By Tamara Have you ever scheduled a visit with a physician assistant when you were sick or injured? If you’ve never used one before, you could be missing out. These nationally certified and state-licensed medical professionals can handle many of the same tasks your regular doctor would perform, including: diagnosing your illness, ordering tests, and prescribing medications. In many cases, it’s also easier to get an appointment with one, and it’s typically cheaper, too. For students, the choice to become a physician assistant means less time in school (approximately 26 months), but it can still be a costly degree path. Most programs require several years of training and experience, as well as clinical rotations (2,000 hours or more). Thankfully, there are several financial aid resources for those who are considering this career choice. State Organizations Nearly every state has a physician assistant’s society or academy, and most offer scholarships, grants and other financial assistance to student members. For example, the Pennsylvania Society of Physician Assistants provides three $2,000 scholarships annually through its Nathaniel Alston Student Achievement Scholarship Award. The California Academy of Physician Assistants also offers three separate scholarship opportunities, each valued at $2,000. Students are encouraged to contact their state organizations to see what financial aid resources may be available. Minority Organizations In addition to state societies and academies, students may find scholarship opportunities based on their ethnic heritage. The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives offers several scholarships through the Indian Health Service (IHS) division. Funding covers prerequisite courses, undergraduate courses, and graduate degree programs. Hispanic students planning to train or work in Puerto Rico may be eligible for financial assistance through one of the several scholarships provided by Physician Assistants for Latino Health. Areas of Specialization For those who are willing to give back to their country, the Navy provides full-tuition scholarships, as well as funding to cover fees, health insurance, books, equipment, and monthly living expenses, in exchange for one year of service per each year of scholarship. Army personnel (or veterans) who are pursuing a physician assistant degree may receive up to $6,000 through the Society of Army Physician Assistants. If the military is not an option, students may also find funding through an area of specialization, such as the Susan Lindahl Memorial Scholarship. This $2,500 award is specifically for students planning to practice in orthopedics. Students interested in an oncology career may be eligible for up to $2,500 through the Association of Physician Assistants in Oncology (APAO) Student Scholarship program. Students should always check with their program coordinators to see if there are any scholarships, grants, or fellowships offered. Other Opportunities The Physician Assistant Foundation partners with several businesses to provide scholarship opportunities to students. Awards range in value from $1,000 to $2,500 each and are offered to underrepresented minority students, those with financial need, rural students, and military veterans. For students who are willing to work in underserved urban and rural communities, the National Health Service Corps will provide up to four years of financial assistance. Several hospitals provide scholarships and grants to students in an effort to retain qualified employees, such as Suburban Hospital, which also provides up to $2,500 annually in tuition reimbursement. Finally… Students can find other scholarships to help cover their expenses, as well. Many businesses offer generous awards to those pursuing medical careers, such as the SolutionReach Scholarship ($2,000) and the Intel Science Talent Search Award (up to $100,000). There are also many general scholarships that can be used for any degree program. Students simply need to be proactive and apply to as many opportunities as possible.