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Pre-Physician Assistant

Available as a pre-professional program

Physician assistants are licensed to diagnose and treat illness as well as to prescribe medication for patients. As part of a primary care team, they can provide nearly all of the clinical services of a licensed MD.

Here at Roanoke College, we offer a rigorous preparation in the sciences, along with a strong liberal arts background and access to clinical experiences and research opportunities. That gives our students an edge in gaining admission to top-quality graduate programs across the country.

student and doctor in operating room

Student Experiences

US News & World Report ranked Physician Assistant as the 5th best job in America in 2016.

  • Emergency medicine is his passion
    After Roanoke, Michael Gil '09 received his master's in Physician Assistant Studies from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, then returned to Virginia to participate in the Emergency Medicine Physician Assistant fellowship program at Eastern Virginia Medical School.  Michael is now working as an emergency medicine physician assistant at Emergency Physicians of Tidewater in Norfolk, VA.

    Student writing notes on a clipboard
  • Athletic injuries spark interest in future career
    Brayden Gerrie '13 was an All-American lacrosse player at Roanoke. His own athletic injuries sparked an interest in orthopedics and sports medicine, leading him to conduct a physiological study of his teammates, where he looked at measures of oxygen efficiencies, anaerobic responses, and body composition. "I was able to show them the scientific work I was doing," Gerrie said, "and how it related to our performance on the field." 

    Photo of Brayden gerrie

Learn By Doing

Intern working in a lab

We've established relationships with internship and placement sponsors in a wide range of medical organizations. Our students have completed internships at organizations such as:

  • Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare
  • Brandon Animal Hospital
  • Carilion Community Hospital
  • Child Abuse Prevention Council
  • Lewis-Gale Clinic
  • Merck Laboratories
  • Physicians to Children
  • Q-Biochem, LLC
  • Thompson's Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the demand for physician assistants to grow by more than 30% from 2014-2024.



Liz Ackley, wearing a salmon-colored t-shirt and navy blazer, stands in front of a class and holds up one finger as she makes a point during a lecture.

Elizabeth Ackley, Roanoke College's Brian H. Thornhill Associate Professor of Health & Human Performance, has helped the City of Roanoke win a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to take part in Invest Health, an initiative transforming the way leaders in mid-size cities collaborate to help low-income communities thrive.

Ackley's innovative research on health outcomes in Roanoke schools, using GPS to pinpoint health disparities within micro-geographies, was instrumental in winning funding for this project. Ackley is passionate about health science research. "The practical application of research has excited me since my undergraduate days. What we learn can actually change the world!"

Her team's findings have already been recognized by Invest Health and shared with pilot cities nationwide. "Another reason I love research is seeing how it inspires all kinds of students — up-and-comers as well as academic stars," she said.

Ackley plans to engage a number of different Roanoke students in this project, where they'll gain valuable research skills and work closely with leaders in the city health community.


As a student in Pre-Physician Assistant, you'll participate in the Health Professions Advising Group (HealthPAG), which is specially designed for students interested in careers in a variety of health fields.

You'll be encouraged to complete internships with physician assistant professionals. The Roanoke Valley is a medical hub for Southwest Virginia, and its rapidly growing health care community — including a new medical school and two major hospital systems — creates tremendous learning opportunities for you. You'll also have the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of high-level research projects at Roanoke.

Faculty advisors will work with you every step of the way beginning in your freshmen year. They not only help you select appropriate coursework and extracurricular activities, but also work with you to prepare for admissions testing, draft personal statements and develop strategies for professional school interviews.  

Roanoke students in Pre-Physician Assistant can major in any academic discipline, but most graduate schools require completion of courses in anatomy, biology, chemistry, physics, physiology, psychology and statistics.  

We offer a pre-professional program in Pre-Physician Assistant.