To become a PA, you must graduate from an ARC-PA accredited entry-level PA program. Most entry-level PA programs require applicants to have an undergraduate degree. However, some PA programs offer a pre-professional phase that is open to recent high school graduates and students with some college credit. Programs with a pre-professional phase range from 4-6 years in length and require students to complete undergraduate course work before they enter the professional phase of their training. Pre-PAs who are interested in programs with a pre-professional phase should consult with individual institutions about the availability of this opportunity and program requirements.
Most entry-level PA programs have the following prerequisites:
- Organic Chemistry
- English Composition/Writing
- Medical Terminology
- Psychology (general)
Many PA programs also require prior healthcare experience with hands-on patient care.
Though it’s not an exhaustive list, you can get healthcare experience by being a:
- Medical assistant
- Emergency medical technician
- Medic or medical corpsman
- Lab assistant/phlebotomist
- Registered nurse
- Emergency room technician
- Surgical tech
- Certified nursing assistant
Most students have about three years of healthcare experience before entering a program.
A complete list of PA programs and their requirements (healthcare experience hours, standardized exams, prerequisite coursework, GPA, etc.) is available via the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA).
Pre-PAs are invited to check out AAPA’s PA School Application Checklist and Timeline for more advice on applying to PA school.