Physician assistants work in all areas of medicine and are trained to examine patients, diagnose injuries and illnesses, and provide treatments under the direction and supervision of physicians. They work in numerous specialty areas and their assist with meeting the needs of patients and supervising physicians.
No one particular major is required for entrance into a physician assistant (PA) program. Pre-Physician 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
- Some schools may require physics, biomedical ethics, or additional biology
Generally, a grade below a C is not acceptable for prerequisite courses
Becoming a PA
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.
To become licensed, which is a requirement in all 50 states, a PA 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 considerably from program to program, so you need to check with the schools to which you are applying. Not only do course requirements vary, but schools can have very different requirements for the number of hands-on patient care experience hours they require. These hours take advance planning as they may require additional training and considerable time to complete.
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)