The admission requirements differ by college PA program, although there are some commonalities. There are specified GPA grades, national exam test scores, letters of recommendation, interviews, and mandatory courses, all of which are components of the application process. In this article, we will focus on examples of subjects prospective PA candidates must complete satisfying admission standards.
As expected, a PA course concentrates on science – biology, chemistry, statistics, psychology, microbiology, and others. Individuals intent on becoming a PA during high school years should start taking a load of science classes. The typical PA program is a crash or abbreviated program in medicine. Minus the two years of medical school and residency, a physician assistant learns about most specialties in the field of medicine in two years, on average.
Before applying to a PA program, students require a baccalaureate from an accredited institution. Regional or national accreditation for the school is not as important as the program itself being endorsed by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. or ARC-PA. Their website attests to 254 accredited PA programs across the United States. The significance of selecting an accredited program from ARC-PA will become evident when you apply for a state license as a PA.
Not all schools mandate an undergraduate degree in a particular major. The University of South Alabama (USA) in Mobile requires a bachelor’s degree in any field. However, the prerequisite courses seem to contradict the previous statement because the school’s PA program lists all the college-level hours needed in various sciences. For example, you need 8 hours of General Chemistry, 3 of Biology, three each for Human Anatomy and Physiology and 3 hours of General Psychology. Furthermore, you must complete all of the required hours one semester before matriculation.
Other prerequisite courses:
- Human Anatomy and Physiology with Laboratory for one year or eight units
- General Chemistry with Lab (one year)
- Combination of Organic, Inorganic and Biochemistry – 12 units
- Genetics – 2-3 units
- English Writing – one year
- Social Sciences/Humanities: examples: Sociology and Anthropology (3 courses or 9 units)
The above courses are from the admission requirements of California Baptist University in Riverside.
Additional elaboration on some of the above courses:
It generally includes an introduction to the field, as well as the study of human growth, learning, emotions, intelligence, and development.
The topic involves four primary medical areas: bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoa – inclusive of a laboratory. The course may also study taxonomy, genetics, and microorganisms.
Some schools stipulate that the course includes the study of the organs, namely the heart, liver, lungs, and stomach. The coursework may also explore the major systems, like the digestive, circulatory, respiratory, reproductive, and endocrine.
Western University of Health Sciences states you have to take any anatomy and physiology courses at an Anatomy, physiology, Biology, or Zoology Department. Often, anatomy and physiology are combined over two semesters, instead of taking separately for a semester each.
This prerequisite may vary as some schools reference college algebra, statistics, or both on their admission criteria. Depending on the PA program, either an introductory or advanced statistics class will suffice.
Examples of statistics classes are those covering probability distribution, estimation, discrete random variables, and hypothesis testing procedures.
Some schools may accept pre-calculus, calculus, geometry, or trigonometry in place of college algebra.
Besides meeting the course requirements, prospective students should be mindful of the hours needed in the respective subjects. For example, the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus specifies 14 semester hours or 20-quarter hours of general biology, plus a lab. Nursing, kinesiology, and exercise science do not qualify.
Typically, you can complete the prerequisite courses at the school where you plan to attend as a PA student. However, you may not reside or be taking your clinical experience close to prospective schools.
Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine facilitates the prerequisites by offering them on campus. Their admission requirements list the course numbers for FIU, although there is no obligation to attend the institution.
It is evident from the above examples that there is a recurring theme of prerequisite courses for acceptance to a PA program. A penchant for the sciences is crucial to excelling academically – in tandem with the attributes to thrive in clinical practice. The latter being one of the mandatory requirements of all PA schools before application.
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