A Physician's Assistant is a licensed healthcare professional who provides medical care under a physician's supervision. Physician Assistant school is almost as long as medical school; the average program is 111 weeks long, compared with 155 for medical school. Physician's Assistant programs require students to complete 9 to 12 months of classroom studies, followed by 9 to 15 months of clinical supervision. To prepare for Physician Assistant school, students must complete prerequisite coursework and have healthcare experience.
Take the appropriate coursework. If you are preparing for a Physician's Assistant bachelor's degree program, you must usually have completed at least two years of college credits, according to the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA). Master's-level programs require at least a a bachelor's degree or appropriate undergraduate coursework. Both programs usually require some health care experience. According to the PAEA, required college-level courses include basic sciences; math; English/writing; some specialized science courses, such as anatomy/physiology, microbiology, and physics; computer sciences; and medical terminology.
Gain health care experience. Most Physician's Assistant programs require applicants to have at least some prior experience in direct patient care as a nurse, paramedic, EMT or in another occupation. The number of hours or years required varies from program to program, but the typical physician's assistant program applicant has a bachelor's degree and at least four years of healthcare experience, according to Colby College.
Identify the particular physician's assistant programs in which you are interested. There are 149 accredited physician's assistant programs in the United States, and students are encouraged to apply to more than one of them since seats are limited. Students should also identify which degree they wish to pursue--bachelor's, master's or doctorate. Each level has different application procedures and prerequisites.
Register for the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) and gather required documents. As of 2009, 120 of the 148 accredited physician assistant programs had elected to participate in CASPA, which allows applicants to complete one online application and send it to multiple programs. Applicants must submit all transcripts from any schooling completed, a brief statement explaining their desire to become a physician assistant and three letters of reference.
Things You Will Need
- Health Care Experience
- Three Letters of Reference
- Transcripts from all schools attended
- Prerequisite Coursework (varies by school)
- Begin completing required coursework early. Many of the courses required for physician assistant school are sequential, meaning that you must pass one before going on to the other--and that may mean starting the sequence as early as your freshman year of college.
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