Physician Assistant Preprofessional Program
If you’re interested in medicine and in helping people but are concerned about the requirements and cost of a lengthy medical school program and residency, physician assistant studies may be a good choice for you.
Physician assistants (PAs) are health professionals licensed to practice medicine with supervision by a physician. PAs work together with other medical professionals as members of health care teams. In collaboration with a physician, a PA may be responsible for making medical decisions and providing a broad range of diagnostic and therapeutic services in a variety of settings, including doctors' offices, hospital emergency rooms, nursing homes, rural satellite clinics, and patients’ homes. PAs also are involved in patient and community health education.
The Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) is a graduate degree program at Iowa. It is not offered as an undergraduate major, but undergraduates interested in the field can designate themselves as pre-physician assistant students to receive specialized advising and course work in preparation for applying to the MPAS program.
Why Study at Iowa?
Iowa’s Physician Assistant Program has an excellent reputation. U.S.News & World Report has ranked it second among all PA graduate programs nationwide, and it is accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant.
University of Iowa PA graduates continue to score in the upper percent on the profession’s National Certifying Examination. Their first-time pass rate is 99 percent; the national average is 85 percent.
The Physician Assistant Program is part of the University's Carver College of Medicine. The program's courses are taught by the college's full-time faculty members and often include both PA and Doctor of Medicine (MD) students. The program also has close ties to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, one of the nation’s largest public university teaching hospitals.
Students choose PA studies because it offers exciting work in a medical field. Income potential is excellent, and it's not difficult to change or add specialties. The profession also offers flexibility in personal schedules, including family time.
As an undergraduate student interested in becoming a physician assistant, you'll take course work that will prepare you to enter the Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) graduate degree program. You must complete a bachelor’s degree and all prerequisites to the MPAS program before you'll be considered for admission.
Prerequisites include course work in general biology or zoology, statistics, general and organic chemistry, biochemistry, and a minimum of three upper-level courses in the natural sciences (including upper-division human, animal, or exercise physiology). Visit the MPAS Program website for more details. You also must complete a minimum of 1,000 hours of health care experience.
Most students who enroll in Iowa’s program have backgrounds in the biological sciences, with considerable health care experience working directly with patients. They also have researched the profession and have shadowed practicing PAs on the job.
See Physician Assistant Program in the UI General Catalog to learn more about the MPAS degree and for more information about admission, including prerequisites, application materials, and how to apply.
Students must complete an undergraduate degree before applying for admission to the graduate MPAS program at Iowa. Review our Areas of Study to see the requirements associated with your undergraduate major.
Admission to the MPAS Program
Admission is to the MPAS program is very competitive. Out of 700 applicants for the May 2013 entering class, only 25 were admitted. The program weighs admission criteria as follows: 40 percent academic performance, 20 percent health care experience, 20 percent interpersonal communication skills, 10 percent knowledge of the PA role and profession, and 10 percent supporting documents. Under current regulations, applications are accepted only from U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Each new class begins in late May.
Visit the MPAS Program website for more details about admission requirements and how to apply.
Iowa’s PA graduates enjoy a 100 percent job placement rate and starting salaries that average $85,000.
Some PAs go on to graduate study in preventive medicine, health and human physiology, or health management and policy. PAs also enter postgraduate residency programs in emergency medicine, gynecology/obstetrics, neonatology, occupational health, orthopaedic surgery, pediatrics, rural primary care, surgery, anesthesiology and patient monitoring systems, psychiatry, and intensive respiratory care/critical care medicine.
Several small scholarships based on financial need and/or merit are available to MPAS students through the University of Iowa. Learn more at the Office of Student Financial Aid website. National scholarships also are available, such as the National Health Service Corps scholarship and awards through national organizations.
You must have an undergraduate bachelor's degree before applying to the MPAS program. Review our Areas of Study to see the application process associated with your undergraduate major. Designate your interest in "pre-physical therapy" on your application to receive specialized advising.