Pre-Physician Assistant

Central College Academics

Physician assistant (PA) 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, 90 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 advisor, internship coordinator and academic advisors. 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 advisor, you will choose a major that best prepares you for further study.

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.

Central Prepares Students for Medical School

An astounding 58 percent of Central College graduates who go to graduate school do so in health-related fields.

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.

Off-Campus Experiences

Central students can study off-campus — both internationally or domestically in the United States. These opportunities give students the chance to prepare to be global citizens, equipped to compete in the global job market. Students can check out experiences led by Central faculty or attend select academic programs across the world that provide opportunities for study, service, internships and other types of experiential learning. Options include experiences in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Central America, Ghana, England, the Scottish Highlands and more.


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.

Beyond Central

Putting the “Hire” in Higher Education

  • 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
Central College student


  • Tri-Beta (national biological sciences honor society)
  • Health Professions Club
  • CAAT (athletic training club)
  • SCATE (Students Concerned About The Environment)

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 Broadlawns Medical Center, Ottumwa Wellness Center, Mahaska County Hospitals and Oskaloosa Hospital.

Central College student

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 and psychology.

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.

Learn more about this discipline in the course catalog.

Meet the Faculty

  • Nicole Palenske Ladner, B.S., M.S., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biology
  • Jim Shriver, B.S., M.S., Ph.D., Natural Sciences Department Chair and Professor of Chemistry


Learn More

Want to find out more about Pre-Physician Assistant at Central? Contact us to learn more about this discipline and our other strong academic programs.

Visit campus to observe classes and experience The Central Difference firsthand.


This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.