Pre-Physician Assistant

Physician assistants (PAs) are formally trained healthcare providers that have earned a degree from an accredited by the American Academy of Physician Assistants. PAs provide diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventative health care services under the supervision of physicians and surgeons. 

The average salary for a full-time, clinically practicing physician assistant is $90,000. Employment is projected to grow 25-50% in the next ten years as health care providers increasingly use PAs to limit costs.  Job opportunities for PAs should be good, particularly in rural and inner-city clinics.

PA masters programs in the United States are highly competitive, most having an acceptance rate of approximately 10%.

Physician Assistant Program Admissions Requirements

PS schools do not select on the basis of major, however most successful applicants have majored in one of the sciences (particularly biology or chemistry).

Admission requirements vary from school to school. Please review the websites of each school to which you plan to apply to be sure that you fulfill their requirements. Below are listed some common course requirements for PA master's degree programs, along with courses offered at Radford University that may fill these requirements.

General Course RequirementsRadford University Courses
2 semesters of general chemistry with labs
CHEM 101:102
2 semesters of general biology with labsBIOL 131:232
2 semesters of organic chemistry or 1 semester of biochemistryCHEM 301:302; CHEM 471
2 semesters of anatomy and physiology with labsBIOL 410:411
1 semester of microbiologyBIOL 408
1-2 semesters of psychology (general, developmental)PSYC 121 and 230
1 semester of college mathematics or statisticsMATH 138 or higher
1 semester of medical terminologynot offered

It is a good idea to plan your course of study early, so that these time-demanding science courses may be spread out over several years.  To be competitive for admission to a masters PA program, grades in prerequisite and related courses are especially important.  A competitive GPA for PA programs is 3.00 or higher.

Please note that some schools require that prerequisite courses be completed prior to application. 


Most masters PA programs require the general Graduate Record Examination (GRE), a standardized computer-based exam.  This exam is an important tool for graduate programs in standardizing the evaluation of all applicants.  The test is composed of three major sections:  verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing.  The test costs around $140, and most schools will accept GRE scores obtained within the last three years.

Additional Requirements/Suggestions

Many masters PA programs require experience in health care, through paid or unpaid service.  Such experiences may be found in a variety of fields, but must include direct patient contact.

Links to Local PA Programs

Eastern Virginia Medical School
Norfolk, VA

James Madison University
Harrisonburg, VA

Jefferson College of Health Sciences
Roanoke, VA

Shenandoah University
Winchester, VA

Neighboring States

University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY

North Carolina
Duke University
Durham, NC

East Carolina State University
Greenville, NC

Methodist College
Fayetteville, NC

Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem, NC

Wingate University
Wingate, NC

Bethel College
McKenzie, TN

Trevecca Nazarene University
Nashville, TN

West Virginia
Alderson-Broaddus College
Philippi, WV

Mountain State University
Beckley, WV


Be sure to meet with your pre-PA advisor every semester to review your progress.

Freshman year

  • Create a plan of study and review with pre-PA advisor
  • Gain shadowing experience
  • Review the GRE exam

Sophomore year

  • Continue shadowing experience
  • Review the GRE exam

Junior year (spring)

  • Continue shadowing experience
  • Take the GRE exam
  • Begin application on CASPA (online application)

Summer after junior year

  • Complete CASPA application
  • Schedule mock interview with the Pre-Health Advisory