Physician assistants (PAs) provide healthcare services under the supervision of physicians. They should not be confused with medical assistants, who perform routine clinical and clerical tasks.

PAs are formally trained to provide diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive healthcare services, as delegated by a physician. Working as members of the healthcare team, they take medical histories, examine and treat patients, order and interpret laboratory tests and X-rays, make diagnoses, and prescribe medications. They also treat minor injuries by suturing, splinting, and casting. PAs record progress notes, instruct and counsel patients, and order or carry out therapy.

Today's physician assistants work under the supervision of a physician. However, PAs may be the principal care providers in rural or inner city clinics, where a physician is present for only 1 or 2 days each week. In such cases, the PA confers with the supervising physician and other medical professionals as needed or as required by law. PAs also may make house calls or go to hospitals and nursing homes to check on patients and report back to the closely with patients of all ages, to help them recover from and/or manage a wide variety of physical challenges.

The typical Physician Assistant program lasts approximately 30 months and leads to a Master of PA , but there are exceptions to this.

Pre-requisites for applying to a typical physician assistant program:

  • BIOL 211/211L & BIOL 213/213L for Biology majors entering Fall 2010 and later, or all non-Biology majors (non-BIOL majors will need special permission to enroll in these courses; Procedure for non-BIOL majors to register for BIOL courses);
  • Biology majors entering prior to Fall 2010 must take BIOL 151/151L & BIOL 201/201L
  • CHEM 121/121L - 122/122/L (this course should be completed as soon as possible)
  • CHEM 321/321L - 322/322L or CHEM 103/103L - 104/104L
  • BIOL 301/301L
  • BIOL 314/314/L - 315/315/L
  • at least 6 cr in PSYC
  • MATH 125

Admission to a PA program is similar to that for other health careers, in that it is based on overall academic performance, performance in pre-requisite courses, personal statements, and letters of reference, including some from practicing PAs.

Most physician assistant programs require a minimum of three different "shadowing" experiences.

Students should determine the specific deadlines and requirements for each program he/she intends to apply to.  For example, EVMS requires that applications must be received by CASPA no later than March 1.

Most Physician Assistant Schools use the centralized application service (CAS) - CASPA.