Pre-Physician's Assistant Tract

Courtesy of Courtney Southard, Class of 2006
Currently at Yale University PA School

Helpful Websites

The American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) is generally a good resource for some basic information. This link
gives you a list of all the ARC-PA certified programs in the United States. This site breaks down which programs are in which states and provides contact information for each individual program.

The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) is the standard for PA education certification. A program that you are looking at needs to be ARC-PA certified. The ARC-PA site is

.....and it gives you more information on them.

Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) is a very very important tool for when you start to apply to PA programs. It is an online service that many if not all of the programs are using. This allows you to fill out one very long and in depth application that you can send out to as many schools as you like (for a price of course.) You wouldn’t start to use CASPA until the end of your junior year but their web site is incredibly helpful even if you are not applying yet.
On their site they have a link with FAQ’s, some helpful info in the section ‘Before Applying’ and also a section entitled ‘Participating Programs’. The CASPA ‘Participating programs’ link is especially useful because it lists all the programs that accept applications through CASPA by state as well as gives you a direct link to the program’s PA website. Furthermore, this link will tell you what tests are required for application and the program deadlines for accepting applications.


It is important to know that every individual program has somewhat different prerequisites than the next. The best way to learn exactly what prerequisites you need for a PA school is to go to that PA program’s individual web site and look under their admissions standards. However I can give you a few things that are basically common among most of the schools requirements

Academic prerequisites

Two semesters of chemistry (one semester should either be organic or biochemistry)

Usually an Abnormal Psych class


16 semester credits of biology with labs (credits should be in mammalian or human biology), including 3-4 credits of microbiology (with labs) and 6-8 credits of anatomy and physiology (with labs) prior to application

What kind of sciences you need slightly varies among schools but generally for all of them you must have at least a 3.00 cumulative science GPA.

I found that the Biology Major at Scranton offered most of my science and chemistry classes I needed. In addition, I would recommend taking Abnormal psych, Calc I, and Biochem. Also, I was able to get away with taking Comparative Anatomy as my Anatomy class but I find most schools would really prefer if you took a human Anatomy class so I would see if there is anyways you could get into one of the human anatomy classes they offer to the PTs atScranton.

Furthermore, I’d say about 50% of the PA schools want you to take the GRE General test (Graduate Record Examinations) to apply. I didn’t take them until the summer going into my senior yr. They are somewhat like the SAT’s and you can find some practice pages online and I just went ahead and bought a GRE prep book which you can find at any bookstore.

Healthcare experience prerequisites

Besides the required classes you will find that most/ almost all programs want you to have direct patient care experience. Schools will usually require anywhere from 1000-2000 hours of direct patient care. There are a couple useful ways to get this.

You can have a paying job or volunteer (it’s important to make sure that you are actually working w/ patients)

You could get your EMT license, CNA (certified nursing assistant), Phlebotomy Certà any of these you will have to take a class for, but if you are able to I would highly recommend getting certified because it makes you look like a better applicant and with these certifications you can get jobs or volunteer as an undergrad where you can actually interact with patients. I got my EMT license around my sophomore yr of college and did volunteer work around Scrantonand back home in the summers. A job like EMT , ER tech, or CNA will expose you to patients, teach you how to talk to patients, fill out paperwork, get vital signs, deal with Basic life support, and also you will get see a lot of neat stuff.

General Information

  • PA school usually is anywhere from 23-27 months long usually straight through (no summer breaks). The 1st yr is classroom, 2nd is clinical.
  • If you want to enter PA school right after you graduate undergrad you would start to apply toward the end of your Junior year and do most of the application process in the summer before Senior yr. Most PA programs have a deadline of anywhere from Sept-Dec for accepting applications for the following year.
  • It is really good to shadow a PA or a few PA’s to get a feel for what a PA does.
  • The PA profession is one of the fastest growing professions in the United States. It is a great choice!