Physician Assistant

A physician assistant works under the supervision of a licensed physician to provide medical care across various specialities. They're vital to the healthcare team.

Highly-trained graduates of an accredited physician assistant program take medical histories, conduct physical examinations, order and interpret diagnotic tests, formulate treatment plans and prescribe medications. 

Contact Health Professions Advising

Pre-Physician Assistant Advising Guide

While there is no "pre-physician assistant major" at the College of Charleston, the following guide and consultation with your advisor can help prepare you for your application and potential admission to a physician assistant program.
  • Undergraduate Preparation/Prerequisites

    Each PA school establishes its own set of prerequisites. The following lists common prerequisite courses for admission into PA school. Make sure to check the websites of the PA programs that you are most interested in applying to for complete undergraduate requirements.

    • General Biology with labs (8 semester hours)
    • Anatomy and Physiology (8 semester hours)
    • Microbiology (4 semester hours)
    • General Chemistry with labs (8 semester hours)
    • Organic Chemistry with labs (4 semester hours)
    • Math (3 semester hours)
    • Statistics (3 semester hours)
    • Psychology (6 semester hours)
    • Highly Recommended 
      • Nutrition
      • Medical Terminology
      • Emergency Preparedness/First Aid

    Direct Patient Healthcare Experience

    Most PA programs require 1000-4000 hours of "direct patient healthcare experience." Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) does not require patient care hours, but it is recommended. Competive applicants at MUSC have 1000 hours or more.

    View Catalog Course Descriptions
  • Graduate Record Exam (GRE)

    The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is a standardized examination required by many U.S. Physician Assistant schools. Some PA schools, including MUSC, no longer require any standaridized test for admission.

    The test covers basic mathematics and reading comprehension skills and is designed measure your general academic ability including critical thinking, analytical reasoning, quantitative reasoning and communication skills.

    The GRE consists of five sections.

    • Analytical Writing (One section)
    • Verbal Reasoning (Two sections)
    • Quantitative Reasoning (Two sections)
    Learn More on the GRE
  • Timeline

    First Year

    • Declare your major. Identify yourself as a pre-health profession student on the major declaration form.
    • Make an appointment/get to know your advisors. Discuss your academic game plan. Check in regularly to discuss your academic progress.
    • Begin taking your basic science courses.
    • Get involved with volunteer and service opportunities (campus and community).
    • Start obtaining Direct Patient Contact Hours.

    Sophomore Year

    • Continue with your sequence of courses.
    • Stay involved in extracurricular activities (shadowing, service, volunteer). Consider leadership positions in these groups.
    • Visit your professors during office hours (You will need letters of recommendation).
    • Visit Health Professions Advising to begin assessing competitiveness.
    • Identify the PA programs that you want to apply to. Make sure you are meeting their prerequisites.
    • Keep working on obtaining your Direct Patient Contact Hours.

    Junior Year

    • Talk to Health Professions Advising Office about competitiveness.
    • Register for the GRE (Fall).
    • Study and take the GRE (Spring/Summer).
    • Identify three individuals to write letters of recommendation (Spring).
    • Continue working on obtaining your Patient Contact Hours (Direct patient contact hours must be complete prior to submitting your application.
    • Complete and submit your application at Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA).

    Senior Year

    • If you have not already done so, ensure your application materials are organized and submitted within the deadlines (earlier is always better) (Fall).
    • Meet with your advisor.
    • Get a degree audit and apply for graduation.
    • Prepare for interviews.
    • Interview and wait.
    • Explore sources for financial aid.
    • Send updated transcripts directly to the schools to which you applied (Spring).
    • Discuss alternative plans with your advisor if necessary.
    • Finish your degree requirements and graduate.