Pre-Physician Assistant

Pre-Physician Assistant

Introduction

Pre-Professional Pathways are not offered as majors at Western, nor are they at most other universities, but they can be incorporated into or taken alongside any degree-granting major offered at Western.

A Physician Assistant practices and prescribes medicine under the license of a physician, and can work in a variety of healthcare settings. Western students interested in this pathway prepare for entry to a Physician Assistant program by obtaining a baccalaureate degree, completing the prerequisite course work for entry into specific programs, and by obtaining a broad variety of volunteer or paid clinical experience.

There is no one “right” major for gaining admission to a Physician Assistant program. Your undergraduate years offer you the opportunity to explore many academic fields, to develop basic skills and knowledge, and to demonstrate expertise and experience a major of your choice. Pick one in which you excel and enjoy. Popular majors for Pre-PA students are Biology and Chemistry, but students have majored in a diverse range of academic disciplines including Anthropology, Behavioral Neuroscience, Community Health, Psychology, History, Philosophy, Communications, Spanish, and Fairhaven self-designed majors. Some pursue combined majors such as Anthropology/Biology, Biochemistry, and Cellular & Molecular Biology. 

What does it mean to be a Physician Assistant?

A Physician Assistant (PA) practices and prescribes medicine under the license of a physician, and can work in a variety of healthcare settings. PAs are trained as generalists (but may work in specialty areas) and are formally trained through a master’s degree program to provide diagnostic, preventative and therapeutic services. PAs are not required to complete a residency and work under the authority of a supervising physician.  Students prepare for entry to a PA program by obtaining a baccalaureate degree, completing the prerequisite course work for entry into specific programs, and by obtaining a broad variety of volunteer or paid clinical experience. This guide is not exhaustive, but is intended to get you started in planning your Pre-PA track while at Western.

Beyond the Classroom

Western's Pre-Healthcare Professions Advising Office provides mentoring and advising to students interested in pursuing careers in healthcare professions. The office works with students to enhance their chances of gaining successful admission to the professional school of their choice. Services range from individual academic advisement to preparing students for the final application process.

Western's Associated Students is home to 200+ clubs, including those for students pursuing healthcare professions.

Shadowing

Students should gain shadowing experience with both a PA and a physician. Discuss your shadowing options with Pre-healthcare advisors.

Clinical Hours

Most PA programs require that applicants obtain a certain number of paid clinical hours (UW requires at least 2000) before applying. Some examples are work as a CNA, Medical Assistant, ER Scribe, or EMT.

Careers and Graduate Studies

Pre-PA Education

There is no one “right” major for gaining admission to a Physician Assistant program. Your undergraduate years offer you the opportunity to explore many academic fields, to develop basic skills and knowledge, and to demonstrate expertise and experience a field of study (major) of your choice. Pick one in which you excel and enjoy. Popular majors for Pre-PA students are Biology and Chemistry, but students have majored in a diverse range of academic disciplines including Anthropology, Behavioral Neuroscience, Community Health, Psychology, History, Philosophy, Communications, Spanish, and Fairhaven self-designed majors. Some pursue combined majors such as Anthropology/Biology, Biochemistry, and Cellular & Molecular Biology.

Physician Assistants are trained as generalists (but may work in specialty areas) and are formally trained through a master’s degree program to provide diagnostic, preventative and therapeutic services.

GRE

The Graduate Record Examination is offered monthly at the WWU Testing Center, and assesses your verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing skills. Information is available at www.ets.org/gre.

Additional Resources

Pre-Physician Assistant Events

Pre-Healthcare Advising Events

Typical programming events offered by the Health Professions Advising office (but are not limited to):

Fall

Health Professional School & Grad School Info Fair, October 17

Winter Registration Drop-in: Nov 13 and Nov 14, 12-2 in BI 415

Winter

Spring Registration Drop-in: Feb 26 and Feb 27, 12-2 in BI 415

Spring

The Healthcare Professional School Application: A session overviewing the process
MEDEX info session (usually in April)

Fall Registration Drop-in: May 20 and May 21, 12-2 in BI 415