Military Scholarships for Physician Assistant Students

I have had a few questions recently about the military scholarships for PAs. There are a couple of different programs to consider, and they vary by branch. We will talk about each option, what differentiates them, and then the generalities of what makes you competitive.

In general, these programs are smaller than the MD/DO programs, and accept far fewer applicants per year. This also makes it a lot harder to find information about the programs. I have been researching this for a while, but I don’t have any direct, personal experience with PA programs because I am not a PA (I’m an MD, for those who are new to the site). All that being said, I have tried to consolidate the information that I have gathered here.

If you are a military PA or PA student and know more about these programs than I do, PLEASE comment here or send me a message. 

For Civilian Students

Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP) – Air Force and Navy

Who is eligible? Civilian students attending a Master’s Physician Assistant program

What is it? This is a full-ride academic scholarship, plus a stipend to cover living expenses. The stipend is the same amount regardless of where you live (unlike military housing allowances, which are determined partially by where you live). It also covers books, fees, and some special equipment. You can get a one- or two-year scholarship and you have to be in a MPA program. You must have your letter of acceptance to an MPA program in order to apply. I know there are very few Bachelor’s PA programs out there anymore, but it’s worth nothing that the Air Force at least says you need to be in an MPA program. The number of slots per year varies, so it may be more competitive one year than the next.

Pros: Covers full tuition, fees, books, and a fair bit of living expenses.

Cons: Years spent in school on HPSP don’t count for pay or retirement (make less money during your payback period on active duty)

Health Services Collegiate Program (HSCP) – Navy

Who is eligible? Civilian students attending a Master’s Physician Assistant program

What is it? This program places you on active duty with full pay and allowances during your last two years of your MPA program. This includes full medical and dental.

Pros: Not only is the full pay a fair bit more than the HPSP stipend, these years also count for retirement and seniority, so you make more during your active duty service commitment than you would if you do HPSP.

Cons: Only offered by the Navy. Doesn’t pay your tuition (yes, you read that right). This makes it a good deal for people going to cheap schools, or people who have GI Bill benefits that they can use.

For Current Active Duty Personnel

Medical Service Corps In-Service Procurement Program (MSC IPP) – Navy

Who is eligible? Current active-duty enlisted in the Navy, grade E5-E9

What is it? A program that provides a transition for current active duty enlisted sailors to pursue PA training, potentially including an early release from your current enlistment contract. The information that I found was a bit vague as to whether this is anything more than a mechanism to get into the IPAP, described below.

Pros: May be able to secure an early release from your current contract to enter PA school

Cons: Limited, only open to current active duty.

Interservice Physician Assistant Program (IPAP) – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines

Who is eligible? Current active duty enlisted personnel. For the Navy, at least, you only need 60 college credits, not a bachelor’s degree, and you will receive a B.S. and M.S. as part of the program.

What is it? This is a program in which current active duty personnel can stay on active duty, with full pay and benefits, and attend PA school entirely on the government’s dime. The didactic (classroom) phase of the school is hosted in San Antonio (Fort Sam Houston), and is accredited as an extension of the University of Nebraska, so your degree will say University of Nebraska Medical Center. Clinical rotations occur at military hospitals across the United States, depending on your branch of service. This is a BIG program, with three classes per year, each with 80 students. It is an extremely rigorous program (you are be doing half of a B.S. and an entire M.S. in just two years!)

Pros: Full ride tuition, fees, living expenses, medical/dental. Stay on active duty, gaining years for pay and retirement purposes. According to the Navy, this program is ranked #11 of 148 PA schools in the country.

Cons: From everything I have heard from people in this program with whom I have worked, this program in INTENSE. It is a highly accelerated, full-throttle academic experience and is not for the faint of heart. Also, the clinical rotations may be at sites all over the country – I worked with people who had done one rotation in DC, then one in Portsmouth, then one in San Diego. This can be hard on families.

Competing for military PA school funding

Now you know what the options are, so how do you actually get one? Well, all I can tell you is what people have told me, and it’s nothing sexy: work hard, have good grades and test scores. Make sure you meet all of the eligibility criteria for the program you are applying for. It’s probably bad form to say “I want to participate in this program so I can do my minimum commitment and get out and makes lots of MONAAAY!!” in your interviews, but beyond that it’s hard to say anything concrete.

The Bottom Line

Alright, folks, that’s all I have on that. I hope this has cleared up at least some of the confusion and given you an idea what the options are. If you are interested in getting the military to pay for school, your to-do list should look something like this

  1. Do well in school
  2. Do well on your standardized tests
  3. Get in shape
  4. Stay out of the healthcare system (as a patient) as much as you can
  5. Pick a branch of service (Air Force, Army, or Navy/Marines)
  6. Call a health professions/medical recruiter for that branch of service (NOT the regular recruiter – it may take a couple of phone calls to find the right person)
  7. Do what the recruiter tells you to do


Good luck, everyone!

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