Physician's Assistant Programs

PA programs usually last at least 2 years and are full time. Most programs are in schools of allied health, academic health centers, medical schools, or 4-year colleges; a few are in community colleges, the military, or hospitals. Many accredited PA programs have clinical teaching affiliations with medical schools. In the US more than 135 education programs for physician assistants were accredited or provisionally accredited by the American Academy of Physician Assistants. More than 90 of these programs offered the option of a master’s degree, and the rest offered either a bachelor’s degree or an associate degree. Most applicants to PA educational programs already have a bachelor’s degree. Admission requirements vary, but many programs require 2 years of college and some work experience in the health care field. Students should take courses in biology, English, chemistry, mathematics, psychology, and the social sciences. Many PAs have prior experience as registered nurses, while others come from varied backgrounds, including military corpsman/medics and allied health occupations such as respiratory therapists, physical therapists, and emergency medical technicians and paramedics. Most schools require some experience – EMT training is appropriate for most schools and is most easily accessible for SLU students during the regular semester. Some schools require chemistry courses through organic chemistry others only a semester organic. Some require physiology, anatomy and a few require genetics or microbiology. GPA requirements are in the 3.00 range. Because the requirements are so variable, you should check with the schools in which you are interested and to plan your academic programs accordingly. In general GPA requirements are in the 3.00+ range. To keep all options open, it is reasonable for first and second year students to follow the “pre-med” track – but only after reviewing requirements for individual schools. A few PA programs even require the MCAT (others the GRE). PA education includes classroom instruction in biochemistry, pathology, human anatomy, physiology, microbiology, clinical pharmacology, clinical medicine, geriatric and home health care, disease prevention, and medical ethics. Students obtain supervised clinical training in several areas, including family medicine, internal medicine, surgery, prenatal care and gynecology, geriatrics, emergency medicine, psychiatry, and pediatrics. Sometimes, PA students serve one or more of these “rotations” under the supervision of a physician who is seeking to hire a PA. The rotations often lead to permanent employment. Much of the above information is from a US Dept of Labor publication.