1. University of California – Davis
The University of California – Davis is the only public university in the state to offer a physician’s assistant program. Its program is a Master of Health Sciences with a Physician Assistant track. Applicants must have at least 1,000 hours of relevant experience. In addition to coursework, this program also offers students the opportunity to complete their clinical training in underserved areas. Students can complete their degrees in just over two years of full-time study. They do have to complete a thesis project before graduation. This is a large program with over 40 faculty members.
- Tuition per year: $14,495 in-state; $44,249 non-resident
- Graduation rate: 85%
2. Loma Linda University
Loma Linda University is a private institution that is well-known for its health sciences programs. It is a Christian-affiliated university, but it accepts students of all faiths. One of its outstanding programs is its Master of Physician Assistant.
Applicants must have 2,000 hours of healthcare experience to be considered. This program takes students two years to complete on a full-time schedule. Students will have the opportunity to complete clinical rotations during the second year of the program.
- Tuition per year: $35,180
- Graduation rate: 90%
3. Samuel Merritt University
Samuel Merritt University is a small private institution located in the Oakland area. It is one of the lesser-known schools on this list, but it still is one of the best physician assistant schools in California. Its Master of Physician Assistant program accepts 36 students per year. Applicants must have at least 1,000 hours of relevant experience.
This program takes students 27 months to complete on a full-time schedule. As with similar programs, the first year or so is taken up by traditional classes. The last year combines classes with clinical rotations. Students may have the opportunity to do rotations in surgery, pediatrics, and geriatrics.
- Tuition per year: $50,138
- Graduation rate: 98%
4. Stanford University
Stanford University is one of the top universities in the world, and the only reason it is not ranked higher on our list is because it has relatively pricy tuition. Its program awards a certificate. Applicants must have 3,000 hours of relevant experience. As with all physician assistant programs, students must complete both coursework and clinical rotations. The classes take place at Stanford’s campus in Palo Alto, while clinical rotations take place throughout the surrounding community.
- Tuition per year: $53,529
- Graduation rate: 94%
5. Western University of Health Sciences
The Western University of Health Sciences is one of the leading health science-focused institutions in California. Its physician assistant program is especially highly ranked. This program is located on the school’s main campus in the Southern California city of Pomona. Applicants must have completed college coursework in life sciences. However, they are not required to have experience in the healthcare field, which sets Western’s program apart from many others.
First-year students must complete classwork in health science. They may have the opportunity to gain practical experience through volunteering. Second-year students spend most of their time completing clinical rotations. They must also complete a research project.
- Tuition per year: $44,065
- Graduation rate: 69%
6. University of Southern California
The University of Southern California has several leading health science programs, including its Master of Physician Assistant program. Applicants must have completed coursework in life sciences. They also need to have completed both community service and clinical experience. USC’s program has the same structure of many of the programs on this list: the first year is composed of classwork, while the second is focused on clinical rotations.
- Tuition per year: $58,195
- Graduation rate: 92%
7. Touro University California
Touro University California is well-known for its health science programs, as is its sister campus in Nevada. It is a Jewish-sponsored institution, but it accepts students of all faiths. Touro offers the only program where all graduates earn both a Master of Public Health and a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies. The program is 33 months long due to the dual degrees.
Applicants must have at least 1,000 hours of experience, among other requirements. Students spend 4 semesters in the classroom followed by eight clinical rotations and one public health field study in the concentration of their choice: Community Action for Health, Global Health, or Health Equity and Criminal Justice.
- Tuition per year: $52,470 (2020-2021; does not include fees, etc)
- Graduation rate: 100% (Class of 2020)
Our Ranking Methodology
We used a simple formula to rank the schools on this list. Our formula focuses on two important statistics: yearly tuition rate and graduation rate. Two of the schools on this list (Foothill College and the University of California – Davis) are public schools, and they charge higher tuition rates for non-resident students than they do for resident students. We only looked at the resident tuition rate for these schools. To come up with each school’s rating, we took the yearly tuition rate and added a multiplier equivalent to the percentage of enrolled students who did not end up graduating. Here’s an example: Institution #1 has a yearly tuition rate of $50,000 and a graduation rate of 90%. Its rating would be 55,000 (50,000 x 110%). Lower ratings are better for a school’s ranking on our list.