What Are PA Programs?


Quick Answer

PA programs are instructional programs, primarily offered by colleges and universities, that prepare students to become physician assistants. Most offer master’s degrees and take approximately three academic years to complete. The programs included classroom instruction and more than 2,000 hours of clinical rotations.

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Full Answer

Classroom instruction is provided in anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology and physical diagnosis. There are also classes in pathophysiology, microbiology, clinical laboratory science, behavioral science and medial ethics.

Clinical rotations emphasize primary care and can include obstetrics and gynecology, family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, general surgery and psychiatry. They may take place in settings such as acute or long-term care facilities, ambulatory clinics and physician offices.

The application process to PA programs can be extremely competitive. Candidates must typically complete two years of college or university classes in basic and behavioral sciences, similar to premedical studies, before being eligible to apply. Most programs list chemistry, physiology, anatomy, microbiology and biology as prerequisites.

PA programs may also require previous healthcare experience involving hands-on patient care. Work as a medical assistant, emergency medical technician, paramedic, peace corps volunteer, lab assistant or certified nursing assistant are examples of experiences that meet this requirement, according to the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

Most candidates that are accepted have a bachelor’s degree and approximately three years of healthcare experience. After students graduate from an accredited PA program, they are eligible to take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam, but must also obtain a state license before beginning practice.

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