Physician assistants are formally trained to examine patients, diagnose injuries and illnesses, and provide treatments under the direction and supervision of physicians and surgeons. Physician assistants work in all areas of medicine. Their work depends on their specialty and the needs of the supervising physician.
There is no one particular major required for entrance into a physician assistant (PA) program. Pre-Physician’s Assistant is a career goal that includes a set of course requirements that prepare you to succeed as a physician assistant. You should choose a major you enjoy, and one in which you will excel.
- 2 semesters General Biology with labs
- 2 semesters Anatomy & Physiology with labs
- 1 semester Microbiology with lab
- 2 semesters General Chemistry with labs
- 2 semesters Organic Chemistry with labs
- 1 semester Biochemistry with labs
- 1 semester General Psychology
Other Recommended Courses
- Statistics, Communications, Medical Terminology, Nutrition
- 1-2 semesters English Composition
Generally, a grade below a C is not acceptable for prerequisite courses
Physician Assistants need a master’s degree. Most applicants to PA programs already have a bachelor’s degree and some health care-related work experience. However, admissions requirements vary from program to program.
There are approximately 160 accredited PA programs in the U.S. and typically require two years of full-time study. To become licensed, which is a requirement in all 50 states, they must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam from the National Commission of Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). Every six years they must pass a recertification exam.
Aptitude Test and Application
Pre-PA students must take the Graduate Record Exam, or GRE, usually in the spring or summer before the final year of undergraduate work. Admissions requirements vary from program to program, so you need to check with the schools to which you are applying.
Application is made through a centralized service, called CASPA (Central Application Service for Physician Assistants). There are 158 PA programs that participate in CASPA.
Links and additional PA Information
- American Academy of Physician Assistants
- Physician Assistant Education Association
- CASPA (online application)