The decision to become a physician assistant is a very important one and requires a good deal of thought and research on the student’s part. Attending a professional school is neither easy nor cheap, so students should take their preparation seriously. TJC offers students the necessary coursework they need and can prepare them for admission into a physician assistant program.
Being a Physician Assistant
Physician assistants (PA) work directly under the supervision of a doctor to perform a wide variety of health care services. Their duties may include: taking medical histories, performing physical examinations, ordering diagnostic tests, applying casts and bandages, making tentative diagnoses, directing treatments, recommending medications, treating minor injuries, even assisting in surgery and giving pre- and postoperative care. PA’s play a critical role in modern health care, but understand that they always work under the direction of the doctor. What medical care PA’s can and cannot provide is well regulated under state law.
Most PA programs require a bachelor’s degree, but not a specific major. Students are expected to successfully complete pre-requisite core courses in science, math and the social/behavioral sciences. More than any other health profession, PA programs also want applicants to document several hours of health-related work or volunteer experience. Some schools also require that students take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), the standard test required for admission into graduate school. With many more applicants than there are openings, admission to PA school is just as competitive as admission to medical school. An average GPA of 3.5 has been typical for the students who have been admitted in recent years. Besides high intellectual ability and a strong record of academic achievement, the professional schools are looking for applicants who demonstrate motivation for the PA field, communicate well with people, and exhibit important characteristics like compassion, maturity and integrity.
The PA program is a fast-paced curriculum – for most schools it spans just 24 to 30 months. Because of the close working relationship PAs have with physicians, they are educated in a medical model designed to complement physician training. Like doctors, PA students are taught to diagnose and treat medical problems. Education consists of classroom and laboratory instruction in the basic medical sciences such as anatomy, pharmacology, pathophysiology, clinical medicine, and physical diagnosis. This is followed by clinical rotations in internal medicine, family medicine, surgery, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, emergency medicine, and geriatric medicine. Graduates of an accredited PA program take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). All states require passage of this exam for state licensure.
According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants the median salary for physician assistants in Texas is about $100,000.
Note: The required courses for admission to a PA program will vary from one school to the next. Individuals are STRONGLY advised to visit each school’s website to obtain the latest information.
TJC offers students many of the pre-requisite courses students need for PA programs. The following are science, math and behavioral science courses that are required for admission by many of the programs in Texas:
- BIOL 1406/1407 Majors Biology I and II
- BIOL 2401/2402 Anatomy and Physiology I and II
- BIOL 2416 Genetics
- CHEM 1411/1412 General Chemistry I and II
- CHEM 2423 Organic Chemistry I
- MATH 1342 Elementary Statistical Methods
- PSYC 2301 Introduction to Psychology
- 4 semesters of Microbiology with Lab (from a 4-year school)
Please note that PA schools typically specify that the required science courses be taught at the level required for a science major, not majors in nursing or allied health fields. For this reason, Microbiology with Lab must usually be taken at a 4-year school.
Additional TJC courses that might be applicable for some PA schools are:
- PSYC 2314 Lifespan Growth & Development
- SOCI 1301 Introduction to Sociology
- HITT 1305 Medical Terminology I
- ENGL 1301/1302 English Composition I and II
Please use the links below for the schools with a PA program to obtain the most current information.
- CASPA (Central Application Service for Physician Assistants) – the online application service used by most Texas schools
- American Academy of Physician Assistants – the website for the professional organization of PA’s; has useful information on the profession and links to related sites