In its 2020 ranking of best health care jobs, U.S. News & World Report ranked physician assistant (PA) third in best jobs overall. Sometimes referred to mistakenly as physician’s assistants, physician assistants are medical providers who are licensed to diagnose and treat illness and disease and to prescribe medication for patients. They work in physician offices, hospitals and clinics in collaboration with a licensed physician. The physician-PA relationship is fundamental to the profession and enhances the delivery of high-quality health care. Because of their advanced education in general medicine, modeled after physician education, physician assistants can treat patients with significant autonomy.
- Join the Pre-Health Professions Program and request to be added to the Pre-PA Email List
- Meet with the Pre-Health Professions Advisor each semester to make a professional and academic development plan and review your progress
- Choose a college major that you enjoy and that provides a good “back-up plan” and career path in case you change your mind about becoming a PA; common majors include biology, chemistry, medical science, exercise science, and food & nutrition, but all majors will be considered if a student completes the prerequisite courses and other admissions standards established by individual PA programs
- Carefully check admission requirements at PA schools of most interest and take the required coursework; common prerequisites include chemistry, biology, anatomy, physiology, microbiology, biochemistry, statistics, psychology, and organic chemistry among others. Here is suggested U of I coursework for students interested in Physician Assistant.
- Join the Pre-Med/PA Club at U of I
- Get shadowing and clinical experience with a PA and in multiple health care settings and maintain a formal log (Professional Development Activities Log); be sure to meet clinical experience requirements of your preferred schools, as they can vary widely
- Get involved in extracurricular, leadership, and volunteer activities
- Develop strong relationships with faculty mentors, PA professionals, and others who will be writing letters of reference
- Attend Pre-Health Professions Program workshops and networking events
Carefully check the application processes for preferred PA schools. A number of PA schools require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and many participate in the Central Application Service for PA schools (CASPA); however, some schools are now requiring the PA-CAT and requesting that applications be submitted directly to each program.