What to Study to Become a Physician Assistant

Intro
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Physician assistants perform direct patient care including diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic medical conditions. A physician assistant (PA) works with great autonomy under the supervision of a medical doctor, performing many of the same functions as a doctor, but referring the most complicated cases to the physician. Physician assistants must pass the national PANCE exam after studying to become a physician assistant in an accredited program.

Anatomy

Take a broad selection of life science courses including biology, microbiology, genetics, zoology, physiology and anatomy. These will prepare you for subjects like human physiology, human anatomy and clinical medicine that you will study to become a PA. Your undergraduate coursework should track plans for pre-medicine and pre-nursing students.

Chemistry

Prepare for organic chemistry and pharmacology coursework. Take chemistry, organic chemistry and biochemistry as a college undergraduate.

Physician Assistant

Complete coursework in psychology and sociology during your bachelor's degree program. These classes will help you while taking behavioral sciences coursework to become a PA.

Gain Clinical Experience

Gain clinical experience. More than any single course you take in college, acceptance and successful completion of a physician assistant program requires patient care experiences in a clinical setting. Consider working as an emergency medical technician (EMT) or medical assistant during your college years if planning post-graduate study to become a physician assistant.

    Tips & Warnings
  • Most physician assistant programs require two to four years paid clinical experience before acceptance. Many programs will not count volunteer work in clinical settings.
  • Expect stiff competition for acceptance to a physician assistant program. Most applicants studying to become a physician assistant hold bachelor's or other advanced degrees. Many applicants already hold nursing degrees with years of clinical experience.

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