Physician Assistant

A Physician Assistant (PA) is a healthcare professional who works under the direct supervision of a licensed medical doctor. An important characteristic of being a physician assistant is that you are efficient and effective for the physician you are working under. 



The Professional School Advising (PSA) team offers a variety of tools to help you become a competitive physician assistant school applicant. As you explore the medical field, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with a pre-PA advisor to discuss your goals and review your professional resume. 
 

Thinking about Physician Assistant School?

What are the job responsibilities of a PA?

Physician Assistants assist licensed physicians with the examination, diagnosis and treatment of patients in all kinds of healthcare settings, from small private clinics to larger full-fledged hospitals. Physician assistants are licensed to perform a broad spectrum of medical services that have been traditionally performed only by doctors. The only thing they are not trained to do are procedures that are extremely intricate and complex.

Some of the job functions of a Physician assistant include:

  • Recording patients’ history

  • Interpreting X-Rays and laboratory tests

  • Patient examination

  • Determining the course of treatment

  • Treating minor illnesses and injuries

  • Performing therapy

  • Suturing

  • Administering medications as well as injections

  • Administering First Aid when necessary

  • Assisting in surgical procedures

  • Applying dressings, administering First Aid when immediate treatment is necessary and

  • Undertake managerial duties depending upon the job setting

Depending on the specialty you choose, there could be several variations in your job function as a physician assistant. 

Salary Expectations

If you’ve got an eye on a career as a physician assistant, you’ll be happy to know that the salary is pretty decent. According to the 2013 AAPA Salary Report, you can expect to earn between $93,520 to $102,000 a year. This figure can vary depending on several factors including the state and the type of healthcare setting you choose to work in. Hospitals and other healthcare centers in urban areas pay considerable higher salaries as compared rural healthcare settings.

PA Experience

An important characteristic of being a physician assistant is that you are efficient and effective for the physician you are working under. 

Although experience it is not required by some programs, you won’t get accepted without it.  PA programs want to be very sure you know what a PA does.  You should get as much healthcare experience as possible, it all counts whether volunteering, shadowing, or working at a hospital or clinic and/or with a physician assistant, nurse practitioner, or physician.  Talk to the PA’s about more than just the patients, ask them about their jobs, their lifestyle, what they would change, what they like or don’t like about the profession.  

PA programs also want to see patient contact experience on your application. This is actually touching patients or being involved in their direct care. This is extremely valuable for acceptance.  To increase your awareness of the profession visit www.aapa.org.  You should be familiar with mission statements to ensure that you are a good match with the program you want to join. 

Research PA Schools

Texas Schools

  • Baylor

  • Hardin-Simmons University (HSU)

  • Texas Tech

  • University of North Texas (UNT)

  • University of Texas Health Science Center - SA (UTHSC)

  • University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB)

  • University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV)

  • University of Texas Southwestern (UTSW)

Prepare to Apply

Application Requirements

  • Graduate Record Exam (GRE):  Most programs do not consider this test a good indication of how well you will do in their program, but it is required and they do look at your score.  Achieving a 150 in the verbal and quantitative sections and a 3.5 in writing would be considered a solid score.

  • Grade Point Ratio: PA programs will look at your Science/Math, overall, last 60 hours, and prerequisite GPR.  A 4.0 in all areas is considered competitive.  

    • Science and Math - This GPR varies per program and is not usually as big a component as the other GPRs considered.

    • Last 60 hours - Your last 60 graded hours.  This is an indication that the programs are looking at your grade trends (which need to be upward). It is a great opportunity to prove yourself academically especially if you had a rough academic start to your college career.

    • Prerequisite GPR - The classes listed below are what most Texas programs require: 

       BIOL (BIOL 111 and 112)
       CHEM (CHEM 101/111 and 102/112)
OCHEM (CHEM 227/237 and 228/238)
MBIO (BIOL 351 or VTPB 405)
              ANAT & PHYS (BIOL 319 and 320 
       PSYC (PSYC 107 + 3 hours of PSYC or SOCI)
       STAT (STAT 302, or 303)
GENE (GENE 301, 302, 310, or 320)
NUTR/IMMUNO (NUTR 202, BIOL 454, or VTPB 409)
Upper Level Science  (3 hours)

Medical Terminology (HLTH 354)

 

  • ​Specific Field Experience: Most PA programs require applicants have at least three years of healthcare experience. Popular choices for gaining this experience include working as an EMT, phlebotonist, or CNA before applying.

  • Letters from evaluators:  Every school differs in this regard. Some will want only evaluations filled out, some will want only letters, some will want both! The central application you fill out when applying will let you know what is required by each Texas program. Be prepared to ask a professor and two physician assistants.  Stay in touch with all the PAs you spend time with you may need them to officially verify the time you spent with them when it is time to apply.
  • Community Service:  A non-medical related type of community service is recommended, (soup kitchen, Habitat). PA programs want to know that you care about your community and have leadership skills.

Program Start Dates

Program Starts Prerequisite Deadline
Baylor, Tech, UTMB, HSU Sum/Sum/Sum/Fall Prior to starting
UNT Fall December 31
UTSW, UTHSC-SA, UTRGV Sum/Sum/Fall September 1
  • Tech requires that you not have more than 9 hours of prerequisites in progress at the time of application
  • TMB requires that your application be VERIFIED by September 1

The GRE

When to take the GRE?

The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is the entrance exam that most graduate schools require. It consists of 3 sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. Most students take this exam in the spring or early summer of the year in which they apply. The exam can be taken on weekday morning or afternoons, is computer driven, and your score is given to you at the conclusion. You can take the exam more than once, yet you must wait 21 days in between testing. This exam is similar to the SAT or ACT and many students get a study guide to refresh memories, and then take the exam.  Registration for the exam is on-line at: http://www.ets.org/gre.

The Application Process

The CASPA

The Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) is a division of the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) that exists to make the application process fair and efficient for applicants and PA schools. CASPA becomes available at the end of April or beginning of May, it changes every year. 

Application Timeline

Your first opportunity to apply is the summer after your junior year, which is when you should start getting your letters of recommendation, take the GRE, and write your essays.  To be a successful candidate you should be completely finished applying by mid/end of June the summer before you graduate.

Prior to Applying

  • Take prerequisite courses and meet with your PA advisors.

  • Begin researching PA programs.

  • Get involved in extracurricular activities to acquire the skills and experience to stand out as an applicant, i.e, join a student org, volunteer, work or research activities.

  • Consider taking additional vocational coursework to earn a certificate so you can work as a paraprofessional (i.e., paramedic, community health worker, medical assistant, or phlebotomist) in a healthcare setting and start accumulating direct patient contact hours. 

  • Prepare for and take the GRE.

  • Attend various health professional school workshops, graduate school fairs, etc.

  • Gather Letters of Recommendation.  Three letters are required. 

The Application Cycle

  • You should have or be waiting for the release of your GRE test score.  It is a good idea to take an earlier test dates and help avoid delays. 

  • Confirm deadline dates for individual PA programs. 

  • Begin to fill out and submit applications for PA programs. If applicable, contact CASPA, or individual schools directly for specific questions that are not found in their instruction manuals.

  • Have letters of recommendation sent to CASPA.

  • CASPA verifies primary application & begins releasing application to schools within four weeks of receipt.

  • Continue to work, volunteer, etc.

Last Stages of the Process

  • ​Attend the Health Professions Interview Workshop with the PSA office.

  • ​PA programs begin to interview candidates.

  • When interviews are completed, schools inform applicants of admission status. Admissions decision processes and timelines vary between PA programs.

Additional Resources

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