Physician Assistant

“PAs (physician associates/physician assistants) are licensed clinicians who practice medicine in every specialty and setting. Trusted, rigorously educated and trained healthcare professionals, PAs are dedicated to expanding access to care and transforming health and wellness through patient-centered, team-based medical practice.” – American Academy of Physician Associates

“Where do PAs work?

  • There are approximately 159,000 PAs who practice in every medical setting in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. They work in hospitals, medical offices, community health centers, nursing homes, retail clinics, educational facilities, workplace clinics, and correctional institutions. PAs also serve in the nation’s uniformed services and work for other federal government agencies, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs.

What do PAs do?

  • Generally, PAs can:
    • Take medical histories
    • Conduct physical exams
    • Diagnose and treat illness
    • Order and interpret tests
    • Develop treatment plans
    • Prescribe medication
    • Counsel on preventive care
    • Perform procedures
    • Assist in surgery
    • Make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes
    • Do clinical research

Is there a high demand for PAs?

  • Yes. The PA profession is one of the fastest growing in the country. The demand for PAs increased more than 300 percent from 2011 to 2014, according to the healthcare search firm Merritt Hawkins. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the profession will increase 31 percent from 2020 to 2030, significantly faster than the average for all occupations. The demand for PAs is so high that three quarters of PAs receive multiple job offers upon graduation. To learn more about becoming a PA, visit aapa.org/career-central/become-a-pa.”

(American Academy of Physician Associates)

PAEA PA School Finder

  • Free!
  • Updated each year
  • View detailed statistics for all US programs
  • Note: Choosing schools should begin as soon as you identify yourself on a Pre-PA track to ensure your course of study will meet the requirements for your schools of interest, as they vary greatly from program-to-program

Centralized Application Service

Personal Statement

  • Physician Assistant (maximum length 5,000 characters)
    • Prompt: Please explain why you are interested in becoming a physician assistant.
      • Brainstorming: A well-crafted personal statement takes time. Begin by brainstorming ideas for your statement, thinking about what you would like to share with the admissions committees. Consult with mentors, friends and family on topics.
      • Outline: Look for themes within your list of brainstorm ideas. Choose a few points from your list that seem especially salient, and develop them into an outline of your essay.
      • Working Draft(s): Once you have written a draft, have people read it and give you honest feedback. Incorporate feedback and come back to it in a couple weeks and see if you still feel that it conveys the impression that you meant to give, and make necessary edits. Consider making an appointment with the Writing Center. Make sure that you have a developed draft on MAP, to review during your Application Readiness Meeting.
      • Resources:

Secondary Applications

  • Secondary applications may be included within the primary application or sent directly to applicants by a school’s admissions office. In most cases, you will receive secondary applications after your primary application has been verified by the application service (4-6 weeks after submission).
  • Schools have varying criteria for who they invite to submit a secondary application. Some schools will send them to every candidate who applies to their program. Others will send them only to applicants who meet their GPA and entrance exam score requirements. Some schools will select only candidates who they are very interested in for secondaries. Your application is not considered to be complete until you have submitted your secondary application.
  • Secondary applications are designed by individual programs to learn more about applicants. It is important to realize that secondary applications are both labor intensive and expensive. They typically require answers to essay questions and a fee. Set aside time and money in preparation for writing your essays and paying for submission. Returning your secondary applications within a week or two of receipt demonstrates your continued interest in that program. Waiting longer may hurt your application.
  • When you formulate your list of schools to which you plan to apply, take these secondary applications into account. Don’t apply to so many schools that you won’t have the time or money for secondary applications.

General Timeline

  • April of year prior to matriculation- CASPA application opens
  • Late spring/summer of year prior to matriculation- Applications start to be forwarded to PA schools, supplemental applications are sent to applicants, interviews begin
  • Fall – Interview invitations continue on a rolling basis, acceptances are offered on a rolling basis
  • Late spring  – Make final decision if holding multiple offers (follow CASPA traffic rules)
  • Summer – Start PA program

The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is the required entrance exam for many Physician Assistant programs.

  • The GRE General Test is administered year round and is available at more than 1,000 test centers in more than 160 countries. The GRE is consists of a battery of three tests: 1. Verbal Reasoning; 2. Quantitative Reasoning; and 3. Analytical Writing.
  • The GRE should be scheduled only after all prerequisite courses are successfully completed and the applicant has had 2-3 months to study. If the resulting date would be later than the launch date of your program’s centralized application, then deferral to the next year is highly recommended.

The Physician Assistant College Admissions Test (PA-CAT) is an entrance exam used by a few Physician Assistant programs. (PA Programs Currently Using the PA-CAT)

  • The PA-CAT is administered year round and is available at more than 5,000 test centers and at home through remote proctoring. The PA-CAT measures general academic ability and scientific knowledge necessary for success in the demanding Physician Assistant curriculum. The PA-CAT covers the following subjects: Anatomy, Physiology, General Biology, Biochemistry, General and Organic Chemistry, Microbiology, Behavioral Sciences, Genetics, and Statistics.
  • The PA-CAT should be scheduled only after all prerequisite courses are successfully completed and the applicant has had 4-6 months to study. If the resulting date would be later than the launch date of your program’s centralized application, then deferral to the next year is highly recommended.

*Note to Pre-PA students: As you build your PA schools list, our office recommends applying to programs that allow you to take the same entrance exam.

PA Applicants can begin to prepare for their application cycle by participating in the PreMed and PreHealth Advising Application Readiness Program. This includes completing a self-assessment form through Qualtrics, which encourages students to reflect on academic and experiential preparation for their designated health profession program. After students complete their self-assessment, they will be invited to set up an Application Readiness Meeting (ARM). This 45-minute meeting will allow the applicant to meet with their advisor to discuss their self-assessment and plan for the upcoming application cycle. This will also be a great time to ask questions about the CASPA application, GRE, and other elements of the application process.  

Please refer to the following timeline for important dates regarding the Applicant Readiness Program.  

PA Application Readiness Timeline*

November 15: Self-Assessment Due 

January 31: Deadline to complete required Application Readiness Meeting with your assigned PreMed/PreHealth Advisor

*To be completed in your application year

Individual Letter Processes

As Committee Letters are not a traditional piece of a PA school application, those applying to PA programs will apply with individual letters of recommendation. Please do not request individual letters through MAP. Instead, follow the instructions in the common application for your profession, or the directions of the specific schools if they have a different application process.