Pre-Physician Assistant Plan

The UT Martin Pre-Physician Assistant (PA) Plan is designed to prepare students for application to professional school.  By following the Pre-Physician Assistant Plan recommendations, students will be eligible for admission into most Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (M.S.P.A.S.) programs; however, students are strongly encouraged to review the requirements for their school(s) of choice. 

Please note: The Pre-PA Plan is not a major and does not fulfill the requirements for a baccalaureate degree at UT Martin.  The courses listed below are recommendations and are not required for degree completion unless also listed under the student’s chosen major. 


Frequently Asked Questions


What does a physician assistant (PA) do?
Physician assistants are key members of the healthcare team. They are primary caregivers and specialists who perform many of the same functions of a physician such as recording patient histories, performing physical exams, writing prescriptions, ordering and interpreting tests, counseling patients on preventive health care, and assisting in surgery.  Although PAs are under the direction of a physician, they practice medicine independently and the amount of direction the PA receives from the physician varies significantly from practice to practice and setting to setting. 


Is there a demand for physician assistants?
YES! According to the US Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2026.


What degree to do I need to become a physician assistant?
While it is possible to enter the field with a bachelor’s degree, most PA programs (and all of the PA programs in TN) award a master’s degree.


How many accredited PA programs are there in Tennessee?
There are four fully accredited programs and five developing programs. The fully accredited programs are: Bethel University, Lincoln Memorial University, South College, and Trevecca Nazarene University. The developing programs are Christian Brothers University, Lipscomb University, Meharry Medical College, Milligan College, and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center has also been awarded provisional accreditation and will be admitting its first class of students in Fall 2014.


What is the typical length of the professional program?
24 to 27 months


Are there any required admissions tests?
Yes, most graduate PA programs require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE)


What application service do I use to apply to a PA program?
Most PA programs (and all of the programs in Tennessee) use the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA).


When should I apply?
Applications to PA programs should be submitted in the summer or fall of the year preceding the desired admission date.  For most students, this means that they will apply the summer after their junior year. 


Do I have to have a bachelor’s degree to get into a PA program?
Not necessarily; all of the PA programs in Tennessee require a bachelor’s degree prior to admission. 


What kind of grades do I need to get into a PA program?
Academic performance is crucial.  A GPA of 3.5 or higher is needed to be a competitive applicant.  Moreover, most PA programs require that all prerequisite classes be completed with a grade of “C” or higher.


What kind of pre-professional experience do I need?
There is no magic number for how much shadowing/observation you have to have because the number of hours required varies by program. Check with the programs you are interested in to determine how many documented hours they required. Moreover, some PA programs require students to have hands-on experience prior to matriculation into their program. In some cases, students may want to pursue careers as nurses or EMTs; however, experience as a Certified Nursing Assistant, Nurse Technician, or Scribe may satisfy those requirements.


Will I be a pre-PA major?
No.  The Pre-PA Plan is not a major and does not fulfill the requirements for a baccalaureate degree at UT Martin.  The courses listed in the plan are recommendations and are not required for degree completion unless also listed under the student’s chosen major. 


What should I major in?
As a pre-PA student at UT Martin, you can major in any area you choose.  The best major is the one in which you are the most interested and the most likely to succeed.  The most common majors for pre-PA students at UT Martin are Biology – Cellular and Molecular Concentration because many of the classes required by the PA programs are also required by those majors.


What are the minimum requirements for PA? 
At a minimum, most Physician Assistant Programs require:

  • 3 hours of psychology
  • 8 hours of biology
  • 8 hours of chemistry
  • 8 hours of anatomy and physiology
  • 1-3 hours of medical terminology
  • 4 hours of microbiology

What classes at UT Martin should I take as a pre-PA student?
Successfully admitted students take classes well beyond the minimum and you are strongly encouraged to pursue as rigorous a schedule of courses as possible to be competitive. 
While not an exhaustive list, the following courses are strongly recommended for students considering applying to a physician assistant program.  You should always check with your advisor and/or school(s) of choice before deciding which classes to take.

  • Biochemistry 411 Cell & Comparative Biochemistry I
  • Biology 130 Foundations of Biology: Ecology, Evolution, and Diversity
  • Biology 140 Foundations of Biology: Cell and Molecular
  • Biology 300 Medical Terminology
  • Biology 336 Genetics
  • Biology 337 Cell Biology
  • Biology 338 Cell Biology lab
  • Chemistry 121 General Chemistry I
  • Chemistry 122 General Chemistry II
  • Chemistry 341 Organic Chemistry I
  • Chemistry 324 Organic Chemistry II
  • English 111 English Composition I
  • English 112 English Composition II
  • Math 210 Statistics
  • Microbiology 251 General Bacteriology OR Microbiology 310 General Molecular Microbiology
  • Microbiology 401 Immunology
  • Psychology 101 Intro to Psychology
  • Psychology 350 Abnormal Psychology
  • Zoology 251 Anatomy & Physiology I
  • Zoology 352 Anatomy & Physiology II

Why should I attend UT Martin as a Pre-PA student?
UT Martin has a Guaranteed Interview Agreement with Bethel University's Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program. While this is not guaranteed acceptance, it does afford our students the benefit of bypassing the initial application review and going straight to the interview portion of the application process.


Where can I find out more about the field of physician assistant?

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