Pre-Physician Assistant

Pre-Physician Assistant


Program Highlights


The physician assistant (PA) practices medicine under the supervision of licensed D.O.s or M.D.s, providing various health services. PAs come into direct contact with patients on a continuing basis, often as the initial patient contact, and they deal with all kinds of people. Many PAs work in rural or inner-city clinics, where a physician is available only one or two days a week. In these situations, PAs provide most of the patient's healthcare and otherwise consult with the supervising physician by phone. PAs may make house calls or check on hospitalized patients and report back to the physician. The duties of PAs who specialize vary widely with the demands of the specialty. Almost half of all practicing physician assistants are in primary care, and family practice is the most common specialty for PAs followed by surgery and surgical subspecialties, general internal medicine and emergency medicine.

To qualify for physician assistant training, many programs require applicants to have completed at least two years of college in the arts and sciences and to have had some work experience in healthcare. Most PA programs last two years (24 months) and are conducted at medical schools. Course work includes biochemistry, anatomy, physiology, microbiology, clinical pharmacology, and clinical medicine. Course study is followed by rotated, hands-on study in specialties.

Most states require a PA to pass a certifying exam open only to graduates of accredited programs. To remain certified, PAs must have 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years and pass a recertification examination every six years.

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