Pre-Physician Assistant Studies

About Physician Assistants

Physician assistants are licensed health professionals who practice medicine with physician supervision, exercise autonomy in medical decision-making, provide a broad range of diagnostic and therapeutic services, and may also perform education, research and administrative activities. As part of their comprehensive responsibilities, PAs conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive healthcare, assist in surgery, and, in most states, can write prescriptions.

PAs are trained in intensive education programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Because of their close working relationship with physicians, PAs are educated in the medical model designed to complement physician training. They are educated in those areas of basic medical science and clinical disciplines that prepare them to function as primary care providers, including human anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, pharmacotherapeutics, clinical laboratory medicine, clinical and preventive medicine and psych-social issues in healthcare. They are trained in the areas of family medicine, general internal medicine, pediatrics, geriatrics, women's health, general surgery, psychiatry, health maintenance, and ambulatory, emergency and long-term care.

The highest concentration of PAs is in the northeast and southeast United States. More than half of all PAs practice in a primary care setting that includes family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology. About 19 percent are in surgery or the surgical subspecialties. PA programs look for students who have a desire to study, work hard, and to be of service to their community. Most physician assistant programs require applicants to have previous healthcare experience and some college education. The typical applicant already has a bachelor's degree and more than four years of healthcare experience. Nurses, EMTs, and paramedics often apply to PA programs.

Employment of physician assistants is expected to increase 30 percent from 2010 to 2020 as the population grows and as they offer a more affordable primary care model for many patients. The median annual wage of physician assistants in 2012 was $90,930.

Program and Requirements

A physician assistant education program typically takes two years of full-time study. Most accredited programs offer a master’s degree, though rare programs offer a bachelor’s or associate’s degree option.

The Pacific University School of Physician Assistant Studies offers a 27-month route to a master’s degree. Admission is highly competitive and requires a bacehlor’s degree, the prerequisite courses below and at least 1,000 hours of experience in direct patient care.

The program emphasizes problem-based learning, small group sessions

Prerequisites

Biological Sciences (11+ semester hours)

  • Biol 224 | Human Anatomy with lab 
  • Biol 240 | Human Physiology with lab
  • Biol 308 | Microbiology with lab

Chemistry (11+ semester hours)

  • Chem 220 General Chemistry I with lab
  • Chem 230 General Chemistry II with lab
  • Chem 300, 400 or 380 | Organic Chemistry or Biochemistry, no lab
     

Statistics (3-4 semester hours)
Course must be taken in the department of psychology, sociology, statistics or math

  • Math 207 | General Elementary Statistics
  • or Psy 350 | Behavioral Statistics
  • or Soc 301 | Social Statistics

Psychology or Sociology (4 semester hours)
Any course in psychology or sociology

  • Soc 101 | Intro to Sociology
  • or Psy 150 | Intro to Psychology

Courses taken to fulfill the science prerequisites must be those for science majors.

While not required, to meet the foreign language requirement, Spanish is strongly encouraged.

A minimum of 1,000 hours of direct (hands-on) patient care/health care experience in a position of responsibility is required of all applicants. Shadow experience with a physician assistant may count towards the requirement, but will not fulfill the requirement completely.

More Information

American Academy of Physician Assistants

Judy Ortiz | Director, School of Physician Assistant Studies
503-352-7299 | ortiz@pacificu.edu

Leah Pelto | Assistant Director of Graduate Admissions
503-352-7224 | lpelto@pacificu.edu