About the Profession
Physician Assistants (PAs) are health professionals licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. Many are primary providers, but specialties are possible. Training occurs in hospitals, colleges, universities and medical schools. The typical PA training format is a BS/MS degree or MS degree following four years of undergraduate study. Bachelor’s programs are four years in length with the prerequisites integrated into the total program. Some programs award a certificate instead of an academic degree. Degrees offered range from Associate’s degree (rare) to a Master’s degree. Selection criteria vary according to the individual institution’s philosophy. UB students pursuing Physician Assistant careers complete their Bachelor’s degree in any major, as well as the prerequisite courses, and apply to PA programs typically in the summer of their senior year. However, individual school deadlines should be carefully consulted. Many schools are on rolling admission, so applying early is important.
The minimum grade point averages hover near a 3.0 GPA but most students admitted have very competitive averages (e.g., 3.5 and higher). Course work in the sciences typically includes biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology and microbiology. Certain schools do require organic chemistry, physics, biochemistry and often calculus. Psychology, English and credits in humanities are frequently cited. Increasingly, PA programs insist on a specific number of hours of health related experience. Since each school varies in the number of hours and whether these may be volunteer or paid, students must research each school very carefully to determine qualifications.
For more information you may consult the Physician Assistant Programs Directory. There are over 250 PA programs in the United States; several of which are in the State of New York. There are a large number of programs in the downstate area. Most PA programs nationwide are concentrated in the Northeast. There are two programs in Western New York at Daemen College and D’Youville College in Buffalo. Daemen is a free standing Master’s degree program; D’Youville offers a combined BS/MS.
From the time you begin college, you are assembling a complete dossier with which to apply to these professional schools. Each of the requirements is a part of the whole. For PA schools your record will include:
- A Bachelor’s degree (for those applying to free standing Master’s degree programs)
- Prerequisite courses
- Health related experience
Start planning as a freshman to meet the following course requirements: A minimum of one year each of Chemistry, and Biology, each with a year of lab; one semester each of Anatomy, Physiology, Microbiology and Psychology. Below are the UB courses which we recommend you take in order to meet these requirements:
|Chemistry||CHE 101-102 w/labs 113-114, or 105-106, or 107-108 w/labs 127-128||10 credits|
|Biology||BIO 200-201||9 credits|
|Anatomy||PAS 113 or PAS 427 or APY 345-346||4-5 credits|
|Physiology||PGY 300 or PGY 451-452||4-6 credits|
|Microbiology||MIC 301 or 401||4 credits|
|Psychology||PSY 101||3 credits|
- ONLINE PREREQUISITE COURSES, INCLUDING ENGLISH, ARE STRONGLY DISCOURAGED AS MANY PROFESSIONAL SCHOOLS WILL NOT ACCEPT THEM.
- Check with individual schools for additional requirements. PA schools may require Organic Chemistry, Physics, Biochemistry and often Math (calculus and/or statistics) courses.
- Psychology, English and credits in Humanities are frequently cited.
- Many PA programs require the GRE.
- In rare cases, a PA program may require or accept the MCAT.
Health Related Experience
Physician Assistant programs may require a minimum number of hours of health related experience that can range from as little as 100 hours to 1,000 or more. They may also require applicants to have hands-on patient care experience as opposed to just patient contact. Positions that involve patient care may include, but are not limited to:
- Medical Assisting Positions
- Medical Scribe Positions (not always accepted by some PA programs)
- Patient Care Assistant or Associate Positions
- Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
- Phlebotomist: Draws blood for testing & blood drives. Contact Med Tech program at Erie Community College (ECC) regarding training.
- Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
- Home health aide
- EKG/Monitor Technician
- Athletic Trainer
- Volunteer direct patient care (e.g., hospitals, hospice, nursing homes)
- PA Shadowing (Some schools limit acceptable hours)
Consult individual PA school websites and admissions advisors for more suggestions and to be sure that they count these options.