Physician Assistant

A physician assistant (PA) is a medical professional who works as part of a team with a doctor. PA duties include diagnosing and treating illness, performing physical exams and procedures, assisting in surgery, prescribing medications, and providing patient counseling and education. PAs are trained and educated similarly to physicians, and therefore share similar diagnostic and therapeutic reasoning. Physician-PA practice can be described as delegated autonomy. PAs use autonomous decision-making for patient care, under the purview of a physician. (Learn more from PA Focus).

Prerequisites: Check individual schools as requirements vary.

Often include:

  • General Chemistry with lab (2 semesters)
  • Introductory Biology with lab (2 semesters)
  • Required hours of direct patient care

Sometimes include:

  • Anatomy & Physiology, Microbiology, Organic Chemistry, Physics, Biochemistry
  • Math (calculus and/or statistics)
  • English

Application logistics:

  • Apply in the spring/early summer, about 16 months before intended entry.
  • The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is required by some programs. The GRE comprises three sections: Reading Comprehension; Quantitative Reasoning; and Analytical Writing. Some will accept the MCAT.
  • Apply through the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA). Application opens in April.
  • Schools do not require a committee letter of recommendation. Program requirements vary, but expect to have at least three letters of recommendation. HPA can store copies of letters of recommendation, but recommenders will ultimately send references electronically through CASPA.

Find a program: Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) Program Directory

For more information:

HPA Career of the Month (pdf, February 2017)
PA Focus – a site created for pre-PA students and PA applicants