Physician Assistant

Physician Assistants are one of the fastest-growing roles in healthcare. PAs are mid-level practitioners who treat patients and can write prescriptions. Their license is attached to a physician, and how closely they work with that physician depends on the practice culture and the state of residence. PAs can change specialties by changing the physician to whom their license is attached.

PAs must have a master’s degree, and programs run from 2-3 years. Post-graduate fellowships (paid) are not required but will provide specialty training in orthopedics, emergency medicine, OB/GYN, surgery, and more.

Job Market: The projected percent change in employment from 2020 to 2030. The average growth rate 31% (Much faster than average).

Base Salary: $115,390 per year $55.48 per hour


Physician Assistant prerequisites vary widely. Because the training is more rapid than medical school, there is much more preparation required before starting the program. This list will cover the requirements at many schools. It is a good idea to make your own list of 12-15 schools and develop a spreadsheet of prerequisites. Also, be attentive to the timing of your courses, as many schools will require all or most of the courses be completed before applying.

  • Chemistry 2-5 semesters
  • General Biology 2 semesters
  • Physiology with lab (lab is taken in a later semester than the lecture)
  • Anatomy with lab
  • Microbiology with lab
  • Communication (like Medical Counseling skills)
  • English
  • Statistics
  • Developmental Psychology

Preparation Outside the Classroom

Most PA programs have a clinical experience requirement with direct patient contact. These are usually paid hours and range from 500-3000 minimum.

The average accepted applicant has over 5000 hours.

Scribing may or may not be counted as experience hours. EMT hours only count those hours out on calls. Certified nursing assistant, medical assistant, patient care assistant, and ER tech (usually EMT certification) are common routes.

Healthcare is a life of service and PA programs are also looking for a consistent interest in the wellbeing of others, particularly vulnerable groups like those in poverty, asylum seekers, those with disabilities, etc.  A PA is a team member and demonstrating teamwork and excellent communication are positive attributes.



Application to PA programs is through a centralized application service called CASPA.

The optimal application timeline is from April to June.

Some schools now require a committee letter; three to five individual letters are required. See individual programs in the PAEA Program Directory for details.

At this time the GRE is the standardized test required by most schools.