Pre-Physician Assistant

A physician assistant (PA) is a licensed health care professional who practices medicine under a physician's supervision. A PA provides a broad range of health care services and often spends time counseling patients on ways to stay healthy. PAs perform physical exams, diagnose illnesses, develop and carry out treatment plans, order and interpret diagnostic tests, suture wounds, assist in surgery, provide preventive health counseling and write prescriptions. PAs can provide primary care and specialize in any medical specialty. Examples of medical specialties include emergency medicine, internal medicine, surgery, dermatology, cardiology, oncology, pediatrics, administration, and many more. PA is a flexible career that allows practitioners to practice in a wide range of medical settings and specialties.

For students that are interested in pursuing a career as a Physician Assistant but are unsure about which school they would like to attend, please contact the Pre-Medical Program Director. Dr. Teresa Donze-Reiner ( or make an appointment here. Gaining admission into a Physician Assistant Program is competitive and students need to complete pre-requisite courses, maintain a high overall GPA and science GPA, as well as obtain a significant number patient contact hours. The Pre-Medical Program at WCU can help you navigate what pre-requisites to take, how many patient contact hours are needed, as well as how to develop an effective personal statement.

Academic Expectations

Specific admission requirements vary per physician assistant program. You should consult with physician assistant schools of interest to determine their specific admission requirements

Suggested academic preparation:

  • Bachelor's degree- A majority of physician assistant programs require that applicants earn a bachelor's degree along with specific prerequisite courses before starting the professional program.
  • Programs that do not require a bachelor's degree will require a specific number of undergraduate credit hours for admission. Check with each physician assistant program for information on required undergraduate preparation.
  • Competitive academic record- GPA in all courses, and especially in science courses, will be part of the admission decision.
  • Major in anything
We recommend you meet with an advisor once a semester to ensure you are progressing with the correct academic coursework.
For current and future students that are interested in the NEW Master of Science in Physician Assistant (PA) Studies Program at WCU, click the following link (WCU Physician Assistant Program) to learn more about this exciting opportunity. You can also email if you have any specific questions. The program is applying for ARC-PA Provisional accreditation and plans to begin its first class in July 2021.

Entrance Exams

Graduate Record Exam (GRE)

Many, but not all, physician assistant programs require that students take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Information on the GRE can be obtained at the Graduate Record Examination website.

Application Information

Centralized Application System- CASPA

Most physician assistant programs participate in a centralized application service called the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA). Other programs require that applicants submit the application directly to the program. Contact specific programs for application requirements. Many PA programs require applicants to document between 500-2,000 hours of patient contact in a job or volunteer setting. Check with specific PA programs for details on required patient contact hours.

Professional Degrees

Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS)

The vast majority of physician assistant professional programs award the Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS). The MPAS program is an intensive 2-3 year program that includes at least four months of classroom instruction in anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, physical diagnosis, pathophysiology, microbiology, clinical laboratory science, behavioral science and medical ethics. The physician assistant program also includes at least 2,000 hours of clinical rotations. Upon earning the master's degree, graduates take a licensing exam.

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