Pre-physician Assistant Curriculum
Students can choose any major and still apply to graduate programs to become a Physician Assistant. However, a substantial amount of Chemistry, Biology, and Psychology are required to apply to physician assistant programs.
Many students have an interest in science and often choose a science discipline as their major. Some of these include Biology, Chemistry, and Integrated Science.
Others choose Psychology as a major but make sure to complete the required natural science coursework.
Entrance requirements for physician assistant schools vary by program. It is important that a student check each program that he/she might be interested to understand their pre-requisites. Check out our individual school listings page for many PA school's complete requirements.
In addition, you can find links to the different programs at the CASPA website, which is the centralized application service for physician assistants.
Pre-physician assistant students must take a number of natural and social science courses as pre-requisites for admission. There are no universal set of common pre-requisites to all programs, but the courses listed below are common to most. Because of the complexity of scheduling prerequisite courses, we recommend that students interested in applying to physician assistant school contact an advisor as early as possible in their academic career.
Prerequisite courses common to most programs:
- BIOL101 (Foundations in Biology)
- BIOL201 (intermediate cell and molecular)
- BIOL316 (genetics)
- BIOL307 (microbiology)
- BIOL317 (Biochemistry)
- BIOL325 & 326 (Anatomy and Physiology)
- CHEM125 (Organic)
- CHEM250 (Reactivity I)
- CHEM255 (Inorganic and quantitative)
- CHEM251 (Reactivity II: only required if a full year of organic is required)
Labs (for credit):
- CHEM201 (Purification I)
- CHEM202 (Purification II)
- CHEM205 (Quantitative)
- CHEM 203 (if 2 semesters of organic is required)
- MATH124 (statistics)
- PSYCH111 (introductory psych)
- PSYCH360 (developmental psychology)
- PSYCH381 (abnormal psychology)
- COLG121: (1 credit) Medical Terminology
In addition most programs require a substantial number of patient contact hours prior to admission - the number of hours is very variable from program to program but somewhere near 1000 hours is generally recommended. Examples of patient care hours includes work as a(n):
- Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or Personal Care Assistant (PCA) in a health care setting (i.e. hospital, nursing home)
- home health aide
- physical therapy aide
- camp counselor for kids who are patients
- Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
- Volunteer in a health care setting (but must be working with patients)
Some schools also require completing the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) as well as shadowing experience with a Physician Assistant.