Pre-Physician Assistant Program
A physician assistant, or PA, is a person who, as the name implies, assists a physician in his or her practice of medicine. The duties of physician assistants are as varied as the subspecialities they practice. PAs working in rural areas may have a great deal of independence and may work in the field and then report back to the physician supervising them, while PAs working in surgery may be standing next to the surgeon as he works. For a detailed description of a career as a physician assistant, check the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook under Physician Assistant.
The requirements for admission to PA school are much more varied than for admission to medical, dental or graduate school. Some programs have large numbers of course requirements, and other programs have very specific requirements regarding the medical experience of people applying to their program. For that reason, it is not possible to list all the possible PA requirements here. There is a web site that lists all of the physician assistant programs in the United States. It has links that will allow you to visit the web sites of the schools that you are interested in and view their requirements. Some of these programs award the bachelor's degree, some award the master's degree and a few programs are certificate programs or associate degrees. Most programs are 22 to 27 months long.
If you are a biology major at the University of Detroit Mercy, you can apply for admission to UDM's Physician Assistant Program with the following items in addition to completing the requirements for the biology major. Within the requirements of the biology major, you must choose the following courses: Comparative Anatomy, Genetics, Microbiology, Cell and Molecular Biology, Biometrics, and, under the core curriculum, HUS 441 (Multicultural Understanding) and ETH 358 (Medical Ethics).
In addition to the requirements for the biology degree, you must also have:
- Chemistry 470 (Biochemistry)
- Psychology 250 (Developmental Psychology)
- HSA 101 (Introduction to Health Care Systems)
- HSA 461 (Health Care Economics)
- 6 months of "hands on" health care experience
- Recommendation from the Biology faculty
With these requirements fulfilled you may be admitted to the three year track only. This track leads to the Master's Degree.
Note that some of the courses listed above have additional pre-requisites so plan ahead.
Your Biology Department advisor will help you lay out a plan of study so that you have the courses necessary to apply to several different physician assistant programs. A few programs require courses that are taught only in alternate years at UDM so that you will need to plan ahead to make sure that you get in all of your requirements.
You may want to compare the requirements of PA programs with those of other health care professions before making a final choice. Many times students do not consider the wide range of options available to them in health care.