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Pre-Physician Assistant Program: Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Biology with a Concentration in Health Sciences

The pre-physician assistant program at Marian University is an undergraduate educational track that prepares you to be a competitive candidate for admission to a PA program after completing your bachelor's degree.

Nationally certified and state-licensed, physician assistants (or PAs) work as a member of a healthcare team that can include doctors, surgeons, and other healthcare specialists.

According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), they diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications, and often serve as a patient's principal healthcare provider. They can also assist during surgery and contribute to clinical research.

Being admitted to a PA program takes hard work and focus during your undergraduate career. PA programs are master's degree programs that average about 27 months in length and include more than 2,000 hours of clinical rotations.

While estimates vary, most experts agree that being admitted to the PA program of your choice is highly competitive. In fact, one source ( reports:

  • Students who apply to one PA school have a 25 percent chance of being accepted
  • Students who apply to 12+ programs have a 49 percent chance of being accepted
  • The average number of schools to which admitted students apply is eight (8)

In many cases, gaining admission to a PA program is just as or even more competitive than gaining admission to medical school and becoming a physician.

And, while becoming a PA is challenging, it also includes important professional benefits. One of the biggest benefits is the ease with which practicing PAs can change specialties throughout the course of their careers. In comparison, physicians specialize in one area throughout their entire career. So, if having variety and flexibility in providing team-based healthcare is important to you, being a PA is a great choice.

Having a strong GPA is just one of the selection criteria by which PA applicants are evaluated. For those who are successful, however, the rewards are good:

In addition, PA students can complete their studies in three years or less, which means you can start diagnosing and treating patients much sooner than other medical professionals (and typically graduate with much less student loan debt).

Why choose pre-physician assistant studies at Marian?

Marian's pre-physician assistant program takes the guesswork out of preparing for admission to the PA program of your choosing.

The admission criteria for every PA program is unique to that college or university. Some schools weigh their admission decisions on certain areas of your application and academic preparation more heavily than others.

The information on your PA application that is of primary importance includes:

1.  Completion of prerequisite coursework

  • You will not be accepted for admission to most PA programs without completing all prerequisite coursework.
  • As a student in our pre-PA track, you'll complete all prerequisite courses by the end of your junior year, well before it's time to apply for admission to PA programs.

2. Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

  • Most PA programs require applicants submit scores for the GRE, a standardized test required for admission by thousands of professional schools. Note that some schools, however, may also accept Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores. 
  • Combined with carefully selected general education courses, Marian's pre-PA curriculum maximizes your exposure to content, problem-solving, and critical analysis tested in the GRE and MCAT.
  • We recommend you strive for a individual scores in the 50th percentile or above or a composite score of 300+ on your GRE to be most competitive. For additional perspective, see

3. Grade Point Average (GPA)

  • According to a 2017 report by the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA), the median (50th percentile) undergraduate GPA of those accepted into PA school was 3.61.
  • In general, the higher your GPA on a science-intensive undergraduate transcript, the more you will stand out from other applicants.
  • Marian's curriculum is specifically sequenced to gradually challenge you at increasing levels of difficulty. Faculty and peer tutors will support and help you learn the knowledge and skills required to successfully master your coursework.

4.  Clinical experience

  • Most PA programs do required prior hands-on patient healthcare experience, so it is important that you research the clinical experience prerequisites for the PA schools in which you are interested. Depending on the program, the required clinical experience may range from 500 to 2,000 hours.
  • Marian's expert faculty advisors will provide you with guidance about getting experience by working as a paid employee or volunteer in roles like medical assistant, EMT, paramedic, home health aid, military medic, phlebotomist, or certified nursing assistant (CNA).
  • Most Marian students work toward getting this experience in their junior year, after they've gotten research experience during their freshman and sophomore years.

5.  Research experience

  • Our "research across the curriculum" model embeds authentic scientific research experience within our core curriculum, enabling you to become familiar with the scientific process, develop the ability to critically read scientific and medical research, and contribute in a meaningful way to evidence-based health sciences.
  • You will have opportunities to collaborate with faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Osteopathic Medicine on research projects. In addition, you will have opportunities to present your work at on- and off-campus research symposia and professional events.
  • We embed research experience in your freshman and sophomore years, leaving you more time to pursue clinical experience during your junior and senior years.

6.  Letters of recommendation

  • As a student in the Department of Biology at Marian University, you will work closely with teaching and research faculty, building personal relationships needed for strong letters of recommendation for admission to the PA school of your choice.
  • Building your professional network through clinical experience is also useful for securing letters of recommendation.

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Notice of Nondiscrimination
Marian University does not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, color, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, creed, national origin, age or disabilities in the selection of administrative personnel, faculty and staff, and students.
*Placement rates are gathered from data collected from graduates within six months of graduation.

Students may make a complaint to the Indiana Commission of Higher Education.

Marian University is sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg, Indiana.

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