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Preparing for a Career as a Physician Assistant

Physician Assistants (PAs) diagnose and treat patients in a setting that is under the supervision of a physician. They are formally trained to examine patients, diagnose injuries and illnesses, and provide treatment. The scope of duties of a PA varies from state to state, and also depends on the need of the supervising physician. PAs can work in any specialty of medicine, including primary care and specialties. Physician Assistants work in physicians’ offices, hospitals, and other healthcare settings. Most work full time.

To become a Physician Assistant, students must graduate from an accredited master’s-level graduate program, which is modeled on the medical school curriculum. They must then become nationally certified and state-licensed to practice medicine with the supervision of a physician.

For more information on this field, see the American Academy of Physician Assistants and the U.S. Department of Labor Web page.

Monmouth University now offers a full-time Physician Assistant (PA) program to prepare students to enter this highly sought-after profession. This is a three-year Master of Science program. For more information, visit

Typical Prerequisites:

(see individual Physician Assistant Programs’ school requirements for specific information)

  • One year of general chemistry with laboratory
  • One year of general biology with laboratory
  • One course in general microbiology
  • One year of anatomy and physiology with laboratory (BY 211/212)
  • One course in mathematics (pre-calculus level or higher)
  • One course in psychology
  • Medical Terminology
  • Experience shadowing a Physician Assistant
  • Completion of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE)

Medical experience is the most important determinant in being admitted to a Physician Assistant program. Schools may require up to 1,000 hours of direct-patient care. Here are some possible examples of positions that provide quality experience:

EMT/Paramedic, Hospice Volunteer, Physical Therapy Assistant, Registered Nurse, Pharmacist, Clinical Health Educator, Licensed Practical Nurse, Medical Technician, Dietician, Medical Assistant, X-ray Technician, Emergency Room Technician, Physical Therapist, Phlebotomist, Psychologist, Occupational Therapist, Surgical Technician, Patient Care Technician, Medical Corpsman, Peace Corps Volunteer, Athletic Trainer, Respiratory Therapist, Nursing Assistant.

Schools vary as to what constitutes relevant experience, so check the website, read the application materials, or call the admissions office to confirm. Shadowing may not count towards the hour total for direct patient care. Multiple letters of recommendation are required within an application.

Application to a PA Program is through CASPA  Central Application Service for Physician Assistant.