Are you considering a job in the realm of Physician Assistant?

On this page, students can find more information about what it means to pursue a path aligning to PA programs across the US, more about the curricular expectations, health-related experiences, and the popular comparison of "PA vs NP".

What is a Pre-Physician Assistant program at SOU? 

Though pre-professional programs represent a core set of recommended coursework, they are not academic majors themselves. These programs are meant be completed in addition to standard degree programs. Southern Oregon University offers a number of programs, which are designed to be ideal for professional schools both in and out of Oregon. These programs are meant to serve the student by providing necessary prerequisite coursework for their desired professional goals, but offer the flexibility to change some of that coursework to suite a preferred professional schools. In the case of a Pre-PA program, it is advisable for a student to complete a full baccalaureate degree prior to transferring to a professional school. However, some programs will not require a completed baccalaureate prior to transferring to a professional programs, though these may be less common. 

Check out our Biology/Pre-PA Program! We also offer a BA in Chemistry option for students interested in medical fields, which often has additional path-specific prerequisites added to its schedule. 

What is the difference between a Physician Assistant and a Nurse Practicioner?

Both PAs and NPs have critical roles in the medical professions.Both programs require significant amounts healthcare-oriented hours for admissions, and also in their respective programs. Additionally, both have the ability to specialize in subspecialities, provide patient care, diagnose and treat, order laboratory testing, and even prescribe medication. Because of their similarities, they can often both fill similar professional roles. A common misconception for students is that they feel they must have a BSN in order to go into a NP program, which isn't actually the case. Whether a student is a PA or NP, they can technically major in any field of undergraduate study they would like. 

The most common divergence in the curriculum comes through the impression a student gets from either field. While it is not required to have a BSN-RN, or RN to get into an NP program, it is certainly beneficial to have that educational background, and clinical experience. Since the requirements for many BSN programs differ from those of a PA program, students can just be encouraged to get a BA or BS in a field, while following a path for a PA program, and add courses like Lifespan Development and Nutrition to also meet the requirements for a BSN (traditional or accelerated) program and essentially be on the same timeline. Since BSN programs are generally extensive in their required clinical hours, and PA programs are steep on their requirements for clinical hours, again a student can benefit from either undergraduate pathway. Students following this path can actually transition directly into a PA or NP program with little hassle! The key difference between PAs and NPs begin at the philosophical approaches each graduate programs entail. Nurse Practitioners can come from either masters or doctoral programs, and generally specialize. 

There are minor differences in the length of graduate programs, and expectations of clinical training, but students can generally forecast at least two years for either program. They can both be found in the same medical settings, and in similar roles often times creating difficulty in distinguishing their scope from the outside. PAs train as generalists, and generally pair with a physician in the work place. NPs are usually trained in Primary or Acute care and then specialize further based on their population served, such as family practice, gerontology, pediatrics, women's health, and mental health. Because of their need to specialize, they can often be seen in the same specialized roles as PAs. Many PAs and NPs have a great level of autonomy in the workplace, but it varies state-to-state. NPs, in some states, are seen as fully independent practioners, and can have full autonomy as a primary care provider. PAs, in general, do not have the same level of autonomy, often working in a team environment with other PAs, under the supervision of a licensed physician. 

What does the world of a PA look like professionally?


What do I need to become a PA?

Graduate programs for Physician Assistants can vary in their requirements for admission, and even in their preferred electives. Technically, students can get a bachelor degree in any field, so long as the prerequisites for the intended graduate school(s) are included in the education.


Still have questions? Contact the STEM Division at 541-552-6341!