Physician Assistant

What is a Physician Assistant?

What is a Physician Assistant?

Physician Assistants (PAs) provide services under the supervision of physicians. PAs are trained to provide diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive healthcare services, as deemed necessary by a physician.  PAs are educated as generalists in medicine. However, many PAs work in specialty fields, such as: cardiovascular surgery, orthopedics, and emergency medicine.  Most Pas work in the primary care specialty areas of family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology.

 Physician Assistants typically do the following:

  • Work under the supervision of a physician.
  • Take medical histories.
  • Examine and treat patients.
  • Order and interpret laboratory tests and X-rays.
  • Make diagnoses, and prescribe medications.
  • Treat minor injuries by suturing, splinting, and casting.
  • Record progress notes, instruct and counsel patients.
  • Order or carry out therapy.
  • Prescribe medicine, when needed.

Explore these resources and organizations about Physician Assistants:

Source:  ADEA: ExploreHealthCareers. 7 May 2013. American Dental Education Association. 17 May 2013 <>.



If you are interested in becoming a PA, you may want to subscribe to the PA Programs Directory. The directory includes links to programs’ websites, which offer program-specific, detailed information and resources. 

  • Individual PA program will have their own, unique, course requirements for competitive applicants.
  • Students should check with the website and admissions office of schools where they plan to apply before their senior year, to progress smoothly from their undergraduate experience directly to PA school.
  • Please see a PHMO advisor to create an academic plan that meets your timeline and goals.
  • A preferred cumulative and science GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
  • Graduate Record Exam scores (GRE) taken within the last 5 years.
  • Please check with the schools you plan to apply to regarding their policy on AP Credits. Some schools may or may not accept AP Credit.  If they do accept credits, an additional upper level course with a lab may be required.

PA programs MAY require the following pre-requisite coursework. This is NOT an exhaustive list, as requirements vary by program. Remember that it is the applicant's responsibility to ensure completion of all pre-requisites.

  • Biology 141 and 142 with labs 
  • Chemistry 141 and 142 with labs
  • Chemistry 221 and 222 with labs 
  • Biochemistry (Biol 301 or Chem 301)
  • QTM 100 or Math 107
  • Anatomy with lab
  • Physiology with lab
  • Microbiolgy with lab
  • 6-8 semester hours of college English/writing (CWR classes in the English language can fulfill this requirement)
  • Some exposure to Psychology, Sociology, and/or Anthropology 

In addition to pre-requisite coursework, most PA programs require hundreds to thousands of hours of hands-on patient care hours. These hours can be acquired by working/volunteering in the following roles: 

  • Medical assistant
  • Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
  • Paramedic
  • Lab assistant/phlebotomist
  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)

Application Process

Admissions Exam:

  • Graduate Record Exam (GRE) taken within the past 5 years.
  • Scores for the Internet Based Test (iBT) version of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) for all applicants for whom English is not their native language.
  • Scores must be sent directly to the Emory PA Program from the Educational Testing Service.
  • A minimum total score of 93 with a speaking score of 26 is required for consideration for Emory’s PA Program.

Application Service: Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA)

Application timeline/deadline:  The typical cycle runs from mid-April – early-March of the following year. Once the application cycle closes, you will NOT be able to create or access your CASPA account for that cycle. Please be sure you are eligible to apply and are creating an account for the cycle in which you wish to apply. Each PA program has different deadline requirements and prerequisites for entry.

Letters of Recommendation:  Many programs have strict guidelines for recommenders, and once a reference is completed on the CASPA application, it can NOT be removed or replaced. Research the individual schools where you wish to apply.

  • For all schools participating with CASPA, you will need 3 letters of recommendation. 
  • All Letters of Reference are submitted to CASPA electronically.
  • If you are applying to a PA Program through CASPA, you will NOT be able to utilize Emory’s Credential File service through the Career Center.
  • Once you have chosen your recommenders, be certain to inform them that they will be filling out the recommendation electronically.
  • Obtain their preferred e-mail address and make sure they are monitoring their e-mail for your reference request. (CASPA

Personal Statement: The PHMO offers personal statement workshops on particular dates during the semester. Check the PHMO newsletter for upcoming events. Once you complete a draft of your personal statement, you may submit your draft to the Career Center Document Critique Service for feedback.