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Important Requirements That Physician Assistant Programs Look For

One of the most important things that students who want to become physician assistants have to consider is the set of physician assistant requirements applicable to their field.  At present there are 149 physician assistant programs that are accredited in the U.S. Unfortunately for students, there is no agreement among admissions committee members on what these requirements really are. For instance, if students were to talk to each of the admissions committee members on what they are looking for in physician assistant applicants, they would get extremely different opinions and ideas from each of the committee members! Still, each and every one of these physician assistant programs does follow a common set of criteria when deciding on which applicants to admit into their programs.

The five important requirements that every good physician assistant program look for in its applicants are:

  1. Passion
  2. Academic Capability/Test Scores
  3. Medical Experience
  4. Comprehension of the Physician Assistant Profession
  5. Maturity



Passion should not be underestimated since it can well skyrocket an otherwise ordinary applicant to the very top of the applicant pool! Passion is so very important to what makes a noteworthy applicant because it is that which makes an applicant put in an additional amount of hard work, take that additional chemistry course and even gain more hands-on experience in the medical field prior to applying to med school. The thing with passion is that it can’t be taught by anyone to anyone else; it is an innate quality and value that comes from within a person who has decided that he or she really wants something very badly. In the case of a PA program, it is learning to become a physician assistant. Essentially, passion replaces the belief I cannot with the objective I will.

This means that if students have a real passion for being a physician assistant, they are going to take specific steps on their own. This can include locating actual physician assistants in their own communities to shadow, as an example. It can just as well involve students taking the initiative to, on their own volition, reading physician assistant journals in order to discover what is front and center in this line of work. These are solely a couple of examples of what constitutes real passion in a physician student applicant, but there are certainly many other ways that students can display their passion for becoming a physician assistant.

Academic Capability/Test Scores

Lots of students who are applying to a physician assistant program seek to figure out the so-called “magic” grade point average as well as entrance examination score required to be accepted into a physician assistant program. A lot of students misguidedly assume that they have to have a 1500 score on their SATs and a 4.0 grade point average to have a real, decent chance. That could not be further from the truth, actually! In reality, though, the average applicant has a grade point average of only between 3.0 and 3.2, and he or she will have scored between 1000 and 1100 on his or her SATs.

However, there is a real emphasis put on an applicant’s ability and skill with regard to the hard sciences. These are things like biochemistry, physiology and anatomy. Students who experienced a hard time dealing with undergraduate biology and chemistry are not fated to do well in a physician assistant program, due to the prevalence of coursework in those subjects! However, if a student has struggled prior to physician assistant school, he or she can be redeemed if his or her trend with respect to grades is upward. In example, if a student does well in his freshman and sophomore years, but then falters in his junior and senior years, an admissions committee will not look as favorably on said student’s performance as it will, say, on the performance of a student who improved with his or her grades from freshman year to senior year.

The admissions committee of any given physician assistant program is also going to put some weight on the following factors. They will consider an applicant’s number of credit hours every semester, the difficulty of their coursework before applying to the physician assistant program, the reputation of the college or the university at which they studied, their standardized test scores, any extenuating life issues and even extracurricular activities.

Medical Experience

Those students who are serious applicants to any physician assistant program are ones who have at least some previous medical experience. Even so, there are some applicants who have absolutely no medical experience before applying to a physician assistant program. Sadly but realistically for those applicants, they are going to suffer a lower likelihood of being accepted into such a program. For those students who are viewed as serious candidates for any physician assistant program, it is common to possess at least 4 years of experience in the following areas: emergency services, nursing, allied health, medical volunteerism and trainer occupations.

Comprehension of the Physician Assistant Profession

When a physician assistant program’s admissions committee approves its applicants, it is looking to determine what the various motivations are behind any given applicant’s reason for wanting to be accepted into a physician assistant program. Thus, applicants should have a dependable comprehension of what a job as a physician assistant is going to be all about. An important piece of advice is never to look at a physician assistant program as an ideal segue into med school! Understanding the physician assistant profession means, for instance, realizing that you will always work under the oversight of a real doctor.


When we speak of maturity in the context of a physician assistant, we are strictly talking about something other than age. Sure, the average age of the ordinary physician assistant is 41, but that is not necessarily important. See, when the admissions committee of any given physician assistant program goes over the applicants, they will want to discover one who presents maturity in the following ways. They will be looking for maturity based on previous work experiences, based upon the interview and based on the essay that students will be submitting. For example, the committee is going to throw student applicants a bunch of questions in order to gauge their maturity. Here are some examples of the kinds of questions that students should expect:

  • Are you able to deal with stress as it comes up suddenly?
  • Are you capable of thinking on your feet?
  • Are you motivated enough?
  • Are you able to combine sympathy with a good sense of assertiveness?
  • Are you savvy enough to know when you need help from your overseeing physician?


As is plain to see, the physician assistant requirements are numerous and diverse, meaning that students who hope to just qualify for a position at a physician assistant school must be quite well-rounded. It is vital for anyone aspiring to be a physician assistant to remember that one need not be the smartest or the most experienced in the medical field to be accepted into a program, but simply show passion, a good deal of life experience and the determination it takes to succeed.

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