Physician Assistant/Physician Associate
Physician assistants/physician associates (PAs) provide health care services under the supervision of physicians. Although PAs work with the supervision by a physician, they may be the principal care providers in certain practices. In such cases, the PA confers with the supervising physician as needed or required by law. For information on a PAs scope of practice by state, visit the American Medical Association website.
PAs are formally trained to provide diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventative health care services, as delegated by a physician. They take medical histories, examine and treat patients, order and interpret laboratory tests and X-rays, make diagnoses, and prescribe medications. PAs treat minor injuries by suturing, splinting, and casting. PAs also may prescribe medications in all 50 states.
Admission requirements are not standardized for all PA schools, but an undergraduate baccalaureate degree is required for matriculation. PA schools require a combination of science and non-science classes, such as General Chemistry, Anatomy and Physiology, Microbiology, Psychology, etc. Be sure to investigate the pre-requisites for schools you are interested in with a pre-health advisor!
In addition to coursework, PA schools are unique from medical schools in usually requiring a certain number of direct patient care (DPC) hours, which involves hands-on patient care. Of the most recently accepted PA students, DPC hours ranged between 1000 – 2000 hours. For this reason, applying post-graduation after achieving more DPC hours often provides a higher chance of admission. The average entering age for PA is 27 years old. We highly suggest talking with a pre-health advisor about DPC hours as soon as you become interested in the PA profession!
The oldest physician assistant program in Mississippi is located at Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi. Visit this website for specific UM classes required at MC. Mississippi State University-Meridian is developing a PA program and currently seeking provisional accreditation with vastly different requirements than most PA programs. Another example of a nearby program is University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s PA Program. Visit their UTHSC website for requirements. We have attached a comprehensive list of PA programs by state and their accreditation status.
Most PA programs participate in a centralized application, Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistant (CASPA) and applications open at the end of April each year. A competitive PA applicant will have a strong overall and science prerequisite GPA, a competitive number of DPC hours, PA shadowing (we recommend 100 hours), strong letters of recommendation, and long-term community involvement.