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Pre-Physician Assistant.

Pre-Professional Advising

Advising to Meet PA School Requirements

PREPARE for a rewarding career as a physician assistant.

There are no "Pre-PA" or "Pre-Physician Assistant" majors at colleges and universities. In fact, PA programs do not particularly care what you major in as long as you complete the prerequisite coursework. Because much of the required coursework is in the sciences, most Pre-PA students select Biology, Biochemistry, or Chemistry as their majors. As long as the required prerequisite courses are taken, any major can be pursued. Be sure to check each of your prospective PA program's prerequisite course requirements, as they can vary from institution to institution.

You should let your academic advisor know as soon as possible that admission to PA school is your post-graduation goal. Your advisor will work with you to ensure that you take the required prerequisite coursework, complete the required hours of clinical experience if necessary,  and mentor you towards research experiences that will broaden your training and make your application stand out. 

Catawba College students wanting to pursue a career practicing medicine, conducting physical exams, making diagnoses, and treating illnesses should consider pursing a career as a Physician Assistants (PA). PAs conduct these duties under physician supervision. 


Admission to PA programs is highly competitive. It usually takes two years to earn the Masters of Physician Assistant Practice (MPAP) degree. The average GPA of the admitted class at most medical schools is 3.4 to 3.6 (with a 3.0-4.0 range) with an average science GPA of 3.5. The average score on the GRE Verbal is 154 and average score on the GRE Quantitative is 153 (with a 4.0 on the Analytical Writing section). These are the minimum recommended GPA and GRE scores. 

Health care experience hours are critically important to admission into PA programs!  Most programs advertise a minimum of 1000+ hours, but that is the minimum.  For many programs, the average clinical experience for their admitted class is 3,000-4,500 hours!

Catawba students interested in becoming a Physician Assistant should call the admissions offices at the schools to which you wish to apply and ask for the average GPA, GRE scores, and clinical experience hours of their most recently admitted class.  Those scores should be your goal. 


While it is important to have good GPA and GRE scores, PA programs want to know that they are admitting individuals that are committed to medicine and patient care. They also want applicants that have experience! The requirement for clinical experience hours is intensive, and is a deciding factor in the admissions process.  Keep in mind, most programs require 1,000+ hours minimum. However, their admitted classes average 3,000-4,500 hours.

Catawba College Nursing Student
Clinical Experience.

Pre-PA students at Catawba College should keep in mind that is required and that clinical experience must involve direct patient careMany PA schools only accept hours for which you received payment. We recommend that you get clinical experience as early and as often as you can and keep a journal of your experiences, with locations, hours worked, and a summary of your activities.

Catawba College Students working as EMT
CNA or EMT Work Experience.

Realistically, working as a CNA or EMT is the best way to get the needed health care experience hours. Catawba College students pursuing a career as a Physician Assistant can get certification as a CNA or EMT at local community colleges over the summer and become employed as a CNA or EMT over the summer and during the academic semesters.

Catawba College Student Athletic Trainers
Qualifying Experiences.

Other experiences that qualify for PA school requirements include work as a phlebotomist, athletic trainer, medical assistant, military medic, pharmacy technician, physical therapy assistant, radiological technologist, emergency room technician, medical laboratory technician, or surgical technician. Experiences that DO NOT qualify include shadowing or observing a PA or physician or work as a candy striper, CPR or ACLS instructor, patient transporter, non-clinical research assistant, pharmaceutical representative, lifeguard, aerobics instructor, medical secretary, or any other experience that does not involve direct patient contact in a clinical setting.



The Preparation You Need.



Most PA Schools use the following as selection criteria for admission:

    • Completion of the Prerequisite Coursework
    • Completion of a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) Degree
    • Overall GPA and Science GPA
    • Score on the GRE
    • Experience (Direct Patient Care). Programs require AT LEAST 1,000+ hours of direct hands-on patient care experience.
    • Three Letters of Recommendation (two must be from physicians, PAs, or other medical professionals)
    • Application through the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA)
    • Interview


Ideally, Catawba College students planning to attend vet school should take the GRE in the spring semester of their junior year. However, students can take it in the fall semester (August or September) of their senior year. It must be taken within five years prior to applying to a PA program.

Many practices tests are available online and at bookstores.
Try a GRE preparation test, such as those offered by Kaplan. They are expensive but tend to result in higher scores.
Prepare for the GRE, but also be sure to relax the day you take your exam. If you have a positive mental attitude while taking the test, you can often do better on the test!



Get connected with the Pre-Health Club at Catawba College. In this organization, you’ll have the opportunity to meet alumni that have walked your same path towards a health career, as well meet other students with similar goals.

Pre-Health Advisory Committee 

The Pre-Health Advisory Committee provides advisement on preparing for admission to a PA program. These faculty advisors also write "Committee Letters" of recommendation and offer students mock interviews to help practice for the real thing. We are here to help you!


Prerequisite Courses for Admission to PA School
Prerequisite Courses for Admission to PA School

The exact prerequisite courses vary from one PA program to the next. You should always refer to the admission requirements for the PA program to which you are interested in applying, and follow those guidelines. However, here are common prerequisite courses:

  • Two semesters of General Biology
  • Two semesters of Anatomy and Physiology
  • Two semesters of General Chemistry
  • One semester of Organic Chemistry
  • One semester of Microbiology
  • One semester of Genetics
  • One semester of Biochemistry
  • Two semesters of Statistics (or Biostatistics)
  • 2 semesters of PSYCH (including Developmental Psychology or Abnormal Psychology)

Other courses may be required, such as Organic Chemistry 2, Physics 1 & 2, and courses in sociology.