What is Pre-Physician Assistant?

To be "pre-physician assistant" means you are embarking on a course of study aimed at preparing you for application to Physician assistant (PA) programs. It is not a major.

What can PAs do?

A physician assistant (PA), also known as a physician associate, practice medicine under the supervision of physicians and surgeons. They are formally trained to provide diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive healthcare services, as delegated by a physician. PAs record progress notes, instruct and counsel patients, and order or carry out therapy. Physician assistants also may prescribe certain medications. In some establishments, a PA is responsible for managerial duties, such as ordering medical supplies or equipment and supervising medical technicians and assistants.

What type of education is required?          

The combined time for the pre-physician assistant and professional program varies from four to six years.

 What do Physician Assistant schools look for in applicants?

What should I major in at NDSU, if I want to go to PA school?

Please be aware that pre-physician assistant is not a major. The students are encouraged to select a major based on their area of interest. Most PA schools seek applicants with a strong foundation in the natural sciences and have completed the pre-requisites for admission. 

Coursework required for most PA schools*         

  • 1 Year General Biology - BIOL 150/L, BIOL 151/L
  • 1 Year General Chemistry - CHEM 121/L, CHEM 122/L
  • 1 semester Organic Chemistry - CHEM 341/L
  • 1 semester Biochemistry - BIOC 460
  • 1 semester Microbiology - MICR 350/L
  • 1 Year Human Anatomy & Physiology - BIOL 220/L, BIOL 221/L
  • 1 year English - ENGL 120 and upper division writing course (ENGL 324)
  • 1 semester of Calculus - MATH 146
  • 1 semester Statistics - STAT 330
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences - PSYC 111, SOC 110

* Although this coursework will meet the requirements for many schools, students should check for additional requirements of the schools to which they hope to apply.

Recommended courses

  • General Physics - PHYS 211/L, PHYS 212/L
  • Genetics - BIOL/PLSC 315/L
  • Cell Biology - BIOL 370
  • Animal Physiology - BIOL 460
  • Immunology - MICR 460
  • Developmental Psychology - PSYC 250
  • Abnormal Psychology - PSYC 270
  • Medical Terminology - CHP 125/ VETS 115


Applicants should consider volunteering at a local hospital or clinic to gain practical experience in medicine. Direct patient care is mandatory for most PA schools, which would include roles like taking vital signs, administering medication, charting, drawing blood, tending to personal cares, dressing wounds, etc.  Some positions which may allow applicants to accumulate these hours would be CNA, PCA, Phlebotomist, and EM.

A well-rounded sampling of extra-curricular activities or work experiences, both related and unrelated to medicine, will help broaden an applicant's knowledge and development. Pre-PA students are encouraged to participate in student organizations at NDSU such as the Pre-PA Club and American Medical Student Association and Allied Health (AMSA). These organizations are run by students with similar career goals and provide an opportunity for others to discuss career plans and gather details about the professions they are interested in.

The Application Process

The Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) simplifies the process of applying to physician assistant programs. For a list of participating programs, look at the Participating Programs section at the CASPA website.


Here are some helpful websites to learn about the PA field, the application process and more:


Top of page