Physician Assistant as a Career
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.
- Meet with the Pre-Health Advisor each semester and request to be added to the Pre-PA email distribution list.
- 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 PA. Common majors include biology, chemistry, medical laboratory science, exercise science, and food & nutrition
- Carefully check admission requirements at PA schools of most interest and take the required coursework. Common prerequisites or strongly recommended courses include chemistry, biology, anatomy, physiology, microbiology, biochemistry, statistics, psychology, organic chemistry etc.
- Consider purchasing the Physician Assistant Education Association Program Directory, which includes admissions deadlines, entrance requirements, credentials awarded, tuition fees, financial aid, clinical affiliations, and other information
- Join the Pre-Med/PA Club at UI
- Get shadowing and clinical experience with a PA and in multiple health care settings. Maintain a formal log (Professional Development Activities Log). Find out firsthand what the profession is like, decide if it is right for you, explore different areas of the field and in different settings, and 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
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).