J Physician Assist Educ. 2022 Jul 1. doi: 10.1097/JPA.0000000000000436. Online ahead of print.
INTRODUCTION: This study’s aim was to examine prerequisite course requirements and compare them to previous studies with a secondary aim to examine potential differences relative to program characteristics.
METHODS: Data were extracted from the websites of 265 entry-level physician assistant (PA) programs from October 2020 until December 2020. Course prerequisites as well as number of courses and semester hours required were described and examined according to program location, phase, Carnegie Classification, association with a medical school, and the public/private status of the sponsoring institution.
RESULTS: Of 264 PA programs, more than 50% of programs required 6 common prerequisites: anatomy, physiology, microbiology, statistics, general chemistry, and psychology. The total number of unique prerequisite courses was 28 for all programs with a reduction in humanities and social sciences semester hours compared to previous studies and a slight increase in credit hours required for the common 6 courses. Total prerequisite hours and courses required were higher for master’s programs; private, not-for-profit programs; newly established programs; and those not associated with a medical school. Newer programs are generally located in private, not-for-profit educational institutions that are not associated with a medical school. Programs in the Mountain Division required a lower number of prerequisites, and the South Region required the greatest number of prerequisite courses and semester hours.
DISCUSSION: The present study demonstrates a difference in prerequisite requirements across the country. This could translate to increased cost and a potential barrier to those considering a career as a PA.