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Degree Overview: Bachelor’s Degree Programs for Physician Assistants

Majors Overview March 26, 2015

Get information about bachelor’s degree programs for physician assistants and their education requirements, coursework, job and wage outlook, and continuing education choices.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs for Physician Assistants

Students enrolled in physician assistant programs are taught about diagnosing and treating basic medical conditions, interacting with patients, and working within the guidelines defined by the code of ethics and law for physicians. Many schools prefer applicants with nursing or paramedic training. Coursework in the four-year physician assistant program includes courses in patient care, medical ethic, biology, and mathematics. Students learn about caring for children and adults, surgical care, and diagnoses.

Students typically spend a final one or two years at an affiliated medical center or hospital in preparation for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE), which they can take after they graduate and would need in order to practice. This certification must be maintained through continuing education and renewed every five years.

Education Requirements

Though not mandatory, a paramedic or nursing background can serve as a solid foundation for students to build their education on. With such experience, there is an increase of admittance into the program. A common requirement for applicants is a GPA of 3.0.


The emphasis of coursework in most physician assistant programs is on general science and math courses, in addition to courses on anatomy and medical procedures. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Surgical procedures
•Family and children medicine
•Medical ethics and law
•Diagnostic medicine
•Patient protocol and care

Job and Wage Outlook

In 2012, 86,700 individuals were employed as physician assistants (PA) in the United States (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). There is a rapid expansion in the physician assistant field; the growth is driven by the cost of full-time physicians, with many of the less pivotal tasks performed by physicians taken over by assistants.

Some physicians, especially in urban clinics, have to perform at several offices, thereby causing physician assistants to take charge for most of the time. Driven by these expansions in job responsibility and the general growth of the health care industry, a 38% job growth rate have been predicted for physicians’ assistants over the 2012 – 2022 decade (BLS).

Continuing Education Choices

In a dynamic and constantly evolving industry, even licensed physician assistants who have passed the PANCE certifying exam would need continuing education of 100 hours every two years. Additionally, re-certification must be effected every six years.

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