Physician assistant

Physician assistant (pre-professional)

Physician assistant students at Central find expert guidance to help you choose courses and complete professional experiences, as well as apply to graduate school. At Central, you'll take a variety of courses to gain a solid background in the natural and social sciences, preparing you to succeed in PA programs across the country. Central PA students go on to respected graduate programs and jobs with major medical groups. Overall, 94 percent of Central students are accepted into their first- or second-choice graduate school.

Central students succeed in entrance exams and securing acceptance into PA programs with help from an on-campus pre-health coordinator, internship coordinator and academic advisers. Hands-on experience is also important to secure the required number of patient contact hours, and Central helps you identify opportunities for internships and shadowing at many locations. Central’s pre-professional program prepares you to pursue physician assistant education in graduate school. With the help of your adviser, you will choose a major such as biology or chemistry that best prepares you for further study.

The Real World


Successful Careers

  • Physician assistant, Winona Health Sports & Orthopaedic Specialists, Winona, Minn.
  • Physician assistant, Mercy Medical Center, Des Moines
  • Physician assistant, Cedar Valley Medical Specialists, Waterloo
  • Physician assistant, Pella Regional Health Center


  • Bio-Chem Club
  • SCATE (Students Concerned About The Environment)
  • Tri-Beta (national biological sciences honor society)
  • Health Professions Club
Central College student

Graduate Placement

  • University of Iowa
  • Des Moines University
  • Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
  • Midwestern University, Chicago, Ill.
  • University of St. Francis, Fort Wayne, Ind.


Students interested in the physician assistant program are able to shadow local professionals for limited hours. Shadowing opportunities are available across the state including Pella Regional Health Center, Broadlawns Medical Center and Ottumwa Wellness Center.

Courses & Faculty

Students can choose to major in any discipline that fits their personal and professional life goals. Regardless of their major choice, students are required to successfully complete a series of courses in many different disciplines. Students must complete varying credit hours in biology, chemistry, mathematics, psychology and medical terminology.

Physician assistant students are also required to complete 750 hours of direct patient observation and pass the Graduate Record Exam.

The Central College Career Center provides the following activities to help pre-health students narrow career options: individual appointments to identify career options in the health field, job shadowing opportunities with local professionals or Central alumni, assistance with finding and applying for internships and summer opportunities, help with graduate school applications and much more. 

Physician assistant (pre-professional) photo
Meet the faculty:
  • Glenn Barnett, B.S., M.S., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biochemistry, interest areas include biochemistry and molecular genetics
  • Ellie Du Pre, B.S., Ph.D., Professor of Biology, interest areas include histology, human anatomy and physiology, epidemiology and environmental endocrine disruptors
  • Cathy Haustein, B.A., M.F.A., Ph.D., Professor of Chemistry, interest areas include analytical chemistry, inorganic chemistry instrumental analysis, the extraction of alkaloids from natural products, fluorescence spectroscopy and fiction writing
  • Nicole Palenske, B.S., M.S., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biology, interest areas include human anatomy and physiology, environmental physiology and aquatic toxicology
  • James Shriver, B.S., M.S., Ph.D., Professor of Chemistry, interest areas include organic chemistry, molecular engineering and design, supramolecular chemistry and anion binding

The Central Difference

Individualized Attention

Thanks to Central's small class and laboratory section size, faculty can provide each student with individualized attention and the opportunity to develop skills necessary for graduate school. Our faculty members also provide personalized advising that ensures students meet the coursework requirements for graduate school. And to help students get into graduate school, faculty provide letters of recommendation that make a vital difference in the decision process for acceptance into medical programs.

Heartland Global Health Consortium

Central College is a founding member of the Heartland Global Health Consortium whose mission is to establish and expand multidisciplinary educational, research and service opportunities to inspire and equip students to become leaders in global public health. The consortium provides additional opportunities for students to participate in educational, global research and global medical service experiences.

Hands-On Research

Central faculty provide students with many research and professional development opportunities, of which students are encouraged to take full advantage while on campus. Opportunities include undergraduate research and presentations at scientific meetings, internships, shadowing programs, targeted service-learning opportunities related to career goals and much more.

Study Abroad

Students are encouraged to study abroad with one of Central’s international programs to enhance their development as global citizens, or with partner programs in Chicago, Washington, D.C. or New York City. Learn more about Central’s study abroad programs.


Central’s Vermeer Science Center was awarded the silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating from the United States Green Building Council, the first LEED-rated building in the state. Students have direct access to classrooms and laboratories equipped with state-of-the-art instrumentation and presentation technology. 

Central Pre Physician Assistant students

Learn More

Want to find out more about physician assistant (pre-professional) at Central? Contact us to learn more about this major and our other strong academic programs. Visit campus to observe classes and experience The Central Difference firsthand.