Applying to Physician Assistant Programs

Physician Assistants (PAs) are medical professionals who practice medicine under the supervision of doctors. They examine, counsel and diagnose patients, assist in surgeries, order lab tests, and much more. Training to become a PA is rigorous and includes an accredited PA program with clinical rotations, followed by certification and state licensure exams. Many PAs will complete a residency of 1-2 years following their PA program. Continuing medical education is required for all PAs, along with recertification exams every ten years.

PA programs are typically 26-27 months in length and include clinical rotations in addition to coursework. Most programs award a master’s degree. The Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) maintains a searchable list of accredited programs, as does the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant.  

Course Requirements

Course requirements vary by school, so research your programs early and make sure your Sewanee schedule accommodates these requirements. The PAEA’s list of accredited programs includes course and admission requirements for each program.   

Many schools require the courses listed below. Requirements vary substantially, so please consult with the Office of Medical and Health Programs when planning your coursework.  

One Year of Biology with Laboratory + Microbiology + Human Anatomy and Physiology - 
Note that BIOL 133 and BIOL 233 are non-lab courses that are prerequisites for required or highly recommended upper-level biology lab courses.

BIOL 133 Introductory Molecular Biology and Genetics 
BIOL 233 Intermediate Cell and Molecular Biology 

Highly recommended BIOL laboratory courses that may fulfill course requirements:
BIOL 223 Genetics (Lab)
BIOL 243 Molecular Methods (Lab)

Highly recommended BIOL laboratory courses needed for most schools:
BIOL 270 Human Anatomy (Lab)
BIOL 314 General and Human Physiology (Lab)
BIOL 340 Microbiology (Lab)

Additional recommended BIOL courses that will enhance your core competencies in the biological sciences: 
  • BIOL 203 Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy (Lab)
  • BIOL 224 Genetics
  • BIOL 229 Biology of Human Reproduction
  • BIOL 232 Human Health and the Environment
  • BIOL 275 Histology and Microanatomy (Lab)
  • BIOL 280 Molecular Genetics (Lab)
  • BIOL 312 General and Human Physiology
  • BIOL 314 General and Human Physiology (Lab)
  • BIOL 318 Molecular Revolutions in Medicine 
  • BIOL 319 Cancer Cell Biology (Lab/320 no Lab)
  • BIOL 322 Genes and Behavior
  • BIOL 323 Environment and Development
  • BIOL 300 Biology of Aging (Lab/325 no Lab)
  • BIOL 331 Immunology
  • BIOL 333 Developmental Biology (Lab/334 no Lab)
  • BIOL 340 Microbiology (Lab)
  • BIOL 389 Epigenetics (Lab/388 no Lab)

One Year of Chemistry with Laboratory - 
Sewanee offers one semester of General Chemistry.  To satisfy the second semester of chemistry, most students will need an additional course.  Some schools will also require organic chemistry or biochemistry.

Chemistry courses listed below are required by most schools and are highly recommended: 
CHEM 120 General Chemistry (Lab) or CHEM 150 Advanced General Chemistry (Lab)

Additional inorganic chemistry courses that will satisfy the second semester of chemistry for most schools that require an additional course:
CHEM 210 Solution and Solid State Chemistry (Lab)
CHEM 308 Inorganic Chemistry (Lab)
CHEM 352 Thermodynamics and Kinetics (Lab)

One Semester of Organic Chemistry and/or Biochemistry with Laboratory – 
Many schools require one semester of organic chemistry and/or biochemistry. A few schools require two semesters of organic chemistry, and some schools require none. Some schools recommend these courses, even if they are not required. A rigorous curriculum in biology and chemistry will enhance your application. It is very important to check specific schools' requirements since requirements vary. For example, Emory University requires one semester of organic chemistry or biochemistry, the University of Tennessee recommends organic chemistry or biochemistry, the University of Alabama at Birmingham requires neither, and the University of Kentucky requires one semester of organic chemistry.

CHEM 201 Organic Chemistry 1 (Lab)
BIOL 236 Biochemistry
BIOL/CHEM 316 Biochemistry of Metabolism and Molecular Biology (Lab)

One Semester of Statistics – 
Most schools require at least one semester of statistics. Some schools also require calculus, up to the level of MATH 102.

STAT 204 Elementary Statistics

One Semester of Psychology –
Most schools require at least one semester of psychology. Some schools require additional psychology coursework.

PSYC 100 Introduction to Psychology (Lab) or PSYC 101 Principles of Psychology
Additional PSYC courses that may fulfill course requirements are listed below. (Other courses may also fulfill this requirement. Check with the Dean of Admissions at your school of choice.)

  • PSYC 202 Abnormal Behavior
  • PSYC 221 Adolescence
  • PSYC 222 Adult Development and Aging
  • PSYC 224 Developmental Psychopathology
  • PSYC 357 Child Development

Some schools also require courses in anthropology or sociology (MHUM 110) and two semesters of English. 

Many Sewanee students fulfill the English requirement with the following courses:
  • ENGL 101 Literature and Composition + ENGLXXX 
  • HUMN (with GFWI) + ENGLXXX 
  • WRIT courses also are accepted by some schools
Some schools recommend a year of physics:
  • PHYS 101 General Physics I + PHYS 102 General Physics II or
  • PHYS 103 Modern Mechanics + PHYS 104 Electric and Magnetic Interactions
Some schools require a course in medical terminology.
The University of Tennessee requires this 1-credit hour course, which is not offered at Sewanee. Sewanee students will need to take this course elsewhere if it is required. 

Additional Admission Requirements

Substantial hands-on patient care experience is required by many schools. This healthcare work can either be paid or performed on a volunteer basis. The top five PA schools, based on the U.S. News & World Report’s 2015 rankings, all require 1000-2000 hours of hands-on patient care. Begin working on your healthcare experience early, and make sure that your hours will count toward the programs in which you are interested. Some programs count shadowing towards the required hours, but others do not. Many applicants to PA schools are registered nurses, paramedics, and EMTs. Sewanee offers a variety of internships that allow students to obtain experience in healthcare fields. Healthcare experience is crucial in deciding whether a career as a PA is for you.

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is required by most schools, although some programs will accept the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) in its place. The PA-CAT is a new exam that may be required by your schools. Administration begins in May 2020. As this is the first year of the PA-CAT, Exam Master anticipates that few schools will require it this year but that its adoption will grow. A TOEFL score may also be required if English is not your primary language. Check your schools to find their GRE and TOEFL codes.

Letters of recommendation may be required from healthcare providers, professors, or other individuals. Many schools require three letters of reference. Check your schools’ letter requirements and be sure to request letters well in advance of your deadlines.

Official transcripts should be submitted from every university and college you have attended. Recent and current Sewanee students can request their official transcripts through Banner. For directions, including how to request transcripts without a Banner ID, visit this website from the Registrar’s Office.

Many schools will require a CASPA application, as well a supplemental application. CASPA is the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants. Deadlines vary by program, even within CASPA. For CASPA deadlines, check the color-coded deadline and make sure your documents are submitted at least four weeks in advance of green deadlines and several weeks in advance of orange deadlines. Check each school for their deadlines, even if they participate in CASPA. Frequently the deadlines for supplemental applications differ from CASPA deadlines. 


Succeeding in the pre-health curriculum
The pre-health curriculum consists of a diverse array of coursework, much in the STEM fields. These courses are often extremely rigorous in order to provide students with the background skills and knowledge they need to succeed in health care fields. The Office of Medical and Health Programs (OMHP), partnering with the Sewanee Health Professions Society (SHPS), provides both leadership development opportunities for students interested in tutoring and one-on-one peer tutoring for students seeking tutoring. All peer tutors have not only succeeded in the courses in which they tutor, but they have also been shown to be good teachers and mentors.

For the academic year 2018-2019 the student leader of this program is Gil Horner.  If you have questions please refer them to Gil or Assistant Director Cynthia Gray.  

Those applying to be tutors need to fill out forms with Human Resources after being given approval from the Office of Medical and Health Programs. Time sheets also need turned in at a timely manner.

Those who have a tutor may be asked to evaluate their experience so we may provide the best mentorship and tutoring program for students. 

Apply to be a tutor.

Request a tutor.