Now that you have finally decided that the physician assistant (PA) profession is for you, we will go over the next steps that you have to take. The PA profession has been getting increasingly competitive with time, with an average of a 30% acceptance rate. When screening applicants, the admission committee looks for some key factors which include the ability to handle a rigorous course load, familiarity with the PA profession through shadowing, health care experience including direct patient interaction, and a commitment to community service.
There are academic requirements for each individual PA program which consists of courses that are strictly required and some courses that are recommended, but not required. This differs slightly for each school. This is something that you must look into before applying for the program. Some of the mandatory courses that are required include human anatomy and physiology, general chemistry 1 and 2, statistics, microbiology, and biology. Other courses that are recommended that will make you a stronger candidate include biochemistry, psychology, genetics, and organic chemistry. Depending on the program, there are different GPA requirements. Most PA programs require a bachelor degree and a GRE score. However, there are a few accelerated programs where you can get directly admitted from high school and if you maintain a certain GPA, the program provides you with both a bachelors and a master’s degree upon completion.
Other key factors include the personal statement and letters of recommendation. Most programs require 3 letters of recommendation; one which should be from a healthcare provider, ideally a PA who you had the opportunity to work with. The other letters should be academic references. You should avoid getting letters from family or friends! Lastly one of the key factors that distinguishes one applicant from another is your experience. It is crucial that you have experience working with a PA. PA admission committees expect you to know the differences between a PA and other healthcare professionals and experience working alongside a PA is the key to determining that. Majority of the PA programs require at least 1000 hours of direct patient interaction which should include experience shadowing a PA. It is crucial that you understand the PA profession and have good reasons for choosing it. There are some programs that will not consider you if you have no experience shadowing a PA. Lastly, the interview is the last important step in the selection process. It enables the admission committee to determine if the applicant’s skills, experience and personality meets their requirements. During your interview, the admission committee will be analyzing your communication skills, your motivation, and if you understand the role of a PA. The interview is an opportunity for you to showcase your skills and motivation, as well as a chance for you to ask the admission committee any questions that you have. Thus it is important that you come prepared!
The application process is a long and tiring journey, but with the right tools, hard work, and dedication, you can definitely do it!
About the Author:
AYESHA GHAFFAR PA-C
Ayesha has been an APPAA contributor since 2020. Since graduating in 2017, Ayesha has been working in Emergency Medicine as well as Urgent Care.