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Skidmore College
Health Professions Advising
& Student Health Professions Network 

Physician's Assistant—Additional Information

Always check for specific course requirements for each school you are going to apply to—this is only a guide.

Class Semesters Skidmore Course(s) Notes
Chemistry variable with three to four semesters with lab often required, including general, organic chemistry, and/or biochemistry (sometimes at upper level) CH 125 or CH 126
CH 221
CH 222
CH 341
Must take placement diagnostic. Schools that require two semesters of general chemistry will typically count CH 341 as the second semester (CH 115 does not fulfill the requirement).
General biology two semesters with lab BI 107 BI 108  
Microbiology one semester BI 246  
Genetics one semester BI 245  
Anatomy and physiology two semesters with lab HP 126
HP 127
HP 126 is now a prerequisite for HP 127.
Upper-level physiology one semester HP 311 or BI 306  
Psychology one semester PS 101  

Physician assistants deliver a range of medical and surgical services in private practices/clinics, hospitals, HMO's, and federal government agencies/the armed forces. Some physician assistants pursue additional education in a specialty. A physician assistant must be a graduate of an accredited program and certified by the NCCPA to pursue this option.


Some schools require the General Records Exam (GRE), a computer-adaptive test offered hundreds of time per year in a variety of locations. There is a fee-reduction program that discounts the exam by 50% for those who qualify. Please note: You must apply for fee assistance well in advance of taking the GRE, at least 30 days.

Some PA programs require the online Acuity Insights Situtional Judgement Test (Casper). Please check with the programs you are applying to.

The minimum number of direct patient hours will vary from program to program (200-3000+ hours). You will want to check the programs you are applying to. You are resposible for knowing the requirements for the programs you are applying to.

According to PAEA, applicants accepted to PA programs averaged over 3,000 hours of direct patient hours plus about 1500 hours of additional health care experience, 160 hours of shadowing experience, and 430 hours of voluneteering/community service. These are key components of a strong application beyond the pre-requisite courses, grades, essays, recommendations, and or test scores. To put the hours expected in context, a year of full-time employment with only 2 weeks off (40 hours/week for 50 weeks) would result in 2000 hours of experience. To become a PA, it is therefore common for applicants to work a year or two after graduating Skidmore to gain enough experience to be competitive for the PA programs.

The SUNY-Downstate program expects a minimum of 500 hours of health care experience within 5 years of matriculating plus an additional 250 hours of non-clinical volunteering (community service). The Quinnipiac University PA program expects at least 2000 hours of direct patient experience.

As to what will count for hours of direct patient experience, please check with the programs you are applying to. They can vary and you are resposible for knowing the requirements for the programs you are applying to.

Often the following experience will count (double check the programs you are applying to):

  • Athletic trainer
  • Certified nurse’s aide
  • Dental assistant
  • EMT/paramedic
  • Licensed clinical social worker
  • Medical assistant
  • Military medic
  • Occupational therapist
  • Orthopedic technician
  • Patient care assistant
  • Pharmacy technician
  • Phlebotomy technician/phlebotomist
  • Physical therapist/aide
  • Radiology technologist
  • Registered/licensed practical nurse
  • Respiratory therapist
  • Surgical technician
  • Scribe or clinical research coordinator positions that offer a majority of hands-on patient activities, like that assigned to a medical assistant, also count.

The following often do NOT count: lab technician, life coach, lifeguard, massage therapist, medical secretary,
patient transport technician, patient sitter, personal trainer, and scribe and coordinator positions only permitting observation and record-keeping.

The master of science in physician assistant studies (physician assistant-certified) employs a didactic approach where students engage in approximately 12 months of clinical rotations as well as learn basic and medical sciences. Most students who gain admission to a PA program have a bachelor’s degree and about three years of health care experience before entering a PA program.  Programs are accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) and typically require at least two years of full time study. In order to practice, PAs must obtain a state license. All states require that PAs graduate from an accredited PA program and pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).   

In order to be admitted to a PA program, applicants must have experience with direct patient care.  Please research your programs of interest to gain a better understanding of what the minimum requirements are as well as an understanding of the profile of a successful applicant.  Physician Assistant programs vary in the number of hours and the kinds of experiences that qualify as direct patient care. Qualifying experiences often include paramedic, EMT, emergency department volunteer, orderly, nurse's aide, researcher/technician, mental health aide, EKG/monitor technician, patient care associate or technician, home health aide, medical office assistant, pharmacy technician, medical technologist, medical technician, athletic trainer, veterinary technician, ophthalmologic technician, dietitian, respiratory therapist, radiation technologist, LPN, corpsman, and phlebotomist.