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Become a Physician Assistant

What is a PA?

Physician Assistants (PAs) are licensed health care professionals who practice medicine in every medical specialty and setting. PA’s specific duties will depend on the setting in which they work, their experience level, their specialty, and state laws. In general, PAs provides diagnostic and therapeutic patient care, take care of patient histories, perform physical examinations, order diagnostic studies, develop and carry out treatment plans, perform procedures, and assist in surgery.

They work in hospitals, private medical offices, neighborhood health centers, clinics, federal and state institutions, universities, medical schools, and Armed Services and work for federal government agencies, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, and many other settings. PAs also hold positions in research, administration, and academic positions.

How are PAs Trained?

Largely, PAs are trained according to the medical model similar to instructions given in medical schools across the nation, in which healthcare providers are trained to identify specific symptoms and use evidence-based treatments to address those symptoms.

The first PA training program began in 1965 at Duke University to assist in alleviating the shortage and misdistribution of physicians. Four ex-Navy corpsmen were in the first class of the Duke University PA program. Today, there are 300 accredited PA programs in the United States that are operating as part of medical schools, universities, and colleges. PA programs are accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA).

PAs are trained in primary care, but have the opportunity to work in other specialties of medicine. In order to practice as a PA, the student must graduate from an accredited ARC-PA physician assistant program in order to sit for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). The graduate must pass the PANCE to obtain state licensure. PAs must participate in continuing medical education to maintain their certification. 

The American Academy of Physician Associates (previously known as Physician Assistants) is the national organization that advocates for PAs and the PA profession. To learn more about the PA profession, visit AAPA or check out the AAPA Flyer.


LMU SMS PA Programs


Harrogate, Tennessee PA program, established in 2009, is a 27-month primary care focus program. The 115-credit hour curriculum provides a solid foundation in primary care medicine using simulated trainers. Students practice procedural skills such as intravenous catheter insertion, lumbar puncture, and point-of-care ultrasound. The program offers students unique opportunities to provide medical services to indigent, uninsured, and underserved populations. The curriculum prepares graduates to provide comprehensive, patient-center care.Learn More About the Harrogate PA Program

In lab

Knoxville, Tennessee PA program, established in 2020, is a 27-month surgical focus program. The 115-credit hour curriculum provides a solid foundation in primary care medicine with three semesters of human cadaver anatomy and up to 20 weeks of clinical experience in surgical disciplines. The curriculum prepares graduates to provide safe and effective care to patients in surgical and acute care settings. Learn More About the Knoxville PA Program

Bachelor of Science in Medical Laboratory Science

Based upon its overlapping curriculum content and unique hospital clinical experience opportunities, the LMU-SMS Bachelor's in Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) degree is an advantageous choice of Bachelor of Science degrees that fulfills all of the academic prerequisites requirements for consideration for admission into any of our Physician Assistant programs. In addition to meeting all the prerequisites for PA school, the MLS graduates can take the American Society for Clinical Pathology Board of Certification Exam (ASCP BOC) and enter the workforce as board-certified medical laboratory scientists practicing in various clinical settings, including hospital laboratories, physician's offices, and research and molecular diagnostic laboratories.  

4-year plan curriculum to PA school.pdf

4-year curriculum plan to MLS degree.pdf