probably need to get more hands-on patient care experience now, if only to prove to yourself that you really want to take care of patients. You're already making a change from your original plan; use the chance to take classes and get experience with patients to build a little more assurance that you're going in the right direction this time.

Banking on one PA program is probably not a safe strategy. It sounds fairly likely that you will have to go away to PA school. I did that (only two hours away) and came home when I could, or else my wife (of 36 years at the time) visited for the weekend. In my case, I did the didactic year that way and was able to come home and do my clinicals from home. Our military gets deployed all of the time and this was no worse (tough tests sometimes but no one was shooting at me).

So, plan your prereqs so you can afford them and make some money you'll need along the way. Get patient care experience so you can be more sure of your latest career decision and to satisfy the requirements of many PA programs. And plan for a possible temporary move away for a year or two. 

Good luck.

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If you haven't already I think the first step would be shadow a PA, or two, or three! You want to get a full idea of what the profession is and be committed because it does not sound like it would be an easy switch for you. But really if it is your true passion- you may need to plan out a few years to make this big change. 🙂

I am also a post-bacc student and have not gotten into PA school so take my thoughts with a grain of salt.

As far as getting into a program - unfortunately I have heard from many people that it is just not realistic to apply to one school. They have SO many applicants and only take a very limited amount. A guy I shadowed who works here at a top hospital in my home state had to move to a different state for school. Even though the top hospital has a PA program and he worked for them for years prior to PA school (had great references) and an almost 4.0 GPA. He did not even get an interview, they are just not enough spots for everyone! You'll need to get great grades to bump up your GPA and likely apply to a good amount of schools.

Best of luck to you in whatever you decide!

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Thank you so much for the responses I am going to add AT Still Arizona and California  to the list (I am originally from California so Santa Maria will be a nice change of pace from 112 degree heat with zero humidity) and Midwestern Arizona (my little brother lives near by) to the list with Yale Online. I think I’ll add NAU to the list as well since I’m already entertaining AT Still California. There was an alternative medicine school in California  with a provisionally accredited program near my hometown that I thought was strange. I’m also going to take the rest of my pre-reqs at my Alma mater and the local CC. I heard some schools frown upon the use of lower division course work to fulfill pre-reqs so I am trying to err on the side of caution. I’m also going to try and rack up like 1200 PCE hours as a CNA. Side note I am a transgender woman and I heard there was a really awesome Endo MD and PA team that do really good work in town, I think I might like to try and shadow them. Also, there are a few clinics in downtown that are completely owned by PAs so I am might reach out to them as well.

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Good idea to add more colleges and more shadowing! There needs to be more diversity in health care so I wish you the absolute best. 

 

I took my pre-reqs that were 200, lower level mostly at a community college cause it was way cheaper. And then I took A&P at my alma mater so it was 300 level or upper division and also had cadavers. Focusing on getting As in that should really show you are ready for PA school! Hoping that strategy works for me...to be determined! 

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On 7/18/2020 at 6:39 AM, AJRCS said:

So I live in Tucson Arizona and my fiancé and I just bought a house from his father. I originally was going to be a Clinical Psychologist but the median salary to PhD/PsyD debt ratio is atrocious. I was speaking with a former mentor and internship director now friend who told me that I would be better suited to being a Physician Assistant and that therapy doesn’t seem to have professional fulfillment (based on my experience as a group cbt facilitator.) He is totally right, I believe that therapy is an immensely helpful tool in treating behavioral health conditions, I just don’t think I should be the one to provide said therapy.

My point is that Tucson does not have a school with a PA program. The ones in Arizona are all Northern or Central Arizona and I don’t think I could make living in Tucson and commuting work (the nearest school is a appx 6 hour round trip.) So I am not sure what my options are or if I can do this at all especially considering I only have 300 pce as a CNA and one prereq done (Gen Stats and Psych Stats.) I have been doing research and I really like the idea of being a Psych PA. I thought about the Yale Online program but as it stands I don’t think I’d be a competitive applicant and I live too far from Mesa, Glendale or Flagstaff. Would it be possible to do a post bacc to fulfill pre-reqs and boost my 2.9 GPA and get more PCE in order to apply to the Yale Online Program? I feel like banking on one school isn’t a wise idea? 

Hello there!

Small World- I also live in Tucson and currently taking prerequisites for PA School.  Becoming a PA is actually my second professional venture.  I've been a Social Worker in the Medical/Healthcare field for 11 years so I'm basically advancing in the field of medicine.  Due to working full time, I'm taking several courses online.  The programs I plan on applying to all confirmed that they accept online courses from a Regionally Accredited Institution.  I plan on applying next cycle.. AT Still, NAU, 1 program in Washington, 2 in Oregon and 1 in CA are on my list.  

Best of luck in your decision.  Deciding on a career is definitely not something to take lightly so weighing the pro's and con's is wise.  Another helpful tip:  PA schools like to see some volunteer experience as well.  In addition, the Personal Statement (in the application) carries A LOT of weight when admissions committees decide whether to interview someone or not. They want to know a deep reason why YOU want to become a PA.  Hope this helps! 🙂

 

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On 7/18/2020 at 6:39 AM, AJRCS said:

So I live in Tucson Arizona and my fiancé and I just bought a house from his father. I originally was going to be a Clinical Psychologist but the median salary to PhD/PsyD debt ratio is atrocious. I was speaking with a former mentor and internship director now friend who told me that I would be better suited to being a Physician Assistant and that therapy doesn’t seem to have professional fulfillment (based on my experience as a group cbt facilitator.) He is totally right, I believe that therapy is an immensely helpful tool in treating behavioral health conditions, I just don’t think I should be the one to provide said therapy.

My point is that Tucson does not have a school with a PA program. The ones in Arizona are all Northern or Central Arizona and I don’t think I could make living in Tucson and commuting work (the nearest school is a appx 6 hour round trip.) So I am not sure what my options are or if I can do this at all especially considering I only have 300 pce as a CNA and one prereq done (Gen Stats and Psych Stats.) I have been doing research and I really like the idea of being a Psych PA. I thought about the Yale Online program but as it stands I don’t think I’d be a competitive applicant and I live too far from Mesa, Glendale or Flagstaff. Would it be possible to do a post bacc to fulfill pre-reqs and boost my 2.9 GPA and get more PCE in order to apply to the Yale Online Program? I feel like banking on one school isn’t a wise idea? 

Wow a lot of fellow Tucsonians haha. The only PA schools in Arizona are Midwestern, NAU at the Phoenix Biomedical Campus, and ATSU. They are all in the Phoenix metropolitan area and are not 6 hours away. I would look up the addresses again since I’ve driven to the campuses multiple times from Tucson. 

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2 hours ago, LivPA said:

Wow a lot of fellow Tucsonians haha. The only PA schools in Arizona are Midwestern, NAU at the Phoenix Biomedical Campus, and ATSU. They are all in the Phoenix metropolitan area and are not 6 hours away. I would look up the addresses again since I’ve driven to the campuses multiple times from Tucson. 

Wow I didn’t expect to see so many of us! You are totally right it’s more like 2/2.5 hours one way with bad traffic and like 5ish all the way around. Oh snap I didn’t even know about the NAU option I was under the impression it was at the flagstaff facility!!!

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Would getting a weekday apartment an option you'd be willing to do then? For example, you have your house with your family on the weekends... then, you have a tiny house or mobile home near the campus for the weekday? I don't think a 6 hour commute to class is smart. that's all your studying time being burnt away. 

Also, I think that yes, you need to raise it to a 2.9, however I even feel that is sorta low for the bar set by students. I just got rejected from Yale and I had a 3.5 GPA with my last 60 units being a perfect 4.0. Given, it's all holistic, I think that you would need to raise it well above the "minimum" to be competitive with the others. This is on top of the fact that if you read the yale forum, the people getting in with lower GPAs (not too much higher than a 3.0), have been like rad techs for 20 years, military medic for 10, etc. So, low gpa should be coupled with a lot of experience... However, you should read the yale online forum to get an idea of what it's like! 

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11 minutes ago, mands said:

Would getting a weekday apartment an option you'd be willing to do then? For example, you have your house with your family on the weekends... then, you have a tiny house or mobile home near the campus for the weekday? I don't think a 6 hour commute to class is smart. that's all your studying time being burnt away. 

Also, I think that yes, you need to raise it to a 2.9, however I even feel that is sorta low for the bar set by students. I just got rejected from Yale and I had a 3.5 GPA with my last 60 units being a perfect 4.0. Given, it's all holistic, I think that you would need to raise it well above the "minimum" to be competitive with the others. This is on top of the fact that if you read the yale forum, the people getting in with lower GPAs (not too much higher than a 3.0), have been like rad techs for 20 years, military medic for 10, etc. So, low gpa should be coupled with a lot of experience... However, you should read the yale online forum to get an idea of what it's like! 

Hi there just to clarify I have a 2.9 already. I am working to increase my GPA. I will definitely read the Yale Forum!

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3 minutes ago, AJRCS said:

Hi there just to clarify I have a 2.9 already. I am working to increase my GPA. I will definitely read the Yale Forum!

Oh, I misunderstood! 🙂 Then yes, get it to a 3.2 and I think you'll be peachy. That's the lower average for most PA programs! There's another program online that I do know of! I believe it is UND ??? uni north dakota??? there's another one + yale! I know for sure there is 2 in the U.S. so that does open up your options a bit 🙂

If you're still interested in tiny house living let me know! this is something i'm really passionate about and will be investing into once I get into a program, so I have all my research ready. I think that you should consider it, an apartment, or on campus graduate housing with how far the commute is for most programs in your state... I know it'll be hard to be away from your family most weeks (just go home on the weekends!), but if becoming a PA is your heart and passion, then you'll do anything to get there.  

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