A Call for Standardization of PA School Requirements

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A call for standardization of physician assistant school requirements

379887_2161540809018_1633063680_nBy:Dan Goulette, PA-S1

Upon entering college, I was steadfast in my determination to fly through undergrad and promptly enter medical school.  Though the prospect of the application process was daunting, there was comfort to be had in the structure of the process: take the required coursework recommended by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), take the MCAT, apply.

When my career aspirations shifted toward the physician assistant tract, wading through the course prerequisites for different schools was equal parts confusing and discouraging.  Unlike medical schools, which generally require a standard undergrad course load of biology, physics, English and chemistry, PA schools collectively lack such standardization.  Researching the schools to which I applied necessitated endless investigation and organization of the vastly different standards requested by each program.

The discordance between admissions offices arises from the value attached to three primary realms of the application: coursework, clinical experience, and the GRE.   Comparing the admissions standards for any two PA schools will likely yield discrepancies in which courses to take, the number of clinical experience hours needed, and GRE requirements.  Speaking from experience, the hodgepodge of admissions standards ultimately complicates the application process for the student.  Instead of focusing on developing invaluable clinical skills, students often take the GRE or additional classes to fulfill requirements for a single program.  While standardization would require tremendous cooperation between individual programs, I believe it would benefit both the growing applicant pool and the programs themselves as the profession continues to expand at an exponential rate.