Browse Majors & Minors
Learn the concepts, principles and methods generally used in the surveillance and investigation of health-related events.
Gain hand-ons experience that will prepare you to diagnose and treat illnesses and develop treatment plans, and counsel on preventive health care.
What is a Physician Assistant (PA)?
A physician assistant is a health professional that may serve as a primary provider or work in collaboration with a licensed physician. Generally, PAs will work under the supervision of a physician, although the physician does not have to be present while a PA practices. This is due the requirement by most states that PAs form an agreement with a licensed physician. As part of their practice, a PA may evaluate patients, diagnose and treat illnesses, and prescribe medication.
How is a PA different from a physician?
While PAs may serve as a primary provider and are active in every specialty of medicine, they do not have as much autonomy as a physician. In most states, PAs must have a practice agreement with a licensed physician. They can write prescriptions, but have some limitations on this ability. They may also assist in surgery, but cannot perform surgeries independently.
Many schools encourage students, regardless of major, to consider strengths they could bring to the career. At Alma, students will develop strengths across different areas during their liberal arts education. Students will also have access to opportunities related to the pre-physician assistant field.
These include, but are not limited to:
- Hands on experience with dissection in a human anatomy lab.
- Experience administering EKG testing within the EKG, Stress Testing and Exercise Testing and Prescription courses.
- Study of the chemistry of pharmaceuticals in Medicinal Chemistry.
- Deeper dive into medically related topics in biology, such as Cancer Biology, Immunology, Human Embryology, and Genetics.
- Courses outside of the sciences, such as Health Communication, Ethics and Medicine and Health Care Administration that build knowledge/skills directly applicable to physician assistant.
- Alma College’s iGEM team, which uses synthetic biology to solve problems within the community (some of which are health related).
How do I become a Physician Assistant?
Practicing as a PA requires a master’s degree, approximately 3 years in length, from an accredited program. Students pursuing this career can complete the pre-PA curriculum at Alma College and then matriculate to a PA program.
Where will you go?
Your Alma education will prepare you to continue your path towards a career that focuses on your particular academic interest or specialty.
Some of the schools our alumni have chosen are:
- Central Michigan University
- Faulkner University
- Baylor University
- University of Michigan-Flint
American Academy of Physician Assistants - includes general national and international policy positions, lists of PA programs by state
Physician Assistant Education Association (formerly known as the Association of Physician Assistant Programs) - home of CASPA, the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants