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 2020.


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?
Five: Bethel University, Lincoln Memorial University - DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine, South College, Trevecca Nazarene University

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?
All but one PA program in Tennessee uses 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?
You don’t necessarily have to have work in a physician’s office or the medical field prior to admission to a PA program; however, most PA programs expect that you have some direct observation of the field prior to admission.  That direct observation can be gained through volunteering and shadowing in the healthcare field.  When possible, you should shadow physician assistants (as opposed to other healthcare professionals) so that you get a good understanding of the responsibilities and role of PAs. 


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
  • Biochemistry 412 Cell & Comparative Biochemistry II
  • Biochemistry 419 Cell & Comparative Biochemistry lab
  • 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 320 Quantitative Analysis
  • Chemistry 324  Organic Chemistry II
  • Chemistry 341 Organic Chemistry I
  • English 111 English Composition I
  • English 112 English Composition II
  • Health 330 Introduction to Epidemiology
  • Health 353 Human Sexuality
  • Math 140 College Algebra
  • Math 210 Statistics
  • Microbiology 310 General Microbiology
  • Microbiology 401 Immunology
  • Physics 211 College Physics I
  • Physics 212 College Physics II
  • Psychology 101 Intro to Psychology
  • Psychology 313 Developmental Psychology
  • Psychology 350 Abnormal Psychology
  • Zoology 251 Anatomy & Physiology I
  • Zoology 352 Anatomy & Physiology II
  • Zoology 440 General Parasitology
  • Zoology 461 Histology

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

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