Physician Assistant Studies

About the Profession

Physician Assistants (PAs) are health professionals licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision.  Many are primary providers, but specialties are possible. Training occurs in hospitals, colleges, universities and medical schools. The typical PA training format is a BS/MS degree or MS degree following four years of undergraduate study. Bachelor's programs are four years in length with the prerequisites integrated into the total program. Some programs award a certificate instead of an academic degree. Degrees offered range from Associate's degree (rare) to a Master's degree. Selection criteria vary according to the individual institution's philosophy. UB students pursuing Physician Assistant careers complete their Bachelor's degree in any major, as well as the prerequisite courses, and apply to PA programs typically in the summer of their senior year. However, individual school deadlines should be carefully consulted. Many schools are on rolling admission, so applying early is important.

The minimum grade point averages hover near a 3.0 GPA but most students admitted have very competitive averages (e.g., 3.4 and higher). Course work in the sciences typically includes Biology, Chemistry, Anatomy, Physiology and Microbiology. Certain schools do require Organic Chemistry, Physics, Biochemistry and often calculus. Psychology, English and credits in Humanities are frequently cited. Increasingly, PA programs insist on a specific number of hours of health related experience. Since each school varies in the number of hours and whether these may be volunteer or paid, students must research each school very carefully to determine qualifications.

For more information you may consult the Physician Assistant Programs Directory.  There are more than over 215 PA programs in the United States; 22 of which are in the State of New York. There are a large number of programs in the downstate area.  Most PA programs nationwide are concentrated in the Northeast. There are two programs in Western New York at Daemen College and D'Youville College in Buffalo. Daemen is a free standing Master's degree program; D'Youville offers a combined BS/MS.

Your Record

From the time you begin college, you are assembling a complete dossier with which to apply to these professional schools. Each of the requirements is a part of the whole. For PA schools your record will include:

  • A Bachelor's degree (for those applying to free standing Master's degree programs)
  • Prerequisite courses
  • References
  • Health related experience

Course Requirements

Start planning as a freshman to meet the following course requirements: A minimum of one year each of Chemistry, and Biology, each with a year of lab; one semester each of Anatomy, Physiology, Microbiology and Psychology. Below are the UB courses which we recommend you take in order to meet these requirements:

Chemistry CHE 101-102, 105-106, or 107-108 10 credits
Biology BIO 200-201 9 credits
Anatomy ANA 113 or APY 345-346 4-5 credits

PGY 300 or PGY 451-452 4-6 credits
Microbiology MIC 301 or 401 4 credits

PSY 101 3 credits
  • Check with individual schools for additional requirements. PA schools may require Organic Chemistry, Physics, Biochemistry and often calculus courses.
  • Psychology, English and credits in Humanities are frequently cited.
  • In the rare case a PA school requires or accepts the MCAT, please note the MCAT Changes for 2015: "The additional content for MCAT questions is taught at most colleges and universities in one-semester introductory psychology and one- semester introductory sociology courses. Again, test questions will ask examinees to use knowledge of introductory psychology and sociology concepts to demonstrate their scientific inquiry and reasoning, research methods, and statistics skills." Therefore, proposed MCAT changes could mean including PSY 101, SOC 101, and others. As we are informed of the impending changes we will be sure to make announcements.

Health Related Experience

Physician Assistant programs may require a minimum number of hours of health related experience that can range from as little as 100 hours up to 4,000. They may also require applicants to have hands-on patient care experience as opposed to just patient contact. Positions that involve patient care include, but are not limited to:

  • Medical Assisting Positions
  • Medical Scribe Positions
  • Patient Care Assistant or Associate Positions
  • Emergency Medical Technician (EMT): See EMT handout in 108 Norton Hall for course offerings.
  • Phlebotomist: Draws blood for testing & blood drives. Contact Med Tech program at Erie Community College (ECC) regarding training.
  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
  • LPN
  • Orderly
  • Home health aide
  • EKG/Monitor Technician
  • Athletic Trainer
  • Dietician
  • Volunteer direct patient care (e.g., hospitals, hospice, nursing homes)
  • PA Shadowing (Some schools limit acceptable hours) 

Consult individual PA school websites for more suggestions


Last updated: August 13 2015 16:55:00.