Pre-Health Physician Assistant Advising
Bring additional support and expertise to patients
Physician assistants (PAs) practice medicine under the supervision of physicians and surgeons. PAs are formally trained to provide diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive health care services, as delegated by a physician. Working as members of the health care team, they take medical histories, examine and treat patients, order and interpret laboratory tests and x rays, and make diagnoses. They also treat minor injuries, by suturing, splinting, and casting. PAs record progress notes, instruct and counsel patients, and order or carry out therapy.
While PAs work under the supervision of a physician, they may be the principal care providers in rural or inner city clinics where a physician is present for only one or two days each week. In such cases, the PA confers with the supervising physician and other medical professionals as needed and as required by law. PAs also may make house calls or go to hospitals and nursing care facilities to check on patients, after which they report back to the physician.
- Timeline - Students should refer to Alfred University's Pre-Health Timeline and Checklist (below) to assist them in career planning.
- Course Work - Required college-level courses are determined by individual programs and often include basic sciences, math, English/writing, some specialized science courses, such as anatomy/physiology, microbiology, physics, computer science, and medical terminology. Students should complete the Physician Assistant Worksheet to assist them in developing their program of study.
- Entrance Exams - Many PA programs require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).
- Most programs require significant health care experience prior to admission.
Applications are made online through the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA).
Pick something that you know excites you, that may apply to medicine, and that you believe you can do well in. Why? Because PA schools look for the following things when they decide who to interview (and admit): good grades, an interest in medicine, and a well-rounded person.
The minimum course requirements for most U.S. Physician Assistant Programs are listed below with their AU equivalent courses. You should check the websites of specific schools you plan to apply to for more information.
|Math||Any MATH (not statistics)|
|Physics I||PHYS 111 or 125|
|Physics II||PHYS 112 or 126|
|General Chemistry I||CHEM 105|
|General Chemistry II||CHEM 106|
|Biological Foundations (requirement for Biology sequence)||BIOL 150|
|Cell Biology||BIOL 211|
|Structure and Function||BIOL 213|
|Anatomy & Physiology I||BIOL 307|
|Anatomy & Physiology II||BIOL 308|
Additional Required or Relevant Coursework
For additional requirements, consult the website of specific schools and programs; suggested classes include medical terminology, cognitive development, biochemistry, and statistics. Also consult PA Focus for more information.
PA programs require prior healthcare experience with hands-on patient care. You can get healthcare experience by being a medical assistant, emergency medical technician (EMT), paramedic, peace corps volunteer, and more. You must submit a Physician Assistant shadowing form including at least 30 hours of documented paid or volunteer work.
Entrance Exam (GRE)
The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is required by most physician assistant schools. The test should be taken at least 6 weeks before the application deadline.
You should consider applying to several programs. Each program has a limited number of seats available, and selection criteria and patterns may vary from year to year according to the individual program’s philosophy.
The Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) offers the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) as a convenient, online application service that allows you to apply to any number of participating PA educational programs by completing a single application. Applications may be submitted until March of the year you want to begin a program. However, each PA program has different deadline requirements. Please contact the schools to which you are applying to determine its start date and ensure you are filling out the correct application.
Doctor vs. Physician Assistant
PAs work together with doctors as part of an integrated medical team. PAs have their own patients, and, under a written agreement with a licensed physician, make clinical decisions and provide a broad range of diagnostic, therapeutic, preventive, and health maintenance services. PAs cannot perform surgery.