Physician Assistant Studies

Physician assistants practice medicine under a physician’s supervision. They are medically trained to perform routine diagnostic, therapeutic, preventive, and health maintenance services.  PA’s perform physical exams and take a patient’s medical history. They assist the physician in conducting rounds in acute and long-term inpatient care settings. They perform and interpret common laboratory and other routine diagnostic procedures. PA’s perform procedures ranging from injections and suturing to assisting surgeons during operations. They are involved in patient instruction and counseling. In short, they do most of the routine work of the family physician and may do the more routine, direct patient care of the physician specialists. PA’s work in many different settings. Over half work with family physicians and internists, but many work primarily in a hospital or clinic.  

PA programs entail 24 months of intensive medical education; 9-12 months of classroom studies, then 9-15 months of supervised clinical “rotations.” Classroom instruction will include such areas as anatomy, pharmacology, physiology, microbiology, pathophysiology, physical diagnosis, etc.  Rotations generally include such areas as internal medicine, family medicine, OB/GYN, pediatrics, geriatric medicine, emergency medicine, and psychiatry.  


Most PA Programs Require: 

General Biology w/Lab Bio 220, 221, and FS Bio 201

Anatomy (Human preferred) w/Lab Bio 367 (365 may be accepted)

Physiology w/Lab Bio 380

Microbiology w/Lab Bio 310

General Chemistry w/Lab Chem 120 & 122

Organic Chemistry I w/Lab    Chem 231

English         Eng 100 level literature course

Psychology (General, Abnormal, Lifespan) Psych 110, 170, 160

Often Recommended Courses Include:

Organic II Chem 332, 234 (lab)

Biochemistry  Chem 253

Genetics & Cell Biology  Bio 320, 325

Humanities/Social Sciences    Your choice!

Math – Calculus Math (140 & 141, or 151)

Statistics Psych 207 or Bio 385

Note:  Requirements vary considerably from one program to another. It is very important that you carefully investigate the programs you are interested in and plan your coursework accordingly. The classes listed above are only a rough guideline.

Other Requirements:

Recommendations: In addition to faculty and committee letter of recommendation, you will need a letter of recommendation from a practicing physician assistant-

GRE (general exam)
Some schools are beginning to require PA-CAT

Experience in the field: This area is an extremely important one. Some schools require as many as 1,000 hours of patient care experience. It may be paid or volunteer, but it must involve direct patient contact. Training and working as a Health Coach, Nursing Assistant or an EMT are good ways to get patient experience. See K Peterson for more information.

Allegheny has a 3+2 cooperative program with Chatham U. For more information go to: