What are the Physician Assistant School Requirements?

If you’d like to become a physician assistant, you’ll need to attend an accredited physician assistant program. It will give you the knowledge and hands-on training you need to have a long and successful career.

physician assistant school requirementsWhat are the Physician Assistant School Requirements?

Bachelor’s Degree

Virtually all physician assistant programs require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree before gaining acceptance into a program. It’s recommended that the degree is in a healthcare field, but it’s not mandatory.

Prerequisite Courses

The following are common preparatory courses required by physician assistant programs:

  • Contemporary Biology or Introduction to Molecular Biology
  • Human Anatomy
  • Human Physiology
  • General Microbiology
  • General Chemistry I
  • College Reading and Composition
  • Introduction to Sociocultural Anthropology
  • Introduction to Psychology
  • Introduction to Sociology
  • Analysis of Psychological Data
  • Probability and Statistics
  • Statistics for Scientific Analysis
  • College Algebra
  • Medical Terminology
  • Genetics

Healthcare Work Experience

Usually applicants need work experience in the healthcare field before they can begin their physician assistant education. How long varies by program, but many require three years. Hands-on patient care is earned by working in positions such as lab assistant, home health aide, medical assistant, orderly, emergency medical technician, surgical technician, emergency room technician, or certified nursing assistant.

Graduate Record Examination

Due to the fact physician assistant programs award master’s degrees, applicants typically have to submit their scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). It measures writing skills along with quantitative and verbal reasoning. The test helps admissions committees determine the applicant’s ability to handle the rigorous physician assistant program, and a score of at least 290 is required.

Recommendation Letters

Admissions committees use these letters to determine your potential success in the physician assistant program. Usually two or three letters are submitted, and while it is acceptable to have former professors write them, at least one should be from the supervisors of your healthcare job so the committee can gauge your ability and how much interest you have in providing quality patient care.

Additional Requirements

There are around 200 accredited physician schools across the county, and the following are likely to be additional pre-admissions requirements:

  • Background check
  • Drug test
  • Knowledge of the physician assistant profession
  • Up-to-date immunizations
  • A basic life support certificate
  • Shadowing a physician assistant in several clinical settings
  • Maintaining health insurance and liability insurance
  • Being a United States citizen or a permanent non-resident
  • A 3.0 Grade Point Average

Physician Assistant Program Interview

Physician assistant programs have admissions committees that interview all potential students prior to acceptance. It’s a good idea to practice with a family member or friend beforehand, and questions are likely to include:

  • How do you handle conflict?
  • What was the most academically challenging college course for you?
  • How do you relieve stress?
  • Which of your college courses was most interesting to you?
  • Why do you want to be a physician assistant?
  • Can you explain the role of a physician assistant?
  • Why did you decide to become a physician assistant instead of a doctor or nurse?
  • What is the difference between a physician assistant and a physician?
  • What type of practice would you like to work for after you earn your degree and certification?
  • Why do you want to attend our physician assistant program?

Physician Assistant Program Courses

Students complete a range of courses after being accepted into a program. While they vary a little by school, required courses often include: Pathology, Emergency Medicine, Research Methods, Pediatrics, Diagnosis, Surgical Technique, and Pharmacology. After classroom work is complete, students begin clinical rotations in several disciplines such as behavioral medicine, general surgery, and obstetrics and gynecology. A total of 2,000 hours is required, and these rotations give students real-life experiences in patient care under physician supervision.

To learn about physician assistant schools, please contact us for information.

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