Pre-Physician Assistant

Academic Preparation for Texas Physician Assistant (PA) Programs

Pre-Physician Assistant

Physician Assistant is a rewarding career choice for those who are genuinely interested in medicine, sensitive to the needs of patients and committed to the delivery of quality medical care. Physician Assistants (PAs) practice medicine under the supervision of physicians and surgeons. Physician Assistants are health care professionals trained in intensive programs that emulate the medical model of physician education and are accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant.

Pre-Physician Assistant

Within the context of the physician–PA relationship, PAs provide a broad range of diagnostic and therapeutic services. They function in the primary care specialties of family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology. PAs and are often employed as first and second assistants in surgery, particularly in cardiovascular and orthopedic surgery. Responsibilities vary with training, experience, state law and the scope of the supervising physician's practice. Texas requires that the PA's supervising physician register with the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners and that PAs be licensed by the state in which they practice.

Prerequisites for admission vary by program and the classes listed below are common ones for Texas PA programs. (SHSU course codes provided.)

  • 8 hours of Human Anatomy & Physiology (BIOL 2403 and BIOL 2404)
  • 8 hours of General Biology (BIOL 1406 and BIOL 1407)
  • 3-4 hours of Generics (BIOL 3450)
  • 4 hours of Microbiology (BIOL 3470)
  • 8 hours of General Chemistry (CHEM 1411 and CHEM 1412)
  • 4 hours of Organic Chemistry (CHEM 2323 & 2123)
  • 3 hours of Statistics (MATH 3379 or BIOL 4374, if ANOVA is required)
  • 3 hours of Introductory Psychology (PSYC 1301)
  • Other recommended/required prerequisites may include (check with individual programs): Developmental Psychology/Lifespan Human Development (PSYC 3374), Abnormal Psychology (PSYC 3331), Physiological Psychology (PSYC 3333), Biochemistry (CHEM 3438), Sociology (SOCI 1301), Cell Biology (BIOL 2440), Immunology (BIOL 4350), Human Sexuality (PSYC 3334), and Spanish.

      Shadowing and hands-on clinical experience are strongly recommended and are weighted heavily in the application process at many PA schools. Some pre-PA students will try to work part-time in a position that gives them hands-on patient care experience while earning their degree. Some pre-PA students plan to take a development/growth year (think "gap" year) aftre they graduate to work full-time and gain more hours of patient care experience.

      The Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) maintains a directory of accredited programs. The Physician's Assistant Centralized Application Service (CASPA) is also available through PAEA. The application opens in late April. Early application is recommended.

      The Texas Academy of Physician Assistants has a program directory for Texas. The American Academy of Physician Assistants provides valuable information for students interested in becoming a physician assistant.