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Physician assistants are educated in intensive medical programs accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). The average PA program curriculum runs approximately 26 months. There are more than 140 accredited programs in the United States. All PA programs must meet the same ARC-PA standards.

Because of the close working relationship PAs have with physicians, PAs are educated in a medical model designed to complement physician training. PA students are taught, as are medical students, to diagnose and treat medical problems.

The education consists of classroom and laboratory instruction in the basic medical and behavioral sciences (such as anatomy, pharmacology, pathophysiology, clinical medicine, and physical diagnosis), followed by clinical rotations in internal medicine, family medicine, surgery, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, emergency medicine, and geriatric medicine.

A PA's education doesn't stop after graduation, though. PAs are required to take ongoing continuing medical education classes and be retested on their clinical skills on a regular basis. A number of postgraduate PA programs have also been established to provide practicing PAs with advanced education in medical specialties.

PA programs look for students who have a desire to study, work hard, and to be of service to their community. Most physician assistant programs require applicants to have previous health care experience and a bachelors degree. The typical applicant already has a bachelor's degree and approximately four years of health care experience. Commonly nurses, EMTs, and paramedics apply to PA programs. Check with PA educational programs of interest to you for a list of their prerequisites.

The clinical role of PAs includes primary and specialty care in all medical and surgical practice settings. PA practice is centered on patient care and may include educational, research, and administrative activities.

The PA role demands intelligence, sound judgment, intellectual honesty, appropriate interpersonal skills, and the capacity to react to emergencies in a calm and reasoned manner. An attitude of respect for self and others, adherence to the concepts of privilege and confidentiality in communicating with patients, and a commitment to the patient's welfare are essential attributes of the graduate PA.

ISU PA Program Entrance Requirements & Suggested Courses

The Physician Assistant (PA) Program at Idaho State University awards the Masters of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) degree and a PA certificate upon successful completion of its 24 month graduate curriculum.  For more information see the ISU PAS website.

Prerequisites of Admission to the ISU Physician Assistant Program

To be considered for admission, applicants must have a minimum cumulative prerequisite grade point average of 3.0 as well as a minimum grade of C in all prerequisite courses (listed below). All prerequisite courses must be completed at a regionally accredited institute of higher learning in the United States. Course work 10 years or older is not accepted as prerequisite coursework. Exceptions are at the discretion of the program. Applicants may have 2 prerequisite courses in progress during spring of year applying for admission.

  • Microbiology and Lab 
  • Anatomy and Physiology (1 year, two semesters)
  • Biochemistry (BIOL 4432) 
  • Abnormal Psychology (PSYC 3301) 
  • Statistics (MATH 1153)

  • For more details on these classes, see the ISU PAS Admission Requirements.

Applicants must have a minimum cumulative prerequisite grade point average of 3.0 as well as a minimum grade of C in all prerequisite courses (listed above). Course work ten years or older is not accepted as prerequisite coursework. All prerequisites must be completed and posted to official transcripts by June 30th of the year you plan to enter the program. All applicants are expected to possess computer literacy (either through course work or experience) which includes a basic understanding of the operation of a Windows pc, word processing, file management, spreadsheets, and the Internet

Highly Recommended Courses:

  • Upper Level biology courses such as advanced anatomy, advanced human physiology, immunology, genetics, or endocrinology
  • Other health-related courses from departments such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, health education, and gender studies; proficiency in a foreign language

Additional considerations for admission include:

  • Maturity
  • Work and health care experience
  • Evidence of the ability to achieve academic success in a rigorous academic program
  • Interpersonal skills with the ability to relate effectively at a professional level with patients and peers; proficiency in a foreign language
  • Evidence of a desire to practice primary care in Idaho, particularly among the medically underserved

Admissions Process

There are two applications to be completed.
Deadline for both applications: November 01

1. CASPA Application:

The ISU PA Program participates in the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA). Applicants must send the following to CASPA:

  • Official transcripts
  • Three (3) Letters of Recommendation
  • CASPA requires a fee to be paid at the time of the application

Note: The CASPA application is a separate application from the ISU Graduate School application.

Go to for the application and more information about the application process and fees.

2. ISU Graduate School Applicants must also meet the admission requirements of the ISU School of Graduate Studies. The following items must be submitted:

  • Application
  • GRE Scores: The GRE is required to apply to the ISU PA Program. (Please refer to the current Graduate School Catalog for minimum requirements.) Use codes: School 4355 and Department: 0699
  • Official transcripts**
  • The Graduate School requires a fee to be paid at the time of application.

** CASPA DOES NOT forward transcripts. A separate set of official transcripts must be requested for ISU's Graduate School.

Mailing address: Idaho State University
Graduate School
921 S. 8th Ave., Stop 8075
Pocatello, ID 83209-8075

International Students who have not graduated from an accredited college or university in the United States and whose native language is not English, must achieve satisfactory scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or complete an approved English as a Second Language (ELS) course. Please check with ISU's Graduate School for more information regarding minimum score requirements.

TOEFL Scores:
Required for students whose native language is not English. Please refer to the ISU Graduate School Catalog for minimum requirements.

ISU Physician Assistant Program
1021 Red Hill Road
Box 8253
Pocatello, ID 83209-8253
Phone (208) 282-4726
FAX (208) 282-4969

Because the PA program is a master's program, an undergraduate degree must be completed before matriculation into the PA program.


The program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

Technical Standards
Candidates for the PA Program must be able to perform in a reasonably independent manner without the use of trained intermediaries. The following provides some clarification of the required technical standards for PA students.

1. Observation: Candidates must be able to observe demonstrations and experiments in basic and clinical sciences (including computer-assisted instruction), and must be able to observe a patient accurately at a distance and close at hand.

2. Communication: Candidates must be able to communicate accurately and with clarity, in speech and written forms, with appropriate respect and sensitivity towards faculty, patients, and all members of the health care team.

3. Motor: Candidates must have sufficient motor function to elicit information from patients by palpation, auscultation, percussion, and other diagnostic maneuvers.

4. Senses: Candidates must have sufficient use of the senses of vision, hearing, touch and smell necessary to directly perform a physical examination.

5. Problem-solving: Candidates must be able to measure, calculate, analyze, and synthesize data to reach diagnostic and therapeutic judgments.

6. Clinical Skills: Candidates are expected to be able to learn and perform routine laboratory tests and diagnostic and therapeutic procedures.

7. Behavioral Attributes: Candidates must possess the emotional health necessary for full utilization of their intellectual abilities, the exercise of sound judgment, the prompt completion of responsibilities attendant to the diagnosis and care of patients, and the development of mature, sensitive, and effective relationships with faculty, clinical staff, and patients.

8. Judgment: Candidates must be able to learn and demonstrate the ability to recognize limitations to their knowledge, skills and abilities, and to seek appropriate assistance with their identified limitations.

9. Stability: Candidates must be able to learn to respond with precise, efficient, and appropriate action in emergency situations.


Visit the following web sites:

Idaho State University PA Program

American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA)

Physician Assistant Education Association
Contact information for each PA program in the U.S. may be obtained from this site.

Idaho Board of Medicine (IBOM)

Idaho Academy of Physician Assistants (IAPA)

National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA)


921 South 8th Avenue
Pocatello, Idaho, 83209
(208) 282-4636

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