Physician assistants, or PAs, are health care professionals licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. They are educated as generalists with a foundation in primary care. Many work in fields such as:
- Cardiovascular surgery
- Emergency medicine
- Family medicine
- Internal medicine
- Obstetrics and gynecology
"What Does a Physician Assistant Do?"
- Take medical histories
- Conduct physical exams
- Diagnose and treat illness
- Order and interpret tests
- Counsel on preventive healthcare
- Assist in surgery
- Write prescriptions (in most states)
"Where do Physician Assistants Work?"
- Private physicians’ offices
- Community clinics
- Research centers
- Correctional facilities
- Nursing homes
- Military installations and VA medical centers
- Public health agencies
Physician Assistant programs are competitive. Augsburg, for example, accepts only 30 students into its Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program from a pool of hundreds of applicants. Here are some of the advantages of preparing at the University of Minnesota, Morris, for a career as a physician assistant.
- Outstanding teaching: The Morris campus boasts the highest percentage of winners of the Horace T. Morse-Minnesota Alumni Association Awards for Outstanding Contributions to Undergraduate Education at the University of Minnesota. Many of these instructors teach subjects required for admission to physician assistant programs
- Shadowing and employment in medical professions: Thanks to strong relationships between the University of Minnesota, Morris and local medical providers, students may shadow medical professionals at the Stevens Community Medical Center or Prairie Ridge Hospital and Health Services or pursue undergraduate employment with Stevens County Ambulance and Emergency Services. Many PA programs require or prefer this type of direct patient care experience.
- University of Minnesota Infrastructure: As part of a major research university, the Morris campus provides access to digital and technological resources not usually found on residential undergraduate campuses, including courses delivered via interactive distance technology.
- An on-campus Office of Community Engagement: As with direct patient care, taking advantage of undergraduate service opportunities demonstrates the kind of commitment sought by professional school admissions boards.
- A nationally recognized study abroad program: Studying abroad helps prepare students for international health service trips common in medical professions.
- Undergraduate research: Undergraduate research gives pre-PA students a competitive edge; students can present their findings at the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium.
- Stipend programs: For students who want to conduct undergraduate research, multiple programs are available for financial support.
Preparing for a physician assistant career at UMN Morris
The requirements to prepare for a physician assistant training program vary by institution To be admitted to the three-year Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies at Augsburg, one of only two physician assistant training programs in Minnesota, you must have:
- Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university
- Minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0
- Minimum GPA of 3.0 in science coursework
While students are generally not required to major in a specific area, coursework in biology, chemistry, statistics, and psychology are recommended. Work with your adviser to select appropriate courses for the program you'd like to attend.
To strengthen your application, consider including the following in your undergraduate career.
- Direct patient care: At Morris, students have access to opportunities including volunteering or working as a nurse’s aid or EMT (emergency medical technician with the local ambulance service), all at facilities close to campus.
- Service learning/student engagement: Because physician assistants often work in underserved areas, work among the underserved or disadvantaged is especially valued. Morris offers many opportunities to serve.
- Shadowing and employment in medical professions: Thanks to strong relationships between the University of Minnesota, Morris and local medical providers, students may shadow medical professionals at the Stevens Community Medical Center or pursue undergraduate employment with Stevens County Ambulance and Emergency Services.
- Pertinent upper-level classes: Advanced coursework in biology is especially recommended.
Applying to Physician Assistant School
While the process may vary from one physician assistant training program to another, many schools utilize the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA), an online application service. In addition, schools may require a supplemental application.
Components of the CASPA application:
- Letters of recommendation
- Online application
The CASPA process and supplemental application forms are generally made available in the spring. Check with specific programs for deadlines. The Augsburg deadline for completing both the CASPA application and the supplemental application is September 1.