Becoming a Physician Assistant

Discussion in 'CLEP, DANTES, and Other Exams for Credit' started by lalearner, Aug 2, 2016.

  1. lalearner

    lalearner New Member


    Before embarking on my journey to obtain a bachelor's degree through one of the Big 3 via testing (CLEP, etc.) and courses at community colleges that require hands-on labwork; I wanted to ensure that the program I developed and the degree I acquired would be acceptable to an institution offering a physician assistant program. I located the following program which I was highly interested in, but their website indicates that they may not accept a degree conferred by a university that accumulated credits through testing or transfer from community colleges:

    Requirements - Master of Science Physician Assistant (MSPA)

    Is this typical? How can I find a Physician Assistant program that would recognize and accept my degree from one of the Big 3? My goal is to either become a Physician Assistant, Nurse Practitioner, Registered Nurse, Forensic Pathologist, or Forensic Pathologist Assistant. I was so encouraged that I might be able to "test out" of my 4 year degree; with the exception of hands on labs I would need to take at a community college; but am becoming so discouraged as I continually research my options.

    Any feedback or help from anyone who has taken this route in the health or medical sciences is so greatly appreciated! I've worked for the last 20+ years in a field I don't enjoy, and wish I had gone into healthcare/medicine to begin with. I'm considering a career change mid-life to do what I feel I was originally called to do, but must overcome the hurdle of time and financial resources to accomplish this.

    Thanks again to everyone on this board!!

    LA Learner :biggrin:
  2. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    There are a number of PA programs that are combined BS/Masters programs. The one at Kings College, for example, has historically been a five year BS/MPAS program even before such was fashionable (i.e. when a bachelor's or even an associate's was sufficient to obtain a license).

    I'm sure someone might have a sense of whether this is "typical." However, you are generally dealing with programs that will require physical attendance. That significantly drops your ability to shop around unless you are willing to move anywhere in the country to complete your MPAS. I would check the admissions requirements for this and a handful of other schools that might potentially be of interest to you.

    It's great to look ahead. But it's also probably not the best idea to "choose" a Masters program before you embark on your bachelor's program. On the one hand it is good to keep those Masters level requirements in mind when pursuing your BS. On the other hand you may be expending a lot of unnecessary effort to impress one school when four or five perfectly acceptable other schools might not have the same requirement.

    Also, you've listed a number of admirable career paths that all have very different ways you need to approach them. If you wish to become a Nurse Practitioner then you need to first become an RN. You could go right out and earn a BSN. You could earn an ADN (or, if your state still has them, a diploma in nursing that qualifies one to be an RN) and then complete an RN to BSN. You need the BSN. Then you need to get an MSN. Then the requirements differ by state.

    For a Physician Assistant you generally need an MPAS. Some states still allow lower level degrees to qualify but these seem to be fading out.

    Pathology Assistants need to earn a Masters degree specifically in being a Pathology Assistant.

    Pathologists are Medical Doctors. So you'd need to earn a BS or BA with coursework aligning with the admission requirements for med school and then go there for four years, get matched with a residency etc.

    In the end, a whole bunch of those professionals might end up working together and doing similar things. But the paths are all very different and require different approaches to the undergraduate degree. They are also not interchangeable. A Nurse Practitioner cannot just become a Physician Assistant. They have to go through the full Masters program (unless there is a bridge program out there I'm unaware of). If a physician wanted to become a physician assistant. Maybe because they were unable to match with a residency program and they need a job they would also have to go through the full MPAS program even if they have an MD.

    So the first thing that you're going to need to do is actually decide what you want to do and how realistic any of those paths are for you at this stage in your life. There are certainly non-traditional (i.e. older than 20-something) students pursuing medical school. But if you cannot leave your current area and need to work full-time while attending school then medical school is probably not a realistic option.

    If nursing is a serious consideration for you then having a degree from the Big Three is unlikely to help you pursue your goal in any meaningful way. I realize that Excelsior has Nursing programs. But these are not designed for new entrants into healthcare. Admission is only open to a current LPN/LVN, Paramedic or someone with a corpsman rate/MOS from the military. The BSN at TESU is only for current RNs.

    So first I would recommend you clarify what your options are and what you can reasonably due in your present circumstances. You aren't going to be able to earn a nursing degree online unless you first make your entry into healthcare through another path (i.e. becoming an LPN through a vocational program locally).

    That is a question that you need to answer well before you get into the minutiae of admission requirements for a specific program (though it is helpful to keep in mind).
  3. rebel100

    rebel100 New Member

    I agree with Neuhaus, all of your choices tend towards completing your education in residence. PA and NP schools have become highly selective lately, in order to find a spot you will need to beat out a slew of other candidates...not that a "big 3" degree can't get you there, but non traditional paths may well make you the oddball candidate, that's not good when your heading into a competitive environment.

    I don't know enough about you, but I would recommend a local CC with a nursing program, use CLEP and testing out to accelerate things where you can like general eds and electives. This can speed things up and lower costs, it's unlikely that 15-30 hours of credit by exam is going to hurt your chances, especially if everything else is traditional. Earn that ADN RN and move on from there. Having the RN even without the BSN opens so many doors in Healthcare. There are a ton of hybrid and online BSN programs out there that can get you ready for the next step. at that point you are more competative and have been earning money so ARNP school is much more viable (and you will already be working your fallback plan)....this is essentially the plan I am working on with my own daughter.

    Good luck!
  4. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    Let me just add that I have seen some absolutely tenacious career ascensions. I once recruited a physician who started out as an auto mechanic student in a community college but switched his major to biology after he broke his hand while skiing. Something about being in the hospital with broken bones sparked a fire. He finished his A.S. in Biology and then went to Penn State to finish his B.S. and then went on to medical school. Impressive on its own. Even more impressive when you consider that people prepare for that career from grade school and still fail and this guy did it after dropping out of mechanic school.

    I met a Nurse Practitioner who started her career as a CNA. She made just above minimum wage (at that time) while raising two kids by herself. She went into the LPN program while working at night. After she became an LPN she briefly attended an ADN program but was frustrated that none of her training or experience was considered to shorten her program. She took a semester worth of courses and then dropped out assuming she'd spend the rest of her days as an LPN. Some time later the University of Scranton started up an LPN to BSN program. Your LPN knocked a full semester off of the program. Plus the semester she took at the CC, she was already a year into the four year program. And the program was flexible for LPNs because it was assumed they were still working. Got her BSN/RN. Continued on to get her MSN part-time. She ended up getting hired as a Director of Nursing.

    I've also met throngs of CNAs who talk about wanting to become nurses but never taking the steps to achieve that goal. Tons of nurses who talk about becoming PAs, NPs or Physicians but never actually pursue it and way too many former Navy Corpsmen who talk about how they refuse to go back to school and "start over" and end up being forced out of the healthcare field entirely because their military training, in most states, doesn't qualify them for any sort of a license.

    If you want it bad enough you'll find a way to do it. If you don't then you won't.
    cookderosa likes this.
  5. lalearner

    lalearner New Member

    Thank you so very much for everyone’s thoughtful and very insightful responses. They are immensely helpful, and inspiring. I have been up late into the night each night crafting my degree program for my new career path; and up early the next morning for work.  I’ve spoken with counselors at COSC and TESU, as well as researched many other DL, state and community college resources available here in SoCal. To help guide some of my decision making I’ve assembled a S/S of allied healthcare career paths, sorted by minimum level of education, and median CA wage in 2014. I’m attaching it here in case it is of help to anyone on a similar path (hopefully it is legible):

    I’ve located some lovely community college based AS programs in nursing that qualify one to sit for the NCLEX, but they are all enormously competitive (300-400+ applicants with 30-50 selected; depending on the program). As well; each program requires that my AA general education requirements be completed prior to admission, as well as a few pre-requisites that must be taken in-person, with CLEP not accepted as substitute. As I have not completed all these credits yet, I have decided to pursue an BA or BS path at TESU or COSC, while I apply to AS Nursing programs and await acceptance; beginning of course with the completion of my lower-level units toward the AA portion of my degree. Another wonderful option I am considering is to complete a full Bachelor of Science in Applied Science and Technology with a Concentration in Technical Studies, or Bachelor of Arts in Biology, or Bachelor of Arts in Natural Sciences and Mathematics at TESU; and follow that with a direct-entry MSN program. These programs allow one with a bachelor’s degree in a science related field other than nursing to fast track (2-3 years) into nursing studies, and sit for the NCLEX. The direct entry MSN seems quite expensive, but would open doors to many lucrative as well as fascinating nursing specialties. I have also considered following up my BA or BS with a Clinical Laboratory or Clinical Pathology program and become an accredited CLS or Pathology Assistant through one of those boards. TESU’s AA in Polysomnography sounds so very interesting as well; to augment my path to a BA Biology or BAAST in Technical Studies. I’m also toying with proposing my own BS LDAS with TESU with a focus on forensic pathology, hematology, immunology, or some other fascinating thing. If they don’t accept it I’ll just fall back to one of their other options that would certainly meet my needs.
    I am very excited and looking forward to retooling my skill set to deploy into a wonderful new career that will allow me more intellectual fulfilment, personal meaning and benefit to society than my current career trajectory. I’m dreamed about it for long enough. For Pete’s sake ~~ for years my son and I have watched & listened to NIH lectures, neuroscience & physics symposiums, and autopsy videos for FUN!! It’s essentially how I spend all my free time. At some point before I die I want to do what I what came into physical being on this earth to do, and serve in a meaningful capacity my fellow man. And I know with everything in me, that I won’t get there it certainly isn’t what I’m doing now!
  6. lalearner

    lalearner New Member

    Apologies for the typo in the last sentence; I meant to say that I won't get there by doing what I'm doing now....I'm sure this is self-explanatory, but wanted to clarify. Can't seem to find the edit button that supposedly exists next to our posts :biggrin:

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