Students - your frequently asked questions
If there's anything you can't find on this FAQ page, your student membership page, the course listings page, or elsewhere on the website, then let us know about it.
Although all courses will follow the guidelines as laid out by the Faculty of Physician associates, and outline by the Competencies and Curriculum Framework, most PA courses in the UK are different in regards to structure. It is very important that when applying, you should fully investigate those courses where they wish to apply. Ask smart questions, such as:
- Is there any funding support for students?
- How many physician associates are on the teaching team?
- How many lectures are delivered each week?
- What is the ratio of taught v self-directed sessions?
- What is the weekly structure of the course?
- How have graduates performed on the National Exam?
All of these questions should be directed at the university where the information is not available online.
Physician associates only need a minimum of a PgDip in Physician Associate Studies, and to pass the National Exam, to qualify as a physician associate. However, if you wish to enter a job involving research or become a member of a teaching team, then having an MSc may be beneficial.
Physician associates undergo two years (full-time) postgraduate training based on the Competence and Curriculum Framework for physician associates (DoH 2012).
Training consists of intensive theoretical learning in medical sciences, pharmacology and clinical reasoning as well as over 1400 hours of clinical placement experience in community and acute care settings.
Newly graduated physician associates complete a third internship year with a doctor to solidify and deepen their skills. As a result of their training, physician associates are flexible and adaptable healthcare professionals with a strong medical foundation.
As the profile of physician associates within the UK rises, job prospects are increasingly encouraging. Currently in the UK physician associates can be found working in the following areas:
- GP surgery
- Hospital inpatient ward
- Hospital intensive care unit
- Hospital operating theatre
- Hospital outpatient department
- Medical assessment unit or acute medical unit
- Rehabilitation Facility
- Specialist surgery
- Walk in centre / out of hours
- Hospital based liaison psychiatry service
- Other psychiatry service
Permanent positions following graduation are not guaranteed. However, the NHS and the Department of Health have undertaken projections for workforce planning over the next 20 years which indicates a continued need to expand the type and range of practitioner level qualifications to ensure that the NHS can respond to the current pressures and the changing needs of the nation's health.
Newly qualified physician associates can expect to earn between £27-£32k (excluding indemnity fees or adjustments of high cost living areas).
For further information on careers, visit the NHS Careers website.
Physician associates need a minimum of a postgraduate diploma (PgDip) in physician associate studies in order to qualify as a physician associate, assuming they pass the National Exam. However it is also possible to study an MSc in physician associate studies. If you wish to enter a role involving research or would like to become a member of a teaching team, then having an MSc may be beneficial.
Although courses vary depending on the course provider, there are two main differences between the PgDip and the MSc:
- the MSc will require a larger number of hours committment than the PgDip (look to individual university websites for further information)
- most, if not all, MSc programmes will include a research methods module in addition to the research project which is undertaken on both types of course. This means that MSc students must do more writing and research than those on the PgDip course, and commit to a greater academic load.
For further information on where you can study, visit our course listing page.
All programmes are two years full-time, and you will find that time spent in lectures, on placement and studying outside of contact hours will be demanding. Whilst several students have a part time job in order to fund their time on the programme, they may find that this impacts on their studies.
Please contact universities directly for information regarding fees and funding opportunities.
Professional and Career Development Loans are bank loans to pay for courses and training that help your career. You may be able to borrow between £300 and £10,000 – find out more on Gov.uk.
When considering the cost of the training you should also take into account the need for medical textbooks, equipment such as a stethoscope, smart clothes and travel to GP and hospital placements.
Currently, all elective placements are held within the UK. This is partly due to the profession awaiting regulation, but also because clinical placements are a great opportunity to act as ambassadors for the role. It is important that physician associate students get exposure within the UK, to introduce more patients to the role and to provide the opportunity for multidisciplinary teams to work with physician associates.
Depending on the university, there are a number of options to choose from for your elective placements in an exciting range of specialties. Contact your university or prospective university for further information.