There’s a lot that goes into becoming a physician assistant. We’ve talked about how to earn patient care hours for PA school without a certification through a pre-PA internship with International Medical Aid. We’ve reviewed the different jobs that can qualify as patient care experience hours. We’ve covered the upcoming name change from Physician Assistant to Physician Associate. And we’ve discussed the average PA salary in 2021.
Becoming a PA-C is a wonderful career choice. Working under the supervision of a doctor, PA-Cs evaluate, diagnose and treat patients. They also prescribe medication, order tests and read test results. PA-Cs work in a variety of clinical and hospital settings, helping people everywhere they go. So, if you’ve decided to become a PA-C, you’re heading into a rewarding career.
In today’s article, we’re talking about the best pre-PA majors for future PAs. We’ll dispel some myths regarding the best educational route for you to take. And we’ll help you understand how to pursue your interests while setting yourself up for success as a physician assistant major.
Finally, we offer pre-PA internships and PA school admissions consulting. So, if you get stuck or have questions you need answered, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. International Medical Aid is here to help you reach your dreams.
Ready? Let’s dive in!
Your Pre-PA Major
Contrary to popular belief, your pre-PA major isn’t the only factor in whether you get into PA school. Sure, admissions committees will consider what you have studied. But they’ll also look at whether you’ve completed the required prerequisite courses. They’ll care about your grades, your GPA, your health care experience hours and your patient care experience hours. So, don’t kill yourself taking the hardest courses you can find to try to prove yourself!
What should my major be?
You might still wonder what your major should be. Perhaps you love science and have always wanted to major in Biology. Maybe Physics or Chemistry is your thing. Or maybe you love literature, horticulture, business administration or philosophy. There are a multitude of subjects you can choose to study. And guess what? Any of the subjects we just mentioned – and countless others – are perfectly acceptable majors for pre-PA majors.
There are specific ways to set yourself up for success as a physician assistant major while studying your favorite topics. After all, you’re the one earning the degree. Shouldn’t your undergrad studies focus on what you love? For example, you can immerse yourself in business classes while also preparing for PA school.
Take science courses for your electives.
While you can pick your major, you will have to take some science courses in preparation for PA school. Because of this, we recommend taking all of your pre-requisite courses as electives. Don’t know what prerequisites you’ll need to take? We suggest picking out several different PA schools and looking at what their prerequisites are. This information will be listed under the Admissions section of the school. Prerequisites are generally listed with GPA and grade requirements.
Here are some of the most common prerequisite courses:
- General Chemistry
- General Psychology
Take extra classes between degrees.
You might have seen the word “post-baccalaureate” floating around the academic world. This word refers to classes taken after you’ve earned your bachelor’s degree but before you begin your graduate studies as a physician assistant major.
You can take these classes as a non-degree-seeking student at the same university from which you earned your bachelor’s degree. You can also check with the university where you want to earn your PA-C title if it’s a separate university. Or, you can choose a different school altogether. Requirements for post-baccalaureate classes vary by institution. So, you’ll need to research what courses you need to take and where you can most easily satisfy those requirements. It’s a semi-complicated process to go through. But it’s achievable.
Challenge yourself, and have fun.
You might feel torn between taking electives and enrolling in a post-baccalaureate program. Both have their upsides. But it will save you time and money to take as many prerequisites as you can for your elective courses. These courses will challenge you and prepare you for the courses you’ll take as a physician assistant major.
But there’s still another option. If you are equally passionate about your undergrad major and becoming a PA, you can always double major for your bachelor’s degree. But keep in mind, this option would be very time-consuming and expensive.
Taking prerequisites as electives or enrolling in a post-baccalaureate program would be less expensive and less time-consuming options. But if you’re passionate about both topics, a dual degree might be the perfect option for you. Reach out to our admissions consulting team if you’re having trouble deciding. We can help you sort through the details to make your decision easier. We can also recommend some different programs to you.
Popular Science Pre-PA Majors
Of course, some students love science and want to major in a science or health-related field. It’s great if that’s what you want to do. Here are some of the most popular fields of study for physician assistant majors.
- Healthcare Ethics
- Medical Terminology
Over half of all students who become physician assistant majors also choose a health or science-related undergrad major. This is because many future PA-Cs are passionate about science and medicine, and it’s what they want to study.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding science or health-related pre-PA majors, feel free to contact us. IMA talks to thousands of students about this very topic. We’d be happy to help you.
Choosing a Competitive Major
It’s a common – but incorrect – assumption that choosing a science-related major makes you more competitive. But it doesn’t. Your grades, GPA, health care experience hours and patient care experience hours matter just as much, if not more, than your major. Showing passion for what you do and gaining the necessary experience to become a great PA are what matter most. And that’s what admissions committees care about when they review applications.
The truth is, there isn’t any specific major that will make you a more competitive applicant. It’s an overall strong application that will get you into a PA program. Let’s talk about your application.
Submitting A Competitive Application
If you want to be as competitive as possible, then you’ll want to submit a strong application. A strong application starts with a complete PA application. In this section, we’re breaking down the application.
A complete PA application includes:
- GED or High School Diploma
- GRE Score
- Health care experience hours
- Patient care experience hours
- Interview performance
GPA for PA School
To be a strong applicant for a physician assistant major, you’ll want to have at least a 3.5/4.0 GPA. An even higher GPA will make you even more competitive. Schools will look at your overall GPA, overall undergraduate GPA and overall science GPA. Showing dedication to your coursework early on sets a great track record. If you do very well in your undergraduate studies, you’re likely to do well in your physician assistant major. Our point? Work hard to earn good grades. It will pay off!
The Graduate Records Examination, or GRE, is a test required of most students who have completed their undergraduate studies but have not yet begun their graduate studies. Most graduate programs want to see students pass the GRE. Why? Because the exam is designed to assess readiness for graduate school. Earning your bachelor’s degree shows great promise, but it doesn’t mean you’re ready for a graduate program yet. Many students study for and take their GRE during their senior year of college.
You’ll likely need to take the GRE exam to be admitted into any PA program. There are some exceptions, though. For example, some schools allow you to take the MCAT in place of the GRE. Whether that’s an ideal alternative is a personal decision. But taking the GRE will open the doors to most PA programs. Taking the MCAT will only allow you admission into some programs.
Health Care Experience
We recommend exposing yourself to health care settings early on. Volunteering in a clinical or hospital setting is a great way to get started. Not only will your volunteer experience look great on your application, but it will help you determine if the medical field is right for you. Plus, most of this time will likely count for health care experience hours.
Patient Care Experience
Every PA program differs, but they all require patient care experience hours. These hours are different from health care experience hours. Health care experience hours involve most of the work that’s done in a medical setting. Filling out paperwork often counts for these hours. But to qualify for patient care experience hours, your time needs to involve direct, supervised interaction with patients. These hours are critical. Without them, you won’t get into a PA program.
Both have their pros and cons, which we’ve covered in detail. Many students enjoy the diversity that an MMI setting offers. It can be nice to have a couple of minutes to think about your answer. But some students prefer the traditional setting. They’re prepared to go in-depth on any part of their application. In this case, the traditional interview can be very rewarding.
Of course, you won’t get to choose what kind of interview you get, unless you only apply to schools that use the traditional interview format, or to schools that utilize the MMI interview format. Filtering what programs you apply to might limit your choices, though. You’ll need to carefully consider what’s most important to you.
Let us know if you need help preparing for your interview. Our PA school admissions consulting includes interview prep.
As you can see, there are lots of factors involved in whether you’re accepted into a PA program as a physician assistant major. Take all of those factors into account as you prepare to become a physician assistant. Like we said before, it’s a very rewarding career. It allows you to practice medicine in a variety of settings. But it also spares you from the years that doctors spend in residency and fellowship.
Is it all a lot to take in? We understand. There are lots of steps to take in order to cover all your bases. The PA school admissions consulting that we offer here at International Medical Aid can help you. Our team of experts will work with you to strengthen your application. Contact us today to get started.
We wish you the very best of luck as you apply to PA programs. It’s not quite as demanding as medical school, but you still have to put in the work for it. We recommend starting early. Taking your time will help you create an impressive application.
Do you still have more questions about the career of a physician assistant? Check out the other articles we’ve published on our blog.
- How to Get Patient Care Hours for PA School (Without a Certification)
- 10 Reasons Why Being a PA was Named the Best Overall Job in 2021
- Physician Assistant (PA) Salaries in 2021
- Physician Assistant to Physician Associate: What You Need to Know
- PA Program Requirements: The Ultimate Guide
- Factors Affecting Physician Assistant Salaries
- Highest Paid Specialties for Physician Assistants
- Getting into PA School: 8 Tips for Aspiring PA Students