Most schools require the following courses as part of the undergraduate preparation. It is recommended that you select 4 -5 top schools of interest and identify each of their specific prerequisite requirements. In addition to coursework, some schools require a specific number of patient contact or healthcare experience hours.
|Requirements||Some Schools Require|
*Biochemistry has a pre-requisite of CH 222/224 Organic Chemistry II & Lab
Timeline for Applications
Patient Care Experience & Health Care Experience
Physician assistant programs require direct hands-on patient care experiences. Additional health care experiences in the form of shadowing or indirect patient care is also recommended. PA schools vary in the minimum number of patient care hours and some schools will not accept volunteer hours, but rather require a log if paid clinical hours. Often a letter of recommendation specifically from a PA is required for your application. Students should work with their pre-health advisor to come up with a plan for meeting the minimum hour requirements for the schools of interest. Students can achieve patient care experience in many ways; the following are the most common examples:
- Military medic or corpsman
- Back Office Medical Assistant (MA)
- Certified Nurses’ Aide (CNA)
- Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
- Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN/LVN)
- Radiological Technician
- Respiratory Therapist
- Physical Therapy Aide
Graduate Records Examination (GRE)
Students who wish to pursue a physician assistant programs may be required to take the GRE standardized exam which measures general academic ability featuring question types that closely reflect the kind of thinking you'll do in graduate school. Many physician assistant programs do not require students to take the GRE. Students must research their programs of interest to determine if the GRE is necessary for their application.
- When and where do I take the exam?
The test is administered throughout the country by Prometric Testing Center. The test is offered all year round via a computerized delivery. There are several tests dates offered each calendar month.
- How do I prepare for the exam?
There is no magic way that works for all students. Some students choose to enroll in a course like Kaplan, but this can be costly. Other students chose to buy the preparation books and work on their own. You need to ask yourself what type of learner you are and what approach you are dedicated to.
- How long does it take to get my score back?
Unofficial tests scores are viewable the day of the test. Official transcripts of your GRE scores about 10–15 days after your test date, your official scores will be available in your ETS Account. Official GRE Scores are submitted electronically to the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) directly from ETS using a special CASPA GRE code that is different for each program and different from the school's regular GRE code.
- Am I competitive?
To be accepted into a physician assistant program, you need a complete package. You must have the grades and GPA, a good GRE score (if applicable), good letters of recommendation, clinical/shadowing experiences and a good personal statement.
Average GRE Scores for Physician Assistant Programs
The Physician Assistant Education Association provides a breakdown of Physician Assistant applicant statistics including average GRE scores. GRE scores are self-reported and are not applicable for many physician assistant programs that do not require GRE scores for admission.
The American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) notes that “Each year, a substantial number of applicants express regret that they felt rushed and lost critical time working on their statement; when they realize how much time it involves, it’s often too late.”
Writing a personal statement on why you want to be a physician assistant may sound like a simple task, but in reality, to do this and do it well takes time, multiple drafts and revisions in coordination with your pre-health advisor. Students often underestimate the time involved or the importance of having a good personal statement. The personal statement is an area of your application that is not black and white, it is not a GPA or the tally of patient care hours. It is where you can reflect on your decision to become a physician assistant, what lead you down this path and reflect on your research and clinical experiences.
However, because of the importance of the personal statement, we have incorporated writing personal statements into course content in BI 191, Advanced Seminar in the Health Professions. We highly recommend students enroll in the course as we cover personal statement mechanics, content, do’s and don’ts and perform critiques and draft revisions over several weeks.
Many students fear the gap year or see this as “wasted time” and incorrectly think that taking a gap year would have a negative impact of their application. However, it is quite the opposite and most students take a gap year after college. To check off all the boxes needed for physician assistant programs (good GPA and a log of paid clinical experiences) within three years of college is difficult. If you are hoping to start a physician assistant program beginning the fall after you graduate college, you must have all your pre-requisite courses, have taken GRE (if applicable), at least started your patient care experience and complete the application between April 27 of your junior year when the cycle opens through August (most recommended) or during the fall of your senior year (possible but not recommended). Thus, some students focus on getting good grades, study abroad experiences, research and starting clinical experiences during college and use the gap year to finish their clinical hours (many PA programs require 1,000 hours or more!!). Having a gap year while doing something meaningful makes you a stronger, more competitive candidate. The average age of students matriculating into physician assistant programs is 25-27 demonstrating a national trend of students applying after graduation. Admissions committees look for more mature candidates with real world experiences. Thus, a gap year is often to your benefit.