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Physician Assistant

Pre-Health Advising helps students and recent alumni at any stage of their preparation for PA school and with the application process.

What Is a Physician Assistant?

Physician assistants or PAs provide healthcare services under the supervision of physicians; they are trained to provide an array of diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, and can take medical histories, examine and treat patients, order lab tests and X-rays, and can prescribe medicine in all 50 states and DC. Though PAs work under the supervision of a physician, in some areas–such as rural or urban clinics–they may be the principal healthcare provider in the community. PA programs offer a master’s-level degree and take 26.5 months to complete.

Pre-Admission Clinical Experience

A critical component of a competitive PA school applicant is prior clinical experience in the health care field, which includes direct patient care. This is highly recommended, and even required by some schools–with the minimum expected experience ranging from the hundreds to thousands of hours. In order to be competitive, an applicant should have a minimum of six months full-time healthcare employment or 1,000 hours of hands-on patient care experience.


Programs offering master’s degrees require appropriate undergraduate credits with a minimum GPA and virtually all require previous patient care experience. Suggested courses prior to applying to PA programs include:

  • Anatomy
  • Biological Sciences
  • Chemistry
  • College Math
  • Computer Sciences
  • English
  • Humanities/Psychology
  • Medical Terminology
  • Nutrition
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Physiology
  • Social Science
  • Statistics

Each program will have its own set of academic requirements. Details are available on program websites and on the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) directory of program.