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Pre-Physician Assistant Advising

Physician assistants (PAs) have become an integral and unique component of health care.  PAs are health care professionals licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision.  PAs conduct physical exams, provide preventive care, diagnose and treat illnesses, assist in surgery and can write prescriptions.  Physician assistant graduate school programs last approximately 28 months, and students typically are awarded a Master of Science (M.S.) in Physician Assistant.  Awarding of the M.S. degree allows the physician assistant candidate to sit for the National Certifying Examination administered by the National Commission on the Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).

Why Should I major in EXS-Human Performance if I Want to Go to PA School?

SCSU students can select any major while fulfilling the requirements for physician assistant graduate school; however, majoring in Exercise Science-Human Performance is strongly recommended.  There is a dire need for medical professionals with an academic background in Exercise Science/Kinesiology.  In 2007, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) co-launched with the American Medical Association the Exercise is Medicine® (EIM) initiative. The purpose of EIM is to make the scientifically-demonstrated benefits of exercise and physical activity a standard for health care.  EIM focuses on encouraging primary care physicians and other health care providers to include physical activity when designing treatment plans for patients.

Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor lists Physician Assistant as projected to grow 30% from 2014 to 2024, described as “much faster than average” for all occupations.  The 2015 median salary for a physician assistant was $98,180 per year.

Preparing for Graduate School

Asa college student preparing for graduate work in physician assistant, you should be aware of several steps necessary for admission into an accredited physician assistant program:

  • Contact PA education programs to learn what prerequisites are required
  • Work or volunteer in a clinical, hands-on health care environment for a minimum of 25 hours (may be as much as 2000 hours depending on the school)
  • Find a physician assistant mentor to meet members of the field

Prerequisite Courses for PA Graduate School

Since the exact prerequisite courses vary for each graduate school, it is important for the student to examine the graduate schools they are interested in attending during their sophomore or junior year to allow time to complete all of the prerequisite courses.  The list below contains the most common prerequisite courses when examining many physician assistant graduate program admissions requirements:

20 credits – Biological Sciences

4 credits – General Biology with lab
4 credits – Microbiology with lab
4 credits – Genetics    
4 credits – Human Anatomy with lab
4 credits – Human Physiology with lab
     (or 8 credits of Human Anatomy & Physiology with lab)

Note: 3-credit A&P courses or Exercise Physiology courses are NOT acceptable for these credits.

20 credits – Chemical Sciences

8 credits – General Chemistry with lab
8 credits – Organic Chemistry with lab
4 credits – Biochemistry with lab

3 credits – Statistics
3 credits – Psychology
3-6 credits – English Composition/Writing Intensive

Typically, a grade of ‘B-’ or better is required in all of these prerequisite courses.  SCSU courses that fulfill these requirements include:

BIO 102, Zoology
BIO 120, Microbiology
BIO 200 and 201, Human Anatomy & Physiology I&II
BIO 320, Genetics
CHE 120 and 121, General Chemistry I&II
CHE 260 and 261, Organic Chemistry I&II
CHE 450, Biochemistry I
EXS 485, Measurement & Statistics in EXS
PSY 100, Intro to Psychology
ENG 112, Written Composition
EXS 386, Fitness Management (writing intensive)

Most PA schools have a minimum undergraduate GPA requirement of approximately 3.0 out of 4.0 for admission.  However, recent observation of admission practices indicates that your SCSU undergraduate GPA should be at least 3.5 to be seriously considered for physician assistant graduate school.

Patient-Care Experience

Before applying, students must complete 25-2000 hours (depending on the institution) of hands-on patient-care experience, which typically consists of working one-on-one with patients and performing procedures that require touching patients.


American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) – a national advocacy organization for physician assistants.
Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) – a national organization representing physician assistant educational programs in the United States.

Physician Assistant Schools in Connecticut

University of Bridgeport, Bridgeport, CT
Quinnipiac University, Hamden, CT
University of St. Joseph, West Hartford, CT
Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, CT
Yale University, New Haven, CT

Other Area Physician Assistant schools

Bay Path University, Longmeadow, MA
Boston University, Boston, MA
Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Boston, MA
Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (accelerated program), Worcester, MA
Springfield College, Springfield, MA
Northeastern University, Boston, MA
Tufts University, Medford, MA
Bryant University, Smithfield, RI
Johnson & Wales University, Providence, RI
Long Island University, Brooklyn, NY
Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY
Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry, NY
Franklin Pierce University, Rindge, NH