There are many paths to physician assistant school, but all involve substantial science course work and patient-care work experience. While physician assistant schools will not insist on a specific bachelor’s degree, they will insist on specific prerequisite course work. Typically, applicants must have a 3.0 or better in chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, statistics, biology, physiology, human anatomy, microbiology, and medical terminology. Science courses must include a lab. Due to the science course requirements, many applicants to physician assistant school major in a science.
Many students also come to physician assistant school via other health care professions such as nursing and paramedicine. These applicants may have nursing degrees or any other bachelor’s degree, along with specialized medical training, but all applicants must have completed the same prerequisite courses.
Another primary and universal application requirement is health care experience. This requirement varies tremendously among schools, from a recommendation that experience will benefit applicants to absolute requirements for a minimum 2000 hours (one year) of experience. As most applicants have more than the requisite number of hours, applicants will want to clearly and carefully document all relative work experience.
Before applying, prospective physician assistant school students should research a few physician assistant schools and study the admission requirements. Some candidates may find it helpful to create a spreadsheet of requirements and build a comparison of these requirements against the candidate’s current courses, grades, work experience, and skills. Where any deficits exist, prospective applicants can focus on taking a prerequisite science course, repeating a course for an improved grade, or expanding their health care experience.
Given the irregular timing of the admission process for some schools, building a timeline or putting key dates on a calendar can be useful. Dates to acquire references, complete the CASPA application, and send supporting documents for an application can all be entered. It is always better to err on the side of sending documents early, as it can take weeks for applications to be processed. When applying to physician assistant schools that do not use the centralized application service, keeping a calendar record of each school’s dates and requirements helps ensure a smooth application process.
Applicants should be mindful of different admission requirements at different schools and ensure no pieces of documentation or fees due are missed. With competition intense for each spot, ten to twenty applicants for each space, schools can easily disregard incomplete or untimely applications.