Answers to Pre-PA Questions -10 Is age a factor?


A 42 year old woman with children writes me:

She has no college but she is up for the challenge. She says her children are old enough for her to begin pursuit of her dreams.

She asks if “at this age” it might be a bit much for me?”

OK, When I attended PA school in 1976, I was the third youngest person in my class at age 27. Everyone else was older or much older and that was the case for many years. At that time PA programs had just begun to offer a BS degree. Duke’s degree was in Allied Health Science.  Now a Masters degree is standard. So to apply to most programs you have to have a BS and a number of prerequisites in science and a great GPA and GRE with good references and good experience. Even programs not requiring experience weight it heavily.The average age of a new PA student is 26 and 80% are women. So,quite a few are over age 26. The oldest student I know of was 65, a retired psych professor, when he started. He is now 85 and sharp as ever, working part time in indigent care. He attended George Washington U PA Program. He is a patient of mine.

So you need a degree with a large component of science courses. You need some experience even if it is just shadowing a PA for 50 hours and maybe at least some volunteer experience where there are some PA’s working. So programs require 6 months of full time paid experience and some none. It depends on your tenacity and desire what you do about this. You could be ready to apply to a PA program in 3 years, I think it will take that long to get your degree.

I don’t see your age as a factor. Maybe at schools that start their students as freshmen in a 5 year program, you would be a dinosaur but not in the majority of programs. Your age, your life experience, having birthed children and raised them is all in your favor. The question is, can you sustain the effort? You will essentially be in school full time for the next 5 years. It will be intense and you will have to be at the top of your game that entire time. You won’t have much social time and very little family time.

You need to talk to some people who know you and ask them what they think about you doing this. Our minds tend to over inflate our ability – which is good in life threatening situations – it allows us to take action. Not so good in these kinds of decisions. Ask several people who know you well what they think. Visit the PA programs in your state. They likely have an open house or information sessions, find out what it is like.

Write an essay about why you want to be a PA and publish it online in an article directory or here in comments. Tweet about it and post it on Facebook. Ask for comments. Send it to any PA or NP you know and ask what they think. Get some other opinions from friends, family and other professionals. Consider other occupations that allow you to move up in stages. You can become an RN in 2 years, finish a degree and then go to NP school. Similar occupation, a top 4 out of top 50 occupation (PA is #2) that can earn you 80-90K with experience doing essentially the same job. It is just another path to a similar occupation.

Read this and let me know what you think in the comments section.

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