Spotlight: Pre-Physician Assistant Program

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If you’re interested in pursuing a career in healthcare, but aren’t sure which path to pursue, one of the many options involves looking for pre-physician assistant programs at the undergraduate level. Here, we’ll take a closer look at becoming a pre-physician assistant major, including what it means and what you can expect.

In This Article:

What Is a Pre-Physician Assistant Concentration?

A physician assistant (PA) works under the supervision of a physician to examine, diagnose and treat patients. Aspiring PAs need to be licensed in all 50 states, and to qualify for licensure, they must hold a baccalaureate degree, and typically, a master’s degree from a PA training program.1

So, what is a pre-physician assistant concentration? It’s an undergraduate or bachelor’s degree program that teaches foundational concepts that are useful in the medical field. Pre-physician assistant programs are designed to help prepare students to apply to graduate-level PA training programs after graduation.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates job growth for physician assistants to increase by approximately 27% from 2022 to 2032, much faster than average, accounting for the addition of an estimated 39,300 jobs in the field.2 For learners who plan to pursue a career as a PA, the Bachelor of Science in Biology With an Emphasis in Pre-Physician Assistant degree program from Grand Canyon University can help provide an ideal educational platform.

How To Become a Physician Assistant: Pre-PA Requirements 

There are a few possible pathways toward becoming a physician assistant. First, aspiring PAs need to complete a bachelor’s degree that allows them to meet the admissions requirements for a master’s in PA training program. Pre-physician assistant programs at the bachelor’s degree level are generally focused on science, such as biology.1

However, an aspiring PA might also choose to ean a bachelor’s degree in healthcare or another science-focused area. Pre-PA requirements can vary from one graduate program to the next.1

Next, you will need to apply for a PA education program that has been accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA). Some of these programs may require entry-level healthcare experience that involves direct patient care, such as working as a medical assistant or an emergency medical technician (EMT).1

After completing your master’s degree, you’ll need to earn licensure by passing the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). Passing this exam will qualify you to work as a PA and use the credentials “Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C).”1

Bachelor of Science in Biology Degree Path 

As previously noted, one of the degree options for a future physician assistant is a bachelor’s degree in biology. At GCU, the College of Natural Sciences offers the Bachelor of Science in Biology with An Emphasis in Pre-Physician Assistant degree program. If you aspire to examine and treat patients as a PA, this program could be a great fit for you

GCU’s pre-PA program offers an interdisciplinary curriculum that blends key concepts in biological sciences with core competencies in medical sciences. As such, you’ll be taught a range of coursework designed to help prepare you to apply to a graduate PA education program.

What You Will Be Taught as a Pre-Physician Assistant Major 

This program incorporates coursework from a variety of disciplines. Keep reading to discover some of what you will be taught while earning this biology degree with a pre-PA emphasis.


Students in this program complete a series of courses that introduce them to a broad range of biological concepts. For example, you will examine: 

  • Functions of cell components 
  • Effects of genetic information on cells 
  • Relationships of different life forms 
  • The interactions of organisms at various ecological levels


While earning this degree, you will explore the anatomy and function of various biological systems. You will be expected to participate in experiential labs that involve the use of human cadavers. It provides a unique and challenging opportunity to help students prepare for the rigors of graduate school as well as a future career in healthcare. In addition, top students have the opportunity to perform dissections on the human cadavers, which further prepares them for PA education programs.

Physiology & Pathophysiology 

After successfully completing the anatomy and physiology courses, students will progress to pathophysiology, where information taught will be applied through a mixture of class activities and exams. Through case studies and stories, pre-PA students will be guided to diagnose and understand various diseases and conditions, from Alzheimer’s to diabetes mellitus and beyond. You can also expect to analyze diagnostic tests and predict the clinical outcomes of fictional patients.

Scientific Enquiry and Critical Analysis 

Coursework in this degree program introduces students to the use of analytic skills in problem solving and approaches to inquiry, logic and reasoning as they apply to science and healthcare research.

Practical Applications 

This BS in Biology from GCU includes several laboratory courses that provide you with hands-on experience, offering opportunities to develop skills through application. In this program, you will complete lab courses in the areas of biology, general and organic chemistry, anatomy and physiology, microbiology, physics and biochemistry.

Take the first step toward preparing for a exciting career as a physician assistant by earning the Bachelor of Science in Biology with an Emphasis in Pre-Physician Assistant at GCU. Graduate with the opportunity to be fully prepared to apply to a physician assistant master’s program. To discover more about this degree program, complete the form on this page. 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2023, Sept. 6). How to become a physician assistant. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Retrieved on March 22, 2024.

2 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Physician Assistants, at Physician Assistants, retrieved on, March 22, 2024. 

Approved by the associate dean of the College of Natural Sciences on May 2, 2024.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.