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Explore pre-physician assistant studies at UW-Eau Claire

Physician assistants are important members of a professional health care team that work to keep individuals, families and communities healthy. At the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, our pre-physician assistant curriculum provides a pathway to graduate school for students interested in a career as a physician assistant (PA).

PAs are licensed to practice under the supervision of a physician (MD or DO) and state law determines the scope of their practice. In general, they take medical histories, examine and treat patients, order and interpret laboratory tests and X-rays, make diagnoses, prescribe medications, administer treatments, assist in surgery, and counsel and educate patients.

Pre-physician assistant studies is not a major at UW-Eau Claire, but rather a declaration of your intention to continue your education and become a PA. No specific undergraduate major is required to become a PA, but certain courses, skills and experiences are favored — especially when applying for graduate school. For example, health professional schools often require a high GPA, a competitive Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score, letters of recommendation and a completed Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) application.

All PA graduate programs also require applicants to obtain experience in healthcare, with some programs requiring 500-3,000+ hours of experience. As a pre-PA student, you may choose to pursue hours working as a certified nursing assistant (CNA), emergency medical technician (EMT), lab assistant/phlebotomist, Peace Corps volunteer, medical assistant, surgical tech and more. Or learn directly from experts in the field via internships, research projects or job shadowing. These opportunities are readily available to you, thanks to our strong relationships with area healthcare organizations, including Mayo Clinic Health System. 

At UWEC, you'll be met with support, guidance and encouragement as you start your journey towards becoming a medical professional. Our challenging curriculum, exceptional advisors and direct access to experiential learning opportunities work together to set you apart when applying for graduate school and help shape you into a competent and compassionate physician assistant. 

Supporting the next generation of healthcare professionals

The William J. and Marian A. Klish Health Careers Center is a specialized career center that helps students in explore health careers, build effective skills and tools for career development, and prepare for admission into health professional programs. It's also one of the main reasons Haley chose to attend UW-Eau Claire.

"Going into college, I knew I wanted to help people. But I wanted really sure what specific structure that was going to take yet. So I liked the idea of having a center specifically designated to help me decide that," she said.

Now a neuroscience major and on her way to becoming a physician's assistant, Haley is excited to spend time directly with patients and help make a difference. Hear more from her on what sets UWEC apart from other universities and why she feels prepared for the next step in her chosen career. 

Why be pre-physician assistant at UW-Eau Claire?

Relevant student organizations. On-campus student organizations — like the Pre-Professional Health Club — connect students like you who are also interested in becoming a physician assistant. These extracurriculars are an excellent way to learn from guest speakers, engage in volunteer work and tour graduate programs in the region.

Innovative facilities. UW-Eau Claire is one of only a few schools of its size with a career center dedicated to supporting pre-physician assistant students. The William J. and Marian A. Klish Health Careers Center offers one-on-one advising, opportunities to meet with professional school admissions representatives, connections to health-related clinical research, and volunteer opportunities and workshops designed to build effective tools for career development and competitive applications.

Incredible scholarship opportunities. Students pursuing pre-med at UWEC are invited to apply for the Blugold Biomedical Innovator Program, a scholarship program aimed at preparing the next generation of scientists, innovators, healthcare providers and leaders. This unique program awards ten students with a $32,000 scholarship, one-on-one mentorship, and direct involvement in a research project beginning their first semester at UWEC. Scholarship recipients will also have access to exclusive Mayo internships and job shadow programs.

Excellent preparation. The university’s success rate at preparing students who gain admission to professional schools is outstanding. Previous students have gone on to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Marquette University, Carroll University, Augsburg College, St. Catherine University and Des Moines University.

Research opportunities. As the top master's-level university for undergraduate research, opportunities to explore and discover are endless. Many of our students work directly with faculty and local professionals on groundbreaking research projects, driving innovation and making real improvements to the world around us. Pre-PA students may also choose to take their research experience a step further by presenting their findings at both regional and national conferences. 

Haley Blagdon spent part of Winterim in Guatemala learning about its people, history and culture. (Submitted photo)

Checking all the boxes

Choosing a college as an undecided pre-health student can be daunting. But after learning about UW-Eau Claire, Haley Blagdon knew that this was an institution that could provide her support and opportunities like nowhere else.

“It’s the only school I looked at that had a Health Career Center where students on a pre-health track can get specific advice and advising,” Haley said. “Since I knew I wanted to do something health-related, this seemed like a big advantage to me.”

Haley had originally planned to major in psychology. But she quickly learned that the neuroscience major more closely aligned with her interests and career goals. Now, Haley enjoys being able to learn about some of the psychological aspects of the brain and body connection, while also learning about the anatomy of the body. This holistic approach is something that Haley believes will greatly benefit her as she starts her journey towards becoming a licensed PA. 

Quick facts

Pre-physician assistant program details 
  • Offered: in person
  • Campus: Eau Claire
  • Students are able to choose a major and/or minor that best aligns with their career goals.
UWEC student organizations related to pre-physician assistant
  • Pre-Professional Health Club
  • Biology Club
  • American Chemical Society-Student Affiliate (ACS-SA)
  • Women and Gender Minorities in STEM

What's next after completing the pre-physician assistant program?

After earning your undergraduate degree from UWEC, your next step towards becoming a physician assistant is enrolling in an accredited PA program and earning your master's degree. There are currently 159 accredited PA programs in the United States. Most PA programs are approximately 27 months long and include classroom instruction and more than 2,000 hours of clinical rotations. Your rotations could be in the areas of family medicine, pediatrics, general surgery, psychiatry, emergency medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, internal medicine and more.

Once you have graduated from an accredited PA program, you will be eligible to take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE). Passing the PANCE is required of all practicing physician assistants.

What will I do as a physician assistant?

Physician assistants are health professionals who provide direct patient care by delivering a broad range of medical and surgical services. Working with patients of all ages, they make diagnoses, develop treatment plants, order and interpret lab tests, prescribe medications and conduct minor procedures. PAs work in a variety of healthcare settings, including physicians’ offices, hospitals, nursing homes and outpatient clinics alongside a team of physicians, surgeons and other healthcare workers. 

Physician assistants are in high demand. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the employment of physician assistants will grow 31 percent from 2020 to 2030, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.

Breida Torres Berumen knows their translation project will help native Spanish speakers get the health care they need.

Making a difference one word at a time

For Breida Torres Berumen, translating some of the Chippewa Valley Free Clinic's written materials into Spanish wasn't just a project of the mind but also one of the heart. Breida moved to the U.S. in ninth grade not knowing any English, so she understands just how important it is for everyone to have access to materials in their native language. Now on a path to becoming a physician assistant and making health care more accessible, she is using her experiences as a Blugold to make a positive impact on those around her.

"Making a difference in the community is always rewarding and amazing, but helping a community that I have been a part of and have experienced struggles with makes me very happy and proud of how far I have come in my journey," Breida said. “It gives me hope that I can encourage others to do the same."

Pre-physician assistant curriculum

As a pre-PA student, your curriculum can be customized to fit the admission requirement needs of your chosen master's program. Because the specific requirements of professional schools vary considerably, students should obtain current academic catalogs from the schools in which they are interested so that the undergraduate experience can be planned accordingly. Pre-physician assistant advisors are available to you during your time at UWEC to help you plan out your semesters.

No matter your major, you will be prepared to take the Graduate Record Exam, which is required for admission to most graduate-level physical therapy programs. The exam consists of three sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Analytical Writing. It is often taken in the spring semester or summer following your junior year. 

What classes do pre-physician assistant students take?

Students interested in becoming a PA may focus on these topics during their undergraduate career:

Learn more about pre-physician assistant studies in the UWEC course catalog.

Related programs at UW-Eau Claire

Programs that would best support a career as a PA include:

Department information

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Biology

Phillips Science Hall 330
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Eau Claire, WI 54701
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