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Physician Assistant

Physician Assistant Track

Students can take many general education courses at PPSC to transfer to a Pre-PA track at a traditional four-year college or university.
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Ashley Owen

What is a Physician Assistant?

A Physician Assistant can work in many areas of the healthcare field. The opportunities are very diverse and range from rural private practice to being a first assistant in surgery. See U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics information on the most recent trends and data on this career.

Physician Assistant vs. Nurse Practitioner

Essentially these two roles operate in almost identical ways. Both can prescribe medicine. However, a Nurse Practitioner can operate independent of a doctor no matter where he/she works. A Physician Assistant will always be under the direct supervision of a Medical Doctor.

The Road to Physician Assistant

How to Become a Physician Assistant Starting at a Community College

1. Earn an A.S. degree and then go on to a Bachelor’s degree in sciences.

While having a non-science degree is acceptable in PA programs, having a science or medical-related degree gives you a more competitive edge. Essentially you would follow the Pre-Med science course plan which includes BIO 111/1111 and 112/1112, CHE 111/1111 and 112/1112 and PHY 111/1111 (Algebra-based Physics). See the Pre-Med Course Sequences web page. 

2. Job shadow a Physician Assistant.

Most PA schools require at least 50 hours of job shadowing. It will be up to you to make that connection with a physician or a medical organization. PPSC does not set up job shadowing for students. You should do this early so that you not only meet an admissions requirement, but also gain in-person experience to see if being a Physician's Assistant is really what you want to do.

3. Transfer to a college/university that has a Pre-Physician Assistant track.

When you find colleges or universities that have programs designed to move you toward this area, make sure that you contact them often to stay current with their application requirements and processes.

4. Anticipate the requirement of taking the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).

This is particularly true if you look at out-of-State PA programs. Preparing for this during the last two years at your university is a good idea. There are always great study guides and test prep resources. It is recommended that you check with your target PA school at least once a year to see the score requirements.

5. Apply to PA schools through the CASPA (Central Application Service for Physician Assistants).

Applications are only accepted one time a year and usually in March or April.

The choice of PA schools in Colorado is limited to three: Red Rocks Community College, Rocky Vista University, and University of Colorado School of Medicine.

What to Do Now

  • Review application requirements for the colleges in which you are interested.
  • Make note of the application dates for each.
  • Feel free to contact each college for specific questions.
  • Contact your PPSC Health Sciences Advisor as you take prerequisite courses and prepare to apply.


Andrew Rodican's books on getting in to Physician Assistant schools are some of the best resources. These books cover the early stages of preparation all the way through applying to and acceptance into a Physician Assistant school.

Edgar Jimeniz
PPSC Centennial Learning Commons

Typical PA Track Course Sequencing

Course & Credit hours

ENG 121/1021 English Composition I (3)

MAT 121/1340 College Algebra (4)

Social and Behavioral Science (3) See Catalog or Degree Check for choices. Other than PSY 101/1001, PSY 235/2440 or PSY 249/2552

Arts and Humanities (3) See Catalog or Degree Check for choices.

CHE 101/1011 Introduction to Chemistry (5)

Total Credits: 18

CHE 101/1011, prerequisite to CHE 111/1111, is only needed if student has not passed High School Chemistry or any other college Chemistry courses.

Course & Credit hours

CHE 111/1111 General College Chemistry I (5)

MAT 135/1260 Statistics (3)

History (3) See Catalog or Degree Check for choices.

Communications 115/1150, 125/1250 or 220/2300 (3)

ENG 122/1022 English Composition II (3)

Total Credits: 17  

Course & Credit hours

Arts and Humanities (3) See Catalog or Degree Check for choices.

PSY 101/1001 Introduction to Psychology  (3)

BIO 111/1111 General College Biology I (5)

CHE 112/1112 General College Chemistry II (5)

Total Credits: 16

Course & Credit Hours

Social and Behavioral Science (3) See Catalog or Degree Check for choices. Other than PSY 101/1001, PSY 235/2440 or PSY 249/2552

BIO 112/1112 General College Biology II (5)

PSY 235/2440 Human Growth and Development (3) or PSY 249/2552 Abnormal Psychology (3)

BIO 204/2104 Microbiology (4)

Total Credits: 15