How to become a physician assistant

November 18, 2020

Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.

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If you are considering becoming a physician assistant, you should understand the application process and what prerequisites you need to fulfill. 

As a pre-PA student you are expected to have healthcare experience and complete certain academic courses before you apply to PA school. We have explored the path to becoming a physician assistant so that you can be successful. 

At Global Pre-Meds, we help high school and college students who are interested in medicine. We provide doctor shadowing and global health experience that is tailored to fit your needs and interests. We can help you fulfill your prerequisites for physician assistant school with one of a kind experiences.

Healthcare experience

Physician assistant programs ask applicants to list their experience hours on their application. As a pre-PA student, you are expected to have a certain number of healthcare experience hours. 

Your application will likely include a place for you to record general healthcare experience as well as patient care experience. Patient care experience is when you are directly responsible for treatment, diagnosis, or care of patients. Healthcare experience can be more general and may involve less hands-on work that also contributes to the functioning of the hospital and patient experience. 

You can find healthcare experience by volunteering, shadowing, or finding paid work at hospitals and clinics. 

One of the best things you can do to prepare yourself for any medical career is to shadow a healthcare professional. Shadowing gives insight into the day-to-day activities of physician assistants and other healthcare professionals

As a future physician assistant, it’s good to find PAs that you can observe. However, it can be challenging to get enough required shadowing experience if you are only shadowing PAs. It’s helpful to observe other healthcare professionals as well, so you understand the differences and why becoming a PA is the right choice for you

At Global Pre-Meds, we provide opportunities for you to shadow a doctor and get global health experience that can set you apart from other applicants. We can safely put you on the front lines of hospitals and clinics so that you can get a firsthand experience on the front lines. 

You can also find medical volunteer opportunities, keeping in mind that if you are not a certified medical professional you should not perform any procedures. This may leave you with volunteer opportunities that are mainly administrative in nature. 

Paid work is another option we mentioned, that can help you gain healthcare experience. Some pre-PA students work as EMTs, CNAs, or medical scribes. Each work experience is different and may or may not include direct patient care, so it’s important to know what you’re going to gain before you commit. The other thing to consider with paid work experience is that most jobs will require a significant amount of training before you can begin, and then you also have to apply for the job itself. 

If you join us at Global Pre-Meds, all you have to do is apply. We have already solidified partnerships with hospitals and mentors who will be guide you through a wonderful learning experience.

Academic Prerequisites

To apply to a physician assistant program you must have a bachelor’s degree and complete all the required academic courses

The Physician Assistant Education Association has comprised a list of nearly every PA school in the U.S.. You should check the requirements of any PA school you want to apply to. 

There is a list of science course prerequisites for PA programs, which includes chemistry, biology, microbiology, physiology, and anatomy. You’ll find that many schools also ask their pre-PA students to have at least a 3.0 average for all science courses. Make sure you know exactly what your school asks for. 

Students often ask what the minimum GPA is for physician assistant school. While every program is different, most PA schools ask that you have at least a 3.0 grade point average. Even the students at schools who do not have a minimum GPA, or have one that is lower, have an average that is above a 3.0. 

If you are not feeling confident about your GPA, you can always take other courses over the summer to try to boost your scores. By taking some more advanced courses, you can also make yourself a more competitive applicant. Some schools offer you the chance to petition for consideration if your GPA is lower than the minimum. 

But don’t forget, it’s not all about your grades. You can still make a good impression on PA school admission officers if the other aspects of your application are impressive. It’s good to show you are a well-rounded candidate with some other extracurriculars. 

Our Global Pre-Meds programs can help you stand out from the crowd of other applicants. Few pre-PA students will have had the global health perspective and diversity of experience that our Global Pre-Meds students do. 

You can observe cases on the front lines of international hospitals that are unique to the country you’re in, while gaining experience with patients from different backgrounds. These kinds of extracurriculars can show PA schools that you have something special to offer. 

Apply for a physician assistant program

Ninety-five percent of all accredited PA schools in the U.S. can be found on the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA). This service allows you to view the requirements and apply to any of those programs through one website, rather than creating separate accounts for each one. 

You’ll need to keep records of all of your qualifications so that you can add them to your CASPA application. While you are getting your healthcare experience hours it’s helpful to note the day, time, and service that you are on. You may also want to make notes of the interesting cases you see because they could help you with your essays and interviews. 

If you join us for our global health experience program in Tanzania, you will learn directly from traditional healers, as well as medical professionals at a health center. This diverse experience will help you stand out to admissions officers and make you a better physician assistant.

References in the form of letters of recommendation will likely be required. You can ask a professor or better yet, a healthcare professional, who can speak to your professionalism and ability in the field.

If you join us for our hospital doctor shadowing program in the Dominican Republic, we can provide a minimum of 40 hours of shadowing and a personal letter of recommendation written by your mentor.

Check out our program dates!