Planning Your Path to PA School with Guidance

Students entering the medical field are often faced with numerous unknowns. Which school should I apply to? What physician assistant pre-requisite classes should I be taking? What does a pre-physician assistant do? With these in mind, it should be evident that in order to succeed in your PA endeavors, planning and preparing ahead of time is paramount. 

How to Become a Physician Assistant Image

First, understanding the responsibilities of a PA will help you understand how to become a Physician Assistant. PA’s responsibilities can vary depending on which state you plan to practice but generally, taking medication histories, conducting physical exams, diagnosing/treating illnesses, prescribing medications, performing procedures, and even conducting research are all potential aspects of your responsibilities. PA’s operate under a physician to help to provide comprehensive care to the patient population. PA programs are designed to emphasize that they act as generalists giving them the advantage of being able to cater to a wide spectrum of patients and consider the patient as a whole instead of narrowing their focus. 

Given that you require such a broad understanding of different disease states, how they might correlate with each other and how to best optimize your patient’s care, it is not surprising that you will need extensive education. PA schools will require the completion of a bachelor’s degree In general, physician assistant prereqs include chemistry, anatomy, physiology, biology, and microbiology. It is important to evaluate which PA program you are striving for as different programs may have different requirements. Some colleges that offer pre-physician assistant programs will provide you with a set of requirements and an associated bachelor’s degree. However, if you are not provided with such an option, you will be responsible for modifying your path through your undergraduate program to cater to your graduate school goals. 

Many students struggle with planning their path to PA school and beyond. Fortunately, there are professional mentors available to help you through the difficult process. Advanced eClinical Training offers a step-by-step guidance program that will help you tailor your strategy to becoming a strong applicant. Even before getting into PA school, you must display rigorous discipline for your coursework, volunteer work, and clinical experience. 

Learn about Advanced eClinical Training’s Pre-Physician Assistant Mentorship Program (PAMP):

For your coursework, strive to maintain almost all A’s in all the prereq-specific courses with a few B’s. If you earn a C in these courses, it is highly recommended that you retake that course as earning a higher grade the following time shows dedication and that you are able to develop the skills necessary for PA school. For volunteer work, it is always a good idea to give back to your community, applicants with significant amounts of volunteer work help relay to schools that you have unique skills and are a well-rounded individual. Clinical experience is very imperative for those seeking to enter PA school, some schools even have clinical experience requirements. Getting certified as a medical assistant, ER/surgical technician, or patient care technician can help you gain this experience without requiring extensive prior training. 

Learn about Advanced eClinical Training’s Online, Self-paced, Allied Health Certification Courses for Pre-Health Students:

Your future as a physician assistant is vital to the medical field. The bureau of labor statistics projects that by 2029 there will be a 31% increase in jobs and need for physician assistants. You can expect that PA school will be competitive in that this is the projected outlook, so do yourself a favor and invest heavily in your journey to become a PA. 

Physician Assistant Studies – Union College

image credit: https://ucollege.edu/pa

Pre Physician Assistant Programs

Finding colleges that offer pre-physician assistant programs can be highly beneficial. These programs will ensure that you take all the necessary coursework to meet the prereq requirements for a large proportion of PA schools. Despite having these opportunities to help refine your path to becoming a Physician Assistant, you should also explore additional methods to enhance your PA school application as it can be never competitive to get into these schools. If you are having trouble finding ways to do this, seeking mentorship is a great method. Advanced eClinical Training offers a pre-physician assistant mentorship program that will give you all the information necessary to complete your journey. 

Prereqs to become a physician assistant 

To qualify for PA school, you will need a bachelor’s degree with an emphasis on some select classes. Prereqs to become a physician assistant include chemistry, anatomy, physiology, biology, and microbiology. It is important to note that you may need additional courses depending on which PA school program you are interested in so be aware of any of the non-traditional courses needed. It may also be helpful to individually seek out additional courses that improve your medical knowledge like pharmacology and pathophysiology of human disease if they are available. 

What is a pre-physician assistant? 

You may have heard the term pre physician assistant before, but may be wondering, what is a pre physician assistant. A pre physician assistant is a student whose declared major for an undergraduate program is pre physician assistant, similar to students aspiring for medical school are called pre-med. These students strive to complete all the required pre reqs for PA school at high performing levels. 

Working as a CNA pre-physician assistant

When preparing to enter a PA school you may find some schools requires or at the very least highly recommend the significant clinical experience. Working as a CNA pre-physician assistant can be very beneficial to your career. Holding this position requires a certification and allows you to be heavily involved in patient care. This also will provide you with a unique perspective as the CNA role will differ from your future role as a PA. 

Colleges with pre-physician assistant programs 

A fair number of colleges with medical backgrounds will offer a pre-physician assistant major. There are also a fair number, 42, colleges with pre-physician assistant programs that continue on to your Master of Science (MS) complete degree. This means these programs are normally accelerated as you complete your BS and MS through the same program which is normally 3 years for the BS and 2 for the MS. These programs are highly competitive and are entered usually by students out of high school. 

Online Pre physician assistant programs

Given the gravity of the past few years, online schooling has become increasingly more common out of necessity. As a result, many professional programs that may not have considered online programs as relevant, are now stating that they are considered in applications. This is essential as many students have not been able to attend normal classes due to imposed restrictions. Students who have completed pre physician assistant online programs should not be significantly concerned with it affecting their applications. Many professional schools are even moving to more of an online platform to support potential restrictions and as a way from students limited by travel to have the same opportunities. 

Best Major for pre physician assistant 

The best major for pre physician assistant varies greatly one which institution you are studying at as this can change what is available to you. Overall majors in biology, chemistry, biochemistry, or related health sciences are all good options as majors for students aspiring to enter a PA professional school. The main contributor is that you have completed the appropriate pre reqs at a competitive level and have had adequate clinical experience prior to entering the PA program. 

Accelerated pre-physician assistant programs 

If you are looking to complete your MS in Physician Assistant studies in less than the normal amount of time, there are a number of programs that are available to you. Currently, there are 42 BS/MS physician assistant programs in the US. These programs typically offer a five-year total (3+2) time to finish your schooling. Through the program, you will typically earn a biology or health sciences BS and then continue on to your MS in Physician assistant studies. Most traditional programs will require a BS (4 years) and then a ~26-month MS program. To complete these accelerated programs, you will likely not be allowed to work as they will take up most of your time as they are very competitive. 

Is there a pre-professional phase for physician assistant? 

As a prospective PA student, you may ask, is there a pre-professional phase for physician assistant? There is not a specific title or job that a student electing to be a physician assistant should hold prior to PA school. You should however have had some significant clinical exposure before being considered a viable candidate for PA school. The ideal positions for a pre physician assistant to hold would be CCMA, CNA, or ER/surgical technician as these will give you adequate exposure to various health disciplines and patient care concerns. 

Physician assistant pre-admission clinical experience 

Although some schools do not have a set requirement for physician assistant pre-admission clinical experience, some do require a certain amount of experience prior to admission. In general, students should expect to have 3 years of clinically relevant experience. When considering how to get patient care hours for PA school, there are a variety of options to evaluate. Some highly recommended options are MA, EMT, CNA, ER/surgical tech, RN, and phlebotomist to name a few. 

  • Why do different programs require various patient care hour requirements? It is up to the individual program’s administration to determine admission requirements for applicants. The required standards for admission to the program are made in accordance with the clearly defined and published practice and mission of the institution. Via PAEA

Average income of a pre-physician assistant 

As the pre-physician assistant is a student program designed to help students meet the requirements for PA school they are note generally associated with a salary. Although, it is highly encouraged that these students maintain about 3 years of clinical experience before PA school. Most jobs ranging from CNA and MA to EMT, and RN can make anywhere from $16/hour to upwards of $30/hour on average. Granted if you are in a pre-physician assistant program it is likely you will not be able to work 40 hours a week. 

Best extracurricular activities for pre-physician assistant school

The best extracurricular activities for pre-physician assistant school are to emphasize activities that make you stand out as an applicant. In general, volunteering is one of the best ways to emphasize your ideology and sense of caring for your community. It is always a good idea to give back to your community, applicants with significant amounts of volunteer work helps relay to schools that you have unique skills and are a well-rounded individual.

Electives for pre-physician assistant 

Although your main focus should be performing adequately on your prereqs for physician assistant school, you should also take some consideration into taking unique electives that may set you apart from the other applicants. Taking classes like pharmacology and medical ethics shows that you are interested in expanding your relevant medical knowledge to boundaries not usually explored at this point in your career. 

Do you have to do a pre-physician assistant degree? 

Many students looking to get involved in the medical field as PA will ask do you have to do a pre-physician assistant degree for your undergraduate? The answer is no, and in reality, there are likely no degree programs that will provide you with a pre pa BS degree. Most students entering PA school have a relevant medical undergrad degree such as biology, chemistry, or psychology. The students who are pre-physician assistants will be focusing on making sure that they are also taking the appropriate prereq courses to be admitted into a particular program. 

Association of pre-physician assistant 

If you are interested in an association of pre-physician assistants, you should explore the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). This organization provides resources to help you learn about PAs, their role in the medical field, how to get more involved, and tips and info on the application process. Utilizing every resource at your disposal can help you to make better, more informed decisions about your future as a PA. 


  • Home. AAPA. https://www.aapa.org/. Published July 25, 2021. Accessed July 28, 2021. 
  • Pre-physician assistant mentorship program. Advanced eClinical Training. https://staging.advclinical.org/pre-medical-mentorship-program-2/. Accessed July 28, 2021.
  • PA-C SP, About Stephen Pasquini PA-CA PA since 2004 and creator of The PA Life and Smarty PANCE Board Review websites. A National Health Service Corps Scholar and a graduate of The University of Medicine and Dentistry of NJ (Rutgers) PA Program and the University , says K, et al. Direct entry and dual DEGREE BS/MS PRE-PHYSICIAN assistant programs.
  • The Physician Assistant Life. https://www.thepalife.com/direct-entry-and-dual-degree-bsms-physician-assistant-programs/. Published August 16, 2020. Accessed July 28, 2021.

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