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What are the Prerequisites for Physician Assistants?

A Physician assistant’s job is rewarding, fulfilling and recession-proof. The profession requires hard work, dedication, and high levels of motivation. The course is long and demands 100% focus. Most schools limit the number of seats and set up very strict selection rules. Here’s what it takes to become a PA:

Prerequisites for Physician Assistant – Schooling

  1. You need a high school education or great scores in General Education Development (GED).
  2. Some schools require applicants to complete 2 years of college or minimum 60 credits. However, all accredited physician assistant programs require applicants to have a bachelor’s (science) degree and all the top schools need a college degree.
  3. Students who have opted for science subjects (biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, mathematics), psychology, English and social science, stand a better chance than others.
  4. All schools prefer students who have obtained rich experience in a medical facility. Such experience can be up to 1 year – the higher the better.
  5. Students who have taken drugs in the past will most likely be rejected.
  6. Every PA school routinely conducts background verification on all its applicants.
  7. The school will check your GRE (Graduate Record Examination) scores. It will also check to see how recently you have taken the GRE exams – if more than 5 years have passed since you took your GRE exams, your application may be rejected.
  8. You will have to apply using CASPA’s (Central Application Services for Physician Assistants) online application service.
  9. You must submit letters of reference as required, and at least one reference must be from a practicing physician.
  10. You will also need a BLS certification. BLS, (Basic Life Support) is a short course that prepares students in reviving a patient and helping him withstand a medical condition like cardiac arrest, respiration problems, etc.
  11. Your thinking, communication, logic, social and motor skills will be tested.


Prerequisites for Physician Assistant – Certification

You need to pass the exam conducted by the (National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants) (NCCPA) to get your certificate. The exam is rather lengthy – it goes on for 6 hours and the student has to answer 360 questions. 1 minute per question is allotted to students to answer the questions.

To become eligible for the exam, you must prove that you have completed an accredited PA program successfully. A PA program lasts for 2-3 years and includes classroom and in-clinic training.

Prerequisites for Physician Assistant – Practice

Once you obtain your PA certification, the next step is to get a license from the state you intend to practice in. Every state has different licensing rules and therefore you must check rules that apply to you.

Prerequisites for Physician Assistant – Staying Certified

You need continuing education to keep your certification current and active. All PAs are required to complete 100 hours of education every 2 years. In addition, all PAs must take a recertification exam (PANRE, or Physician Assistant National Recertification Exam) every 6 years to keep their certification alive. PANRE is administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).

These are the different prerequisites of a physician assistant that he must fulfill at different stages of his career.

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