Pre-Physician Assistant

Prerequisite Courses

PrerequisitesMason Courses
Cell Biology with lab, 1 semesterBIOL 213
Anatomy and Physiology with lab, 2 semestersBIOL 124 and 125 or BIOL 430 and 431
Microbiology, 1 semester BIOL 305 and 306
General Chemistry with lab, 2 semestersCHEM 211 and 213
CHEM 212 and 214
Organic Chemistry with lab, 2 semesters
(Recommended – can vary by school)
CHEM 313 and 315
CHEM 314 and 318
Biochemistry, 1 semester BIOL 483 or CHEM 463
(Same course taught through different departments)
English, 2 semesters*ENGH 101
ENGH 302
*Honors College students fulfill this through the Honors Curriculum
Psychology, 2 semestersPSYC 100/Basic Concepts in Psychology
PSYC 211/Developmental Psychology
PSYC 325/Abnormal Psychology
Statistics, 1 semesterBIOL 214/Biostatistics
STAT 250/Statistics

Calculus, 1 semester
(Recommended – can vary by school)
MATH 113
Medical Terminology, 1 semesterHAP 202 or ATEP 201
(Same course taught through different departments)

Many PA programs also require prior healthcare experience with hands-on patient care. Other schools do not require the experience, but highly recommend it.  According to AAPA, “Most students have a bachelor’s degree and about three years of health care experience before entering a PA program.”

The following is a list of the types of direct patient care experiences that have been found to be acceptable to meet minimum healthcare experience requirements: nurse, EMT or paramedic, corpsman, patient care technician, nurse’s aide, surgical assistant, clinic/medical assistant, respiratory technologist, radiology technologist, medical technologist, and phlebotomist. This list, however, is not exhaustive and students should review each school’s requirements to find out what kind of experience is acceptable.

Physician Assistant

Physician Assistants (PAs) provide healthcare services under the supervision of physicians. They work in doctor’s offices, hospitals, clinics, HMO’s, and the armed forces. Physician assistants are educated as generalists in medicine and their education and credentialing are based on a primary care foundation. However, many PAs work in specialty fields, such as cardiovascular surgery, orthopedics, and emergency medicine. The largest proportion opts for the primary care specialty areas of family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology. Some of the functions performed by a PA are:

Taking medical histories
Performing medical exams
Ordering lab tests
Diagnosing illnesses
Counseling patients
Assisting in surgery
Prescribing medication (in many states)

For further information on a career as a physician assistant, visit Explore Health Careers.

Employment Outlook and Earnings

The current Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook for Physician Assistants can be found online.

Physician Assistant Graduate Programs

The typical Physician Assistant Masters Degree takes 27 to 30 months to complete. The majority of students have a BA/BS degree and health care experience prior to admission to a PA program. More information about Physician Assistant Graduate Programs can be found in the Physician Assistant Education Association Directory.

Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA)

Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) is a centralized service which allows applicants to use a single application process to apply to multiple PA programs. Not all schools participate in CASPA. It is the responsibility of the applicant to learn which schools participate and send individual applications to those schools that do not participate.

Standardized Tests

Many physician assistant programs require that applicants take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), a standardized test used to gauge a student’s ability to perform in a graduate program. The GRE is given year-round at computer-based test centers in the U.S., Canada, and many other countries.

Accredited Physician Assistant Programs in the Region

Eastern Virginia Medical School
James Madison University
Jefferson College of Health Sciences
Shenandoah University
George Washington University