Pre-Physician Assistant

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Becoming a Physician Assistant (PA) is a popular and growing choice within the healthcare field. Job opportunities are expected to grow by 37 percent through 2026. Completing a master’s degree in Physician Assistant Studies prepares students to sit for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE). After earning their certification, PAs are qualified to work within many sectors and specialities in the medical field.   

To help meet the demand for qualified PAs across the country, UM-Flint has developed it's own Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program. The first students will begin their studies in this program in January 2021, with applications opening in November 2019. 

Major Selection

At the University of Michigan-Flint, multiple degrees offer designated Pre-Physician Assistant Tracks:

It is important to note, there is no single major that is required to apply to PA school or a single major that will guarantee acceptance. It is important to select a major that you are interested in pursuing for your undergraduate career. However, no matter the major, all students applying to PA programs will have to complete the required prerequisite courses, which can vary program to program.

PA Schools in Michigan

There are currently seven PA programs in Michigan, one of which is at UM-Flint. The programs are linked below, along with a guide comparing basic information about the seven programs. Since each PA program requires different pre-requisite courses, it is important to check the website for every program in which you are interested to insure that you complete all required prerequisite courses.

Access this quick comparison guide to admission requirements for Physician Assistant schools in Michigan.

Preparing to Apply

There is no single factor that will determine whether you will be accepted into PA school. Instead a holistic or overall review of your GPA, clinical hours, test scores and experiences will occur. Below are a few key factors to keep in mind when preparing to apply to PA school.

  1. Maintain a stellar academic record.

    1. All PA schools in Michigan require a minimum GPA of 3.0. However, the average GPA of accepted students is often in the 3.6-3.9 range.
    2. In addition to your overall GPA, pay special attention to your GPA in the required pre-requisite courses as these are often evaluated separately.
  2. Complete a significant amount of clinical hours.
    1. Clinical hours refers to work that applicants to PA school must complete in a healthcare setting prior to applying to PA school.
    2. Most PA schools require a minimum of 500-1000 hours, however, competitive students often have anywhere from 3000-6000 hours.
    3. A few common examples of jobs that count towards clinical hours include:
      1. Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
      2. Phlebotomy Technician
      3. Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
    4. It is important to check the webpage for each program to determine what they will accept towards clinical hours. For example, some PA schools may accept jobs such as Medical Assistant or Medical Scribe, while others may not.
  3. Shadow a Physician Assistant. 
    1. It is important to shadow a Physician Assistant in order to understand the day-to-day activities of the job. This will help you to speak to why you want to be a Physician Assistant when it comes time to apply.

Applying to PA School

Applications to PA programs are available on a yearly basis. The majority of PA programs only admit students for the fall semester (UM-Flint will admit PA students for January 2021). This means that you will apply to PA school one year before you hope to start PA school. For example, if you hope to start PA school in September 2021, you would need to submit your application in September 2020.

  1. Determine Where You Want to Apply to PA School. 

    1. According to the accrediting body for PA schools, there are 238 accredited PA programs in the United States, seven of which are in Michigan.
    2. The recommended target is five to seven PA schools.
    3. It is very important to determine the PA schools to which you want to apply as early as possible, because pre-requisite courses can vary from school to school and you want to make sure you meet all the requirements.
  2. Take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Test. 
    1. Most PA schools require the GRE. For more information about the test as well as how to sign up to take the test visit:
  3. Ask for Letters of Recommendation. 
    1. Most schools require between two and three letters of recommendation. Check the requirements for each school that you are interested in.
    2. It is recommended that you ask for letters of recommendation a few months before you need them.
    3. Ask for letters of recommendation from:
      1. Faculty members that know you well
      2. Physician Assistants that you have shadowed
      3. Research or Clinical Supervisors
  4. Request an Official Copy of Your Transcript. 
    1. Copies can be requested through SIS.
  5. Complete CASPA Application.
    1. The majority of PA programs utilize the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA). This is where you will complete and submit your application to all of the PA schools in which you are interested.