Application to PA school is highly competitive.
Look into PA programs you want to apply to as early as your freshman year in college.
You’ll typically need to complete at least two years of college coursework in basic and behavioral sciences before applying to a PA program, which is very similar to premedical studies.
The majority of PA programs have the following prerequisites:
Many PA programs also require prior healthcare experience with hands-on patient care.
You can get healthcare experience by being a (not an exhaustive list):
- Medical assistant
- Emergency medical technician (EMT)
- Medic or medical corpsman
- Peace Corps volunteer
- Lab assistant/phlebotomist
- Registered nurse
- Emergency room technician
- Surgical tech
- Certified nursing assistant (CNA)
Most students have a bachelor’s degree and about three years of healthcare experience before entering a program.
Learn more about getting into a PA program:
Full list of PA programs with requirements (healthcare experience hours, standardized exams, prerequisite coursework, GPA, etc.)
Frequently Asked Questions
Admission Requirements and Procedures
I already have a bachelor’s degree. Do I still need to complete all the prerequisites?
Yes, all applicants regardless of undergraduate degree or major must complete all prerequisites before entering the PA program.
Does the PA program give preference to any major?
No, the program does not give preference to any major. The most common majors are biology, and chemistry.
Will I be able to continue to work outside of the program while attending school?
The Primary Care Physician Assistant Program at USC is a full-time program. Students are strongly discouraged to accept or continue outside employment while enrolled in the program. Students are not permitted to work for the program.
Does the PA program accept online/distance-learning courses?
Yes, distance learning courses are acceptable provided they are equivalent in all dimensions (including laboratory requirements) to courses taught in ‘traditional’ educational settings (e.g., hybrid courses). All distance learning course credit must be provided by regionally accredited institutions of higher education.
When is the application due?
November 1st for both the CASPA and USC Supplemental Applications. However, early application (by September 1st) is highly recommended. Be aware that the USC PA program receives your CASPA application only after it has been verified by CASPA, which may take several weeks. Additionally, your application is reviewed by the Primary Care Physician Assistant Program at USC program only after it is complete (i.e., we have received all 3 of these elements: CASPA application, supplemental application, and $50 processing fee).
What is USC’s GRE institutional code?
1416 U Southern California Keck Sch Med CASPA
Can I enter in the Spring semester?
No, the program admits in the Fall semester only.
What is the PA program’s GPA requirement?
The expected GPA for consideration is 3.0 for overall cumulative coursework, and 2.75 for overall science coursework. The average cumulative GPA of admitted students for the Class of 2018 is 3.49.
What is the PA program’s GRE requirement?
The PA program expects that applicants earn a combined Quantitative and Verbal GRE score of no less than 1,000 (on the older version of the exam), and 295 (on the newer version of the exam). The GRE must be taken within 5 years of the application deadline.
Is preference given to California residents?
No, the program uses the same criteria to evaluate out-of-state applicants as California residents.
Do all applicants get an interview?
No. The selection process for the PA program is highly competitive, and only a portion of the applicant pool will be invited for a personal interview on the Alhambra campus. Interviews are by invitation only and conducted on a rolling basis.
How old can letters of reference be?
We will accept letters that are no older than 3 years from the time that you are applying.
How many letters of recommendation can I send?
A minimum of (3) letters of reference are required with a maximum of five (5) letters allowed through the CASPA application process. Additional letters will not be considered by the program. Reference letters should not be from personal friends or family members. Letters of reference must be submitted directly to CASPA and postmarked on or before November 1st.
If I am a re-applicant can I have the same person write a new letter of reference or does it have to be from someone different?
Yes, you can have the same person write a new letter of reference for your application.
Can Spanish be substituted with another foreign language?
No. Spanish is a prerequisite requirement, and no other foreign languages may be substituted.
I am a native Spanish speaker; can I opt out of taking a year of college level Spanish?
Yes, a Spanish placement exam can be taken at your local community college or at a four-year university. If you place in intermediate Spanish, it will satisfy our Spanish prerequisite requirement. Be sure to turn in your placement exam results along with your Supplemental Application.
I took four years of high school Spanish, does that count?
No, unless you were given AP college credit. Credit for Spanish must appear on your college transcript.
Is there preference given for prerequisite courses taken at a four-year institution versus at a community college?
No, prerequisite courses may be taken either at a regionally accredited community college or four-year institution.
How many courses may be outstanding during the application process?
Two non-science prerequisite courses can be in progress in the spring semester or quarter following the November 1st application deadline. All science prerequisites must be completed by the end of the fall semester the year prior to matriculation.
Is there an expiration date for the science prerequisite courses?
Yes. All science prerequisites must be completed within ten (10) years of the application deadline. Exceptions to the 10-year science prerequisite time frame may be granted on an individual basis to those individuals who have completed one of the following: 1) at least 8 semester units of graduate credit in a medically-related natural science discipline with an overall grade point average of 3.0 or better, completed within 7 years of the application deadline, or 2) received an advanced degree in the natural or clinical sciences (e.g., MS, DVM, PharmD, PhD, MD) within 10 years of the application deadline.
What is considered direct patient care experience?
Patient care that is ‘hands-on’ in nature. Successful applicants have worked as one of the following: emergency medical technician, licensed vocational nurse, medical assistant (back office), medical scribe, medical technologist, military medical corpsman, nursing assistant, paramedic, psychiatric technician, radiologic technician, respiratory therapist, chiropractor, registered nurse, etc. Paid patient care clinical experience is preferred, but not required.
Do I have to have volunteering experience?
The Primary Care Physician Assistant Program at USC is dedicated to the advancement of physician assistant education, and emphasizes service to the medically underserved. Volunteering in both health-related, and non-health related settings is highly recommended.
Do I have to shadow a PA?
Shadowing PAs is preferred in the admissions application process. Shadowing is defined by the selections committee as observing a physician assistant in the care of patients. Working with a PA is not considered shadowing, but is counted towards health care experience. The average applicant has 1-2 shadowing experiences. This experience not only gives the applicant an insight into the profession on an intimate level, but also affords the applicant an opportunity to see if she or he is a ‘good-fit’ for the profession.
I am a MD from another country. Do I have to go through the entire PA training program?
Yes. The PA program does not offer any advanced standing, and the entire 33-month program must be completed in full.
Can the PA program check all my references, employment and volunteer/clinical experiences?
We reserve the right to confirm and verify all employment, volunteering and clinical experience as included in all submitted applications.
What’s next if you are offered a seat on the Alternate List?
- Confirm if you want to be on the alternate list.
- Those on the alternate list can potentially be admitted into the program up until August.
- Continue with your current experiences, and complete your prerequisite courses.
- Review the website and statistics on admitted students.
- Start your process of reapplying for the next admissions cycle
Please do not call and submit any additional materials or letters of recommendation.
At this point additional materials will not be considered for admissions.
Admission is a holistic review process, and hours exceeding the average applicant does not guarantee admittance into the program.