The question we are asked most frequently by pre-pa students  is: “Which pre-physician assistant major should I choose?”

We love hearing this question because it tells us that these pre-physician assistant students are thinking ahead.  If you’re planning to attend a PA school far enough in advance of actually applying that you can consider which major is ideal, then you’re giving things plenty of thought.  We’re going to tell you what we think, but first…

Our Friendly Opinion Disclaimer

As we say in almost every article, each PA program is different.  So before we weigh in on this issue, here’s our disclaimer: make sure you contact schools that interest you and ask them specifically: “Does your program prefer any particular major or types of majors?”  They may may or may not give a helpful answer, but if don’t ask, you could miss out on a crucial piece of information.

First, The Wrong Pre-Physician Assistant Major

A poor choice for pre-pa majors is one that:

  • wrong pre-physician assistant major

    Bluto Blutarsky didn't choose his pre-physician assistant major wisely. (Animal House, 1978)

    You choose to impress PA schools.  Majoring in microneurobioanatomical physiology to impress others with your overly technical or medical major education is a mistake.  To PA programs, how and how well you have learned trumps what you have learned every time.

  • Bores you.  If you end up bored, you’ll probably blow off your studies to play beer pong or repaint your fingernails instead of studying, and bad grades will follow.  If you don’t know what interests you, take the Holland Code Test.
  • Has little or no application to medicine.  Examples: Photography, Dance, English Literature, Mayan History.  Sure you could become a PA with these pre-physician assistant majors, but it’s hard to prove your interest in medicine after spending four years studying the oboe.
  • You believe you might not excel in.  If you really struggle with math or chemistry, obtaining good grades in either of these will be tough.

Now, Your Best Pre-Physician Assistant Major

After reading what we consider the wrong choices, the right choice should be a snap.  Pick something that you know excites you, that may apply to medicine, that you believe you can do well in.  Why?  Because PA schools look for the following things when they decide who to interview (and admit):

  1. Good grades.  This is a no brainer.  PA school is tough.  It comes at you fast.  And although they will be there to help you, they can’t hold you hand through it all.  They want a strong indication that you will be successful in your studies, and the best indicator of future performance is past performance.
  2. A believable reason that you want to work in medicine.  Some majors that might  demonstrate your believable reason include:
    1. Foreign languages – they show an interest in other cultures, something you’ll be dealing with as a PA
    2. Nutrition – PA s educate their patients about diet all the time.
    3. Sports physiology (AKA kinesiology) – a “lighter” biological science
    4. Psychology again, you’ll be dealing with this a lot as a PA
    5. Sociology – the study of the habits and behaviors of groups of people
    6. Traditional biological science majors – chemistry, biology, anatomy, microbiology, etc.
  3. Real, well-rounded people.  They don’t want cookie-cutter, 4.0 GPA Biology majors who look boring on paper.  Would  you want to interview someone who seemed boring on paper?  What about if you read an application of a student who had volunteered building shelters in Haiti, or bicycled across Turkey, led a squad of marines through a war zone, started a unique business?  Much different, eh?  They want real people — people with many and varied experiences.

What About Sciences?

No matter what you majored in, you will need to take the Pre-PA science prerequisites (anatomy, physiology, microbiology, etc.)  If you major in French or Psychology, these can always be taken later.  If you’re in a hurry (something we don’t recommend but people always seem to be in) you can pick a major that requires these, and you’ll kill two birds with one stone.  But remember, you’re committing to 4 years of a major.  If you think you’d have more fun majoring in physics or philosophy, then do it.  Prereqs can be completed after.  A well-rounded candidate is a strong candidate.

A Word About The Actual “Pre-Physician Assistant” Major

As physician assistant careers become more popular, more colleges are responding by offering Pre-Physician Assistant Science as a major, much like Pre-Med is a major for those who intend to go to medical school.  We can’t be sure it’s a bad idea, but we don’t think it’s a good one, for two reasons.

  1. You could fall prey to the “cookie-cutter” mentality from #3, above.  A pre-physician assistant major could make your application look a little one-dimensional, and that’s bad.
  2. It won’t set you up well if you decide to go another direction.  Four years is a long time, and it’s possible that by the time you finish college you’ll have lost interest in becoming a PA.  What then?

Remember: there is no right pre-physician assistant major, only the one that’s right for you.

  • Chris July 21, 2011, 1:38 am

    Do PA schools take into account how hard your major is? I read that medical schools don’t consider a major’s difficulty when deciding on admissions and only look at the grade. Is it the same for PA schools?

    • Paul July 21, 2011, 6:54 am

      For the most part, they don’t, particularly if your science prerequisite grades are good. Between someone who had a 2.5 in Chemistry and someone who had a 3.5 in English, the English major is going to look much more appealing. And again, the relevance of the major plays a big role. It’s hard to prove you are serious about medicine if you majored in Ceramics. Besides, who’s to say which majors are “hard” or “easy?”

      • brianna April 1, 2014, 8:59 am

        I am a freshman in college and am interested in pursuing a psychiatric PA career. Should I be majoring in psychology (my preference) or should I be majoring in a science to increase my chances for graduate school?

        • Paul April 6, 2014, 2:13 pm

          Either would be okay. Science is more typical. I was a Biology Major, Psychology Minor, which is a nice compromise. Either way, you need to have the required sciences.

          • Char September 9, 2014, 9:10 pm

            Hi Paul,

            I’m a sophomore, currently taking preparatory classes at a community college. I plan on being a human biology major, but I was wondering if it would be better if I got a 4 year degree in nursing instead? I still want to be a PA, but I’m worried that I won’t be able to have enough direct patient care experience after I get a degree in Biology. Also, would a nursing degree affect my application for PA programs?

          • Paul September 12, 2014, 12:32 pm

            We don’t advise anyone to get a degree in nursing unless your goal is to become a nurse. It can sometimes affect your PA school application — it will invite them to ask, “If she wanted to be a PA, then why did she major in nursing?”

            By far your best choice is a 4-year BS or BA in a biological science or other related science discipline.

          • Mariana November 4, 2014, 12:20 pm

            Did you graduate with a BA or BS with your biology major?

          • Paul November 11, 2014, 10:21 pm

            I graduated with a BA in biology. There were a few courses that were legendary for being tedious, difficult, and on fun at my college, and it made me not want to get a BS in biology. I ruminated over the decision for some time, but I can tell you honestly that in the 23 years since I graduated college, not a single employer has ever asked me whether I got a BA or BS. It just doesn’t seem to matter to anyone.

            Get the one that you want to get.

        • KC July 1, 2014, 1:48 pm

          When I was in undergrad I knew I absolutely wanted to get a degree in psych and use that knowledge in a future career. I was also very interested in medicine so my goal was to major in psychology and finish all of the pre-med courses (which is a “career path” at my undergrad–NOT a major); then I realized I would be only 3 classes short of a biology degree and they were interesting classes. So I double majored in biology and psychology, it only took one extra semester (if you do full course work every semester, or some summer classes). I think you could also do a major and a minor–both ways look good. Good grad programs look for people who grew and loved what they studied. Not who got the highest marks and were just doing what was expected. Also, I felt like psychology was more challenging than biology and I use it equally as much :] My GPA was also “lower” than what is traditionally expected for getting into PA school; I had a 3.3 (with an F!!) and it wasn’t the lowest coming in (3.1 was!). Apply to a variety of schools, not just the big name, ivy league–your goal is to be a PA and practicing, not holding on to a paper with a fancy name!

          • Paul July 6, 2014, 1:07 pm

            I agree, KC – too many people worry about getting into “the best” PA school. The truth is, you’re only there for about 2 years, which goes SO fast. The real learning of medicine happens once you get out. Also, I’ve spoken with docs and they are usually much more concerned with hiring PAs who communicate well with patients, not ones who went to the best schools. There are plenty of Ivy League people who aren’t so good with patients, and that’s not something that can be easily taught.

  • PA Coach July 21, 2011, 5:06 am


    Great point. There are MANY roads to PA school. It is important to determine which road is best for YOU! As a member of an admissions committee at a Top 3 PA school, I agree with you totally on being an interesting and diverse applicant. It makes you stand out in a crowd.

    Keep up the awesome job guys!

  • Wes July 27, 2011, 10:02 am


    If you know what school you want to go already to you might want to talk the faculty to see what kind of major you should look into. I did my undergraduate in Respiratory Therapy because many of the professors in my PA program also lecture to the RTs. They were able to see my work before I even applied to CASPA.

    Hope everything works out for you!

  • Laurelin July 29, 2011, 12:54 pm

    Yikes! My undergraduate degree WAS in music, but I’m not letting that deter me :) The truth is, I didn’t really have any idea who I was or what I wanted at 17 when I went to college, and singing sounded a lot more fun at the time than chemistry. By the time I realized I DIDN’T want a career in music, I was too far in to change my major and still graduate on time. Now, at 23, I have a much clearer picture of what I want for my life. I’m 100% sure that becoming a PA is an excellent choice for me, and one that fits my natural skill set so much better than music ever did. It certainly would have been more convenient for me had I been a bio major, but everyone has their own path. I hope I can sell an admissions committee on who I am now, not who I was when I was 17.

    • Paul July 29, 2011, 5:44 pm

      I think you have the right idea. Don’t take this article to mean that you can’t be a PA if you’ve majored in fine arts; instead take it to mean that on your application you will need to put some extra thought into how you will demonstrate that PA is right for you. You observation about how much you knew about yourself back then is a nice place to start. Just make sure and include some information on why PA is the RIGHT field for you. Anything that you can share that shows that this isn’t just wild hair you came up with will help. That can be hours spent volunteering/working in a medical setting, more recent coursework, etc. Knowing you need to address the issue is 1/2 of taking care of it!

  • Laurelin July 30, 2011, 1:52 pm

    Great advice, thanks! Your blog is an invaluable resource–so glad I found you!

  • Eric September 21, 2011, 1:33 pm

    I’m transfering to a 4-year soon and the question “what major should I choose?” has been bothering me a lot. I was nearly fluent in spanish and I almost decided to do a Spanish major but I didn’t feel my heart was in it. So now I chose Sociology instead, which I feel can help me learn about a multitude of cultures and improve my social skills. seeing it on this list of more “right” than “wrong” majors to choose sure made me feel satisfied. :D. This blog has really given me an invaluable sense of direction and a lot of helpful information. keep it up Paul/Gabe. Thank you and good luck.

    • Paul September 21, 2011, 2:04 pm

      Thanks,Eric! Yeah, just remember: it’s all in how you market yourself. Ever seen the movie “the pursuit of happyness?”
      The lesson is that it less about what you do than how you affect people. Give them reason to believe in you, and they will.

  • Jay September 27, 2011, 3:18 pm

    Has anyone gotten in if they’ve retaken failed classes? I screwed up my first few years of school but i’m doing very well now ( before i had mostly B’s a few C’s and some W’s) and is now retaking chem 2 because i failed it. I just don’t want my poor choices when i was young and dumb hurt my chances of getting into a program. I’m also a home health aide going on a year now and a gen chem major. Any feedback would be great. Thanks :)

    • Paul September 27, 2011, 10:36 pm

      I don’t know, but I have to think that it happens. But instead of weighing the odds, just focus on what you need to do to get yourself in. In my mind, that’s making a case for 1) being a different student now than you were then, and 2) giving them compelling reason to believe that it won’t be a problem if they admit you to their PA program. You might check out our article: Applying to Physician Assistant School with a Low Grade

      • Carrie May 13, 2014, 10:46 am

        Yes–I can tell you as someone who was just accepted to a PA program that you can improve! I got a C in Chemistry when I took it at age 19, but when I took the class again at age 26 I got an A. I took 10 other prerequisite classes and got A’s in every one. This was tough, but it paid off in the end!

  • Tian November 1, 2011, 10:09 am

    I’m an international student from Malaysia. So glad to found your wonderful blog. But I’m just wondering what are the chances for an international student to get in? Do they consider you equally compare to a US citizen? Or they’ll take into account for an US citizen first only they’ll look at international students?

    Also if I’m participating in intercollegiate league, will I stand a better chance?

    • Paul November 2, 2011, 10:37 am

      Hi, Tian –

      Thanks for the nice compliment! It’s a great question, and it makes me think it’s about time for me to write a post on getting into PA school for international students. Until then, here’s my opinion for you:

      Most PA schools have at least some international students. How many they accept depends on the program and its focus. More populated states (California, New York, Pennsylvania, etc.) would be more likley to accept you than smaller ones (Kentucky, North Dakota, etc) in general because they have more openings, and are more interested in the cultural diversity of their classes. I think if you apply to a number of schools (at least 10), your odds of getting in are better. For the schools that accept internationals, the biggest factor is usually your fluency in English. It’s very common for programs to receive applicants from abroad who are terrific students in their country of origin, but cannot be accepted because their English language skills are not strong enough. English language ability is usually assessed with the Test of English Language Fluency (TOEFL), which many PA schools require from international applicants.

      As you may know, being a PA student requires a strong command of the language, since medicine is a language all its own – for non-native speakers, PA school can be like learning two new languages at once! And obviously, being a PA requires plenty of communication with patients.

      So, if you’re still with me, here is my advice to you:
      1) Like I say to everyone, get the best grades on your prerequisite courses, and get as much good health care experience as you can.
      2) Work on your English as much as you can so you can perform well on the TOEFL.
      3) Make sure that when you submit your application, your essay has been scrutinized by at least one, and probably several native English speakers. Do this even if you are very confident in your English – a native speaker can always spot subtle cues that indicate language difficulty when reading the work of a non-native speaker.
      4) Finally, and maybe most important, rather than hiding your “foreign-ness,” draw from it. As a Malay, I’m sure you have many experiences that US students haven’t, and this diversity factor can help your application stand out immensely, offer diversity to a class, and pique the interest of the admissions committee.

      If you have other questions you would like to ask/answer, our free forum might be a good resource to you. You can find it at The Inside PA Training Forum.

      SUCCESS to you,


  • Karen December 5, 2011, 8:17 pm

    Hello, I am pursuing my BSN currently and am wondering if RNs are seen as good applicants when applying for PA school. Thanks, and I love this website!

    • Paul December 5, 2011, 8:42 pm

      Thanks, Karen! Absolutely! RNs have great medical experience and training and are frequently accepted into PA school. In fact, because PA school doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree in nursing (which is required to get into nurse practitioner school), many nurses are choosing to become PAs instead of NPs. This can save years of schooling to get to (basically) the same job, since PAs and NPs do almost exactly the same work in most states.

      • Nicole March 29, 2014, 10:21 am

        Hi Paul,
        Does that mean that if you are solely an RN (associates degree only) you can still apply for PA school? Or is it still required to have a bachelors in nursing to apply?

        • Paul March 29, 2014, 7:46 pm

          It depends on the school. If the school you are applying to grants a masters degree, then you will need a bachelor’s. If they graduate you with a certificate only (which is what you need to practice as a PA) then an associates is all that is required for most schools. You should know that there are precious few schools left that grant only a certificate. I believe within a few years PA will be a graduate degree only (everywhere).

          • Beka December 18, 2014, 4:17 pm

            I have my associates degree in nursing (RN) and was curious if you know any particular schools that are still only granting a certificate and do not require a bachelor’s degree. If at all possible I would like to not have to get my BSN, this would save me a lot of time. Thanks.

          • Paul December 19, 2014, 1:49 pm

            Check our PA Program Directory (Click the Resources link above and pull down to PA Program Directory). It lists the type of degree awarded by each school.

  • Becca December 11, 2011, 12:14 am

    Hi, Paul! My college has a great mortuary science and funeral services Bachelor’s program. I’m very interested in mortuary science, but don’t want to go into the field since, obviously, I want to be a PA. Do you think a mortuary science degree would be okay?

    • Paul December 11, 2011, 12:38 am

      Mortuary science is a great way to learn about anatomy. I had a friend who was a deputy coroner years ago, and he let me come in and help him with the post mortems a couple of times. Things look SO different with their natural colors – it was a HUGE learning experience. But…if what you really want is to become a PA, mortuary science isn’t going to be a great help. Dabble or volunteer, sure. But PA schools want to see patient care (with live patients), and you won’t get that while preparing a body. Why don’t you see if you can take a class or sit in on some of the preps? Then spend the bulk of your time doing something with patients. I should add that mortuary science pays very well, and there is a shortage in that field as well. Maybe you should investigate both until you are totally clear what you want to do?

  • Becca December 11, 2011, 9:23 pm

    I’m already an EMT and I volunteer at hospitals to get hands-on patient care, but mortuary science just really interests me and it will give me a good career to fall back on in case my plans don’t come to fruition. So, I’m not taking the classes in lieu of live patient care experience, just for the degree and experience. With that, would the degree off-put PA schools? Or do you think it would be fine with my 2000+ hours of EMT work and good grades in all the prerequisites?

    • Paul December 12, 2011, 12:50 am

      Sounds like you’re on the right track. Major in something that you enjoy, can learn from, and that you’ll be good at. Like the article says, it’s not about what you major in, it’s about how you do.

  • Matt January 29, 2012, 11:01 pm

    so I was curious because I heard that it was actually good NOT to major in biology, because the majority of people trying to get into pa school, biology is their major. I have 2 friends who majored in music and the other in film, and BOTH got into the pa program. Is it true that choosing a major other than biology gets you a better chance on getting in? It obviously means more classes other than sciences but I was just curious, because I heard they like to see a different majors when people apply

  • Elizabeth Lucente March 13, 2012, 11:42 pm


    I have been on the fence for quite some time with what to do with my experiences , how to diversify it and use it to my advantage without starting from scratch. So, please bear with me while I give my history. I am hoping you can tell me if being a PA is the right career path for me.

    I was a flight medic with the US Army for seven years with 1 OIF deployment and 2 yrs experience real world mission in Korea. I can’t speak for everyone else who has served as a medic but other than about a collective 3 years of hands on medical practice, I was mostly administrative or personnel management because of my pregnancies and the type of units to which I was assigned. Because my skills were unused for so long, I felt uncertain staying in the medical field.

    I have worked for several PAs and at the height of my medical experience, I was told by my medical directors that I had what it takes to be a PA. Youth and Ambiguity deterred me from taking that path. I have all the pre-Reqs for a BSN but decided the nature of nursing work doesn’t suit me. I have worked as a CNA at a nursing home before the army as well.

    For now, I have taken a hiatus from seeking higher education and I’m a home business operator so I can stay at home with my children. A friend of ours just graduated from PA school and was immediately hired as opposed to several friends of mine who have graduated nursing and they are having a hard time seeking employment.

    My grades in college weren’t impressive because of stupidity and ambivalence that came with my young years but I kow I can make up for it since I have about two more years to go for any bachelors degree.

    What is your advice? Thank you so much!

    Also how can one tell if they have the stamina for the rigorous PA program?

  • Katie March 15, 2012, 2:12 am

    Hi. I am going to start college in the fall and I’m not sure what major would be best to get into a pa program. I’m considering a ba in nursing because of the medical experience I would get. I’m not sure if doing that I would be completing all the necessary prerequisite courses though. I do love French so maybe that would be a good major?

  • Jaimie March 27, 2012, 3:26 pm

    Hi, I am a sophomore student in college who is interested in applying to PA school soon. I am still having trouble deciding what to declare my major in. I enjoy both science and English and so was thinking of majoring in liberal arts with a concentration in Biology and English and minoring in another field. This way, I would only have to take 3 more Biology classes (of my choice) and easily fit in my pre-reqs. Does this sound okay? Also, what kind of science gpa do you need to get into PA school? Do they look at science and math or just the science? I heard that PA schools also look at a lot at work experience. Is it okay if I only have good hospital and red cross volunteer experiences?

    • Paul March 27, 2012, 4:19 pm

      Hi, Jaime! Yes, I that sounds fine. For a more detailed answer, you should listen to our podcast, The Physician Assistant Insider, Episode 3: Choosing a Major. Most schools don’t lump math in with science, but every school is different. 3.5 science GPA is competitive, but I’ve seen people get in with lower, depending on the rest of their application. Work experience is a must, but hospital and Red Cross should fill that need, unless you are applying to programs that specialize in primary care. In that case, you’d be wise to get some outpatient clinic experience as well.

  • Jason March 29, 2012, 10:01 am

    Hi Paul,

    I wanted to know what you thought of my chances of getting into PA school with a BGS. I’m currently in the Army, as a combat medic, and will finish my degree before leaving the service next year. I spent ten years on an ambulance, five as an EMT-B and five as a paramedic. I have spent the last year, in the Army, working as our Battalion PA’s assistant. My grades are 3.97 overall and 3.8 in the sciences. Will having a BGS hurt my chances? If some of the requirements of my degree were CLEP exams (none of which are PA prerequisites), will that hurt my chances? Thanks in advance.

    • Paul March 29, 2012, 11:39 am

      Hi, Jason! I would say that your chances of getting into a PA program are excellent, though I have to admit I have no idea what a BGS is.

      • Jason March 31, 2012, 4:26 pm

        A BGS is a Bachelors of General Studies. I just wasn’t sure if this type of degree would have a hard time standing up against science oriented Bachelors degrees. Thanks Paul.

  • Marilyn April 2, 2012, 10:50 pm

    Hello, I am almost to my second year of college and I am still undecided. Will majoring in nursing be a good idea to get into PA school? It will get me certified as an RN and gain some experience before actually applying. Have you heard of such a thing because usually nurses apply to become nurse practitioners. Thank you!

  • december April 18, 2012, 1:33 pm

    can i become a physician assistant with a degree in healthcare Administration .

    • Paul April 18, 2012, 7:45 pm

      Anything is possible. If this is a major that you really like, then you should go with it. But some programs are wanting more science major candidates, and I doubt they would think of HC Administration as a science major. Have you consulted a guidance/academic counselor? It might be a good idea.

  • Sara April 29, 2012, 9:59 pm

    I am a freshman at the University at Albany and am planning on applying to P.A. school in the future. I have considered transferring out of SUNY Albany to go to SUNY Binghamton, which is considered a better school. My question is, will it make me more marketable if I get my undergraduate education from the more prestigious Binghamton University or isn’t it worth the effort of switching schools? I am a bit concerned that if I go to this harder school I will get worse grades. My grades are good here at the University at Albany now. Does getting worse grades, but going to a better school look better or look worse? Thank you so much!

    • Paul April 30, 2012, 8:22 am

      My opinion is that if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. You’re doing well and that’s more important than where you go. If you switched and your GPA suffered, it would be tragic. Se schools care where you go, but unless we’re talking about Yale vs. Poskotogee Junior College, I don’t think it’s a big factor.
      My advice? Keep doing what you’re doing.

  • Paul May 2, 2012, 8:37 pm


    Hi, everyone – it’s Paul.


    If you post your question to the forum, I’ll do my best to answer it there. Plus you can get more feedback from others! Thanks, PK.

  • Aaron May 11, 2012, 3:52 pm

    Hi there, I’m starting to reconsider becoming a PA. I’m about to graduate from high school and before I wanted to major in middle school education (math and science). Now I’m thinking about majoring in chemistry education instead. This would require an abbreviated version of a chemistry major at my college. Do you think that this is a good choice? Or should I get a full chemistry degree? I would like to have teaching as my back-up plan.

    Obviously all of the prerequisites would have to be filled somewhere in between all of this.

    • Paul May 11, 2012, 4:08 pm

      Hi, Aaron! If I understand you correctly, you’re wanting to become a PA, but you’re uncertain of your major – is that right? I’m not really sure what an abbreviated chemistry major looks like, but I would think that just about any chemistry degree would be fine, and a better choice than middle school ed.

  • Amanda Jones June 3, 2012, 5:31 am

    This web site is just what I was loooking for! I think I will be applying to PA school this year. I was planning, and was accepted on the accelerated track to the local Community college nursing program. I had been looking to go nurse to NP becasue of it’s ability to go part time. Now, I’m just sick of the some what apathetic environment of some of my fellow students and the many years I’m looking at to get to the same level as an NP.

    I can only apply to one program b/c of family being able to relocate. I contacted that program and have a meeting set up in about 2 weeks. In the mean time I’m freaking out a little b/c I’m worried my experiences and undergrad don’t make me a very strong candidate. My health care experience is 3 and 1/2 years at WIC working as a Breastfeeding Peer Helper. I am also an IBCLC (Lactation Consultant). The school said they accepted this as health care experience. Has anyone else out there used this as their experience?

    My undergrad degree is a BFA (fine arts) in Theatre, Design and Technology, with an emphasis in Stage Management. I have 2 internships 1 at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and 1 in my home town (Dayton, OH) as an assistant stage manager as well as some professional Stage Management experience. Additionally, I managed a restaurant’s front of house which included hiring, firing, training all front of house staff as well as all customer service aspects of the restaurant. My undergrad GPA was a 3.4 with some BAD science grades…a D in Geology, W in BIo.

    BUT, b/c of my nursing interest I have taken all the pre req’s for nursing already. I received all A’s in Micro, all A and P’s, math, allied health classes, and psych’s. So, my transfer GPA will be a 4.0.

    I also have a LOT of volunteer experience. I was a tutor at the literacy council and a teacher there for 2 years. I am a La Leche League Leader, a board member for the Ohio Lactation Consultant Association, a conferecne coordinator for the same org. I am also a Girl Scout troop leader.

    SO, after allllll (sorry!) that info do you think my overall ap is too “soft”? I will be taking nurse aid training this summer b/c I already signed up (and PAID!) so I plan to start working as a Nurse assistant towards the end of summer. Should I wait another year and finish my PA reqs and buff up my resume with more healthcare? How successful have you been getting in with an arts degree? I’m HOPING that all of my maagement exp. combined with my now strong science ability will make me a “Wise, with life perspective” not old with out enough to back it up!

  • Jamie June 25, 2012, 10:40 am

    Is it bad that I want to become physician’s assistant and I am majoring in pre-med? Most research that I have done says I need four years of experience in a healthcare field which scares the crap out of me because all the spots for nursing are filled at my college.

    • Paul June 25, 2012, 10:50 am

      Sounds like you are undecided between PA, MD, and RN. I suggest you do some more research until you’re sure which one is right for you. They’re three very different fields. Try not to think of it as “I really want to do X, but if it doesn’t work out I’ll probably do Y.” Each of these fields requires committment to a path. Find out where your passion and ability are and then commit to that path.

  • Amber June 25, 2012, 9:11 pm

    Does PA school take into account which college you attended or whether you obtained your degree online or on campus? I’m a mother of four very young children, and was hoping to attend Rogers State University out of Claremore, Oklahoma online.

    • Paul June 25, 2012, 9:17 pm

      Yes, they do, but it’s not nearly an as important factor as it is for medical school. PA is a profession that is frequented by older students, returning students, career changers, etc. Some schools might be particular about what actual school you attend, and some won’t. I’m honestly can’t say how they would feel about a degree online (like a bachelors), but you could easily call them to ask, and they’ll be up front about it.

      Have you thought about attending a community college? Most PA programs are okay with CC coursework…

  • Cayla July 11, 2012, 3:30 pm

    Thank you so much for the advice, this article was really helpful! I have been wondering what pre-PA degree I should persue and this opened my eyes to the array of possibilties I was afraid to consider before.

    • Paul July 14, 2012, 10:04 pm

      Thanks, Cayla! Yes, it’s a big world out there, and if you only study medicine, you’re could end up a pretty one-dimensional person, and maybe not so happy. So think about the prerequisites, but also what else interests you.

  • Kimberly July 22, 2012, 9:10 pm

    I’m a highschool student and I’m trying to solidify my wants for college. I want to eventually be a surgeon, but I want to start off as a pa. So I’m a little confused. Do you go in, do 4 years, then go off to pa school, or do you do pa during those 4 years?

    • Paul July 22, 2012, 9:59 pm

      Hi, Kimberly! This is not at all advisable. PA and MD are two TOTALLY different tracks. PA’s aren’t baby doctors, or doctors-in-training, and PA schools want students who want more than anything to be PA’s (We have a TON of pride about our amazing profession)!

      Your question is understandable, and we get it every now and then. But the truth is that becoming a PA so that you can eventually become an MD is a HUGE waste of time, much like becoming a book publisher so that you can one day become an author, or becoming an artist so that you can one day own an art gallery.

      So do yourself a favor:

      If what you want is to become a surgeon, DON’T BECOME A PA – go to medical school. If after investigating this awesome profession and shadowing a few PA’s what you want (very much) is to become a PA, then by all means, go to PA school.

      In my experience of 42 years of life, there are no good shortcuts, only good diversions from your goal.



  • Annie K. July 24, 2012, 8:37 pm

    I’m now transferring to a 4-year college with Rehabilitation Services Major and I’m planning to apply to a PA program after I get my bachelors. (California) Is work (medical) experience a must to apply to a PA program?, If so, what are my choices? Do I need to qualify for another license such as RN or EMT? Are there any other way to gain work experience? I’m already 27 and I’m so lost! Help me!

  • jamie July 25, 2012, 10:15 am

    I have my bachelors in sports administration my overall gpa was a 2.7. Do you think it is a good idea to go back to school to get my GPA up and receive a different bachelors for my application to b more competitive? I was thinking about going back to get my B.S in Biomedical Science.. are there any other majors that you would help me to excel in a physician assistant career? t

    • Paul July 25, 2012, 10:43 am

      I probably wouldn’t a completely new bachelors degree. But I would definitely advise you to go back to retake any classes in which you got a C or less, particularly the science prerequisites (anatomy, physiology, microbiology, etc). BUT: to make this work, you need A’s, not B’s. You’re hoping to make the argument that you are a better student now, and you can make that argument much better, with fewer new grades, if they are high ones. Going back to school doesn’t change your GPA much because you already have an entire degree of coursework that will be averaged in with your new grades. But if you can show a marked difference between your old and new performance, that may be enough.

      If you do decide to go for another bachelors, read our article: Pre-Physician Assistant Majors: Choose Wisely.

  • Cynthia Clemens July 31, 2012, 7:09 pm

    what about the schools back east with BA/MS programs: Kings College, Drexel, Phialdelphia U etc. Is this an OK route to get your PA versus applying as a graduate?

  • Philip August 1, 2012, 2:40 am

    I am a 21 year old Corporal of the United States Marine Corps. I am planning to get out after this last combat tour. My interest changed many times about what profession I want to get into but the only one that stands out to me is PA. I just love the fact that I could be helping people on a daily basis and waking up heading to work, thinking about how I could save someones life today. I am not the brightest person in math or science/chemistry. But I know that I will give it all I got to pursue this career as a PA because of the passion I have for it. Well enough of me going on and on, I was just wondering if you could give me some guidance in what classes I should major and minor in. What could help me succeed though college and PA program? Because I’m going to be honest, I do not know much at all about the college life or how everything works or regarding to college at all. If you could fond the time to reply that would be greatly appreciated.

  • Andy August 1, 2012, 10:58 am

    Hello! I would like to thank you for all of the information given. I am an upcoming senior in High school and have been thinking hard about becoming a PA. Would Special Education be an appropriate major in college? Also, I love helping, solving problems and interacting with people but I have little interest in science. Is this a problem in me seeking a PA career?

  • Naureen August 5, 2012, 1:46 am

    Hi Paul! I’m thinking about switching to an Anthropology major (I’m a biology major right now). So my plan is this – to become a physician assistant, pursue the career for awhile, and then add to my credentials by getting a masters in Public Health. It’s a lot – I know…but do you think it’s a good idea? Still unsure of my prospects for getting in – my science gpa is a pretty solid to a 3.0 and I made my first C in college over summer in physics :( But do you know of anyone who was an anthropology major and pursued p.a. school?

    • Paul August 6, 2012, 10:13 pm

      Sure. Anthro is less common than Bio, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it. Listen to our podcast on majors, and you’ll see that picking a major isn’t much about choosing one that PA schools will like.

      And yes, PA and then MPH is frequently done, and it’s a good route if public health is an interest. Keep in mind that in the majority of institutions, this means you will be getting two masters. But some have no problem with that.

  • Richard August 6, 2012, 6:33 pm

    I’m about to do my last semester at a JC and i’m no longer interested in nursing as to my experience as a janitor in a medical facility. I found out about this PA and i’m really interested. However i’m stuck between which major to take because all I know is science and math. I’m even a tutor for anatomy and statistics at my current school. Is taking a biology major a good route? Also forensics intrigue me can I go into forensic science?

    • Paul August 6, 2012, 10:08 pm

      Biology is a fine route. Most any major is okay except maybe the fine arts, as long as it’s something you enjoy and will do well in.

      There are different ways to interpret forensics. If you mean testifying in court as a professional witness, you can do that, but you probably won’t get work doing it until you have been in the field for years and have a reputation as a respected PA. If you are speaking of doing medicine with jail/prison populations, this is absolutely an option – one that tends to pay more because of the inherent risk, the challenging population, and the less than picturesque work setting. But some love it.

  • Chris August 10, 2012, 11:59 am

    Right now, I’m debating between biology and biochemistry. With biochemistry, my school has a smaller department and it is considered to be more rigorous. It would involve taking Biochemistry I/II, P-Chem and Physics I/II, and I would have less opportunities for outside experiences (Study Abroad, most notably). If I don’t get into PA school, I would probably have an easier time with Biochemistry. With biology, though, there are less chemistry-centered courses, more medicine-based classes, less required courses so I can take classes in other areas, and more time for outside opportunities. On the flip-side, it is my school’s biggest major, is considered by some to be less employable than biochemistry, and pretty common among PA applicants. If there is something else I should consider, I’d gladly take the advice. Thanks for any help!

  • Meg August 11, 2012, 10:28 pm

    Hi, I’m getting ready to enter college and I’ve always assumed a Biology major would be best to get into a PA program, but I think my real passion is in Anthropology. I was wondering what my chances of getting into a PA program would be if I majored in either General or Biological Anthropology? I plan to obtain my CNA license and do a lot of volunteer work to help with patient contact hours, but what else should I do to help me get accepted? Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

  • Sean August 15, 2012, 7:38 am

    I’ve been looking into pursuing a B.S. in Sports and Exercise Science, specializing in Human Performance, and obtaining the pre-req courses for PA school, followed by earning a 2-year vocational degree as a Cariovascular Tech. I’d like to work as a CVT for a while before applying to a P.A. school down the road. How does this path look in everyone’s opinion? I’m thinking having this education and medical work experience would definitely set me apart from other applicants to a board. Thanks in advance for any comments and suggestions!

    • Paul August 15, 2012, 9:10 pm

      It sounds like a solid plan to me. I like that you are doing some longer-term planning – something that many applicants never bother to do.

  • Anam August 26, 2012, 3:15 pm

    Hi there,

    So I just graduated and like many people I didn’t realize that this is what I wanted to do until I was a senior and didn’t want to change to a more science major. I’m a Health Administration major which is somewhat relative to medicine, its more the back end management of medical facilities. That being said I still have science classes to take and direct patient hours to do. I’m so confused though because every school has their own set of pre-reqs. How many schools are generally a good number to apply to? That way I will at least be able to pick a few and make sure all their pre-reqs are done with. I don’t know if I should just pick a couple or more so that I can at least get into one.

    • Paul August 26, 2012, 4:57 pm

      Up to a point, more is better. I suggest:

      A) 3 schools you would really like to go to (they are favorites, or are near you). These are your DREAM schools.
      B) 3 schools you feel would be good alternates if the above don’t work out. These are your ACCEPTABLE schools.
      C) 1-2 schools you are most sure you could get into. These are your SAFETY schools.

      For each school that is in (C) as well as (A) or (B), that’s one less school you need to apply to.

      In general, I think 7 is a good number, but if you are a weaker applicant, more would be reasonable. Some people apply to 20 or more!

  • John August 29, 2012, 3:29 pm

    Hi Paul,
    I just graduated and I’m going to a two year school & then transferring. Would that be looked down upon by a PA program? Also I’m majoring in psychology is it hard for psychology majors to complete prerequisites?

    I also wanted to get experience health care experience now. Would you suggest an EMT or ER tech?

    • Paul August 29, 2012, 9:37 pm

      No, transferring is fine for most schools.
      Psychology is a fine major – very relevant. If you like it, do it.
      EMT or ER tech is probably idea. Again, go for it.

  • Beth September 15, 2012, 10:40 am

    Hi Paul,

    I’m a junior in college right now, and my major is nursing. Ive always wanted to be in the healthcare field, but I had a hard time picking one. I think that a PA would be the best career for me. I haven’t started nursing school, yet but I feel like i am too far into the nursing prereqs to switch to biology (I am almost done with them). Is it ok to finish nursing school, become an RN ( BSN) for a little while, and then apply to PA school (after completing the prerequisites)? Will I be at a major disadvantage in PA school for not having a bachelors in a science degree?

    Any help or advice is greatly appreciated.



    • Paul September 15, 2012, 5:45 pm

      I wouldn’t say it’s a “major disadvantage,” but you will have a little explaining to do. Make sure that your essay speaks to why PA is a better fit for you than nursing/NP.

  • Josh Pumroy September 27, 2012, 4:31 am

    Hey Paul, I just started college this year after 5 years of active duty service as a Navy Corpsman. Since I already have 5 years of experience of patient care in different settings how important is it that I go out of my way to get more contact hours? I think I’m already ahead of the game, but I don’t want to look like I lost motivation when I eventually apply to PA school.

    • Paul September 27, 2012, 7:25 pm

      You should already have great HCE. Just volunteer a few hours per week to make it clear you’re still committed. Use the rest of your time to crush your classes. Clinic or ER would be fine.

  • Christopher Virga October 17, 2012, 7:24 am

    I am a Mechanical Engineering Major at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, one of the best engineering schools in the southeast. I have recently found that mechanical engineering, while it sounded appealing to me a year ago, is not so appealing. After some soul searching I realized that I really love the “puzzle” that medicine is (or seems to be). Looking at a person and their test results and figuring out what is plaguing them sounds like such a fulfilling career. My question is, should I continue with my Mechanical Engineering (which I average a 2.7), or switch to something that I may excel a little more in that would perhaps set me back a year or so?

    • Paul October 20, 2012, 10:40 pm

      That’s an individual decision, but I’ll share my own experience:

      I was a Economics major, and after my first year I decided that I hated it. I had enjoyed Biology in high school, so I took the leap and changed majors. I had some catching up to do, but as a bio major I loved school again and my grades improved. And I should say that at my school, Bio was known to be a harder major than Econ. No matter what you decide, I encourage you to speak with your academic counselor so you know what to expect.

  • Celine November 12, 2012, 3:07 am

    Hello. I am currently enrolled in community college and want to attend a physician assistant program right after I get my Bachelor’s degree. I’m thinking about becoming a Nutrition major, but none of the UCs besides Berkeley (which I don’t want to go to due to distance) have that major. Are CSUs looked down upon in PA programs as they are in Med School?
    Also, what job can I get as a paid “hands-on” experience that doesn’t require much training other than an EMT?

    • Paul November 13, 2012, 12:38 am

      No, in general, CSUs are fine. You might want to think about giving yourself some time between undergrad and PA school. Most schools require 2-4 years of hands-on medical experience before they will consider you.

      I suggest you check out our forum at, and click the link for “Health Care Experience.”

      Good luck!

  • Amani November 13, 2012, 7:05 pm

    Hello, you said that PA schools find Biology majors boring, but currently I am a Bio major, I wanted to do dentistry at first, and thought that Bio would be good for that. However, I did not get in after multiple cycles, and now my thoughts are on Physician’s assisting, I’ve done much volunteering, do you think I’ll have the chance of getting in ?

    • Paul November 15, 2012, 5:01 pm

      If you want to become a physician assistant (no ‘s!) you should think it through. Make sure you know what you’re getting into before you work to become a PA. Spend time shadowing multiple PAs until you are confident that you know what the job is about. If after that you area still interested, THEN look at what it would take. Being a bio majore is fine. I just think people who believe you should only major in bio if you want become a PA are crazy.

  • Jordan November 15, 2012, 9:58 am

    Thanks for everything you’ve done w/ your blog, pod-casts, and forums! Even if you don’t reply to my message, I think I have general ideas of what to do in my predicament. I hope my message finds you with a cup of coffee/tea because this might take a while to read, but here’s my story:
    I am a junior in college with no health care experience. I have been failing with everything lately. And I have been so depressed. In the fall of 2011, I took Calculus 2, Cal-based Physics, and Organic Chem 1 w/ lab. (This is when I thought I would major in biochem…I was foolish.) I was failing physics, so I withdrew from it. To go along with this withdrawal (slight sarcasm), I went on to earn my first C’s in organic lecture and lab. The next semester (spring 2012) I took 18 hrs in hopes to make up for the lost credit hours from the fall (my scholarship requires 30hrs/academic school year). That semester I made 2 F’s and 3 C’s. All in one school year, my GPA had gone from a 3.5 to a 2.91. I made F’s in Cell Bio & Intro to Physics. I made another set of C’s in Organic 2 & Organic 2 lab. My other C was in Drugs and Human Behavior, a class I really enjoyed; however, I didn’t study for the final (I was so bummed about my other crappy grades) and I made a D on it. The worst part about me imploding/ giving up is that I took other people down with me (some lab partner I was). I also regret that I gave people the impression that I didn’t care. That’s not who I am, yet I cannot undo what is done and I cannot run from my mistakes. An apology wouldn’t suffice…Anyway, over the summer I enrolled in 3 online classes (2 psychology + 1 criminal justice). I couldn’t do well in those either. The computer screen would appear blurry & I couldn’t remember a thing.
    Long story short (ha!), my mother took me to an ophthalmologist and I found out I have thyroid eye disease. Had my thyroid hormone levels checked, and my results were positive for Graves’ disease & hyperthyroidism. The symptoms of this disorder are indirect and I had been previously misdiagnosed (i.e. acid re-flux, hypertension, and severe allergies). The real problem is Graves’ disease which has 3 main manifestations: psychological problems (general anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and depression), hyperthyroidism (thyroid gland is overactive resulting in an accelerated metabolism), and thyroid eye disease (eyes swell and push back on optic nerves–hence, the vision problems). All of my symptoms are too lengthy to list. I couldn’t get an appointment with an endocrinologist until the end of August and since we didn’t know what my recommended treatment (radiation, surgery, or pills) would be, we didn’t know how my body would react to it. I visited an ophthalmologist about my eyes that thought we should wait until after my thyroid gland was under control before we took action. Therefore, I am out of school on medical leave this semester (Yep, that means I’ll be graduating in the fall of 2014). I now know that this disease has been affecting me since my senior year in high school and that it was (probably) affecting my performance in the fall and spring semesters as well…what does this have to do with my major?
    This goes back to why I was depressed: I hated biology (physics and organic mostly) b/c I didn’t feel like I belonged, I didn’t have a clear career path, and I didn’t have anyone to tutor me. And sitting in a room full of people who know what’s going on (and I hadn’t a clue) did nothing but push me into a sullen disposition that made learning impossible. (I go to a university that has a nursing, medical, PA, PT, OT, dentistry, and optometry programs. And they really put pressure on students to major in biology, knowing the professors cannot teach, to prove that they’re genius enough to attend med school.) At this point, I don’t know if anything will greatly improve my application. Two things are for sure: I won’t be majoring in biology (NO MORE PHYSICS!), and I am having trouble choosing a major. Should I major in psychology or anthropology? I have no idea. Should I even try to pursue a career as a physician assistant with this academic record (1 regular withdrawal, 3 medical withdrawals, 5 C’s, and 2 F’s)? Should I take those classes again? Should I chance not taking them over? How should I address this in my CASPA application/personal statement? I know I’m going to take more biology classes (that don’t incorporate physics) for my minor, so that’s not an issue…Also, any advice on the interview? What can make me stand out in a more positive way?
    I need something to overshadow my mistakes; I need to show them how passionate I am about helping people. I need a plan. Please, help me. I have 6 semesters left in college including the summer terms. I would like to spend my time wisely moving toward my career as a PA. Excuse my use of poor grammar and punctuation as it is not habitual.

    • Paul November 15, 2012, 4:33 pm


      Wow. That is a lot, and you have been through a lot. With that said, I can only see you getting into PA school by proving to the admissions committees that you have permenantly improved your performance as a student once your Grave’s is under control. Yes, Graves could easily cause all of your problems, and probably did. BUT: they don’t know that until they see your performance has made a dramatic change in directions. My point here? Before you are likely to have much success at applying to PA school, you need to present them with convincing evidence that you are not the student you once were (for whatEVER reason).

      There’s only one way to do this. You must do well in any classes you take. Given your recent performance, this isn’t so realistic. My suggestion is you major in whatever you find you are interested in enough to stay motivated in your studies. Graduate. Spend time working in a health care job. After some time off to regroup, if you still wish to become a PA, retake the required courses and take any you have not yet taken. CRUSH them. Then apply with a strong essay that thoughtfully shares your story with them and helps to explain (not excuse) your prior academic career. If you can show that 1) your graves is under control, and 2) since it has been, your academic performance has been solid, you can make a strong argument to them as to why they should take a risk on you.

      To be very blunt, I don’t see much you can do in this application cycle to make your application “stand out in a positive way.” Even if they take pity on you and agree that your disease was the reason for your poor performance, how will they know that you are ready to do better in PA school? Until they have an outstanding handful of grades, they won’t.

      My other question: your dislike of physics aside, if you hate biology, why would you want to do a job that relies almost entirely on biology? Just a question.

      Anyway, my short advice is:
      1) finsish school however you need to
      2) work in medicine for a while so as not to waste your time away from school
      3) return to school with a new attitude, motivation, and study habits, and
      4) apply with the results to set their mind at ease that you are better than you once were and you know why.

      That’s all I’ve got.



  • Max November 26, 2012, 5:59 pm

    Hello, love the blog. It has really been helpful and informative. I am in the process of picking out my major and I am very sure that becoming a PA is right for me. I am very interested in psychology, and I am wondering if majoring in psych is a good idea if I eventually want to pursue a career as a PA?

  • Jordan December 1, 2012, 10:42 am

    I’m glad there are people in the world like you willing to encourage a hopeless wanderer. I’ll be returning to school next semester with faith. Everything will be alright. Thanks, Paul!

  • fanus December 2, 2012, 4:26 pm

    hi paul?
    i have a diploma in registered practical nurse,is it possible for me be accepted in PA?

  • Josh December 2, 2012, 8:56 pm

    Hey Paul,

    Recently I decided that I am going to pursue my undergraduate degree in Clinical Laboratory Science. I have contacted all of the PA schools I am interested in asking about specific major preference and have gotten the same answer from all of them: It doesn’t matter as long as you have the pre-requisites completed. I have never met anyone who has completed this program and was wondering if you think it will really set me up for success like they say or is it something to stay away from. If anyone else has any thing to add please don’t hesitate.


    • Paul December 4, 2012, 9:21 pm

      In general I agree: major doesn’t matter TOO much. But you might think about majors that will get you working with patients in some way. Unfortunately, clinical lab work won’t do that. But majoring in Biology won’t necessarily either, so maybe it won’t matter at all.

  • Trish December 4, 2012, 10:56 pm


    I was pre-med, but now I think that PA is more for me. I’m in the process of switching my major from biology to public health, as its more interesting to me.

    Should I stay bio for pre-PA or would public health be an okay major?


    • Paul December 7, 2012, 11:45 pm

      I don’t see any problem in the appearance of a Public Health major. It may not prepare you as well for PA school, but if you do well in your prerequisites, I don’t see it being a factor.

  • Dan December 10, 2012, 11:02 pm


    I am going through a personal reinvention, heading back to school for the second time. I was a secondary English teacher and realized that I did not enjoy my career (some of it, anyway). I’ve always been interested in Medicine, and now that I’m heading back to college, I’m giddy with anticipation.

    But as prepare for undergrad again, I question whether or not this career reversal will be seen as blight or blessing to PA program admissions (where I’m at the PA schools are very competitive). Also, as this is my second time in undergrad, a Pre-PA degree seems to be more expeditious and comprehensive than majoring in Biology, say. What are your thoughts?

    • Paul December 11, 2012, 8:06 pm

      I’m not certain that you need another bachelors. Why not take the prerequisites, apply, and see how you do? They don’t need to know that you took English Lit, PE, and World History again. They need to know that in addition to those you have already taken, you now have the necessary science understanding to excel in PA school. Expeditious = take the prerequisites only.

  • Jordon December 27, 2012, 11:21 pm

    Hey Paul,

    I am a Junior at the University of Illinois and was just until recently pursuing a degree in Crop Science with a concentration in Biotechnology. I took up a research position because that is what I thought I wanted to go into (Corn Genetics) but soon realized that was not the path I wanted to take in life. I knew in my heart, at that point in time, that I wanted to go into pediatrics, and after doing some intensive research, figured out that I wanted to become a PA. Last summer I went on a mission trip to Haiti, and loved sick, malnourished, dirty children, and loved every second of it. The reason I am writing to you is because I am kind of concerned about my major being HDFS now (Human Development and Family Studies) with a concentration in Child and Adolescent Development. How would this look, as far as PA programs considering that a legitimate major for what I want to do?

    I look forward to hearing your input, as it will help relieve stress from this process of switching majors!

    Thanks for your help,


    • Paul December 28, 2012, 11:09 pm

      I think it’s a great major, given you want to go into Peds! In fact, it will make your explanation of what kind of medicine you want to do that much more believable.

      Of course, there will be prerequisite coursework that that major won’t give you. But I encourage you to continue. You can always take whatever courses you don’t get as part of your BS/BA at a community college after you graduate.

  • joseph December 28, 2012, 3:02 pm

    hello, i am interested in being a physician assistant but before i get into PA program i need to finish a 4-year college to earn a bachelor’s degree. my questions are>>
    1) what courses should or need to take in 4 yr college?
    2) is BS in health science a good choice to bachelor in college?
    3) i am planing to attend a community college then transfer to a university> any advices on courses to take or to do at this
    4) what do i need to major in, enable for me to attend a PA program with a bachelor degree?
    thank you very much please, help me out by answering my questions, and it will a pleasure if you email me a guide of step by step on how to be a physician assistant after graduating high school. :)

    • Paul December 28, 2012, 10:56 pm

      Hi, Joseph. Before you is a large collection of articles that will answer all of these questions and many more. You should dive in and start reading – I suggest you start with the articles in the “Getting Into PA School” category. To find them, scroll down the right side of the main page until you get to the list of categories (just after the red box about our podcast). Click on the the topic that interests you. The podcast is also a good resource if you’re just getting started.

      I hope this helps.


  • shi December 31, 2012, 8:07 pm

    Hey Paul,
    Great article, I’m glad I found this website!

    I was a music major once I graduated high school but did not complete because I was dissatisfied with the program and teaching as it was a fairly new course. I got into a music engineering program and I was not prepared at all. On down time I took extra additional lessons in piano and vocals… But, seeing now that the music business is not my kind of lifestyle I’ve been looking into the Health care field but don’t know what field to get into. But now I know that I really wanna pursue the Physician assistance path.
    I have read that a Bio major maybe boring in the application. I feel like I should take this course so that I wouldn’t feel unprepared and also have the prerequisite. I’m thinking of getting a certificate in CNA to hopefully get hands on experience as well as do more volunteer work.
    I’ve search online and it seems there is not much schools around my area that offers a PA program but one. I read their web page for their program admission requirements and have mention most of their students were working as EMT, Nurse, etc… And volunteer work is good too but having the work experience is better. Is it a good idea to take a short course to get a foot step into the health care career and do volunteer work as well on the side while working towards getting a B.S, or focus fully to just get a B.S and do volunteer work?

    Thank you~

    • Paul December 31, 2012, 11:14 pm

      Your absolute highest priority must be getting great grades. I suggest you wait until you are out, when you can focus all our attention like a laser on getting great HCE. One thing at a time!

  • Dan January 7, 2013, 9:49 am

    Hi Paul,
    I was wondering if you had any advice for an international student. I have UK/US dual citizenship, but completed high school and undergrad in the UK. I have a BS honors degree in Psychology and work as a clinical research coordinator in New York. I know that i will have to go back to school to do prerequisites before applying to PA school as the UK university system does not include them. But all the PA schools i have been looking at include the requirement that undergrad has to be competed in an accredited US college.
    Will my application still be looked on favorably with just prerequisites from a US college. I know for med school it is not enough, and they want a full undergrad.
    Any advice would be great!

    • Paul January 7, 2013, 7:15 pm

      I know that PA schools accept international students from countries with educational systems farther removed from ours that Britain’s. You just need to contact them and find out how they will count your coursework against their requirements. Sadly, you may need to retake some courses that don’t transfer officially (even if they are basically the same thing).

      Ask the admissions office if they have any international students in their program with whom you could speak. They will have all sorts of wisdom for you…

  • Kylee January 17, 2013, 8:03 pm

    Hi Paul!
    I am currently in college and at the point where I need to declare my major. I’m having problems choosing between PA and NP, so I was thinking of getting my BSN then working for a few years as a nurse and choosing which one I would enjoy more. If I do decide on PA school at that point, would having a degree in nursing hurt me rather than having a degree in a science or other area of study? If I do not do nursing, what are other ways for me to get health care experience during my undergrad years in order for my application to stand out to PA schools?
    Thank you for your help!

    • Paul January 20, 2013, 10:34 am

      Hi, Kylie – It could hurt you. We don’t recommend BSN majors unless you are thinking that nursing could really be for you. What could it communicate to PA school admissions committees? For starters, that you aren’t fully sure what you want to do, or that you are completely committed to a career as a PA. Secondly, it can indicate that you’ve changed course because you weren’t successful in your original plan.

      We suggest that if what you really want is to become a PA, you should choose a major that interests you, and hopefully one that can in some way relate to medicine. Biology, chemistry, etc. are good. Psychology, health, sport physiology can also work. Click to go to our podcast on the topic for more.

  • Dan January 23, 2013, 7:16 am

    Hi Paul,
    I’m a senior in High School with countless possibilities in front of me. I am very interested in the physicians assistant field and have been doing lots of research on it. This article helped me enormously with my question of suitable bachelor degrees. I plan on getting certified as an EMT in a class this April. What other activities should I focus on the beef up my resume? I read that volunteering at a hospital is good, but what other activities would you recommend for me at this point? Thanks again for an awesome article. P.S. Also, does the fact that I’ve competed in high school debate for three years me at all?

    • Paul January 23, 2013, 7:20 pm

      Hi, Dan. First, know that there’s no apostrophe-S at the end of the job title. Physician Assistant. This is an easy mistake, but knowing how to not make it will make you look smart and closer to a career as a PA.

      Great you’re doing your research. I think there are many ways you could spend your time, but I say keep it simple. Rather than splitting your time between language lessons, research, and the other directions that applicants go to to look stronger, stick to what we know works.

      Get a certificate if you must (say EMT or phlebotomy), but then get to work in a medical job of some kind. Learn all you can, and start racking up health care experience.

      • Dan January 23, 2013, 7:38 pm

        So, I’ve been reading lots of article on the subject of PA vs. MD. The thing that sticks out most to me is Physician Assistants probably in their forties saying how their PA degree is holding them back from advancing. Have you run into any similar dilemma? Thanks

  • Tim January 27, 2013, 6:38 pm

    Hi Paul this is a excellent site. I wish it was more noticable. Anyways I read about half of the posts and sorry if you already answered this question, but, I was thinking of applying in the future to Towson University and I was possibly thinking about completing my Bachelors degree at Wilmington University because of how close it is to where I live. But then I thought would Towson U have more favorable to me for their PA Program if I completed my Bach degree with them and they aready got to know me and see my face on campass and their professor could vaulge for me?

    • Paul January 29, 2013, 10:54 pm

      Unless it’s a really small school, this “familiarity” factor isn’t worth much. Besides, you want the best education you can get, wherever it is. Go to the school program that interests you. If you are happy, you will do well, and if you do well, you will probably impress the PA applications committee where you want to go for PA school. They don’t want familiar faces nearly so much as skilled, dynamic, and talented students.

  • Issac Duggan February 3, 2013, 9:05 am

    My name is Issac Duggan, and I am a freshman at Indiana University intending to major in exercise science, but am already thinking of a change. My school does not have a pre-physician assistant major, but they do offer a progrma that is called, the individualized major program, which gives a student the opportunity to create their own major based on their interests, which gives you more freedom that a traditional major. My idea was to take all my interests and make a major out of it. My interests are Spanish, Medicine Courses, Kinesiology, Scuba Diving and EMT coures. I know that I have to take a lot of science courses like anatomy and physiology which is something I am looking forward to. So my question to you is do you think it is a good idea to include the basic pre-reqs in to my major program, and then collaboate my interests as well. After college I plan to attend paramedic school and work as a paramedic. I also want to obtain rescue diver and diver medic certifications before applying to PA school. So my question to you is, do you thinik it is a good idea to “make my own major” with things that I am intersted in rather than pick a traditional major that does not show me interest.

    • Paul February 4, 2013, 4:50 pm

      I think it’s an EXCELLENT idea to create your own major. It’s something we’ve written about in the past, and it implies that you are an outside-the-box thinker, creative, and that you have varied interests.

      Words of caution/suggestion:

      1. Include your medical prerequisites
      2. Hybridize the elements of your interests that relate to medicine in a way that makes sense – not just a laundry list.
      3. Be sure your course of study will be useful to the study medicine
      4. Consider an aspect goes beyond patient care, such as ethics, policy, or culture
      5. Give it a sexy name that helps others understand what you would be doing with it
  • Tim February 7, 2013, 1:32 pm

    Great blog! I actually met with an advisor today at EMU. They are opening a PA program next year, and begin taking applications this summer! I will not have my degree in time to apply, I will have to wait until Fall of 2014. I plan on applying there, Wayne State, UofD Mercy, and University of Toledo. Any thoughts on these programs? I will have a BA Majoring in Psychology and Minoring in Human Biology. I still have to take the GRE, what is an acceptable score? I have experience working at a funeral home and plan on either becoming a CNA or doing some MD shadowing for my experience, both of which are approved my EMU, but Wayne State wants you to get paid for your experience for it to count. I have a 3.7, but that is with a C in stats that I plan on retaking. Do I have a decent shot at getting into 1 out of 4? I used to be a Sales Manager for Red Bull, but did not feel fulfilled. My mom got sick and needed help and it was so hard for her to receive it. Luckily she did and is doing fine now! So then was when I decided I wanted to make a difference and help under privileged people receive quality medical care. I found out about the PA position, did some research, and made up my mind. Wish me luck! And thanks for the great convo going on!

    • Paul February 7, 2013, 10:30 pm

      I’m not personally familiar with these programs, but if they are ARC-PA accredited, then they meet the requirements. We have articles on choosing the right PA program – maybe that would help you.

      Here’s a recent article on GRE scores.

      We don’t generally weigh in on “What are my chances” questions – there are just too many factors. I’ve seen applications of all types get in and not get in. I would suggest you get some sturdier health care experience. Though they say they accept CNA and funeral home work, these are not clinically strong. Have you thought about EMT? See our forum discussion of health care experience for more on it.

  • Jessica February 11, 2013, 9:24 pm

    how do PA schools view an applicant majoring in anthropology? I know you said choose what excites you as long as you get the pre requisites done, but im just curious as to how that looks on an application. Also, if you played a sport in college or participated in clubs, would that benefit an applicant in any way?
    thank you!

    • Paul February 11, 2013, 11:51 pm

      Activities in general show that you are active and have other interests. I think anthropology is fine as long as you do well in it, and in your prerequisite classes.

  • Vickie February 15, 2013, 7:10 pm

    Hi Paul,

    I am a registered x-ray tech and have an associates degree but like most people I’m wanting more out of my career (for myself and for a better life for my daughter) and after talking to one of the physicians I work for I’m really wanting to go back to school for my bachelors and go to PA school. Your blog is very informative especially about the pre-pa major. I’ve been wanting to talk to someone who knows more about the PA profession and someone with a little inside information about what PA schools are looking for…do you think people in the admissions offices are willing to give inside suggestions?

    • Paul February 15, 2013, 10:25 pm

      In most cases, no. They’re pretty careful to give the same information to everyone who calls. This is for the sake of fairness. But sometimes there are good questions you can ask that will give you an idea what they are looking for. So call them and ask them what you want to know. Often the answers to your questions won’t be any big secret.

  • Kailyn February 24, 2013, 7:04 pm

    I am currently in high school but just got accepted into UNC Chapel Hill. I was reading some of the comments on this site about RNs applying for PA school. In one reply you said that RNs make great applicants because they have medical experience and show an interest in the medical field. Then in a few others you say that its not a wise decision because it could make the PA schools confused because you are switching into a different career path. My original plan was to start as a CNA (taking a class currently), apply and graduate with a BA in nursing, and then either apply to PA school or take a few years off and work with my nursing degree. I figured I would work my way up in the medical field. Plus I want to have the flexibility of a degree that will give me a job right out of college in case I decide I don’t want to go back to PA school or any other circumstances. While I find sciences to be interesting, I am not sure I would want to major in one. My question is, is it not wise to graduate as a RN and should I rethink my plans, or should I stick with the nursing major and apply for PA school with it anyways? I understand they are two different fields, but I feel as though nursing would be a great introduction into the medical field and something I may want to stick with anyways. I have also already done a ton of research about both these fields, so feel as though I am a little bit lost on what is the best choice.

    • Paul February 25, 2013, 10:38 am

      Kailyn – you’re right – our words are a little contradictory. They represent a progression in our opinion since starting this site. Here’s a summary that may make a little more sense, and better represents how we see it now.

      Nursing is a great field. There are plenty of nurses who go on to become PAs. This shouldn’t be surprising, since nursing is excellent health care experience. But we don’t recommend that students go to nursing school and become nurses if their ultimate goal is to be PAs. This is because if things don’t work out, you will have spent 2+ years and countless thousands of dollars to become something that was more of a “stepping stone” to becoming something that isn’t going to work out. Also, some admissions committees are a little down on nursing. If this seems unfair, it is. But schools all have different opinions on what it takes to make a great PA. Some believe that the nursing experience is invaluable, and some schools would like to distance themselves from the nursing profession as an entirely different track.

      Our take?

      Can you become a PA if you are a nurse? Yes. Should you go to nursing school if what you really want to become is a nurse (and possibly someday a nurse practitioner)? Sure. Is nursing the best path to becoming a PA? We don’t think so. But if you think you might want to become a PA and are totally down with nursing, it might not be a bad choice.

  • Celine February 28, 2013, 4:32 pm

    Hi Paul! I know I’m a bit too young for asking (I’m a sophomore in high school), but I’m really curious to see what classes I should take in junior year to prepare for my “path” towards the PA schooling. I want to major in biology, since it’s something I’m extremely good at, but apparently it’s not something PA schools want? I was planning on taking AP biology and AP calculus 1&2 so I can get rid of math in college so I can focus more on the medical classes. I’m also planning on doing a Medical Assistant program that my school offers in senior year and I was wondering if that would broaden my transcript so PA schools have note that I have somewhat of an experience in the medical field? I’m straight out clueless about this whole college business and then transferring to a PA school so can you please help me out and guide me in the right direction, because I feel like I’m going to screw up and end up going the wrong way.. Thank you so much!

    • Paul March 6, 2013, 5:47 pm

      Hi, Celine. First off, you aren’t going to “screw up and end up going the wrong way” because you are thinking ahead – well ahead of most others. It takes a particular kind of high school student to think ahead as much as you are, and I suspect you will be ahead of the game for it.

      Sure, get your math out of the way. Do well in your high school biology and chemistry. The MA program is a really nice option, and if it interests you, I say do it.

      BTW, PA schools don’t “dislike” biology majors. I just tend to think that they tend to blend in with all the other biology majors, and if your application needs to stand out a little (most do), that’s not the way to make it happen.

      In college, I suggest you take a broad range of health classes to see what appeals to you the most. Nutrition, psychology, sociology, kinesiology, etc. will give you broad exposure, and it’s a lot easier to go confidently in the right career direction if you have a specific goal in mind. Trying lots of things gives you a better sense for which one is best for you.

  • Taylor March 8, 2013, 4:24 pm

    The school I want to go to has a pre-physicians assistant program. They have a partnership with a medical college so that after you finish you go onto this school and in five years total you can become a PA. I want to do this to become a PA (so ill have a job while going to med school) then go back to med school to get my PhD. Is doing a pre-PA program still going to prepare me for med school? Or would I be better off sticking with the biology major I’m in now?

    • Paul March 10, 2013, 10:39 am

      Whoah, Taylor – we need to talk!

      I can tell that you have some reading up to do on the PA profession. Being a PA is not like moonlighting at Starbucks. PAs are not doctors-in-training, baby doctors, or wannabe doctors. They are clinicians, and their work is far more involved that it seems you realize.

      YOU SHOULD NOT BECOME A PA IF WHAT YOU REALLY WANT IS TO BECOME A PHYSICIAN. Doing so is a HUGE waste of time, money, and effort. TRUST me when I tell you: THERE IS NO WAY IN HELL YOU COULD EVER WORK AS A PA WHILE ATTENDING MED SCHOOL. Nor would you want to. Furthermore, PA schools do not want students who want to become physicians. They want students who have done their research and are fired up to become PAs! PA school is hard to get into. Once there, it is demanding and no easy thing to complete. Once a PA, you will be plenty challenged.

      Your question tells me that you really really really need to spend some time shadowing a PA to see just what it is that they do.

      No disrespect intended – I just want you to know exactly what you are getting yourself into.

  • Serene March 11, 2013, 5:40 am

    Hello there,
    at the moment I am a biology major. I love biology, but I am not a huge fan of chemistry and calculus. I am struggling a bit with those classes. And am thinking of switching my major to wither Psychology or Philosophy, in which I also enjoy. Do you think this would be a good choice? Since it seems I am not doing well in chemistry at the moment, and may end up retaking it later if I don’t do so well this semester.
    Also, for clinical volunteer experience, what would you recommend? Emergency Medical Technician, Respiratory Therapist, or a Licensed Vocational Nurse?

    • Paul March 11, 2013, 2:38 pm

      Some schools offer a BA and a BS in Biology. I graduated with a BA, which allowed me to skip physics and maybe one or two other classes. If this is an option at your school, you should check it out. If you do decide to change, I might discourage you from going as far as Philosophy, although you could make a case for it if it’s really your passion. It just seems hard to relate to medicine directly. Psychology seems a good way to go to me.

  • Serene March 11, 2013, 3:20 pm

    Thanks, I would look into it more. Also, would you recommend taking a BA or BS for psychology? How much of Organic Chemistry do we need? I heard from someone that it is useful, but it’s barely used as a PA? Is that true? But when going to PA School, one of the course we will be taking is biochemistry correct?

  • Melissa March 24, 2013, 10:22 pm

    Hey first off your blog has been very helpful! I have 3 questions ..

    1.) I have here’d that a lot of physician assistant programs are going to be turning into a master levels program. What would you go for, your bsn or getting your masters ?

    2.) And many ” pre- physician assistant ” programs that I’m seeing ( actually there aren’t many ) are basically biology as the major.. How do feel about that ?
    3.) and how do you feel about becoming a CNA to gain experience and/or to determine if the health filed is for me ?

    Thank you :)

  • Melissa March 24, 2013, 10:22 pm

    Hey first off your blog has been very helpful! I have 3 questions ..

    1.) I have here’d that a lot of physician assistant programs are going to be turning into a master levels program. What would you go for, your bsn or getting your masters ?

    2.) And many ” pre- physician assistant ” programs that I’m seeing ( actually there aren’t many ) are basically biology as the major.. How do feel about that ?
    3.) and how do you feel about becoming a CNA to gain experience and/or to determine if the health filed is for me ?

    Thank you :) :)

  • Glenn Forsyth March 27, 2013, 7:46 am

    Hello, I am a freshman looking to become a PA and I was either going to major in Biology or Nutrition. Biology includes some of the prereqs but also inclides a lot of classes such as physics that I wont really need for PA school but are major requirements. I can major in Nutrition while doing the prereqs as well but it is not really regarded as a science at my school (NYU) and I want to be taken seriously by the program. Can you help me please? TH

    • Paul March 28, 2013, 4:13 pm

      You could go either way. I suggest you consider which major will ignite you more. If you are excited about what you are doing, you will do better and learn more. By the way, physics is actually pretty relevant to the study of medicine – mechanics is important in the study of orthopedics (torque, friction, torsion, compression, pressure, flow, etc), and electricity and magnetism are important in the study of EKGs, advanced imaging, and surgical equipment.

      Pick whatever interests you the most. Really!

  • Kristin March 28, 2013, 2:32 pm

    Hello (:

    I am very interested in becoming a pa and your website has helped me out a lot. I was thinking about majoring in community/public health. I understand you can major in anything but in your opinion do you think that his major is a good choice for pa? Thanks!!

    • Paul March 28, 2013, 3:59 pm

      I think you answered your own question! Sure – if that’s a major that interests you, I think it would be fine.

  • Eli March 31, 2013, 8:54 am

    I’m still taking my prerequisites in college and I’m wondering if I should do more. I don’t have many volunteer hours nor a variety of extracurricular activities that make me look interesting; however, I do have a 3.9 GPA, does that count for much?

    • Paul April 1, 2013, 10:56 pm

      GPA is the single biggest factor, but it is by no means the only one. With that GPA, you should now focus on getting some good health care experience under your belt. If you do, you have a very good chance at becoming a PA. See our thread about Creative Ways to Get Health Care Experience.

  • Logan Price April 10, 2013, 6:18 pm

    I was wondering do PA schools look at all the classes you hAve taken even if you are a bio major but have taken classes to become more “well-rounded”?

    • Paul April 11, 2013, 2:20 pm

      They do. But often a biology major doesn’t allow much room for different types of electives. But yes.

      • Logan April 11, 2013, 3:00 pm

        What major would you recommend religion or culture, biology, nursing, sociology, or psychology ?

        • Paul April 11, 2013, 7:44 pm

          Do what you love. The rest will follow – I promise!

          • Logan April 11, 2013, 7:52 pm

            Thank you for your help! I want to do either biology or nursing. Out of everything I’ve read I’ve never heard of someone with a BSN getting into a PA school. Is it possible? Or likely?

  • Danial Khan April 13, 2013, 12:50 pm

    Hey Paul, I’m a senior in high school, and since its almost over, I decided that PA is the right field for me, and fits my skills most naturally. I am going to Houston Community College for one year, then transferring to University of Houston my second year, since i didn’t do too well in high school. I was just wondering what I should major in. There are so many majors, and I am really confused what to do. I dont know what classes to take either my first two years. Please help, and give me good advise! Thanks!

  • Jordan April 16, 2013, 4:44 pm

    How do you think a bachelor’s in health care management would look?

  • Sam April 17, 2013, 3:41 pm

    Hey Paul I’ve always been interested in history and I find archeology extremely interesting I was wondering however if that would be a good degree to apply to PA school.

  • Alix April 17, 2013, 10:09 pm

    I have been accepted by nine colleges to major in biology in the fall. I love biology and after job shadowing a PA, I am even more convinced that this is what I want to do. Two of the colleges that I have been accepted to, UC Davis and UN Reno both have medical schools, the others do not. I have been encouraged by my academic advisors to attend the most prestigious college that I have been accepted to, as this will give me an advantage when applying to PA school. The most prestigious is not my first choice. Any information to help with this process would be appreciated.
    Thank you.

    • Paul April 23, 2013, 11:47 pm

      I would go with your first choice. This is 4 (of the most important) years of your life! Prestige is overrated. If you’re happy with your school, you’ll probably do better. Just my opinion. P

  • Savannah April 29, 2013, 9:54 am

    Hello everyone,

    I am currently int the Pre-Physician Assistant point in my education. I am very confused as far as what major I should choose. I am currently a Psychology major, but I’m not sure if that’s the appropriate route to take. Also with psychology being my major I haven’t taken any science courses and I very confused as to what sciences classes I need. Thank you for any assistance that you can offer

    • Paul April 29, 2013, 2:16 pm

      We have an article and a podcast episode on majors. Check them out.

      You can do your science prerequisites after you graduate if you need to. In fact, we recommend this – it will allow you to focus on them completely.

  • Savannah April 29, 2013, 9:59 am

    Hello again,

    I wanted to know if anyone could offer some advise on the most efficient way to obtain my patient care hours.

  • Tsega April 29, 2013, 2:17 pm

    Hi Paul, thanks for your awesome blog….it’s very helpful…
    i was majoring in civil and urban engineering when i was 17 and been a couple yrs since i quit that… i was thinking of going to PA school and i’m not sure what to major in…i’m 22 and don’t wanna waste anymore years…. i’m considering psychology or sth that’s more about health and clinical stuff…. do you have any suggestions for me?
    Thank you!

  • Nicky April 30, 2013, 1:40 pm

    So here`s the “thing”:

    I was working in IT. It was well paid and boring as hell. I had always dreamed of a career in a medical field, but wasn`t quite sure where to start. I took a Sports Therapy diploma and loved it, particularly the anatomy and physiology components. I decided to pursue it further and go for pre-nursing courses (I was in the UK). Then I moved to Japan!

    In Japan, it is virtually impossible once you have children and have left the work environment to get back in again. You certainly don`t retrain for a new career, especially one in medicine.

    After 11 years the Gods smiled on me and I moved to California. I have 3 relatively young children, a good head left on my shoulders, a 1st class honours degree in Business Studies, and a never-ending unquenching thirst for science and medicine. Oh, and fluent Japanese. And I`m 40.

    Am I the sort of diverse multi-dimensional candidate a PA course could be looking for? Could my dream finally become a reality? Would welcome an opinion before I blow thousands of $! Thanks!

    • Paul May 4, 2013, 2:18 pm

      Just my opinion, but yes. I would think your experiences would make a good essay that could be parlayed into a career in medicine.

      Actually, I think we all are more rounded than we think. We just are horrible at seeing it that way and selling others on it because most people feel “typical,” “average,” or uninteresting.

      As in poker, any hand can win the pot, as long as you play it right.

  • Tim April 30, 2013, 4:02 pm

    Hi! I’m finishing up my bachelors in psychology with a minor in human biology. I have all the Pre Reqs done, and have around a 3.7 gpa. My only thing now is HCE. I have been working in a funeral home, dealing with bodies, but also grieving families. My bio and psych background help out a lot. Is this an acceptable form of HCE? Even though the “patient” in this scenario is well…dead? Thanks!

  • Alyssa April 30, 2013, 6:19 pm

    I am a sophomore in college and I’ve just been following the threads about choosing a major because I’m hitting a crossroads with selecting a major related to the sciences. I am planning on majoring in Biomedical Science because I’ve taken so many of the pre-PA requirements so far, and I am also a minor in music, and this is something I’m passionate about finishing out. Will having that minor hurt, help, or essentially have no effect on my admission to PA school? Thank you.

    • Paul May 4, 2013, 2:20 pm

      No, it won’t hurt. It could help in fact, if it makes you more well-rounded, and if it relates to medicine in some way. Languages are great. I used psychology as a minor to my biology major (see the balance?). Consider designing your own major too. A minor in music will probably not be helpful, but I doubt it would harm you.

  • Alex May 2, 2013, 11:56 pm

    I’m a Kinesiology major and music minor in college. I have been a musician for the last 10 years of my life, teaching, performing at concerts, leading organized church choirs and I decided that I like health care more. I think I am pretty well rounded considering my musical background, my ability to speak 3 languages, and my interest in sports. But will my health care experience as a med tech (I distribute, order medication, do care-giving) at an assisted senior living facility count for health care experience? Will that be sufficient patient care experience? Or do I need actual hospital experience?

    • Paul May 4, 2013, 2:49 pm

      It will be counted, but it won’t be enough by itself. You will need acute care hours. Hospital, ambulance, or related would fill the bill.

  • Samantha May 3, 2013, 9:17 pm

    I am leaning towards transferring to a school that has a pre-physician assistant program, I thought it would make the entire process smoother because this particular school has geared their pre-PA program towards their grad level PA program. Am I unintentionally lowering my odds of getting into a PA program?

    • Paul May 4, 2013, 2:55 pm

      I don’t know what that will do to your odds. I don’t put much stock in the “official” pre-PA major. Booooorrriiiinnnnggg if you ask me (and I’m thinking you just did).

  • Les May 5, 2013, 10:02 am


    I’m a returning student, now a single parent, and working more than 30 hours per week; as a result, only taking about 2 -3 courses per semester. In an effort to show that I can handle the rigors and pressures of a full load, I attend school year round during Fall, Spring and Summer.

    How is the non-traditional 2-3 courses per semester going to affect my chances of getting into PA school?

    • Paul May 13, 2013, 6:00 pm

      I doubt most schools will care. Besides, it shows a certain wisdom that you’re doing what you can handle – there are way too many students who take on more than they can handle and end up tanking and trying to explain it away in their application.

  • Matthew May 5, 2013, 5:07 pm

    Do you need to have atleast B’s in all of your pre-reqs?

    • Paul May 13, 2013, 6:02 pm

      I don’t want to say that you MUST have all B’s. You can get in with a C or two if you have a strong application. But if you are looking for ways to improve an application that needs help, retaking classes in which you got C’s is a smart move.

  • Ivan May 18, 2013, 6:45 pm

    Hi Paul,

    I am about to start my last year of my Architecture program and I am looking into a post bacc program that will fulfill my prerequisites for the PA and medical school . During high school I wanted to pursue medicine but I couldn’t because of my religious affiliation, which did not accept a career in medicine. However, this part year, with the lost of family member to cancer and seeing the dedication from the numerous doctors who did not give up on the case made me realize that medicine was indeed the right choice for me. Currently, I am honors student with an expected gpa of 3.7 upon graduation. I have received numerous academic awards during my under grad career and have worked on humanitarian architectural projects. I am deeply concerned with my chances on being admitted to a PA program because of my undergrad major. I was wondering if potentially minoring in Biology before graduation and volunteering in a hospital would enhance my chances of being accepted? Also, is it common for PA programs to accept students with undergrad majors such as Architecture?


    • Paul May 25, 2013, 5:49 pm

      It’s not as strong as other majors. Have you considered just taking the prerequisite courses on your own as opposed to a post bac program? This is usually shorter and won’t have you taking classes that are required for the post bac degree and not for PA schools. If you are really concerned about your science ability, you might gain some reassurance from doing the post bac. But your GPA is good. Provided you do really well in the prerequisite courses (A’s), you may not need anything else. Consider it.

  • Michael May 22, 2013, 12:58 am

    Would getting a degree B.S Health science(pre-professional) be a competitive useful degree? Or would it seem like a cookie cutter?

    • Paul May 25, 2013, 6:03 pm

      It would be okay. It probably doesn’t have a “wow” factor. But if your application is strong, you may not need that. What interests you? Have you considered creating your own major from a few of your health/medicine-related interests?

      • Michael May 31, 2013, 11:53 pm

        Well currently I am working towards my Biochemistry(medicinal degree). I do enjoy psychology and all of the biological sciences. I am planning on doing a medical mission trip to add to my application. Would it be wise to become a Medical Assistant to gain experience and work and do school? Also I would need to look into the schools if the have that kind of make your own major degree.

  • Andrea May 27, 2013, 2:03 pm

    Hi Paul,

    After reading through your blog, I decided to change my major from Chemistry to Psychology because I believe I will do much better in Psychology and get a better GPA. The only reason I chose Chemistry is because I believed it was a “better” major to go into and I would have many options. While that is true, it wasn’t something I would really my question is, did I make the right decision? I heard PA schools are getting tougher by the year.. Thank you for your time!

    • Paul May 31, 2013, 5:14 pm

      I think all other things being equal, you’re much more likely to get into a PA program with a GPA that is a point higher as a psych major than with a GPA a point lower as a chemistry major.

  • Rodezza June 14, 2013, 9:40 pm

    I started college last year and i was a bio major but i didnt really enjoy the content we were learning. I liked chemistry much more and did better in the class than bio. However, i took anatomy and physiology in high school and i remember that I was really interested in the course. I guess I want to study something that focused more on humans and less on plants or animals. This may not really follow with what I mentioned but after some research I changed my major to kinesiology. My question is should i still be a PA if i didnt really like biology? And does changing my major from bio weaken my application?

    Thank you for your time!

    • Paul June 15, 2013, 7:10 pm

      I don’t think it weakens your application as far as most schools are concerned.

      You should definitely spend some time shadowing a PA (preferably primary care) to get a feel for how the biology is used, and it it would interest you. It’s a crucial subject, but it could just be the format in which you were studying it. When it involves real people, it gets more interesting, in my opinion.

  • katerin June 16, 2013, 12:55 pm


    I wanted to ask something. I wanted to be a cardiologist and create my own clinic. I was going to major in biology and minor in business administration. I was also thinking about accounting for a back up in the business field. I’m not sure. But them someone recommended that I do Physician assistant because so i would make money first in order to go to medical school to become a cardiologist later on. In terms of money should i be a PA first, or is it best that i persue my dream? Btw, im a junior in High School. thanks!

    • Paul June 16, 2013, 10:57 pm

      Hi, Katerin –

      If you want to become a physician, you should do that, AND NOT BECOME A PA.

      PAs are NOT baby doctors or “doctors in training.” PA schools aren’t looking for someone to become a PA when what they really want is something else. You can become a cardiology PA, if PA is for you, but again, it’s not a stepping stone to something else. PA is plenty challenging, and what PA schools want are students who are fired up about being PAs.

      This is not to mention that if you do that, when you are ready to become a physician, you will be starting over completely – medical schools give little or no credit for being a PA – you will still need to take the MCAT, have RECENT premed coursework (so you would be retaking courses like anatomy a physiology), attend 4 years of medical school, a year of internship, and 2-7 years of residency (depending you specialty).

      Keep researching both careers and in time you will know which one is for you.



  • Jaimey June 29, 2013, 3:22 pm

    Hello and thank you for such a wonderful posting! I have a question regarding whether my major will be considered “out of the PA league.” I have been awarded a scholarship to attend a 4 year university this fall to study music performance. Since my goal is to become a PA, would PA schools view my music major adversely if I have taken the PA prerequisites?
    Also, from what you have previously written, I realize volunteerism in the hospital would be advantageous in reflecting that I am extremely passionate regarding my decision to be a PA. What is the best way to go about being involved in volunteerism activities (such as shadowing)? Do I just contact the hospital?
    Thank you in advance for your response and help!

  • Tami July 10, 2013, 12:51 pm


    I am currently a psychology major, I should have my associates by next year. I have been researching on the physician assistant field that specializes in psychiatry. I have decided I really don’t want to go to medical school and would just rather pursue PA instead. However, I am confused a bit about the process… I guess my question is once i graduate with an associates degree in psychology will I be able to get into a PA program/school without a bachelors…? I have also researched on joint degrees for PA’s where you can earn your bachelors/masters within 5 years or less. I suppose I am not sure if you already have to be a major as a Pre-PA student.

    Thanks for your time,

    • Paul July 20, 2013, 1:02 pm

      Hi, Tami – the absolute minimum that anyone can become a PA with is an Associates degree, however the field is moving away from this to a higher standard, and one day soon an Associates just won’t be enough. About 90% of PA schools now require a bachelor’s degree as a minimum. This is because they provide a certificate (which makes you license eligible) but ALSO a Masters degree. The reason an associates isn’t enough is that you can’t get a Masters degree without a bachelor’s degree!

      What does all this mean?

      It is possible to become a PA without a bachelor’s degree, but we don’t recommend going that route. It will severely limit the number of PA programs for which you are eligible, and you wouldn’t want to do all that work and have your hopes dashed by the few schools that you COULD get into. We also don’t advocate that because we believe that a breadth of knowledge is what makes PAs – well-roundedness, if you will.

      So get a bachelor’s degree at a minimum. It will make you a more rounded candidate and person.

      As for the five year programs you are speaking of, they’re fine as long as they end in a certificate, bachelors, and masters. There are a few undergrad programs which grant a bachelor’s in PA Science, but that type of bachelors isn’t necessary and in fact still requires you to go to PA school anyway, so why not major in something a little more interesting?

  • Tyler July 12, 2013, 6:04 pm

    Hi Paul, I was wondering if engineering would be a good degree or not to get into PA school.

    • Paul July 20, 2013, 1:24 pm

      It could be a HELPFUL degree for sure. But I worry a little that it could communicate that your interests lie far from the human body and from people. If you do engineering as a degree, make sure to add a minor or focus to it that makes it clear that you ARE interested in people and the human body. Some ways to do this:

      Minor in psychology, health, biology

      Consider biomedical engineering (again, with a human focus – this major can be all about repairing health care equipment, so you need to show that you are more personable than JUST that)

      Do engineering projects that focus on health care topics, such as medical devices.

      Have you considered physics? It carries over more easily to medical fields and is VERY helpful in medical studies.

  • Shanice August 27, 2013, 4:31 pm

    Hello, I’m a psychology major. I was thinking about medical school at first but I believe becoming a PA may be a bit more realistic for me right now. I’ve been doing my research on getting into PA what are your takes on being a psych major and applying to PA programs?

    • Paul September 1, 2013, 12:07 pm

      I think psychology is actually a good major for PA. You will, of course, need to take and do well in the required undergraduate sciences (biology, chemistry, physiology, microbiology, and anatomy). But these can be done after you graduate if that’s easier, which is how I did it. If that sounds like too long to wait, then you should pick a major that will have those classes as a part of the curriculum.

  • Britney September 1, 2013, 7:04 pm

    Hi! I’m in PA school and wanted to add that the PA school I attend does NOT like exercise physiology/kinesiology majors. I’ve seen that applicants with this major tend to be bumped behind the science majors (biology, chemistry, etc.), regardless of their GPA & extracurriculars. After speaking to an individual on the admissions staff, it turns out that most exercise physiology majors that were accepted in the past did not do as well in the program. I really don’t know why that’s the case. Out of all the individuals in my class, only 1 had an exercise physiology degree. (However, she had tons of patient care hours, got an athletic trainer certification, and was an overall excellent applicant. ) The vast majority in my school actually are science majors (bio, chem, biochem, microbiology, etc.). There’s only a few that are non-science majors.

    I do want to point out that majoring in a foreign language is a great idea, as long as you meet the science course requirements. It really makes an applicant stand out! Consider getting a minor in biology or chemistry to strengthen your application.

    Generally, the key is to make sure you get the required science courses. Most schools will not even consider an applicant if they have over 2 outstanding requirements, so try to get at least all but 2 done before applying. Good luck!!

  • Nadia September 2, 2013, 7:18 pm

    I’m already a registered nurse with a 2 yr degree. I am currently getting my BSN at a traditional school. Should I pursue a biology degree instead of obtaining my BSN. Or should I keep my major nursing and do a minor in biology? Thanks

  • Jamie November 1, 2013, 1:14 pm

    What do you recommend to someone who can only volunteer 5-10 hours a week at a healthcare facility, and cannot switch careers due to income necessities? I currently work part time while I finish up my BA in Sociology. I have researched for quite some time about the best way to get into the PA program. If I can’t switch careers and find a job at a hospital or other healthcare place, would volunteering at a hospital help? Or any other tips or info on that? Thanks!

    • Paul November 10, 2013, 11:34 am

      Hi, Jamie –

      Yes, volunteering at a hospital can work. There are some schools that take minimal health care experience hours. Some students manage (read: manage, not flourish) doing only volunteer ours. So, if that’s all you have time for, I think that’s what you should do.

  • Juliana November 18, 2013, 4:47 am

    I plan on getting a Pre-Physician Assistant associates degree in a two-year college and transferring to a four-year college for my bachelor’s in biology or health coaching with a minor in Spanish. Do you think this is a good idea?

    • Paul November 28, 2013, 4:34 pm

      Overall, yes. I think Biology is a stronger pre-PA major than Health Coaching. The Spanish is an excellent idea, and will come in handy when you start looking for a job.

  • Brooke December 10, 2013, 5:50 pm

    Hello! I am Active Duty Air Force and I am currently debating on getting an undergrad in Gerontology and Aging Services. I have been a dental assistant for the past 3 years and have 3 years to go before I can separate and apply for PA school. I figured this degree would help me learn more about working with elderly patients, as I am used to seeing kids and adults. My question is- Do you know anyone who went to PA school after getting out of the military?

    • Paul December 11, 2013, 8:34 pm

      Yes, of course. I had several people in my class. They mostly had medical backgrounds within the military, but not all. Gerontology is a fine major as long as you accrue the prerequisite sciences along the way. Call PA programs to find out what courses you will need over and above those of your major.

  • richard December 12, 2013, 2:00 pm

    hi im 19 and a radiology tech i want to do PA school and was wondering if pursuing a bachelors in health admin was a good idea

    • Paul December 17, 2013, 10:58 pm

      I think health admin would be just okay. It’s not particularly relevant to providing direct care to patients. Think of a major that will give you a let up in the relevant sciences (bio, chemistry, physio, anatomy, psychology). Health admin, health education, social work, and other “soft sciences” can work but they are not as directly applicable.

  • Julio December 18, 2013, 7:18 pm

    Paul, great article! I have a bachelors degree in athletic training and have been in the professional sports setting the last 6 years. Our team physician is an advocate for PA’s and has been instrumental in my journey to become a PA. In your opinion do you feel athletic training offers a solid foundation to be a successful PA student?

    • Paul December 19, 2013, 7:33 pm

      I do. You might want to find some acute care experience to supplement, such as ER or ICU. Even volunteering would be okay.

  • Walter December 29, 2013, 9:45 pm

    Hi Paul, this is an awesome article you created with interesting and valuable information. I am finishing my second undergraduate degree, my first was a AAS in business administration and I will complete my BSBE in information technology in 2014. I am a member of the Phi Kappa Phi honors society at my university which requires at least a 3.9 or 4.0 GPA. I want to attend PA school because I have always had a love for medicine and fairly good at knowing problems people are experiencing before they finish telling me or before they go see their doctor. I wanted to become a dentist when I was 20 but at age 28 and having a family I decided that PA school made more sense. The good thing about my current major is I am already taking some of the pre-reqs that are required i.e., Psychology, statistics, chemistry, biology and the rest I will take once I finish my degree in 2014. The application process for 2015 PA applicants doesn’t start until June of 2015 but I will have all my pre-reqs finished before the deadline of September 2015. I had a lot of neurological issues that I went through which sparked my love for medicine even more after I over came being paralyzed on the right side of my body. In 7 years I learned so much about orthopedics and physical health through research that it pushed me further into medicine. I gained a passion and fire within me to help others who have been through or going through what I have experienced. I also am intrigued by the heart and how it functions so my choices would be between orthopedics and cardiology. I want to know if you think I would be a good candidate for PA school with my major?

    • Paul December 30, 2013, 10:10 pm

      I don’t really think your major is ideal for PA school, but there’s no going back now, and DON’T do another one. You are an academic star. You need only to convince them that you are serious in your aspiration to become a PA (anything you have done to work on it is evidence, and the more you have the better) so they don’t assume this is a passing fancy of a disheartened IT major. You will need health care experience. Have you considered volunteering for your school’s health center? They can be a great opportunity to learn and make medical connections.

      I say this a lot, but it’s true: you will need a compelling essay. If you are comfortable with it, be sure to use your paralysis as a window into who you are and why you want to be a PA. It would hardly be possible to go through something like that without becoming interested in medicine. And very few people can share experiences as interesting and unique as that.

      You don’t need to get in everywhere; you just need one seat in one class, and you’ll be a PA for as long as you want.

  • Tracy December 30, 2013, 12:44 pm

    Hi Paul. I have finished the pre-reqs for nursing school but have decided nursing is definitely not for me. In fact, working as a nurse tech has completely turned me off of that profession. Physician Assistant is extremely appealing to me and I can’t wait to get started! I’m a paramedic with an Associate Degree is Emergency Medical Services and several years experience in an inner city. My question is which major would be more appealing to admissions: Psychology, Public Health, or Emergency Management? Emergency Mgmt was at the top of my list, but after reading through this forum, I’m wondering if psychology would be better. All three fields are of interest to me for different reasons. What do you think?

    • Paul December 30, 2013, 10:12 pm

      I would agree that psychology might be the most relevant of the 3. Have you considered a science major?

      • Tracy Ruth December 31, 2013, 7:37 am

        I agree Psychology would be the most relevant, however, should PA not work out for me for some reason, a bachelors in Psychology doesn’t give me very many career options. Cleveland State has a Health Sciences (PA track) major Im considering, but like you said, it may be to cookie cutter for admissions. If I went that route, do you have any advice on what I can do to stand out? Double major or minor in something? I love this site. Its been the most informative and helpful Pre-Pa forum I’ve seen anywhere! So, thank you!

        • Paul December 31, 2013, 11:56 pm

          Hi, Tracy – I have to disagree. Sure being a psychology major doesn’t slot you into a guaranteed job. But liberal arts and soft sciences are skills that can be applied in MANY directions.

          But if you were to go the route of a pre-PA major, a minor in an area that interests you and is relevant wouldn’t be a bad idea. I still think the best ways to stand out are: 1) excellent grades and 2) an impressive essay.

          • Tracy Ruth January 1, 2014, 9:40 am

            Thanks for your input Paul. I truly appreciate it! I think my best route would be a Bachelor in Health Science (P.A. Track) or Bachelor in Public Health (P.A. Track) and minor in another interest of mine like you suggested. Thanks again for allowing to “think out loud” and bounce things off you!

  • Brian February 26, 2014, 11:07 pm

    Hello Paul, first and foremost, I just want to thank you so much for this website and everything you’re doing for all the future aspirating PAs. I really respect that.

    But here is my story, so at first, I wanted to major in BIOLOGY just for the sake of “trying to make my application look good”, knowing in the back on my mind that I really don’t like biology that much. Taking your advice, I’m planning to switch my bachelor major to something different that I would enjoy and be more interested in. Also, somehow relate to PA field. So these are the ones I’m debating on majoring in: Athletic Training, Sport and Exercise Science, Sociology, Psychology. I know you’ve already that Sociology and Psychology are great Pre-PA majors, but is Athletic Training or Sport and Exercise Science as much effective and good for Pre-PA major? If I do Athletic Training, would that count as patient care experience? Hope you reply soon. Thanks.

    • Paul March 2, 2014, 10:48 am

      Athletic Trainers (ATs) are health care professionals who collaborate with physicians. The services provided by ATs comprise prevention, emergency care, clinical diagnosis, therapeutic intervention and rehabilitation of injuries and medical conditions.
      Most schools will gladly count athletic training as health care experience. Most people don’t know this, and assume that athletic training is pretty much the same thing as personal training, which it isn’t.

      Of the majors you listed, I like AT and psychology the best. Exercise science (“kinesiology”) can be pretty light weight in the area of science. But I think you’re on the right track!

  • Tho March 14, 2014, 11:04 am

    Hi Paul, this forum is very helpful in term of differences in major. I have some questions to ask you. I was a Biochemistry major at CSU Fullerton about 6 years ago. I almost finished it, i got 15 units left that is about 1 years of school. However, i put it on hold for career change. I changed to Respiratory Therapist which I got AS degree at a community college. I would love to apply for PA school but my Biochemistry (very hard major) GPA is low 2.40 and my RT GPA is 2.90. I have been working with staffing agency for the past 3 years and got about 2000 hours of paid experience. I have 2 option to get my BS degree, i can either back spend a year at CSUF get a BS in Biochemistry with a low GPA when i apply to PA or enroll an online AS to BS degree for Respiratory Therapy and try my best to get all A’s so it would look good when i apply. Financially speaking, it’s going to cost about $10,000 for the online AS to BS in RT versus about 3-4K in BS Biochemistry. What do you think i should do. Thank you Paul.

    • Paul March 24, 2014, 1:16 pm

      If you enjoy your new major, then I think it will be worth it, especially if you end up with good grades for it. But if you might end up doing not-so-well, then don’t.

  • tommy April 18, 2014, 5:55 pm

    hey paul,
    im having some issues picking which major to go into before making the leap into the PA field of study. i am planning to double major in athletic training ( a lighter science) as well as pre-physical therapy, as to keep my options open when applying to graduate programs. is this way of thinking beneficial for me when applying for schools, or am i making a bad decision?
    feedback would be greatly appreciated thanks,
    Tommy M.

    • Paul April 19, 2014, 3:11 pm

      Hey, Tommy – I don’t think it’s necessarily bad, but my preference would be — instead of splitting the difference between two majors — to go with the one major that you’re most excited about. But students make that kind of thing work. Just be sure to get good grades and be sure you get your science prerequisites.

  • Isobel April 24, 2014, 5:31 pm

    So what college classes is required to become a PA. I am planning to major in Psychology. And should I also enroll in Pre-Med for good measure? And for my high school courses, should I take AP Statistics? AP Chemistry or AP Biology?

    I am a junior in high school. Any feed back would be appreciated.

    • Paul April 24, 2014, 10:55 pm

      First, I would suggest you back up a bit. Do you know yet if you want to be a physician or a physician assistant? That would be the place to start. If you aren’t sure, then you should try to do some shadowing. Since you’re still in high school, it might be hard to find a PA or MD to shadow, but it’s worth trying. You should also research the professions so you’re clear on how they differ. We have a “PA vs MD” section if you scroll down the main page of our site on the right to “Topics.”

      For med school, AP may be beneficial. For PA, it will be less so, and I think should be considered a risk to your GPA because AP classes are harder and if you struggle with a class it could lower your GPA. PA schools don’t count a B in an AP class as an A, like most undergrad universities do. Just FYI.

  • Kara April 30, 2014, 9:25 pm

    Hi Paul,
    I’m currently a freshman at a community college wanting to become a PA. The school I want to transfer to has a program called Allied Health. Do you think that would be a good undergrad major for PA school? I like what they have to offer which isn’t the problem, i’m just wondering if I would be a competitive candidate with this major.

    Thank you,

  • Sara May 10, 2014, 5:03 pm

    Do you think majoring in communications would be okay in becoming a PA? I’ve signed up to start EMT but I think I may want to major in communications. Thank you.

    • Paul May 11, 2014, 1:13 pm

      Communications could be okay. Biology or a related science would probably be better. But if that’s what makes your heart sing, then do it and make sure you do well. Then take the needed science courses after.

  • Anabel Nunez May 12, 2014, 7:57 pm

    Hello Paul,
    I am a little confused about the PA program, I am currently a biology major, and I was wondering if I can just obtain my A.S degree and transfer to another college and go for the PA program, or do I need to get my bachelors degree first.
    Great blog:)

    • Paul May 17, 2014, 6:32 pm

      Anabel – there are a few schools that will not require a bachelors. They will graduate you with a certificate, which will allow you to become licensed. But you will have many more schools to apply to and a more solid educational background if you get your BS/BA.

  • Briana May 13, 2014, 9:08 am

    Hello! I am going into my senior year with a Biology degree with a PA concentration. I was hoping if you could tell me if my extracurricular activities could help me with my application: I am minoring in an Interdisciplinary Honors program, taking medical Spanish, tutor elementary school students, have been on a study abroad trip to Costa Rica, presented culture research that I conducted there, participate in a pre-med allied health club, volunteered at a hospital, and I am about to take the GRE and start working on clinical hours. I know that not all of these extracurricular activities do not relate to the medical field, so could you tell me if they will still help my application? Thanks!

    • Paul May 17, 2014, 6:35 pm

      Briana – I expect that they will help your application. Provided your grades are good, they will show that you are capable of much, that you care about a career as a PA, and that you are well rounded.

      • Briana May 17, 2014, 9:01 pm

        Thank you for the response! I have A’s and B’s with one class that I ended up with a C in, but it wasn’t a prerequisite class. I am retaking a second class that I got a C in as well which does count as a prerequisite for the programs I am applying to. I am hoping to get an A in it to raise my GPA a little more with that class and the rest of my classes. It is my goal to be a competitive applicant all over the requirements for getting into a program. I really hope that the people reviewing my application take my other experiences into consideration too! Again, thanks for responding!

  • Kelly May 17, 2014, 4:14 pm

    I currently hold BS degrees in both Dental Hygiene Community Health and have been working as a hygienist for 5 years. I have acquired roughly 5000+ direct patient care hours and also completed an internship for my community health degree. With all of dental hygiene patient hours should I consider gaining more hours in a different area for a more well rounded application or would those hours suffice?

    • Paul May 17, 2014, 6:44 pm


      I hate to break it to you, but many PA programs will not accept dental work as HCE. Some will. So start gaining other experience now.

  • Lauren May 21, 2014, 9:15 am

    I am currently going to a JC and am pursuing kinesiology in hopes of getting into pa school. I have worked as a nurse assistant for 4 years with very hands on patient care in a hospital setting as opposed to volunteering or working in a convalescent home as well as medical missions in the Philipines. Will those look good when I apply?

    • Paul May 24, 2014, 11:08 am

      CNA is so-so experience, but made somewhat better by the fact that you are working in a hospital setting. Medical missions is also good.

  • Shaka Lane May 24, 2014, 2:12 am

    Hi, I am going to school to be an OB/GYN Physician Assistant and I was wondering what should I major in? Should I major in Science, Psychology?

  • Shaka Lane May 24, 2014, 3:37 am

    I’m also a Pharmacy Technician, could that also be helpful towards my degree in being a PA?

    • Paul May 24, 2014, 11:25 am

      Helpful, yes. Ideal, no. What PA schools want to see that you have is experience with patients. Pharmacy Tech won’t give you much of that – at least not in the medical sense (transactions really don’t count). But your time as a pharmacy tech does count as “Other health care experience.”

  • Lindsey Miles May 26, 2014, 3:59 pm

    Hi, I am currently a Junior pursuing my BSN, but very much interested in becoming a PA once I get more hands on experience. I will have taken all the required classes for PA school as well as all the necessary courses to get my BSN in two years. What I am wondering is, would it be very beneficial to choose a minor if it adds on a semester to my schooling? This would add a semester + about $9,000, and I am considering doing this before starting work as an RN to start building up hours of experience, but only if it would significantly benefit my outlook on the job market and getting into PA school. Does anyone have any input? Thanks!

    • Paul June 4, 2014, 7:26 pm

      I would only advise you to minor if you can do so without lengthening your schooling, or if you really love a subject and just want to do it because it interests you. I doubt seriously that it will open any doors for you directly just because you have the minor. I have a psych minor and it was nice to be able to say that I’m well rounded, but I don’t think it ever made a significant difference in where I ended up.

  • Madi June 11, 2014, 6:49 am

    Hey Paul,
    I am 19 and I recently finished my first year at college majoring in Mechanical Engineering. It is my goal to ultimately continue on to PA school, but I am not sure if the major that I have selected is a smart choice. I take tons of math and science classes, and I have been told by my adviser that there is at least one person from my college who had the same major and went on to become a surgeon; however, this is not something that I am interested in doing since I hope to eventually have a family. If you could offer me any advice or guidance, that would be awesome. I suppose that I am not exactly fixed on the idea of becoming a PA, although it seems like the best way to enter the medical field without becoming a surgeon. Are there other options similar to becoming a PA? Also, you mentioned some pre-requisite classes, and I only have one or two elective classes. I am considering auditing a French class, just because I miss having foreign languages in my education but have no free credit hours to actually take a course in it.

    Basically, if you cannot tell, I’m a little lost. I’ve been considering changing colleges so that I can major in bio-engineering, but I’m not sure if that would actually be any better.

    If it’s important, I was my high school valedictorian and I currently have a 3.92 GPA at my college, which is known for its academic rigor. Studying is not something that I’m afraid to do. I just need some direction.

    Thank you so much for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you!

    • Paul June 20, 2014, 10:01 pm

      Yes, you do sound lost. In situations like yours, I generally recommend that you do some shadowing. Shadowing is a great way to get your self exposed to the field and find out exactly what you would be doing if you were to join it. I assume that you’re aware that you can be a doctor without being a surgeon, in fact about half of all positions are in specialties that have nothing to do with surgery. If, however what you meant was PA seems a good way to get into medicine without becoming a physician, I would agree. You might also spent some time shadowing a physician to see if that appeals to you more.

      You look to be pretty much an academic star, so I don’t think whether something is difficult or not should be the determining factor. Expose yourself to what you’re interested in pursuing and find out if it’s really worth all the effort. Only then will you know.

  • Rachelle July 2, 2014, 9:17 am

    Hey Paul,
    My name is Rachelle Smith. I’m currently a senior in high school but have been interested in becoming a PA since my sophomore year and have known I want to be in the medical field since a very early age. Would nursing be a preferable major for a PA program?

    • Paul July 3, 2014, 1:31 am

      I usually don’t recommend nursing is a major if you intend to become a PA; it tends to make them wonder why you didn’t become a nurse if you are a nursing major. Instead, pick a major that interests you and that you are sure you will do well in, as long as it is at least in some way related to science or medicine.

      We do have an article and a forum topic on choosing a major, so search for that in the search bar on the right side of the main page.

  • Iram July 19, 2014, 12:37 pm

    Hello, Im interested in becoming PA but after hearing a a lot about how difficult it is to get into PA school l am nervous about going down that path and not getting into PA school. I don’t want to major in psychology or biology and end up with no job prospects if i don’t get into PA school. I have considered majoring Finance but I am afraid I will seem disinterested in medicine if i choose that a major. Also, I am choosing between two schools one is more expensive but has a bigger name and the other is lesser known and cheaper. The smaller college will allow me to save more money for PA school but i don’t want to choose something that will lower my chances of getting into a PA school. Any advice on how to go about picking a major and a school to increase my chances of getting in.

    • Paul July 27, 2014, 9:27 am

      I would worry less about school you go to and more about the grades you get there. For some, this means going to a community college or state school as opposed to a private college or university. It’s pretty hard to play it safe when you want to become a PA. Some people do it by going to nursing school and getting a bachelor’s in nursing and then moving over to the PA side, but I don’t generally recommend that. I suggest you spend some time shadowing and make sure that this is what you want so that you’ll know how committed you can beat to it.

  • Molly July 20, 2014, 4:25 pm

    I know I want to become a pa and get my training through the University of Florida after I get my bachelors. I’m currently at a community college. I plan to transfer to another university (not UF) after I get my aa in one year. But my question is I am currently a communications major and I am wondering if I should get my overall bachelors in that while taking the recommended science courses and then apply to pa school or switch to nursing when I transfer? Which would appear more competitive to the pa school? And I have also been looking at a pre-clinical major as well to be a back up major.

    Thank you!

    • Paul July 27, 2014, 9:31 am

      In most cases, I would discourage you from going to nursing school if what you want to do is to become a PA. Transferring from a community college is a good plan. Pick a major that interests you but has some relationship to medicine. Overall, the best thing you can do is to get excellent grades. As long as you have the required coursework to apply, you should be okay.

  • Neil July 20, 2014, 6:55 pm

    I’m a 40 year old with a Bachelors of Landscape Architecture (from 15 years ago) and I’m really interested in changing careers and becoming a Physician Assistant. Would my original bachelors be completely disregarded in the application process? I’m willing to start over, but I was just curious.

    • Paul July 27, 2014, 9:32 am

      You seem to understand correctly that your current major is not can help you particularly with getting into PA school. But rather than doing another major or postbaccalaureate program I would encourage you to take the prerequisite courses. Get some good health care experience the men apply and see what happens. Obviously you will need a strong essay that will make it clear that this is not something that you decided to do on a whim.

  • Ricardo July 25, 2014, 7:55 pm

    Right now I am a journalism major going into my sophomore year of college, but recently decided I would also like to double. Becoming a PA really has my attention right now. I’ve always been interested in the medical field but I’m not that good at math or science so it’s been keeping me from pursuing it. I didn’t take school seriously my freshman year and now have a GPA of a 2.44. I’m really into dermatology so I was thinking about majoring in Biology. Any tips on pursuing this if I’m not good at math or science and my gpa is low?

    • Paul July 27, 2014, 9:54 am

      Hi Ricardo! Listen to what you’ve told me in one short paragraph:

      1) I am not good at math or science, two subjects that are crucial to this field
      2) I am majoring in a subject that is not not related to medicine
      3) my GPA is low

      None of these are things that will excite admissions committees. Even worse, would you want someone regarding your healthcare who answered this way to these questions?

      I’m not saying that it can’t be done, but at this point I would encourage you to do some research and find out how committed you are to this career direction. If at that point, you decide you still want to become a PA, here is what I suggest:

      1) make friends with math and science and get excellent grades in them
      2) pick a major that excites you and is related to medicine in some way
      3) assume that you will not get in right out of undergrad and plan to spend some time garnering healthcare experience that will prepare you for PA school.

      I hope that helps. Good luck.

  • Brian July 28, 2014, 10:26 am

    I’m wrapping up my undergraduate studies this fall. Up until recently I was looking at the full path to becoming an MD. I’ve leaned much more towards PA now, as the job has simply become more appealing to me, but with MCATs being an upcoming possibility on the MD note, I realized I need to make up my mind pretty soon, if I want things timely at least. I have good grades as a biology major (just over 3.5 GPA), and I’ve also tagged on relevant courses like Medical Ethics and Health Economics to potentially give additional evidence of my interest. I’ve done volunteer work in a hospital (200 hrs), but that was a couple years back. I would like to use my winter/spring/summer time after finishing undergrad to gain a lot more clinical experience though. I’m also aware of the GRE. I only have two confusions: Should I apply before or after I get extra clinical experience, and if before, before or after I graduate (given that I’m graduating a semester late)? Secondly, what people are reasonable for references, and what is the minimum I should look to obtain?

    • Paul August 1, 2014, 11:34 pm

      1) complete your bachelors – with good grades (nothing else is as important)
      2) go get health care experience once you’re done (it takes time, like 2-3 years, more it better)
      3) apply
      4) Boom

      To apply to a CASPA program you will need three references. They will be electronic only, so keep in touch with your references, rather than having them write you a letter on paper and then disappearing.

  • Rich July 29, 2014, 7:18 am


    First and foremost, Its great to still see you responding on a thread that is over 3 years old! Your site is absolutely priceless. Thank you for your willingness to lend a hand to people even remotely interested in this career path.
    So, I have been a respiratory therapist for 5 years now. Ive earned great healthcare experience and salary with my associates degree. However, being an RT only seems to be a “stepping stone” to bigger and better things. I understand I already have a background within the medical field , but I would also like to be the best PA applicant I can be. How do you think a bachelors in healthcare admin would be viewed by a PA program? Of course, while fulfilling the prereq courses…

    I am only looking into this due to the fact if PA did not work out for me, at least I would have somewhat of a marketable degree to fall back upon.

    Again, thanks for your help in advance…

    • Paul August 1, 2014, 11:29 pm

      I think playing it safe that way will not serve you well with respect to PA admissions. If you really want to be the best PA applicant you can be you will choose something more directly related to medicine/health and not administration. You don’t need to major in molecular genetics (unless you dig that), but you should pick something that will teach you about health. Biology/nutrition/kinesiology/health/chemistry/psychology etc would all be fine. If you do and you get good grades, with your experience, you will have very good luck.

  • Ken August 3, 2014, 8:41 am

    I have worked as an RCIS in adult/Pediatric Cath labs for 15 years and I’m looking to be a PA possibly. Do I need a BA in Biology or Nursing? I have many years of patient care experience. What’s the best plan for someone with no degree.


    • Paul August 9, 2014, 11:52 am

      You will need some sort of degree, and I recommend a bachelor’s over associates, which will severely limit the number of schools yu can apply to. Pick something that interests you that is related to medicine in some way. See our article on choosing a major by clicking here.

  • Mikk August 4, 2014, 2:45 pm


    I am a Division I athlete at a prestigious UC school, who always dreamed of being a pediatrician for a long time. When school came around, I walked into Chemistry 1A as a Pre-Biology major, determined to do great things. I got an F the first time and a D+ the second time. Not only was I devastated that I did not do well, I was devastated to know that I had to change majors, and could no longer take chemistry.

    The idea of leaving and starting somewhere else crossed my mind, but I have worked so hard for where I am and could not let it slip away. However, God must have placed me right at this sight at the right time because now I am double majoring, in Sociology and African American Studies; two courses I am excelling in and really enjoying. The best part is knowing that this website, gave me hope and allowed to me continue to follow my dreams as best as possible.

    Thank you again, you really changed a life.

    • Paul August 9, 2014, 9:10 am

      Wow, capital Mikk, that’s a terrific story. I’m so glad you found a major that suits you and that it’s paying off. Playing to your strengths of something that not enough people do in my opinion. Thank you so much for your kind words!

  • John August 9, 2014, 10:25 am

    I’m a student at an Art University in Philadelphia but I have a strong interest in medicine and pursuing it as a career, always have but was talked into continuing my education in the field of Graphic Design and Marketing. I am already multi-lingual and I would really like to become a PA. I am having a hard time making this decision. One of the biggest things I have holding me back right now, I am horrible at math. Upon exiting high school, I was tested and my math skills equate to a 4th grade American grammar school student. However, it was noted that this test was without a calculator and my school’s curriculum only taught math using button combinations and calculation devices. My linguistic skills tested much further above what I actually was. I have always had an interest in sciences, and have been very strong in these subjects, especially Biology and Chemistry. My biggest worry, once again, is the math, would this hold me back? Could this possibly infringe on my aspiration to become a PA? How important exactly is math in the PA field? I am about to enter my second year at the art university and I need to know, before the end of the fall semester if i want to change or not, and if so, what should I major in to do so?

    • Paul August 10, 2014, 10:37 am

      You don’t need high level math to be a PA (necessarily), but you need to be comfortable with basic math, particularly proportions, since you will be doing a lot of estimating. Computation is not as important as the conceptual understanding of what you are doing mathematically.

      Example: your patient has a metallic artificial mitral valve and takes the blood thinner coumadin. His coumadin level with such a valve should be between 2 and 3 and it is currently 4. If they take 5 mg coumadin a day, ABOUT how much should you drop their dose to get them in the target range. Here I would estimate, but that estimate would be based on math. They are about 25% too high, so I would try to drop their total weekly dose (35 mg) by 25%, or about 8 mgs. I would probably have the patient take 5 mgs 4 days per week, and 2.5 mgs 3 days per week, which totals 27.5. Being exact won’t help you here because coumadin only comes in certain dose sizes. Totally rough math, but it works.
      You also need to be good enough at math to do okay on the GRE. This can be accomplished with practice. That is all – practice.

      If you really want to become a PA, you can. But I suggest that you take one or two more basic math classes to gently improve your confidence and performance. Once you feel more confident, you will do better and be much more sure of yourself.

  • Adrienne August 13, 2014, 2:22 am

    Hi Paul!

    I am a college sophomore and I was looking at the degrees offered at my university and came across the “Bachelor of Science in Care, Health, & Society,” would that be a good degree to have? Also, I currently have no clinical experiences, would taking a year off before PA school be a good idea? I was thinking I could work as a Medical Assistant for a year (or two) to get some HCE. -Would a MA job help me prepare for PA school?

    Thank you so much for taking the time to do this podcast! You have no idea how much this helped me! I have been struggling on what major/degree to take for PA or what kind of HCE is best. This website has helped me very much thank you.

    • Paul August 17, 2014, 12:53 pm

      Hi, Adrienne! I’m not sure what that major is, actually. but if it is related to health and will allow you to take the PA school science prerequisites, then I think it would be fine.

      You will have a bear of a time getting into PA school without health care experience. Your idea to take one or (more likely) two years off to work as an MA seems like a good one to me. See our article on the best forms of health care experience by clicking here.

  • Jarlene August 13, 2014, 9:33 pm

    Hi Paul! I’m a high school senior and I’m interested in becoming a physician assisstant. Reading your blog has been very helpful to me. I was wondering if majoring in public health could be a good idea? Or would a psychology or biology major be a better choice?

    • Paul August 17, 2014, 12:54 pm

      Jarlene – Biology is probably the best of those. Psychology and Public Health are about the same – they could work, but they are a little soft in the area of sciences. We have seen students get in with them, and we recommend them if they interest you a lot – that will allow you to get better grades.

  • Shannon August 16, 2014, 11:18 am

    I am a college freshman at Indiana University. I am planning on majoring in Biochemistry with a minor in Psychology. The question I have, upon applying many PA programs require a documented number of hours working or volunteering in a patient care setting. I realize I am still very young, but what are some ways in which I could begin working on this requirement that would be beneficial upon applying? Also, is it hard to compete against others applying for PA school who have graduated and been working in a health care setting for a long time?

    Thank you so much Paul. I found this webpage very helpful and informative.

  • Jose August 26, 2014, 6:04 pm

    Hello Paul,

    First of all, thank you for enlightening us all with your information and for taking the time to respond to all these comments. I’m debating on which Pre-PA major to choose and would really appreciate your opinion on the matter. I am considering Psychology or Health Services Administration. I considered Biology but in all honesty, I really have no interest in taking Calculus or Physics which are required courses at my university.

    Furthermore, I recently became certified as a Phlebotomy Technician and landed a part-time job at a nearby hospital. I expect to have acquired 2000+ hours of paid patient care experience by the time I apply to PA school. I originally wanted to do CNA or EMT but reconsidered due to the physically demanding nature of the job ( I have 3 bulging discs in my lumbar). In addition, I have over 500 hours of shadowing PA’s and expect to gain more by the time I apply. The only thing I need to fit into my busy schedule is volunteering.

    Does it sound like I am on the right track? I am very passionate about becoming a PA and I don’t want to put myself at a disadvantage by choosing the wrong major or getting the wrong kind of patient care experience. Once more, thank you for taking the time to read and comment on our posts. It does not go unappreciated.

    • Paul September 7, 2014, 11:57 am

      Yes, you sound like you’re on the right track. If I were you, I would consider defaulting toward a science major as opposed to a real liberal arts major. The most people don’t think of it this way, psychology is a science. Administration is not. Healthcare administration may be related to healthcare, but it’s not going to teach you much actual medicine or preparation for medicine. Keep up the good work.

      • Jose September 7, 2014, 12:06 pm

        How about a BS in Dietetics and Nutrition? I just found out my university offers this program and I am extremely interested in it, I just don’t know if it would be strong or competitive enough of a major. What do you think? Thanks again for your input, I really appreciate the advisement.

  • Natasha August 28, 2014, 10:58 am

    Hi Paul, my name is Natasha. Do you know if it matters at all what college someone attends for their bachelors degree? I ask because there is a college that is WASC accredited, it is all online. Many military students go there. But I am not in the military and never was. I am considering it because during my school at this school, I could get a job and get tons of experience that I need for PA school. What do you think? Should I contact the PA schools and ask? Would they give me a straight answer? Thank you.

    • Paul September 7, 2014, 12:04 pm

      Unfortunately, PA schools do not recognize online bachelors degrees yet. I think eventually they will, since this is the wave of the future. But for now, it doesn’t work, primarily because you need to have laboratories to go with your science courses, and laboratories are by definition and in person activity. It would be fine to take some of your courses online – the lecture ones. I think it can matter what undergrad school you go to, but not maybe as much as people think, as long as you meet the minimum qualifications, which like I said, include labs.
      If you can actually reach someone at a PA program, they will usually give you a straight answer. It benefits them to make clear what they’re looking for in applicants. When they do, they have more qualified applicants, and a better class. Don’t be afraid to ask them what their ideal candidate looks like.

  • Stacey September 8, 2014, 8:05 pm

    Hi Paul, My name is Stacey and I had a question regarding PA schools and minors. I am currently a Health Behavioral Science Major with a minor in both Public Health and Biology. I am in the application process now, and on my CASPA application both of those minors are listed. I am having some trouble with one of my biology minor courses, so do you think it is better to keep the class and potentially lower my GPA, or to minor just in Public Health and have a much higher GPA?

    Thank you!

    • Paul September 9, 2014, 6:51 pm

      All things being equal, I think having a higher GPA is more important. Many students don’t even have a minor, much less two of them. I wouldn’t sweat it too much, but I would air to the side of protecting your GPA.

  • John September 18, 2014, 10:52 am

    Hi, I am a business major in marketing and am too far ahead to switch majors but became interested in a PA career recently. When I complete the pre-requisites, do I not have a good chance to get into PA school since I am a non-science major?

    • Paul October 7, 2014, 11:20 pm

      Not everyone needs to be a hard science major. But business isn’t really related to medicine much at all. You can do it, but you will need very strong grades in your science courses, and your health care experience will need to prove to them that you have given this a lot of thought — that you didn’t decide on a whim.

  • Shay September 21, 2014, 9:54 am

    I am a sophomore in college and my major is psychology. I was interested in it, so I chose this route to being a PA. Recently I’ve been skeptical as to if I took the right route. I don’t want to be behind in the long run. With good grades in the prereqs for PA school, a good GPA I should be OK right? If not, I don’t know if I should consider changing my major.

    • Paul October 7, 2014, 11:00 pm

      There are different opinions on this, but mine is that yes, with good grades in the prerequisites, you should be fine. Some schools do prefer hard science majors, but I know of no school that doesn’t also accept some of the other majors. Many accept other scientific or “light” science fields.

  • Steven September 23, 2014, 5:46 pm

    I am an Army ROTC cadet at Eastern Washington University. My plan right now is to branch medical service corp and either become a medevac pilot or combat medic. I have put a lot of thought into my future and I would like to end up in the medical field someday. With all my ROTC classes taking up a good chunk of my credits it is hard to pick a major that would seem suitable for PA school application. One major I stumbled upon was health and fitness. Do you think a long with my experience in the army’s medical corp and great grades in health and fitness that I would be competitive for a PA slot if i choose to pursue? Thank you.

    • Paul October 2, 2014, 6:00 pm

      I would recommend a harder science. People used to major in Kinesiology, which is similar, and it was usually a sign that they were planning to become a PE teacher or football coach. Have you considered nutrition, biology, anatomy, psychology?

  • Eilish September 26, 2014, 1:26 pm

    Hi Paul, I’m a freshmen in college right now and am pursuing to be a PA, but I want to work in critical care as a PA. Psychology is also a major interest of mine. If I wanted to minor in psychology what should I major in to be able to pursue that ER type work environment after I finish my PA?
    Thank you!

    • Paul October 7, 2014, 11:02 pm

      I would suggest a science. If you want to be in critical care, you will need a solid understanding of physics, biology, microbiology, and others. Physiology might be an apt choice.

  • Jenna October 1, 2014, 2:15 pm

    I will be attending college in about a year and in the future I would like to become a PA. What would be the best major for me to take in college in your opinion?

  • Ashleigh October 6, 2014, 1:45 pm

    Hello, i am majoring in biology pre med as of now, but my main goal was to become a physicians assistant and go to PA school… should i change my major or can i stick with biology pre med?

    • Paul October 7, 2014, 11:18 pm

      Biology is a good major. Pre-med might get them wondering why you didn’t go to medical school, but I don’t think that would be too hard to answer convincingly.


  • Joseph October 7, 2014, 7:47 pm


    This website is my savior because it is answering a ton of my questions, so thank you so much for that.

    My name is Joseph. I am currently a 19 year sophomore attending a community college. I want to become a PA. My initial plan was to major in Biology because Biology wasn’t too hard for me however now realizing that I do not like Chemistry and knowing that I have to take quite a few Chem classes for a BS in Biology, I am planning to switch majors to Business Admin because that is something that has always interested me.

    Will this major be good enough if I get a 3.0 gpa on the prereq science classes and have 500+ hours of direct patient care hours?

    Also, this is a bit off topic but do you think that maybe a PA profession is not the right one for me due to my dislike for Chemistry? It is something that I have spent plenty of time to understand but so far, I haven’t had luck in it.

    • Paul October 7, 2014, 11:39 pm

      I think if you know you want to become a PA (which clearly you aren’t 100% sure about) it would be a mistake to major in business. If you want to learn to swim, you don’t practice by learning the bagpipes! Sounds like it would make sense for you to do more research. Spend a day with a PA or a doctor. I don’t think you need to love chemistry to become a PA, but loving chemistry will make it easier. Once you are a PA, you don’t need to calculate ergs or moles (mols?) or melting points EVER, but you will need to be comfortable with chemistry CONCEPTS like pH, hydrogen bonding, and endo/exothermic reactions. In order to be comfortable with the concepts you will need to at least pass chemistry courses that get you familiar with them.

      • Joseph October 9, 2014, 1:01 am

        Hey Paul, thanks for the reply. I have read about the job quite a bit and have done shadowing and I did like it and I thought of it as something that I could do.

        My two most important criteria for choosing a career has been a) Good salary and b) Job stability

        PA does provide both which is why I really do want to be one. I’m just really bad at Stoichiometry (yes, the moles and conversions) but the principles itself aren’t too bad. I had to drop and get a W in my Gen Chem class (my first and only W), do you think PA schools will judge me on that?

        But yea even though I do want to become a PA, I am scared that my lack of touch with Chemistry could hurt me.

        As for majoring in business, I said that because I am scared that I will be screwed if I graduate with a science degree and no PA schools accept me. There’s not a lot you can do with any science, psychology or sociology degree by itself. And I don’t want to waste time and money by going back to school and then getting a degree in something else.

  • Marcus October 7, 2014, 11:51 pm

    I’ve been in EMS for over 6 yrs and have been looking to advance my education into something similar. As a paramedic I make patient assessments and treat what I can giving drugs such as fentanyl and morphine for pain and zofran or phenergan for nasusea. I work independently under a Medical Directors license. I thought about nursing for a bit but nurses don’t perform pt. assessments like PAs or MDs do. It’s hard to let that go if I became an RN. PA is similar to a Paramedic in the fact that they work under a physicians license and perform pt. assessments but they have more autonomy. I love that. So I’ve decided to pursue becoming a PA. Looking into a major. I’m looking for one that can help me set up for the most success as a student in PA school. Should it be biology, anatomy or something else?

  • Normandy October 20, 2014, 2:57 pm

    Hi, I am at a community college and I am planning on transferring to a 4 year university, I planned on majoring in Biology but the university I am transferring to requires a lot of Chemistry coursework for the Biology degree and Chemistry is not my best subject. I am thinking about changing my major to Health Sciences which is a combination of physical science with health science , which personally I am better with health related science (and I think that it would better prepare me for PA course work) . Is it common to have a health science degree or more of a general science degree like chem or biology?

  • Kara October 23, 2014, 2:27 pm

    Hi Paul, I’m currently a community college student. I have 30 credits to transfer to a 4 year school. I am thinking about staying to get an associates degree for a Nutrition major when I transfer. In order to do that, some of the classes I want to take will be PA prereqs. Can I still be accepted into PA school even if some of my classes come from community college?

    Thank you for this website btw, I’m a huge fan.

  • Summer October 31, 2014, 8:16 am

    I am considering changing from a biology major to sociology with maybe a minor in biology. However, it concerns me that with a sociology degree I would not have sufficient job options right out of college if I chose to take a few years off to make some money before PA school. Is this a viable concern?

    • Paul November 2, 2014, 3:46 pm

      It would concern me. Sociology majors are famous for NOT ending up with careers (or even jobs) in Sociology. Sure, you’ll find something in your job search, but it’s unlikely you’ll be living among Kalahari Bushmen and writing a groundbreaking paper on their culture. But in the end, I encourage you to major in something that excites you.

  • Jenny November 6, 2014, 8:35 am

    Hi I am currently a SAHM. Before I had kids 7 years ago I was accepted into Pharmacy school but declined to stay home and raise my kids. I am now 32 and ready to head back to school but no longer feel pharmacy is right for me and am starting a path towards PA instead. I never received my BS, instead only satisfying requirements to apply to pharm school. I am thinking of completing my bachelors in Human Development and Family Science, does this sound applicable to the PA profession? I don’t plan on having any medical/clinical experience before applying to PA school, but I am a certified fitness trainer and work daily in my studio with clientele. Does this sound applicable to the process of applying to PA program? Also I am very nervous going back to school at this age and being a full time mom as well, by the time I am ready to apply for PA i will be 35, does this sound too old?

    • Paul November 11, 2014, 10:14 pm

      Dear Jenny,

      your question raises a couple of issues. Unfortunately, I don’t know what an SAHM is.
      Nowadays, getting a bachelor’s degree is becoming a functional minimum for anyone wanting to become a physician assistant. Soon physician assistant school will be a graduate program only, and at that point, if you don’t have a bachelors degree, you will be out in the cold. I don’t think 32 is old at all. The average age of entrance to PA school is about 27. I was 41 when I began.
      Human development could work as a major, but I might suggest that you find a way to give yourself a biology or chemistry emphasis. Maybe a minor in biology? Take as many of the prerequisites for PA school while you are completing the degree as you can.
      Being a certified fitness trainer can be helpful, but I’m going to strongly suggest that you find some traditional healthcare experience. It doesn’t need to be thousands of hours, but it needs to be enough to show them that you take this seriously and have learned enough that you won’t be completely lost in your first week in their program.

      Keep me posted on your progress, okay?


  • Nicole November 10, 2014, 9:51 am

    Hi Paul,
    so I am a sophomore in college, haven’t exactly decided what courses I should take, but you say I should not take “boring classes” that look “boring” on paper. If possible, what courses should I take, that will lead me the way to becoming a PA.. I took biology 101 and chemistry 101, as well as psychology. This semester I took art electives, western civ, but I want to get as many credits that are important to becoming a PA IN as POSSIBLE! any advice??
    thank you

    • Paul November 11, 2014, 10:27 pm

      Hi Nicole! It might be a good idea at this point for you to get a hold of a list of prerequisites for PA school. The most commonly required science courses are: biology, chemistry, physiology, anatomy (one semester of each or a year of combined A&P), microbiology, and sometimes organic chemistry and physics.

      Have you chosen a major yet? Choosing a major is a great way to get credit for all of the courses that interest you. You just pick a major that requires those courses. That way all the things you want to take are the things that you have to take. You might also get details from an advisor at your school. Admittedly, they often don’t know a thing about physician assistant school, so keep reading inside PA training!

  • Nicole November 10, 2014, 9:56 am

    Hi Paul,
    so also, besides taking courses at college, what are some other things a college student (with no experience in hospitals, or patient care) can do to get some experience.
    Volunteer jobs that is, things that will look and also help my experience when applying to PA school.


    • Paul November 11, 2014, 10:29 pm

      One of my favorite pieces of advice is to volunteer at the student health Center in your college. This will often be a great place to learn medicine, as it tends to be staffed providers and nurses who are glad to teach what they know. It will also give you some time to be ran patients without having to get very far from the classroom.

      I should add here that my strong recommendation 99% of the time is that you wait on getting your healthcare experience until you’ve finished your degree. There is nothing more important to getting into PA school than good grades, and anything that could potentially distract you from getting them is a huge risk. But I also know a lot of people ignore this advice, so check your student health Center if you absolutely can’t wait.

  • Morgan November 10, 2014, 3:10 pm

    I am a high school student who loves honors anatomy and honors chemistry class! My anatomy teachers pulled me aside after class one day and asked me what I wanted to be and I said a nurse. She said that I should strive for PA because she thinks that would better suit me. Now that I am really looking into it, thanks soooo much to this website!, I am really interested! One question though, I have been basing all my college searches on nursing schools. Is majoring in nursing bad? Is a major in biology, chemistry, or psychology better? Please help!

    • Paul November 11, 2014, 10:31 pm

      I don’t know that I would say that majoring in nursing is bad, but majoring in one of those other sciences that you listed would probably be better. If you major in nursing you invite them to asked the question why you majored in nursing if you didn’t want to become a nurse.

      How wonderful to have such proactive advice from your teachers. Just make sure you end up doing it because it’s what appeals to you and not because it’s what someone else thinks you should do.

  • Connery007 November 15, 2014, 8:07 am

    I’m in my second year on my college campus, I came in with some college credit from high school. I initially wanted to be an Athletic Trainer, but I felt like it wasn’t enough so I decided on PA. I am very interested in PA with a sports medicine speciality. I am currently in an Exercise and Sports Science degree plan with a minor in Spanish. I am also taking the pre-reqs for PA, which works out to be a minor in Biology. If I stay this course, it will take 2 more full years, including summers to graduate. (4.5 years on campus, 1 study abroad and 3 summer sessions) I can change to a General Studies degree, in which you minor in 3 areas. My minors are Spanish, Biology and Health Professions. (Graduate 3 years on campus including a study abroad and 1 summer session) A lot of different sites say that this degree is useless and should not be allowed. After reading some of your comments it sounds like it could be considered well rounded. In your opinion does 3 minors vs a major make a difference?

    • Paul November 30, 2014, 7:56 pm

      I think such a major would make you well rounded. But I also think it is hard for most admissions committee members to see that. They tend to think that a major shows that you are concentrating on one area because you are committed to it. So unfortunately, I wouldn’t take the risk of the General Studies with 3 minors.

      How about a major in one and a minor in another? I majored in Biology and minored in Psychology and I felt very well rounded in the end.

  • Monika November 21, 2014, 10:05 pm

    Hi Paul.
    To be in medical field was my dream since I was a child. I am from Poland, where I got a master’s degree in chemistry and bachelor’s degree in biology from the university in US. My GPA is about 3.5 .
    Few months ago someone told me about PA degree, which honestly I didn’t know about ( we don’t have this career where I come from). I don’t have experience in healthcare. I have some experience as volunteer in non profit organization that brings clean water to developing countries.
    I love children and I will love to pursue a career in pediatric medicine. I am not sure if it’s helpful that I speak few languages: Polish, English, French and basic German and Rusian.
    I am not sure if it’s not too late to apply since I am already 38 years old and I still have to get some medical experience and probably take some science classes again ( I finish college 7 years ago, and some school don’t want that long break). I am not sure what will be my chances to get to PA program. Most of applicants are much younger and Americans. Thank you for reading and any suggestion will be highly appreciated. This is a great website and I wish I found it few years ago.

    • Paul November 30, 2014, 7:29 pm

      Monika — it can be done. I was older when I started. I began retaking prerequisite courses a little older than you are now. It took me about 2 years to do the necessary ones. I started PA school at age 41.

      You will need health care experience. It will prove to them that you have seen a lot and given this decision a lot of thought, which shows them that you’re serious about it. Speaking multiple languages is a plus, but by itself, not enough to make up for your relative lack of experience and coursework. If you decide this is for you, then pursue it with vigor and in time, you will make it happen. I am always telling people about the parable of the tortoise and the hare. If you don’t know it, google it and you will learn why the tortoise always wins the race. Be a tortoise.

      It’s a big decision. You would be wise to do some shadowing before making up your mind about it.

  • Hemza Salem December 3, 2014, 3:16 am

    Hello Paul,

    I know you’ve answered so many questions but I need your help.
    I am a second year college student still at cc and I’m undecided on my major. I have no interest in doing the typical biology or chemistry majors but I am interested in psychology. If I major in psychology and get BA what are my chances of PA school?
    Also, I have a interview for a scribe position at a local hospital (sacramento) would this be a good idea doing at such a early stage in my college years?

    Thank you for your help in advance.

    • Paul December 22, 2014, 12:44 am

      You don’t need to pick straight biology or chemistry. There are other health related majors, such as anatomy, dietetics, athletic training, and yes, psychology. As long as you have the prerequisite science coursework, these majors should be fine.

      Scribe jobs are good HCE. But if it will take you away from your studies and potentially reduce your grades, then it’s not worth it. You can always get a job as a scribe. But you will never be able to go back and change the grades you got in college. I have people email me every day asking what they can do to get into PA school now that they have graduated with a low GPA. Take your time. A little longer and you can virtually assure that you will get in. If you rush, you can make irreparable mistakes.

      • Hemza Salem December 22, 2014, 1:46 am

        Hi Paul,

        Thank you for your response.

        I have been looking at pa school requirements and noticed they are all very different. However I noticed some do not require physics or Ochem? Will not having Ochem or physics or any harder science classes affect my chances for pa school? For example, UC Davis Pa school only requires one General chemistry course, will having Ochem raise my chances and vice versa will not having it lower my chances?


  • Zara December 3, 2014, 7:03 pm

    Hi, Paul!
    I’ve been facing a few issues lately and really have no one to turn to. I recently remembered this site and decided I’d give you a go. So, the problem is that I want to become a P.A and I know what is required from me school wise. I haven’t yet graduated high school ( I will be graduating this June) but I’ve been taking College courses at a Community College. I will be getting my A.A degree this June (Yay!), but I have no idea what to major in and I missed the deadline to apply for the University I wanted to attend. Bummer, I know. I am confident that I’ll decide on a major in time, but I was wondering. What if I continued my education at Inver Hills (the Community College) and got my bachelors degree, and then went to Augsburg (the University) to apply for the P.A program? My initial plan was to go to a public University to complete my bachelors after the community college, and then transfer once again to go to Augsburg. I hope I made sense, haha!
    Also, in my first semester of college (my sophomore year) I got all B’s. The next semester I got all B’s and one C. This semester I think I’m in danger of getting 2 C’s but am definetly getting at least one A. I’m planning on pulling my grades back up next semester but was wondering if this will terribly affect my education.

    Lol, I think thats about it and thank you so much in advance!!!!

    • Paul December 22, 2014, 12:37 am

      You can do that, but I sure wouldn’t recommend it. A bachelor’s degree is fast becoming a minimum degree for PAs, and very soon you won’t be able to go to PA school without one. Even more so, a bachelor’s degree is a functional minimum education in modern America.

      My advice to you: don’t rush. Experience college — fully, and get your bachelor’s degree. Then work in the health field for a year or two. Then, you will not only be a much more attractive PA school candidate, you’ll be a more well rounded person.

  • Rachele December 8, 2014, 2:35 pm

    Hi Paul! Many thanks for this blog-such great insight and information! After some years of soul-searching, I’ve finally decided that at 23, I have two callings a bit unrelated to each other. I’m studying to be a Paralegal and yet, I have a calling to become a P.A (Psychiatric). My school unfortunately is after the bottom line, concerned with money and advising classes that honestly, I did not need. Is it wise to continue my Bachelor’s as a Paralegal and then, apply to P.A school? Is it possible to be seriously considered as a Paralegal?

    • Paul December 21, 2014, 8:29 pm

      I think the easiest way to answer this question is to say that if you want to become a professional violinist, don’t invest all your time in tuba lessons. I don’t know enough about the paralegal profession to answer your second question. But it depends how far into school you are. If it isn’t too late to change your major, change it to something that will require the courses you need to get into PA school and do well in them. If you are getting close to graduating (Junior or Senior), then I suggest you finish out your degree and then go back to take ONLY the science prerequisite courses that you will need to apply.

      My short version is this: decide what you want to do and commit to it. Half measures increase the chance of not making two goals simultaneously, instead of being successful with one.

  • Peter December 8, 2014, 3:29 pm

    Hi Paul. I’m a sophomore student in college. I want to become a PA, but I don’t know what major is better for a undergrad.I have been working in a clinic as a medical assistance for almost 1 year now, and i also planning to volunteer in hospitals. The thing that keeps on bothering me is that i don’t know what to major in. I understand there are many challenges and competitive out there for PA program, so I want to know what’s the best major for me to have a better chance in PA school? Can you gives some advise?

  • Annie December 10, 2014, 5:03 pm

    While getting my bachelors degree I was thinking about taking a 1 semester course to work as a phlebotomist as I get through school. Does this count as clinical experience when applying to PA School?

    • Paul December 21, 2014, 8:44 pm

      It does, but I don’t recommend it. Focus 100% on your grades. Once you graduate, they will be recorded permanently and you can go do whatever medical work you like. But if you start working as a phlebotomist and lose focus or get don’t have enough study time, you will have screwed yourself in ways that it is very difficult to recover from.

  • Alyssa December 11, 2014, 8:14 am

    I am currently an Athletic Training major, I want to pursue a career as a PA in the future. Is this major okay for me? I want to focus on athletes in the future as well. Will my Athletic Training program complete all the requirements and prereqs for PA school?

  • Modupe December 23, 2014, 4:47 pm

    I am a high school senior who wants to become a physician’s assistant. If I major in biology, what can I do with that degree?

    • Paul December 24, 2014, 6:48 pm

      There are all kinds of things you can do with a Biology degree. Most importantly here, you can become a PA!

  • Brent December 26, 2014, 3:44 pm

    Hey Paul I decided a little late in the game that this is what I want to do and am about to graduate with a communications degree with the pre-reqs required. How will this degree be looked upon for those on the board? Thanks love your stuff

    • Paul January 11, 2015, 2:06 pm

      Comms is not directly related. At least if will give you good written and spoken communication skills. Unlike medical school, if you do well in the science prerequisites for PA school, you still have a pretty good chance of getting in without a science major.
      Thanks for the love!

  • Kayla January 6, 2015, 11:41 pm

    Hi Paul,
    Reading this information has been very helpful. I really want to become a PA and my major is Nutrition. I know you say do something that you are interested in and I am super interested in nutrition and the science aspect. With nutrition, some of the prerequisites for PA school are covered but not all. My question is, is Nutrition a good major to get into PA school with? and if so does that mean what I do as a PA is limited to a field in nutrition or could I say be a PA for pediatrics?

    • Paul January 11, 2015, 2:57 pm

      I’ll stand by what I said: if Nutrition is what you enjoy, it’s a good major. It’s more relevant to medicine than a lot of majors that people get in with.

      It will have ZERO bearing on what you do for a specialty out of PA school — your specialty is totally up to you, and it will be decided by what job you take. Take a job in urology, you’re a urology PA — it’s just that simple. Nutrition might make gastroenterology something to look at, but only because you’ll have a bit of a leg up there, not because anyone will peg you for a GI PA.

  • Nicole January 14, 2015, 11:42 am

    I graduated with a 3.7 GPA and majored in Communication (prior to my decision to apply to PA school) and have completed most of my pre-reqs with As. Should I consider taking additional classes or get some sort of post graduate certificate in the sciences? The only thing that holds me back is the fact that I’m paying out of pocket for all of this, and it’s expensive. But! I really don’t want the admissions committee to think I am incapable of learning the hard sciences because of the major I chose.

    • Paul January 17, 2015, 1:54 pm

      I doubt anyone would make the assumption, based on your performance. I don’t think a certificate is going to be worth the time and money. I would encourage you to apply once you have the necessary HCE.

      • Nicole January 20, 2015, 11:30 am

        Thanks for the feedback, Paul! I have vowed to make that my number one goal this year.

  • Angi January 21, 2015, 11:19 am

    Hi Paul,
    This is a long thread, so I’m sorry if you have addressed this question already, but I was wondering, I am about to complete my Associate degree in Science. I know that I’d like to go to PA school, however, I am struggling with what to major in so that I can work with patient’s after I finish my Bachelor degree? I would like to get some “live” patient care and I feel quite frustrated trying to decide the best path. I am an older student, so I need to be able to “make a living” in between undergrad and grad school. Thanks for any advice.

    • Paul January 25, 2015, 6:29 pm

      It’s hard to start in a new field AND make good money. Usually the entry level jobs don’t pay well, or cost to become certified for. I would suggest that you worry about majoring in something that interests you at this point. The health care experience will come after you graduate.

  • Edwin January 21, 2015, 8:09 pm


    I just want some clarification based on what you said above. I am a student who really wants to become a surgical physician assistant. At the same time I am really passionate for the french culture. So my question is based on what you said I can do a BA in French do really good and still be able to get into PA school despite not havi chosen a science like biology or chemistry?

    • Paul January 25, 2015, 6:33 pm

      You can do that. Some might disagree. But if you do well at it and well in your pre-requisite classes after you graduate, how could anyone argue that you shouldn’t become a PA?

  • Sara January 27, 2015, 4:57 pm

    Hi Paul,
    I am currently a senior in college and am about to receive my major in Communications and my minor in Community Leadership and Development. I have been thinking a lot about a career path that I want to take, considering I am about to graduate college. Looking deeper into a good career, I came across PA. I know this sounds silly because I have no experience in this area but would love to figure out a way to do so. Would it still be possible for me to receive the right amount of schooling even though I have not taken the correct prerequisite classes this line of study? Would you be able to give me any advice?


  • Meco February 2, 2015, 1:46 pm

    Hello Paul,
    I currently serve in the Air Force, and an active aviator. I know I may be starting a little late with my choice of choosing PA. I’m 27, and married. I know this course will be tough. After reading your article it gave me hope since I have such a well-rounded back ground and I could thank the Air Force for that. My question is, since I do serve and fly a bit, Online courses and some classroom will be my only option. Do you think I would be penalized for taking online courses when it’s time for the application process?

    • Paul February 7, 2015, 3:36 pm

      Online courses are generally accepted these days, but not for ANYTHING that requires a lab. This will be most of the hard sciences, such as anatomy, physio, micro, bio, and chem. But if you can do those in a classroom, you should be okay. Do check with the various programs that interest you on their policy for online courses.

      Will you be penalized? Probably not if you do well and have the courses above in person. But is it ideal? Probably not. But if you don’t have much choice, you go with what you got.

  • Ann Marie February 2, 2015, 6:51 pm

    Does knowing a 2nd language make a difference in ur app to pa school? I was thinking of taking some Spanish classes at my local comm college while I am finishing my last 2 years of my bachelors. Comments?

    • Paul February 3, 2015, 9:14 pm

      It can be a plus. Particularly with Spanish.

  • Francisco February 6, 2015, 11:00 pm

    I am a certified medical assistant and have been for 3 years, a long with that, I am an office manager and have my BS in Health Management. Working along side doctors and PA’s I have decided to pursue becoming a PA. I know I will probably have to go back and take a couple of additional science classes which I do not mind. Is having my BS in Health Management something that the PA acceptance committee might find interesting? Will it effect my chances at all if my degree is from an online Bachelors program? I earned my BS from Charter College, a vocational college.
    I am very worried about not being able to attend PA school due to my degree being from an online college.

    • Paul February 7, 2015, 3:50 pm

      Not sure about the online college part. Your science prerequisites MUST be in person, because a lab is required, and I know of no program that accepts an online lab. Them’s just the facts. Don’t know your situation in detail, so I recommend you run it by one or more of the programs that interest you before assuming anything.

      Health Management isn’t ideal, but it isn’t awful. At least it’s related to health care. Be sure the get A’s in your science prereqs so that there will be no doubt in their mind that you are capable of the hard science part of PA school.

  • Emin Aleksani February 10, 2015, 1:42 pm

    Hello Paul, I was going to transfer and major in a BA in Biology, instead of the BS because I believe it fulfills the requirements in which PA school wants without having to take the extra classes. I know it seems to be like a shortcut but is a BA in biology still good? Which would you prefer to see, a BA in biology or softer sciences like psychology, public health, or exercise science?

  • Nikki February 15, 2015, 5:21 pm


    I am doing my bachelors in Healthcare Management, and will be applying to numerous schools once I am done, My question is will this degree put me at a disadvantage or does it really matter?

    • Paul February 28, 2015, 8:44 pm

      It’s obliquely related, at best. That doesn’t mean it won’t work. But it’s not ideal. Better might be bio, chem, physics, nutrition, exercise physiology, or psychology.

  • Leena February 16, 2015, 12:04 pm

    Hello Paul,
    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences going through the whole PA school process. Much respect for your effort especially being a father and at the same time doing this. Must have been very tough but at the end I’m sure it was all worth it. I’m 25 years old, recently I went through a divorce and didn’t get to fully focus on my education and career due to my financial and shelter issues my gpa went really down and it wasn’t impressive, I was trying to transfer to some UC schools of choice UC Berkeley and UCLA but got rejected and got accepted in UC Merced and Irvine in sociology and communication major because the past year my grades went down really bad. I have my A.A. degree, My major was global studies and international law I was trying to get into good law school and do law but this past year I completely changed my mind about my career and what I want to do so I decided to give medical field a try to see if I’m going to like it or not. I did my research here and there. So I decided to take a medical assistant program to see if I’m going to like it, I did my internship at Kaiser Permanente and loved it and I see myself more in this field than anything else something that I love doing everyday. I love working in general surgery, dermatology, orthopedics, basically anywhere with surgery and procedures. I just finished my internship and got hired at kaiser as a Vision services assistant I haven’t started yet, I’m also starting my B.S. In health sciences on jan 2016 at a local state university. And currently I’m taking my pre-req science courses for the PA programs. I was looking at the USC, foothill primary care through Stanford, Samuel merrit and touro PA programs. My #1 choice is USC and I was wondering if you have any advices or personal experiences by which PA school is the best choice? what kind of individuals will most PA programs accept with what backgrounds in the job field ER techs, MA’s, nurses, etc.. is vision assistant services will help me prepare for the program or should I chose something else? Would appreciate your advice . (I never got to take any of the pre-req science courses which I’m glad that I didn’t blew up my science gpa so I’m working on those to get really good grades on those science courses that I’m currently taking at a community college)

    • Paul February 28, 2015, 8:43 pm

      I admit that I’m not very familiar with those schools. But I guess my biggest point is this: go somewhere inexpensive. From all the students I’ve talked with, there is little or no correlation between cost and quality. Private schools like USC may be good, but you’re going to be there 2 or at most 3 years, and then be paying off your debt. I’m almost done with mine, 3 years out (UCD), and I have colleagues who still owe 100K+ after 5 years. Don’t do that to yourself. It’s only 2 years! Get in where you can, but don’t chain yourself to debt if you have other options.

  • Emily February 17, 2015, 10:40 am

    Hi! I am currently a freshman Biochemistry major with a double major in Spanish at a school that doesn’t offer a PA program. My mom is worried that I won’t get into PA school because the credits won’t “transfer over”, and she wants me to consider transferring to a school that has a PA program. I really love the school I attend now and DO NOT want to transfer unless it is absolutely necessary for my future career.

    Is it necessary to transfer?

    • Paul February 28, 2015, 8:39 pm

      Emily — there’s no requirement to do your BS/BA at a school that has a PA program. What is required is for you to do with with your grades, no matter where you go. So finish up where you’re happy, and THEN think about PA programs. I’m sure it’ll be fine.

  • Lexie March 12, 2015, 1:22 pm

    Hi! I am currently a freshman pursuing a BS in Biology with the hopes of going to PA school! Would you recommend minoring in Kinesiology (Health Sciences) as well? I absolutely love anything that has to do with the human body and thought that perhaps it would add a little something extra when it comes time to apply to PA school! Thank you!

    • Paul April 5, 2015, 5:01 pm

      If you can do that and maintain excellent grades, then go for it! So nice to hear people talk about wanting to do MORE because they enjoy the learning process. Just remember to protect your GPA.

  • Brandy Mccarriher March 23, 2015, 6:40 pm

    hi paul, im a junior in high school and I’m really considering a PA program. I know there are now 5 year programs that you can go to and be a certified PA right after but the colleges I’m applying to do not have a 5 year program. If I go into Pre-Physician Assistant where will i go after that.. will I have to transfer colleges to become a PA?

    • Paul April 5, 2015, 4:53 pm

      If the program you complete gives you an associates degree, then you can apply to PA schools that give you a certificate only (and not a certificate + a masters). If it gives you a bachelor’s degree, then you can apply to any program. What’s your hurry? If you want to be a well-rounded person and a good applicant, you’d do well to study a few other things.

  • Adriana April 1, 2015, 6:12 pm

    If I major in Child Development and go to a CSU to continue that but I want to eventually become a PA and work for a Pediatrician would it matter or do I need to be a Science Major? I have very bad counselors at my College and I honestly don’t have a clue what my next step should be.

    • Paul April 5, 2015, 3:46 pm

      You can go to PA school with a psychology major (I consider Child Development a psychology major). A hard science might be better, more relevant, but I always suggest you major in something that you will 1) enjoy, and 2) do well in, IN THAT ORDER. No sense majoring in something that you don’t like and/or won’t get excellent grades in.

  • Erika April 8, 2015, 10:09 pm

    Hi Paul,
    I am currently in the last month in choosing which undergrad university to attend. I am very sure that I am going to PA school. I was just wondering if going to an out of state school for 40K a year is worth it for undergrad. Also I wanted to ask for your opinion between attending Penn State University- University Park and University of Delaware. I am declared as a biology major at PSU and as a medical lab technician at UD, does one seem stronger than the other? Also, hypothetically speaking, if i were to take out more than 150K in student loans, would it be hard to pay it off as a PA?
    Thank you so much!

    • Paul April 10, 2015, 4:23 pm

      Hmmm. Tough questions, as you ask them.
      I’ve never been a big believer in private colleges or expensive colleges. I went out of state and paid nearly triple what I would have paid to stay in my home state. At that point, my parents were paying, so it didn’t matter hugely. But by the time I hit PA school, I was 41, and not about to ask my folks for $. I went to a state school, borrowed everything but housing, and ended up graduating with $26K of debt. This is a paltry sum, considering I make more than 4x that, now 3 years out of school. Don’t incur any more debt than absolutely necessary. 90% of students will pass the PANCE on their first try, and what school they attend has little to do with it. What matters more in any graduate school is how hard you work and how much you learn on your own. PA school is only 2 years, so if you have the choice between 150k and something less, I say take whatever is less. You won’t be any less of a PA if you go to a “cheap” school, and you won’t earn any less. BUT you will have years less of paying off your debt. I do have colleagues who are now out of PA school x 5 years and still >100K in debt, and I just think that’s sad. Avoid expensive schools if at all possible!

  • mike April 8, 2015, 10:25 pm

    Is it better to get a BS or a BA degree in a science?

    • Paul April 10, 2015, 4:17 pm

      I am passionate about this question. I got a BA and worried about it (biology), and since I’ve graduated, it has never ONCE been asked about by anyone. Do whichever one appeals to you more!

  • Evelyn April 14, 2015, 9:14 pm

    So I just changed my major from biology to integrative studies in biology, psychology and behavioral analysis. With this major I can avoid Physics. Is it a good a idea to avoid it…or should I take it anyways? I was good in high school physics…but I have heard that it is really hard in college…so I am a bit scared. Also, do you believe the major I chose is okay?

    • Paul June 5, 2015, 11:20 pm

      Fine. I avoided physics too, and it never hurt me. It’s not a requirement for PA school.

  • Brooke April 23, 2015, 4:07 pm

    I am currently 16 and a almost a senior in highschool. I take a regular required classes at my highschool and also take a CNA class at a college prep. Is this beneficial? Also I plan on taking my pre and co req’s at the same time or in about 2 1/2 yrs, majoring in nursing. I’m undecided on whether I want to be a NP or a PA but if I wanted to be a PA would majoring in nursing be beneifical for me? I saw that some pa schools would then question “well then why come to pa school if your a nurse?” but that goes the same way if I majored in English or another course. Also is there anything right now I can be doing that will look good to NP or PA schools? thank you for your time.

    • Paul June 6, 2015, 7:21 pm

      Seriously, your planning ahead is really nice to see :) Most kids your age don’t think more than 2 weeks ahead, let along 2-1/2 years. Right now, just get the best grades you can so you can go to the college of your choice. Health care experience can wait. But exposing yourself to it to stay motivated is fine — just don’t go overboard. You can get in to PA school with no experience if you have great grades. You can’t get in with lots of experience and bad grades. So stay focused on good grades and you’ll be well ahead of others who partied and had fun working with patients while their grades sagged.

  • Mary April 23, 2015, 4:18 pm

    So, i would like to major in IT, and go to PA school, but after reading your blog, i would like to say if you wont mine, please least the courses i should major in because I already taken chem1110 and chem1110, also math1050 and english1010, i wanted to do nursing first but lost interest.

    • Paul June 6, 2015, 7:37 pm

      It depends on the school. You should start a CASPA application and then click the schools you hope to apply to, and it will tell you each school’s requirements. You don’t have to submit the application, and no one will ever know. The most common are:

      General Biology – one year
      General Chemistry – one year
      Microbiolgy – one semester

      Human Physiology – one semester
      Human Anatomy – one semester

      Anatomy and Physiology – one year (when they’re combined in the same course)

  • mousmous April 26, 2015, 1:41 pm

    Hi, I am interested in PA, but i am confused about the bachelor degree I should choose between Biological Science and Medical lab Science. I need an advice because I just got accepted to the Medical lab Science program which is selective. I will appreciate any advice

    • Paul June 5, 2015, 10:35 pm

      Medical lab science is relevant and probably okay. It’s way better than some majors that people apply with. BUT it will not give you much patient care experience (CASPA considers lab work “other health care experience.”) So if you go this route, be ready to find a job out of college that has you working directly with patients. If you work for a medical lab, you won’t get what you need to get in.

  • Sasha May 8, 2015, 11:20 am

    Hey paul,
    I am going to be in my third year as a biochem major. I am going to transfer and I was looking at uci or sfsu. My dilemma is that I don’t have any health care experience other than volunteering (not really much hands on experience that pa schools would want). My question is how essential is hce? I’m torn on where I want to go because I want to move to sf but getting hours in a health care field would be pretty tough there. If I stay local I can achieve the 2000 hours or so.

    • Paul June 5, 2015, 9:51 pm

      You can get in without HCE, but it’s pretty rare. Most schools require it. Some “recommend” it, and a few say neither. I consider it crucial if you are serious about getting in.

  • Savanna May 12, 2015, 1:28 pm

    I am currently working on my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and have all the required courses needed for my schools RN program which I would only need to take a hand-full of courses in order to become a registered nurse all while still finishing my psychology degree. I am wondering what your thoughts are on this? I really need to start working in the field to gain experience and thought this might be a great way to do that but don’t want to do anything that may look bad on my application for PA school.

    Thanks so much!

    • Paul June 5, 2015, 9:23 pm

      We usually don’t encourage students to go into nursing programs unless their goal is to become a nurse (or a nurse and then one day a nurse practitioner).

      It will give you patient care experience, and I’m not saying you can’t get in with it. But what does it communicate to PA schools about your desire to be a PA? I think it shows you aren’t sure. But if all you want is HCE, it will give you that.

  • Ashley May 13, 2015, 8:56 am

    I am approaching my Junior at a four-year university. I was accepted into the nursing program, which I was supposed to start within the next few months. My original plan was to become a nurse practitioner, however; after weighing out my options I have decided to become a PA. I am unsure what I should change my major to — Chemistry or Biology. I have always preferred chemistry over biology but I am not to confident in the physics and calculus that comes along with being a chemistry major. I have 2 weeks to make up my mind.

    Your advice would be ever so helpful!

    • Paul June 5, 2015, 9:17 pm

      Sorry I didn’t get to your question sooner. Protect your GPA. Whatever major you think you will do better in (at least, between those two) is the one you should pick. But either would be great for PA preparation.

  • Cecilia May 13, 2015, 1:20 pm

    Hi, I currently finished my freshman year in college, earning my Associate in Arts degree. My major is Pre-Physician Assistant, but I am very confused on the direction I should take. I am looking to transfer to a 4-yr university but as I have researched most programs (specially in Florida) are a Master’s degree, but what I am looking for is it earn my Bachelor’s agree. Any help?

  • Mike May 15, 2015, 1:07 pm

    Alright, so I’m active Army and looking for after I get out. I’m really interested in Emergency Medicine, and would like to become an ER PA. However, the degree I’m about to finish is a degree in Intelligence Studies (I’m Army Intel). However, after reading your suggestions about what they are looking for in canidates is “people with varied experience”, I feel that I certainly have varied experience. I speak 3 languages, I’ve had multiple combat deployments with Special Operations, and had some medical training, albeit nothing terribly extensive. Would I have a chance at being accepted into a PA program? Or should I get another degree in like kineseology?

    • Paul June 5, 2015, 8:57 pm

      Lordy — don’t go do an additional bachelors! That would be a lot of money and time that isn’t necessary. You go with what you have. You could do a postbacc program if you want more medical coursework to show them. But if your grades and experience are good, you probably don’t even need that.

  • Lorena m May 20, 2015, 7:23 am

    I am currently a student Going for my AAS degree in cardiovascular sonography, but in my school they are also teaching me medical assistant and phlebotomy, when I get done with school I’ll be certified in that as well as EKG tech. I was wondering if I go for my bachelors in CV, if I can apply to a PA program for that. Because I feel like I do have the credentials to apply to a PA program.

    • Paul June 5, 2015, 8:53 pm

      A bachelors in CV sounds like it would be very relevant. Just remember it’s not so much about the certs you got as it is about the hours you spend with patients using those certs.

  • Gianna May 22, 2015, 2:01 pm

    I am an Athletic Training major, I knew I wanted to go into the medical field, and sports medicine was the perfect fit for me. Since I began college, I am still set on becoming a certified ATC however I truly want to broaden my medical experience and eventually work with people who are beyond athletes. Will working as an Athletic Trainer be a strong suit for PA school? I was also planning to become an EMT. Emergency Medicine fascinates me, but as I said earlier – I admire the broad aspects of medicine that PA has to offer.

    • Paul June 5, 2015, 10:12 pm

      For PAs who know what ATCs do, it’s usually considered good. But as you know, some folks confuse athletic training with personal training. But it’s good. I do think EMT would be nice to broaden your experience a little.

  • Rachele May 27, 2015, 10:11 pm

    Hi Paul!
    Great website! It’s been a huge help! I live in Florida and currently, they offer an accredited P.A Associate’s with the catch that in order to actually practice, you need a Bachelor’s. I’m 23 and it took me a while to be ready for college. Right now, I plan to study Dental Hygiene (2-year degree) and I’m not sure as to what my Bachelor’s should be/could be. I’d rather have chosen P.A as my major but it’s a tough program to get into (both Associate and Bachelor’s) and the wait-list is rather long! So, I’m fairly confused. In the next year or so, it looks like I’ll have a step-son to help support so I need a strong career that hopefully doesn’t take too long to achieve. Any tips/advice? Thank you!!

  • Zara June 7, 2015, 10:56 pm

    Hey, Paul!

    I am a 17 year old girl, fresh out of high school, but hell bent on becoming a P.A. I was sure I wanted to major in Biology with a minor (or a double major) in psychology until my sister (who is also going to school to become a P.A) told me nursing would also be a good idea. She pointed out that I’d have a degree so I could get a job as a nurse – that way I wont have to worry about my college debt as much or PCE. I want to major in bio & pysch because I am honestly interested in the two subjects. I was also going to minor in Korean or Arabic (maybe French/Japanese) but now it seems that what she said sounds more simple and reasonable. What do you think?

  • Lana June 22, 2015, 7:13 pm

    Hi, I’m lana.., a junior in high school.. and i was wondering whether or not i should purse the pa career even though i am bad at math and chemistry? Also i plan on being a CNA part time during my 4 years of college, so would that be enough hours for hands on experience? Also, what would i do if i don’t get into PA school, other than reapply? Should I go back to school and get a different degree or should i try seeing what i can do with the degree i get in? i honesly dont think im gonna go back to school another 4 years cuz i dont have that money… another question, If i minor in something while majoring in biology or whatever, does that mean more course work, how does that work?

    Thanks So much!

    • Paul July 20, 2015, 5:37 pm

      Lana — it’s early in your academic career. You have 6 years to work on Math and Chemistry, and if you do, I promise, they’ll become easier. Get a tutor, get extra study materials, go to office hours — do whatever you need to do to change your feelings about those subjects. Your high school grades won’t count toward PA school, so once you’re in college, you can have a totally fresh start. Obviously, if you’re not sure this is the career for you, that changes things a bit. My advice to you: don’t do ANY work with patients while you’re in college. Many students do that, and they neglect their studies. Your grades for college will stay with you for life, like a medal or honor, or an anchor around your neck. Eliminate all distractions, so that you can kick @ss those years. Pick a major you enjoy and feel you can do well in. Do not skip a 4-year degree. Like it or not, it has become the minimum to function in our society beyond low level jobs. There is plenty of money out there in the form of scholarships and loans. There’s no reason in this country why any committed student can’t graduate with a bachelors. AFTER your grades are edged in granite on your transcript, THEN go get your EMT or CNA and have fun earning a little money while you spend time with patients. SUCCESS.

  • diana July 13, 2015, 7:36 pm

    I am really interested in PA program but first of all I don’t know what to get my bachelor degree in. I want get a bachelor degree that will open a lot of career opportunities for me if I don’t get into PA program, also I want a bachelor degree that will help me to get into PA program, so what do you recommend me. lastly can you give me some ideas about how to obtain the healthcare experience beside doing volunteer.
    Thank You

    • Paul July 20, 2015, 4:41 pm

      Diana – It’s always harder to obtain a goal if it’s broad. How committed to the PA field are you? If you’re very committed to it, then diving into a major that will be best for that shouldn’t be a problem. But trying to “play it safe” or “split the difference” by choosing a major that serves both purposes could backfire on you and get you neither. There are jobs in Biology if you don’t get into PA, but I assume you just read my article! It says “Pick a major you like enough to be sure you will do well in, and is at least somewhat related to medicine.” I meant what I wrote.

  • Victoria July 18, 2015, 11:40 am

    Hello! I am about to be a freshman in college this upcoming year and I am planning to become a PA. I am currently majoring in biology, but I am considering changing my major to health sciences instead. I was wondering if that would also be an acceptable major when applying to a PA school? Personally, I think I would be more successful in health sciences than biology because I didn’t do so well when I took an AP Biology course in high school. But I was just wondering if health sciences would also be okay to major in? And also, do PA schools consider subjects that you minor in as well? Thank you!

    • Paul July 20, 2015, 4:49 pm

      Biology is a better major, but Health Science could work as well. Better to get great grades at an off major than mediocre ones at a perfect major. Minors are given mixed consideration in the world. But I like them because they show your intention. If you major in Bio and minor in anatomy, it could help you make the case that you would make a great surgical PA. Maybe not huge difference, but I like minors because they say that you have an interest in a specific subject or you wouldn’t bother.


Leave a Comment