6 Ways to Get Clinical Experience Before PA School

Students aiming to enter a physician assistant (PA) program will usually need to bring some amount of clinical experience with them. Whether the PA program you’re eyeing requires paid experience or just job shadowing, you’ll have to gain some real-world clinical experience to earn a coveted spot in your PA program. Here are some great jobs in healthcare that could help you gain the clinical experience necessary for acceptance into the perfect PA program.

Medical Assistant

Medical assistants are an essential part of clinics across the entire country. According to the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA), medical assistants work in medical offices, clinics, and other outpatient and emergency care facilities. They have clinical duties such as taking vitals, set up for procedures and assisting in minor procedures. They also have administrative duties such as entering chart information, calling patients, refilling medications on behalf of the providers and faxing orders. They work directly with patients and assist the PA with providing patient care and expediting the day making sure patients are seen in a timely fashion with all the information needed.

Radiology Technologist

Radiology techs or X-ray techs use X-ray and other imaging technologies to provide images that help physicians and clinicians diagnose and treat health conditions. There are multiple degree options such as associate, bachelor’s or master’s degrees, and some seek additional certifications in areas like CT or MRI. Some of the tests hey can perform are X-rays, ultrasounds, MRI scans and CT scans. They have clinical knowledge of the diseases they are imaging for as well as the results they are getting. The diagnostic skills are helpful when going to PA school as they will be a good base when learning to interpret results and diagnose diseases.

Surgical Technologist

Also known as surgical techs or OR technicians, surgical technologists work in the operating room or clinics that do surgical procedures. They arrange and prepare the operating room, manage the instruments, and assist during the procedure. They attend accredited programs and maintain certification. This would be an excellent experience for those who have an interest in the OR. They are able to experience every surgical specialty and learn about surgical diseases. Anatomy is a foundation of a PA education and surgical techs get to see the same anatomy that is found in cadaver labs during training.


Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) provide out-of-hospital emergency medical care and transportation for patients who call 911 or are treated during an emergency. Their responsibilities include stabilization and transportation of patients to hospitals or facilities during both non-emergent as well as emergency and critical situations. They are certified after completing a state-approved Emergency Medical Technician course. EMT’s will get the experience of rapid assessment, triage, CPR, and initial management of emergency situation. These are all experiences that a PA will need to master to be successful in clinical practice.


Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) work under the supervision of an RN, APRN, or MD and provide necessary and routine care by performing both clinical and administrative duties. They are required to take the NCFLEX-PN and maintain licensure through their state board of nursing. They work in nursing homes, clinics, hospitals and home health. They perform clinical procedures such as taking vitals, blood draws, catheter insertions, personal care, assisting with tests, and procedures. They also manage charting, recording patient data, and coordinating pre-op testing for surgery. An LPN career is a good starting point to PA school as all of their duties are transferable to PA training and are necessary skills a PA must learn, even if in clinical practice they may not perform all these duties.


Paramedics are licensed advanced providers of emergency medical care. They are a physician extender in some of the same ways that a PA will be and have more advanced training. In addition to the role of EMT, they give medication, start IV lines, use advanced CPR protocols knows as ACLS, intubate patients for advanced airways, and use skills to resuscitate and support critically ill patients. They are under direct supervision of a physician, usually remotely, although some emergency rooms will employ paramedics. The paramedic skills such as administering medications, performing stabilization procedures, triage, rapid response to life threatening situations and quick decision making under pressure are easily transferrable to becoming a PA, especially in the ER.

These are just a few of the many careers that can help you on your way to PA school. Some require more training than others, and some require certification, licensure, and up to 2,000 hours of paid experience. Keep in mind that patient care is not the same as healthcare and programs may specifically require just one or both, so it’s essential to clarify with the program precisely what their requirements for clinical experience are.