How to Become a PA
The physician associate (PA) profession is rapidly growing in the UK. To become a practising PA in the UK, the following steps must be taken:
Enrol in a PA programme
In order to become a fully qualified PA, you will need to undertake and pass a PA master’s or diploma course. Prior to this, you need to acquire an undergraduate degree, ideally in a scientific subject. Most PA programmes are delivered full-time, but there may be some part-time options available. There are currently two undergraduate programmes available in the UK ran by UCLan and University of Reading.
While each institution is responsible for running their own programme, all PA education across the UK must represent the national standards outlined within the FPA PA draft curriculum. Entry requirements will differ between each health education institution (HEI) across the UK, but generally you will need a 2.1 (upper second) bio-science-related degree to be accepted onto a course. Many HEIs will accept applications to study from those outside the UK, but they may require you to meet English language requirements. We recommend that you contact the university directly to discuss their requirements.
You may be eligible for funding support to help pay your tuition fees, or a possible alumni discount for continued learning at your university. As financial arrangements differ between universities, you will need to contact your preferred institution directly about the opportunities available. Some financial support may also be on offer through your local Health Education England office.
When you apply for the course, it is important to remember that in addition to your academic achievements, recognition is also given to any previous clinical work experience you may have that includes direct patient contact. This work can be in either primary care or within a hospital setting and shows that you have a clear interest in the wider remit of health and social care.
For more information on healthcare apprenticeships, we recommend visiting NHS careers.
For more information on the PA course, course providers, fees and financial support during your training, we recommend visiting NHS Careers.
What does a PA programme involve?
A PA programme lasts 2 years and is designed to align with the needs of healthcare employers across the UK. It will prepare you to become a fully qualified PA by covering both theory and practical care across medicine. As PAs are generalists, the training focuses on general adult medicine and primary care rather than specialty, but you can choose to specialise once you are qualified.
The course itself is fast-paced and there is a lot to learn. Depending on where you study, up to 50% of the course can be based on supervised clinical placements. Placements will mean time in the emergency department, mental health, paediatrics, acute and general medicine, general surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology and community medicine.
During the PA programme, your knowledge and skills will be assessed by a mixture of group work, presentations, written assignments/examinations and clinical exams.
How do you become a fully qualified PA?
To become a fully qualified PA, you are required to pass both your university programme and the PA National Examination (PANE) to be able to work as a PA in the UK. This is standard practice, regardless of where you have studied the PA programme.
For more information about what the PANE entails, visit the PANE page.