Competitive Applicant Profile
Entrance into Physician Assistant school is a very competitive process. While requirements vary from school to school, qualified applicants should have at least a 3.3 cumulative grade point average, as well as a 3.3 average in their science coursework. As always, it is a good idea to review each school’s profile to determine what the minimum requirements are for entry. In addition to grades, competitive applicants should have significant patient contact experience prior to applying to PA school.
What is Patient Contact Experience?
One of the things that separates the Pre-Physician Assistant program from other Allied Health Programs is the critical importance of patient contact experience. Students should expect to have anywhere from 1,000-10,000 hours of direct experience with patients when they apply. Examples of patient contact experience include: medical tech positions such as Lab Tech, Radiology Tech, Nursing Tech; other fields of Allied Health care such as Nursing, Pharmacy, Paramedic; and related health fields such as Athletic Trainor, Massage Therapy or Acupuncture. Shadowing and volunteering are also acceptable, but not as preferred as those experiences that offer direct patient contact.
Students who declare Pre-Physician Assistant early in their academic career should plan to identify and pursue these experiences early and often throughout their four years at UMBC. Those students who declare later in their academic career may strongly want to consider taking a year post-graduate to give themselves more time to devote to obtaining this critical component to the application process.
Process for Applying to Physician Assistant School
The application process to PA school typically begins one year prior to expected matriculation. Most Physician Assistant schools require students to apply through a centralized application service, CASPA. Students submit all of their materials (including applications, letters of recommendation, essays, documentation of patient contact hours and any test scores required) through the centralized service. Not all schools participate in this service, so students should check out this website early in their academic career.
For information on specific schools requirements, please visit the individual school website. For additional information regarding the field of Physician Assistant, please visit the following websites:
Students interested in becoming a Physician Assistant are also encouraged to join the Pre-Physician Assistant (PA) Society, which offers programs and workshops throughout the semester. The Pre-PA Society meets biweekly on Wednesdays in BS 120.