Pre-PA students at Catawba College should keep in mind that is required and that clinical experience must involve direct patient care. Many 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.
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.
SETTING GOALS FOR ADMISSION TO PA SCHOOL
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.
EXPERIENCES THAT WILL HELP YOU GET INTO PA SCHOOL
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.
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.
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.
RESOURCES FOR HEALTH PROFESSIONS
- American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA)
- Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA)
- Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA)
- Graduate Record Exam (GRE)