The physician assistant (PA) possesses a specialized degree and works with physicians and other health professionals. A PA performs many clinical functions that enable the physician to devote more time to duties requiring his particular knowledge and skill. In most settings the physician assistant obtains medical histories, performs physical examinations, orders and interprets laboratory results and other information, and assesses and treats common illnesses, including writing prescriptions. Successful completion of the National Certifying Examination is required to practice as a physician assistant in Georgia.
Physician assistants need the ability to relate to people, a capacity for calm and reasoned judgment in handling emergencies, an orientation toward service and intelligence. A solid background in math and science is helpful as well.
At Georgia College we can provide you the advise and coursework you will need to be accepted into a PA school. In Georgia, you can obtain a Master's degree in Physician Assistant (MPA) at one of four PA schools: Georgia Health Sciences University (GHSU), Emory, Mercer (Atlanta), and South University (Savannah).
General Admissions Criteria will vary depending on the PA school. Thus, the following is just a guide and you should consult the admissions information of each school you are interested in attending.
The prerequisite coursework can vary greatly for each school. In general though, we recommend you examine the course requirements for the program at Mercer.
At GHSU, admission is based on undergraduate college work including the overall, transfer and math/science GPAs. A 3.0 overall GPA on a 4.0 scale is required for consideration, as is a 2.8 GPA on math/science courses. While ostensibly students can be accepted after three years of college coursework, many successful applicants have completed their bachelor's degree at Georgia College. The other three PA schools in Georgia require a Bachelor's degree be completed before you begin your PA program.
All Georgia schools also require recent Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores be submitted to them. Some schools use the CASPA application process as well.
A limiting factor for potential applicants to Mercer and Emory is often the high number of clinical hours of experience (1000 and 2000, respectively) that these two institutions require. Students interested in applying to either of those programs should begin getting their paid or unpaid experiences underway early. The program at Emory provides examples of what constitutes acceptable clinical experience as does the program at Mercer. Currently, GHSU requires a minimum of 100 hours of clinical experience and South University none. In any case, clinical experience is the only way you will be able to a letter of recommendation from a PA or physician that will carry weight with a selection committee.
If all works well you will get a personal interview that will assess your motivation to become a PA and the personal qualities they feel you will need to successfully complete their program. Our PreMed club at Georgia College provides a number of interesting speakers, tours, and workshops that can help you hone skills needed to do well during interviews. Thus, we encourage you to join the PreMed club--after all, as a PA, you will be working someday with physicians!
A complete listing of PA schools across the country is maintained by the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). Some PA schools offer degrees at the Associate's, Bachelor's, or Master's level. Interested students are urged to investigate various state requirements for practicing as a PA in that state before deciding on a program. Having said that, going with a Master's level degree is never a problem.