Physician assistants are highly skilled health care professionals who regularly interact with patients on the doctor's behalf. They are the eyes and ears of the physician and often serve as the initial medical contact for a doctor. They provide examinations and on-going care, and they can prescribe medication in all 50 states.

MacMurray College's Biology Program (pre-health track) can prepare you for graduate school, where you will complete your training as a physician assistant by earning a master's degree. Through rigorous courses in such disciplines as biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, and human anatomy and physiology, you are exposed at MacMurray to the knowledge and skills you need to enter the graduate school of your choice.

Undergraduate requirements for physician-assistant graduate programs vary, so the choice of courses at MacMurray will depend in part on where you plan to go for graduate school. The faculty advisor will assist you in making these decisions.

Graduate schools expect a minimum 3.50 grade point average and a good score on the Graduate Record Exam or the Medical College Admissions Test, depending on the school. Graduate schools often require at least 500 hours of clinical experience in doctors' offices, hospitals, or clinics. A variety of practicums, including those with area physicians, hospitals, and medical schools, are available in the Jacksonville area.

The demand for highly-trained physician assistants has increased in recent years, and the field is expected to see rapid growth with the aging population and the shift in health care towards greater efficiency in delivering care. With the need for physician assistants expected to grow by 30 percent in the coming decade, government projections expect the shortage of physician assistants to increase in coming years.

The dynamic changes in health care will mean that physician assistants will likely be taking on new responsibilities and will have greater opportunities. The range of workplaces and areas of medical work is as broad as the health care profession. Whatever area you want to enter, physician assistants are well paid. According to government salary data, the median annual salary for a physician assistant is about $95,000.