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Pre-Physician Assistant

​​Physician assistants, also known as PAs, practice medicine under the direction of physicians and surgeons. They are formally trained to examine patients, diagnose injuries and illnesses, and provide treatment.

Admission Requirements for the Physician Assistant Program

All physician assistant programs have prerequisite courses you must complete, sometimes before even applying to the program. You must verify with an advisor and/or with each physician assistant school you plan on applying to, that all prerequisites and direct health care experience are completed properly.

If you have questions directly related to CMU's Physician Assistant program, please contact:

Office of Admissions & Enrollment Management
Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow College of Health Professions
(989) 774-1730

Education and Training

Physician assistant educational programs usually take 2 years to complete if you are a full-time student.

PA education includes classroom and lab instruction in subjects like biochemistry, pathology, human anatomy, physiology, clinical pharmacology, clinical medicine, physical diagnosis and medical ethics. They also include supervised clinical training in several areas, including family medicine, internal medicine, surgery, prenatal care and gynecology, geriatrics, emergency medicine and pediatrics.

College Major

You are not required to select a particular major in order to be eligible for admission to a PA program. In selecting a college major, consider how you will you satisfactorily complete the prerequisite courses for your designated physician assistant programs in addition to the college/university's degree and major requirements. Work with your academic and/or pre-PA advisor to plan your course schedule.

You have the option to choose from a wide variety of undergraduate majors to prepare you for a physician assistant program.  Suggested undergraduate majors include Exercise Science, Biology, Psychology, Child Development, Therapeutic Recreation, Psychology, and Neuroscience.


Most programs look for a minimum undergraduate cumulative 3.0 GPA but the average GPA for matriculates is a 3.5 cumulative and a 3.5 in the sciences. Keep in mind these numbers are averages and various schools can have their own averages that are higher or lower. Also, these averages are climbing higher each year and admission to physician assistant graduate programs is more competitive than ever. Be sure you take your studies seriously and put in the proper time for reading, studying, and review for each course.

GRE (Graduate Record Examination)

Most programs will require some standardized testing. The most common exam required by physician assistant programs is the GRE. This is a computerized exam offered year-round. Examinees may take the test once every 21 days, but no more than 5 times within a 12-month period.

In order to register for the GRE you will need to complete the following:

Click here for more information on the GRE.

Quick Look at the GRE

Verbal Reasoning (60 minutes)

  • 40 questions
  • Score range: 130-170
  • Content: reading comprehension, analytical reasoning, vocabulary
  • CMU courses with relevant content: ENG 101, ENG 201

Quantitative Reasoning (70 minutes)

  • 40 questions
  • Score range: 130-170
  • Content: basic math, algebra, geometry, data analysis
  • CMU courses with relevant content: MTH 105 or higher

Analytical Writing (60 minutes)

  • 2 essays (30 minutes/essay)
  • Score range: 0-6
  • Content: grammar, writing ability, analytical reasoning, communicate complex ideas, assemble evidence
  • CMU courses with relevant content: ENG 101, ENG 201

When do students take the GRE?

Usually in the spring or early summer after your junior year; however, the exam is offered year-round.

Where is the GRE administered?

On CMU's campus and in many locations throughout Michigan and the United States

What is the cost of the GRE?

$195, which covers the cost of sending scores to 4 graduate programs; additional fee for score reports beyond the 4.

How should you prepare for the GRE?

  • Begin at least 3 months before your test date
  • Questions emphasize problem-solving abilities, not rote memorization
  • Essential to obtain practice tests

Experience as a Physician Assistant

Many PA programs require applicants to have a certain number of volunteer or paid experiences working with patients in a healthcare setting. The program may specify which settings or types of experiences are required. Applicants may also be required to have a licensed physician assistant verify the number of hours and type of experience. This experience is an important factor in the admissions process and students should work with their advisors and prospective programs to verify the amount of hours needed.

Other qualifications. To be a physician assistant you must have a desire to serve patients and be self-motivated. PAs must also have good bedside manner, emotional stability and the ability to make decisions in emergencies. You should also have an enthusiasm for lifelong learning because your eligibility to practice depends on continuing education.

Michigan Physician Assistant Programs

Applying to Physician Assistant Schools

There is now a centralized application process for physician assistant schools. You may file one application and send it to multiple physician assistant programs. Most physician assistant schools use the CASPA (Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants) site as a centralized application site.

Other qualifications. To be a physician assistant you must have a desire to serve patients and be self-motivated. PAs must also have good bedside manner, emotional stability and the ability to make decisions in emergencies. You should also have an enthusiasm for lifelong learning because your eligibility to practice depends on continuing education.

Course Requirements

Certain basic requirements must be fulfilled before you can be accepted to a physician assistant graduate program. This is a GUIDE only. Students must consult with their advisors AND the appropriate PA programs on a regular basis for revisions to course requirements and to identify and ensure completion of all required courses. Some of the most common requirements include:

  • 1 year General Chemistry
  • 1 year Organic Chemistry
  • 1 year Biology
  • 1 year Psychology
  • 1 semester Anatomy & Physiology
  • 1 semester Biochemistry
  • 1 semester Statistics

Below are the CMU courses we recommend to meet these requirements (these are not prerequisite courses for CMU's PA program) :

Subjects Course Numbers Credits
Anatomy & Physiology BIO 337 & 392 or HSC 214 & 215 8 credits
General Chemistry CHM 131 & CHM 132 or CHM 120 & CHM 127 4-8 credits
Organic Chemistry CHM 345, CHM 346 & CHM 349, or CHM 342 4-8 credits
Biology BIO 110 & BIO 208 7 credits
Psychology PSY 100 & PSY 220 6 credits
Biochemistry CHM 425 or CHM 421 4 credits
​Statistics ​STA 282 or STA 382 or BIO 500
or HSC 544 or PSY 211
​3-4 credits


Some physician assistant schools may have additional courses required or recommended. Review the admission requirements of the physician assistant schools you plan on applying in advance.

All required courses must be taken for a grade. Each school has its own policy regarding AP credit. Usually, AP credit in these areas should be followed with additional upper level work in the discipline including labs.

Additional Courses

To further strengthen you application and your ability to succeed in physician assistant school, here are some additional courses you could take:

Subjects Course Numbers
Genetics BIO 326
​Medical Terminology ​HSC 201
Nutrition FNS 370
Pathophysiology HSC 411
​Physics ​PHY 130 & PHY 170


You should contact a CMU Pre-Physician Assistant advisor before or during your freshman year to develop a program of study.


Pre-Physician Assistant Club

The Pre-Physician Assistant Club at CMU is designed to prepare students to apply to physician assistant school and learn about the career outlooks and aspects of a physician assistant. Activities include guest speakers, tours of various PA programs, volunteering, fundraising and social gatherings.

The club meets biweekly on Wednesdays at 8:00 PM.

For more information, click here to visit the club's page on Facebook, e-mail the club.

Job Outlook

Physician assistants held about 86,700 jobs in 2012.

Employment of physician assistants is expected to increase 38 percent from 2012 to 2022.  As more physicians enter specialty areas of medicine, there will be a greater need for primary healthcare providers, such as physician assistants.



The median annual wage of physician assistants was $90,930 in 2012.


Online Resources

For information on a career as a physician​ assistant:

For a list of accredited physician assistant programs:

For eligibility requirements and a description of the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam:


​Faculty Advisors

Cynthia K. Damer (A-I)
Brooks Hall 229
(989) 774-3455
Peter Kourtev (S-Z)
Brooks Hall 228

Philip Hertzler (J-R)

Brooks Hall 179
(989) 774-2393