- Offered as:
- Specialization track
Physician assistants, also known as PAs, work under the supervision of a physician to provide medical care. They provide diagnostic and therapeutic patient care in nearly all medical specialties and settings. In all states, PAs have the authority to write prescriptions.
To become a PA, you first have to complete a bachelor's degree, then go through two to three years of professional school and licensing to practice.
Pre-PA study is not a major. It is a preparatory track that can be incorporated into any major. Professional PA programs do not prefer any specific major; so long as you meet the professional program’s prerequisites, you can choose any major you want.
The Health Professions Student Center at WSU will help you integrate the prerequisites for your chosen area into your major. (There's more about choosing a major below.)
- Prerequisites and choosing your major
Choosing your major
What is the best major to choose? The quick and simple answer: Any major you enjoy.
Professional PA programs welcome applicants with majors in a wide variety of areas.
Of course, there are benefits to a major that incorporates PA prerequisites in its core courses. Several majors at Washington State University include such courses:
- Basic medical sciences
- Genetics and cell biology
Whatever major you choose, you can be confident that WSU can give you a fully rounded education with the strong science preparation you'll need for health care professional schools.
Physician assistant program prerequisites
You will need to complete a set of basic science prerequisites to be eligible for admission to most professional schools. Completing related electives can help as well, both as preparation for admission tests and overall preparation for professional school.
When you enroll at WSU, visit the Health Professions Student Center first thing and meet with an advisor.
Your pre-health advisor can help you schedule the PA prerequisites and integrate them with the University’s general requirements and your major’s requirements. (And they can help you choose a major, too.)
Contact the WSU Pre-Health Advising Office and speak to an advisor before planning your courses.
All students must meet degree requirements as outlined in the WSU Catalog in order to graduate.
- Scholarships and financial aid
A variety of state, federal, and university-sponsored programs are available to help students with educational costs.
For all students at WSU
Washington State University awards millions of dollars in financial aid and scholarships to students every year based on financial need, academic merit, or a combination of the two.
To get all the financial help WSU can provide, you'll need to do these two things:
- Complete the University's general scholarship application so you can be eligible for scholarship consideration, including departmental awards.
- Complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) so WSU can consider you for aid (scholarships, grants, loans, etc.) based on financial need. Get started here.
For pre-health students
Students in pre-health tracks are eligible for scholarships curated by the Health Professions Student Center. Visit their scholarship page for more information.
- Facilities and resources: The WSU advantage
When you come to WSU, you have access to learning resources that not just any college can offer. Here are a few of them:
- The Pre-PA Club brings together a group of enthusiastic students interested in becoming PAs. The club offers academic and social opportunities to learn more about the career and to network with peers.
- Cadaver anatomy laboratory — one of the few cadaver labs in the nation available for undergraduate course work.
- The Owen Science and Engineering Library, the largest science and engineering library in the Northwest.
- The Franceschi Microscopy and Imaging Center provides electron microscopy and light microscopy equipment for observation and analysis of a diverse array of specimens. Students are encouraged to use the FMIC for formal and informal training, and for conducting research.
- Pre-health advising that helps you integrate professional school prerequisites into any major and helps you build a strong application.
- Suggested strengths, interests, and preparation
High school preparation should include:
- Science: At least three years of science course work is recommended, including biology, chemistry, and physics.
- Math: At least three years, preferably four; good math preparation will be highly valuable in your college science courses.
- Good preparation in communication, including strong skills in reading, writing, and reasoning.
Compassion and an interest in helping people on a personal, one-to-one level — especially the sick, injured, and disabled — are essential.
Getting involved in community groups and doing volunteer work can help you build useful skills and help you decide whether a health-care career is right for you.
A desirable health-care career
A career as a physician assistant offers a chance to be a part of the health care system in ways that allow better relationships with patients.
The interaction of physician assistants with their patients is typically conducted in a relaxed environment that facilitates the development of a trusting relationship—and healing and wellness.
The nature of this field also allows for balance between a challenging, rewarding career and a strong personal/family life.
PAs are in heavy demand because of the growing and aging population, a shortage of doctors, and the nationwide move to value-based care. Demand is likely to grow.
Median annual salary is in the $90,000s to $100,000s. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17).