Which Physician Assistant Training Programs Produce Rural Physician Assistants? A National Study

Research center:
Lead researcher:
Project funded:
September 2012
Project completed:
February 2016

Problem statement: Physician assistants (PAs) are an important part of the rural health workforce and their roles are expected to grow. While PAs are more evenly distributed across the rural-urban continuum than physicians, long-term trends of medical specialization, increasing cost of training and demographic change in the PA workforce have contributed towards decreasing PA participation in rural and primary care. Thus, it is important, to understand the role of PA training in the locational decisions made by PAs.

Project goals: Primary goals are to (1) identify which PA training programs have produced the largest number and proportion of rural-practicing graduates, and (2) identify the characteristics of successful programs. The results of this study will be used as a baseline for deeper inquiry into why certain programs may be more successful than others.

Methods: The study will primarily use data collected by the National Commission on the Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) the institution that administers the national PA qualifying exam. Using this datasets de-identified ZIP code and graduation information, we will identify the training program of each PA and the location of every civilian PA in the nation at the time of certification or re-certification (PAs must re-certify every six years). NCCPA data will be augmented with published information from the Physician Assistant Education Association and the American Academy of Physician Assistants.


  • Which Physician Assistant Training Programs Produce Rural PAs? A National Study
    Policy Brief
    WWAMI Rural Health Research Center
    Date: 02/2016
    The proportion of physician assistant (PA) graduates who enter practice in rural settings has dropped over the last two decades, though PAs still continue to enter rural practice at a higher rate than primary care physicians. This identifies the PA training programs that produced high numbers of rural PAs and the programs associated.