Dilemma: Reapply to PA school or apply to Med School?

Thanks in advance for taking the time to consider the details of my situation. I’ve sought feedback elsewhere, but the community here seems to me to be overall better equipped to speak into this predicament.

For the last 3 years I have worked diligently to prepare myself to be competitive for medical schools admissions. I have worked in a significant healthcare leadership capacity, I took the pre-reqs and did relatively well (not outstanding), took additional upper-division science courses, participated in research labs, and led my own research study that won local awards and was presented at a professional regional conference.

Then I had a heart-to-heart with a physician friend who encouraged me to apply to PA school instead of medical school. He is personally burned out, and warned me about the long and intensive training, the high financial investment, and all of the uncertainties facing the future of the medical profession. He said that if I really wanted to be a medical provider, training as a PA, in our current healthcare climate, was the more rational pursuit.

I listened. I abandoned my plan to apply to medical school and, instead, applied this cycle for PA school. Well I was rejected from everywhere I applied. Much of the rationale given–which I appreciated as far as honesty and directness–was that PA programs don’t really care about my past experiences, or the things I’ve focused my attention on, the last several years. PA schools (at least where I applied) do not care for research experience and achievements, they don’t really value leadership roles in healthcare settings, they don’t want to see letters of recommendation from science professors. Basically, my failure to get accepted was in my failure to have those qualities PA schools value, such as thousands of hours of hands-on, certified and paid, healthcare experience, LOR’s from clinicians that have worked in medical settings with me, and near perfect grades on a very narrow set of science pre-reqs.

My dilemma now is whether I should reapply to PA school after working to improve what I lacked this cycle and hopefully get accepted this next round, or if I should go back to my original plan and apply to medical schools. Because of my healthcare background, I have many close friends who are medical students, residents, or attending physicians. I also have relationships with faculty and administration at the local medical school. The overwhelming and consistent narrative from these connections has been that I would likely have no trouble getting accepted, at the very least, at the local medical school.

Personal details and considerations that have me on the fence:

  1. I am 31-years old. I have a wife, toddler, and a new baby due in March. PA school was the expeditious, rational choice for me, which is why I made it. I liked the thought of a master’s in medicine, low debt, and getting into the field in short order, with a respectable amount of autonomy.

  2. My spouse is a physician. She preferred PA school for me over medical school for the above reasons. Plus, she said she went through medical school and residency already, and wasn’t excited about “going through it again,” though she was ultimately supportive.

  3. Reapplying to PA school (even if I had to do it two more times) would put me ahead of where I would be if I pursued medical school.

  4. I am going to have an MPH before I matriculate at either. Not sure what this means practically, but it’s a fact I’m wanting to inform my decision. In which field does the MPH better supplement?

    tl;dr–planned on applying to med school, but applied to PA school instead. I was rejected. I’m wondering now, based upon the details shared above, if I should reapply to PA school or go back to my original plan and apply to med school.

You’ve been working on getting into medical school. If that’s what you really want to do (and it sounds like it), then go for it. There will always be naysayers and those that don’t enjoy what they do.

I’ve considered both myself and have decided to pursue medical school. Here’s one part that I don’t quite get.

  • spigmo Said:
3. Reapplying to PA school (even if I had to do it two more times) would put me ahead of where I would be if I pursued medical school.

I don't see it like this. For me, if I were to transition to pursuing PA school, I may have to go back and take a few more classes (as PA schools have different prereqs than med school does), which could take 6 months or more. I'd also have to go and get 500-1000 hours of direct patient contact experience, which would take a year or so. Combine that with a PA application cycle and 28 months of PA school, and you're looking at least a good 4 years to get ready, accepted and complete your training.

Whereas, you're basically ready to apply to med school right now. At this point you'd have another year or so to move through the application cycle, but you'd have similar timing with PA. But the bottom line is this - the timelines aren't that different. Even though you do have residency training with the MD path, after your 4 years in med school, you're essentially working as a doctor in your chosen field and getting paid to do so.

That's my perspective anyway. Hope that helps.

I agree with Bennerd . Sounds like you are basically ready to apply to medical school. As you found, this is not interchangeable with PA school application. As an intern, my salary is basically 50,000. Having said that, my debt is unbelievable. So if you go the medical school route, I’d suggest focusing on instate schools.

Best of luck and welcome!


I am a PA and I have also just recently been accepted to medical school. Many people think I am down right crazy for leaving the PA profession to go to medical school. However, if you want to be a doctor go to medical school. I do not regret becoming a PA as I gained invaluable insight into patient care and have had amazing experiences, but my heart was always in becoming a doctor. If you want to be a doctor apply to medical school. Do not apply to PA school thinking the autonomy you get as a PA will satisfy your desire to be a leader. Very very few PAs get full autonomy in their practice after many years.

It’s ultimately up to your and your family but my advice is go with what you really want. Don’t use PA school as a fall back plan. Also, if physicians are so worried about reimbursement with the current healthcare climate and more PA programs keep opening, what do you think will happen to PA salaries?

Feel free to PM me if you have any other questiosn.