Physician Assistants are health care professionals licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. Common services provided by a PA include taking medical histories and performing physical examinations; ordering and interpreting lab tests; diagnosing and treating illnesses; assisting in surgery; prescribing and/or dispensing medication; and counseling patients.
Because of the close working relationship the PAs have with physicians, PAs are educated in the medical model designed to complement physician training.
Upon graduation, physician assistants take a national certification examination developed by the National Commission on Certification of PAs in conjunction with the National Board of Medical Examiners. The average PA program curriculum is 108 weeks, compared with 153 weeks for medical school. There are currently over 100 accredited programs.
Read more about LC's Master of Science in Physician Assistant (MSPA) program (planned for 2015).
Most physician assistant programs require applicants to have significant previous health care experience. The typical applicant already has a bachelor's degree and over 4 years of health care experience.
Course prerequisites differ among the PA schools, so you should check several programs and obtain the necessary courses. Admission is quite competitive, with about 8.4 applicants per seat in the first year class.
The average GPA for entrants into PA school was 3.4 and these students had an average of 4 years health care related experience.
The following are the requirements for admission into most physician assistant programs:
- Complete the following courses: CHEM 103-104, 105L-106L; BIOL 111-112, 111L-112L; PSYC 241 or 308; MATH 102; CHEM 320 or BIOL 430; BIOL 222-223; BIOL 424
- Complete 6 months of full-time clinical experience or 1000 hours of clinical experience