Pre-Physician Assistant

Pre-Physician Assistant at Carroll

There is a great diversity in the requirements for admission to Physician Assistant programs and the student is advised to check individual web-sites for specific information. Generally 1000-2000 hours of direct patient care is required as is human anatomy, microbiology and chemistry. A science major is not required.

The following is taken from the home page of the American Academy of Physician Assistants:

What Is a Physician Assistant?

Physician assistants (PAs) are health professionals licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. PAs perform a comprehensive range of medical duties, from basic primary care to high-technology specialty procedures. PAs often act as first or second assistants in major surgery and provide pre- and postoperative care.

In some rural areas where physicians are in short supply, PAs serve as the primary providers of health care, conferring with their supervising physicians and other medical professionals as needed and as required by law. PAs can be found in virtually every medical and surgical specialty.

The PA's responsibilities depend on the type of practice, his or her experience, the working relationship with physicians and other health care providers, and state laws. There are approximately 68,100 practicing PAs in the United States as of January 2009.

How Did the Profession Get Started?

The PA profession emerged in the mid-1960s to alleviate a problem of physician maldistribution and to increase the public's access to quality health care. The first PA educational program was started at Duke University in North Carolina. The first PAs were former medical corpsmen who wanted to use their medical skills in civilian life.

Where Can I Attend a PA Program?

There are more than 140 accredited PA programs located throughout the United States. They are generally affiliated with two- and four-year colleges and university schools of medicine or allied health. Most program application deadlines fall between November and March and most programs begin between May and September. A list of PA programs can be found on the Web site of the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA).

An online PA Programs Directory, published by the PAEA, lists contact information, admission deadlines, entrance requirements, tuition fees, financial aid, clinical affiliations, and other information for every member program.


PAs perform medical functions that in the past have been performed by licensed physicians, including but not limited to:

  • Taking medical histories
  • Performing physical exams 
  • Ordering laboratory tests
  • Diagnosing illnesses
  • Treating illnesses
  • Counseling patients
  • Promoting wellness
  • Assisting in surgery

From the Physician Assistant Educational Association:
"required college-level courses include basic sciences; math; English/writing; some specialized science courses, such as anatomy/physiology, microbiology, physics; and computer sciences"


On graduation from an accredited program, PAs are eligible to take the national certifying examination administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). Only those passing the test can use the title Physician Assistant-Certified(PA-C). PAs keep up with medical advances through continuing medical education (CME) courses. To maintain national certification, PAs must complete 100 hours of CME every two years and take a recertification exam every six years. Graduation from an accredited PA program and passage of the NCCPA exam are required for state licensure.


Contact Katie Wagner, Advisor at or 406-447-4551 to learn more about our Pre-Physician Assistant program.