How Many Shadowing Hours for PA School? (FAQs)

Shadowing Hours for PA School: You’ve decided to become a PA, which is a fantastic career decision. A career as a physician assistant is extremely rewarding, worthwhile, and beneficial to one’s overall life.

A few challenges must be conquered before you can make your goal of being a physician assistant a reality.

This is because shadowing a PA is one of the most important parts of your application to PA school. It will give your application more weight and give you more experience and knowledge in your chosen PA program or PA career.

Who is a Physician Assistant (PA)?

Physician Assistants are qualified medical professionals who have completed an advanced degree and can provide direct patient care to patients.

These doctors handle patients of all ages in various specialties and primary care areas, diagnosing and treating various ailments and performing minor operations.

Is PA School worth it?

A meaningful career as a patient advocate can begin with training to become a physician assistant (PA). To become a physician assistant, you must first earn a master’s degree in the field.

Paying for PA school and becoming a physician assistant can be done in various ways. You can pay for your education and living expenses with federal and private student loans. Options exist to pay for PA school without relying on student debt. 

What is PA Shadowing?

A PA shadowing opportunity is an opportunity to observe a Physician Assistant in action in a clinical setting.

It’s a great way to learn more about the PA profession and discover if it suits you.

Actually, shadowing is just a fancy word for hanging around with someone and observing them at work.

It’s essentially a “hands-off” experience of what the work is like.

Additionally, there is usually an opportunity to ask questions at various times throughout the day, such as between patient visits or lunch breaks.

Why is it Necessary for Physician Assistants to undergo Shadowing? 

Students can figure out what they want to study or do for a career by shadowing.

PA shadowing is an important step that all students who want to become physician assistants in the future should take to ensure that this is the right career for them.

The ideal pre-PA student will find that shadowing a PA before starting school is the best way to solidify their conviction that this is the fulfilling line of work they want to pursue.

Shadowing is the best way for someone to discover the truth about whether or not they are prepared to be a physician assistant.

You should shadow a physician assistant for at least two to three days, even if doing so is not a prerequisite for your enrolled school.

If you are already enrolled in PA school but have not participated in PA shadowing, you may be required to complete this process to fulfill the requirements for graduation.

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How Does Shadowing Experience Work?

To fulfill the requirements for PA shadowing, you will need to follow a PA around during their workday and observe what they do as part of their obligations.

The initial step is to look for a PA to observe. This can be difficult, especially considering their calendars are already full.

You may need to send emails, make phone calls, or even visit PAs in their clinics to ask them if you could shadow them.

You can also research possible internships or shadowing experiences by going to medical facilities, local hospitals, and clinics and doing so.

PA students can become members, which will help you build a network with others who want to go into the same field.

There are a few different tools that you can make use of, to locate and gain access to other PAs who are willing to participate in shadowing sessions with you. Spend some time investigating the following:

  • The Online Version of PA Shadow:

You can make a profile, search for “PAs Near Me to Shadow” and contact them directly to discuss shadowing opportunities.

  • The Forum for Physician Assistants

There is a part of this that is devoted to looking for shadowing opportunities.

What is PA School Shadowing Hours?

PA school shadowing hours are the hours a person spends observing a Physician Assistant at work before applying to PA school. It’s like watching and learning from them to understand the job better.

Some PA schools require these hours as part of the admission process to ensure applicants know what the profession entails.

PA school shadowing hours offer potential PA students a firsthand look at a Physician Assistant’s daily tasks and responsibilities.

By spending time with a practicing PA, students gain insights into patient care, medical procedures, and the collaborative nature of the PA’s role within the healthcare team.

These hours provide a deeper understanding of the profession and demonstrate a student’s commitment to the field.

Many PA schools see shadowing as an essential experience because it ensures that applicants have a realistic understanding of the job and are truly passionate about pursuing it.

It’s a way for students to confirm their interest in the profession and for schools to gauge the dedication of their applicants.

So, if you’re considering PA school, it’s a good idea to get some shadowing hours under your belt.

How Many Shadowing Hours for PA School?

The number of shadowing hours required for PA school varies by institution. Some PA schools may not have a specific hour requirement, while others might ask for 20, 50, or even up to 200 hours. Here’s a breakdown:

  • No Requirement: Some PA schools don’t specify a minimum number of shadowing hours but appreciate applicants with shadowing experience.
  • Minimal Requirement (20-50 hours): Some schools want to ensure you’ve had a brief exposure to the profession and set a minimum requirement in this range.
  • Higher Requirement (100-200 hours): Schools with a higher requirement believe a more prolonged exposure to the profession is necessary for prospective students to understand the role fully.

You must check the specific requirements of each PA program you’re interested in. Even if a program doesn’t require shadowing hours, having them can strengthen your application.

Shadowing demonstrates your commitment and understanding of the PA role. If you’re aiming for competitive programs, it’s a good idea to accumulate more hours to enhance your application.

How many volunteer hours for PA school?

The number of volunteer hours required for PA school can vary significantly between programs.

However, many PA programs highly recommend gaining volunteer experience if not required. Here’s a general breakdown:

  • No Specified Requirement: Many PA schools don’t have a strict number of volunteer hours that they require. However, they often look favorably upon applicants who have demonstrated a commitment to healthcare and community service.
  • Minimal Requirement (20-50 hours): Some programs may have a minimal requirement to ensure that you’ve had some exposure to healthcare or service settings.
  • Recommended (200-1,000 hours): While they might not set a strict requirement, many competitive PA programs suggest or prefer applicants with extensive healthcare exposure, which can be achieved through volunteer work.
  • Patient Care Experience: In addition to or instead of volunteer hours, many PA schools require or recommend a certain number of direct patient care hours. Depending on the program, this can range widely from 200 to 3,000+ hours.

You must check the specific requirements or recommendations of each PA program you’re interested in. Beyond just meeting requirements, volunteering can provide valuable experience, demonstrate your dedication to service, and show your commitment to the healthcare field.

As with any aspect of a PA school application, quality is as crucial as quantity. Schools appreciate meaningful, long-term volunteer experiences where you’ve made a genuine impact or connection.

Does Virtual Shadowing count for PA school?

Whether virtual shadowing counts for PA schools depends on the school’s policy.

Some PA schools may accept virtual shadowing, especially since in-person opportunities have become limited due to situations.

However, others might prefer traditional, in-person shadowing. It’s always a good idea to check with the PA programs you’re interested in to see their stance on virtual shadowing.

PA Schools That Require Shadowing Experience In The United States:

1. Kettering College:

Shadowing experience is required in almost all cases. Working directly with patients is a must or a strong plus; you should have at least 250 hours of shadowing experience.

2. Harding University:

For Harding University, it is necessary to shadow a PA for a total of ten hours. This condition is not met by virtual shadowing.

CASPA applications should include a section for shadowing other healthcare professionals (e.g., nurse practitioners, physicians, etc)

Examples of shadowing working experience with patients include working as a medical assistant, RN/LPN/CNA, physical therapy aid, health care-related technologist, pharmacy technician, or participating in clinical research with patients.

3. Eastern Virginia Medical School:

Experience in PA shadowing is not considered a prerequisite in this institution. Experience working directly with patients is preferred but not required.

4. Des Moines University:

As an applicant, you must have at least 750 hours of experience working or volunteering in a medical office, hospital, or long-term care institution providing direct patient care.

It is necessary to observe a medical assistant in action. Mixing and matching your clinical experiences is okay, but they all need to include time spent directly caring for patients.

Combat medic, field medical tech, and similar positions requiring extensive patient care knowledge are in high demand.

Before completing your patient care experience hours, you may apply to the PA program; however, you must state on your application that you intend to do so when you do.

Kindly be informed that for consideration, completing PA shadowing hours before applying is often expected.

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5. James Madison University:

Experience in shadowing is not a prerequisite here. Shadowing hours for PA school with a patient requires at least 1000 hours of experience (volunteer or paid work).

All jobs that require direct interaction with patients include emergency medical technician (EMT), patient care technician, certified nursing assistant (CNA), phlebotomist, and certified athletic trainer (ATC).

6. East Carolina University:

It is recommended that you have shadowing experience. Experience working directly with patients Is required, with a minimum of one thousand hours obtained through paid, volunteer, or shadowing opportunities.

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7. Indiana University School of Health and Rehabilitation:

Shadowing a normal family physician at Indiana University School of Health and Rehabilitation will expose you to various circumstances.

Finally, it can be gratifying to shadow physicians in a range of specialties and work environments to obtain greater exposure to the medical field.

Moreover, applicants must have at least ten hours of experience shadowing a physician assistant.

Patient contact experience is required and can be either paid or unpaid. However, there is no minimum number of hours.

8. Drexel University:

Physician assistants trained by Drexel University’s physician assistant program will have a strong foundation in the profession’s core values: respect for people of all backgrounds, collaboration, patient advocacy, and giving back to the local community.

Shadowing experience is required in almost all cases. Patient contact experience is required, with a minimum of 500 hours required for applicants who already have or are working toward a degree and a minimum of 1,000 hours required for applicants who do not have a degree. Moreover, volunteering or working for free might both count as experience.

Frequently Asked Questions on Shadowing Hours for PA School:

How many hours is good for shadowing?

Aim for between 100 and 120 hours if you have a specific number. So, if you’re willing to spend a total of 10 days shadowing 10 different doctors, you’ll easily meet your goal.

How many PAs should I shadow?

The minimum number of hours required for PA shadowing varies from school to school. Only 10 hours of shadowing is required for some PA programs, but 24 to 40 hours or more is common. Additionally, certain institutions require students to shadow at least two to three PAs in various situations.

Does online shadowing count?

Students will benefit from a high-quality, on-site shadowing experience with Virtual Shadowing. Clinical shadowing hours and other important activities can be counted toward medical school applications.

How do you ask to shadow someone?

Emailing the company’s secretary or directly asking the individual you want to shadow for an interview is ideal for requesting an internship (if you can find their email). Introduce yourself and explain why you are emailing them.


You should take advantage of the opportunity afforded to you by your shadowing experience to take in as much information as possible.

Therefore, train your mind to focus on gaining knowledge and becoming better. If you are given the opportunity, offer assistance with non-clinical responsibilities or inquire about how you might support your PA mentor.

Awesome one; I hope this article answers your question.

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ST Admin
ST Admin

Hello, I am ST Admin! For five years, I began actively assisting students in Europe, the United States, and Canada in their pursuit of college advice and scholarship prospects. I am the Administrator of at present.

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