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Pre-Physican Assistant

Physician Assistants (PAs) are health care professionals who practice medicine under the supervision of a licensed physician.  PAs provide physical exams, order and administer tests, make diagnoses, and treat illnesses.  PAs work in a variety of settings including hospitals, long-term care facilities, and surgical centers.  They are qualified to practice in over 60 specialty areas.

A career as a physician assistant may appeal to some students as the educational training is shorter and does not include a residency requirement.  PAs typically have a more flexible schedule than doctors, work fewer hours per week, and can switch between specialty areas without returning to school for additional training.

There are over 130 PA educational programs in the United States.  Applications for admission are competitive.  Most programs offer a Master’s degree upon graduation.  Potential PAs must then pass a certification examination.  To maintain their certification, PAs are expected to complete 100 hours of continuing education every two years and are retested every six years.


The first year of study in most PA programs consists of classes in Anatomy, Biochemistry, Clinical/Diagnostic Skills, Clinical Medicine, Health Promotion, Microbiology, Pathology, Pharmacology, Physical Diagnosis, Physiology, and Preventive Medicine.  The second year consists of supervised rotations in emergency medicine, family medicine, geriatric medicine, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, orthopedics, pediatrics, psychiatry, radiology, and surgery.


Students interested in studying pre-PA requirements at Iowa should be aware that pre-PA is not a major at the university.  Students should select an undergraduate major that interests them and work with a pre-PA at the Academic Advising Center.  Students interested in obtaining a pre-PA advisor should call the Academic Advising Center at 353-5700.


Students wanting to learn more about the profession should also attend meetings of the Association of Pre-Physician Assistant Students.  This UI student organization meets twice a semester.  Previous meetings have reviewed PA admission requirements, featured panels of current Iowa PA students and alumni, and toured the UI hospitals led by PA students.  Students interested in the Association should contact Janet Steenlage at 335-8921.


The following links may be also helpful for students who are contemplating the Physician Assistant field:

American Academy of Physician Assistants


-Provides information about professional organizations, CASPA (the web-based PA application service), PA programs in the United States, professional practice issues, and employment guides.

The University of Iowa Physician Assistant Program


-Provides information about admissions requirements, student selection, program faculty, program coursework, student research, and university links.


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