PA School Requirements: How To Get All Prerequisites Ready For Physician Assistant Degree

To become a physician assistant, you must first enrol in a PA program in an accredited school to earn a degree. Currently, admission to PA schools has become highly competitive. To get admitted to a PA school, prospective students are to meet the admission requirements and get all prerequisites ready for the physician assistant degree.

Generally, Physician Assistants are integral healthcare team members in many hospitals and clinical practices. In fact, as the demand for healthcare services grows, physician assistants will be needed to provide care to patients.

This is evident with the projection of the employment of PAs, as reported by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. It states that the employment of physician assistants is projected to grow 31 per cent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations.

So as the need for PAs continues to increase, more programs and schools are opening up across the country. However, as a student who wants to pursue a career as a physician assistant, you need to know the PA school prerequisites to take and what healthcare experience you need in order to meet PA school requirements and improve your admissions odds.

To help increase your chances of getting admitted, this article will explain these PA program requirements and how to get all prerequisites ready for a physician assistant degree in 2023.

Here is a breakdown of what to expect:

Before we look at these PA school requirements and program prerequisites in their entirety, you should understand who a physician assistant is, what they do, and how to become one.

Who is a Physician Assistant?

A physician assistant is a medical professional who operates under a doctor’s supervision. Also known as PAs, they basically practice medicine on teams with physicians, surgeons, and other healthcare workers.

Below are the roles of a PA as outlined by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Taking or reviewing patients’ medical histories.
  • Examining patients.
  • Ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, such as X-rays or blood tests.
  • Diagnosing a patient’s injury or illness
  • Giving treatment, such as setting broken bones and immunizing patients
  • Educating and counselling patients and their families—for example, answering questions about how to care for a child with asthma
  • Prescribing medicine.
  • Assessing and recording a patient’s progress.
  • Researching the latest treatments to ensure the quality of patient care.
  • Conducting or participating in outreach programs, talking to groups about managing diseases, and promoting wellness.

How to Become a Physician Assistant – PA?

Typically to become a physician assistant, you need a master’s degree from an accredited educational program. And earning that degree usually takes at least 2 years of full-time postgraduate study.

With this, physician assistant graduate school applicants typically have experience caring directly for patients.

Furthermore, all states require physician assistants to be licensed. You must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) to become licensed.

Basically, a physician assistant who passes the exam may use the credential “Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C).”

However, it is important to note that to keep their certification; physician assistants must complete 100 hours of continuing education every 2 years. The recertification exam is required every 10 years.

Now you know what it takes to become a physician assistant, let’s look at the basic requirements to get into a PA school.

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What Are The PA School Requirements In 2023?

Once you decide to pursue a career in the PA profession, it is best to look into PA programs you want to apply to as early as your freshman year in college.

This is because you’ll typically need to complete at least two years of college coursework in basic and behavioural sciences before applying to a PA program. This is quite similar to premedical studies.

However, regardless of when you start preparing for admission into a PA school, you must meet their minimum requirements to be considered for their interview.

Although the specific requirements vary among PA schools and programs, they majorly fall into these categories:

  • Degree Requirements
  • GPA Requirements
  • GRE Requirements
  • Prerequisite Coursework
  • Experience in the Healthcare Setting
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • PA School Essay Requirements

How To Get All Prerequisites Ready For Physician Assistant Degree In 2023

Here, we will give you a breakdown of the above-listed PA admission requirements and how to prepare all the prerequisites for your physician assistant degree program.

Degree Requirements For PA Schools

Basically, PA school applicants must complete a bachelor’s degree program in a related field from a US regionally accredited college or university.  To determine if a college or university is regionally accredited, visit Chea.

A major in the health sciences will be preferred; however, you can still possess an undergraduate degree in a general science field.

It is also important to note that most physician assistant schools do not accept foreign degree equivalency evaluations. In other words, all coursework must be completed at a school accredited by one regional accrediting body.

GPA Requirements PA Schools

The GPA requirements differ among PA schools. While some PA programs don’t list minimum GPA requirements, others do. And of those that do, most use a 3.0 GPA as the minimum, although some will have lower or higher PA school requirements. 

Generally, during the application process, PA schools will look at your GPA in four ways:

  • Overall GPA
  • Science GPA
  • Non-science GPA
  • CASPA biology, chemistry, physics (BCP) GPA

So, it’s best you start calculating and tracking your GPA in these categories. Also, note that most schools’ PA program utilizes GPAs as calculated by CASPA.

Here is an interesting report on GPA requirements!

According to the 2019 Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) report, the average overall GPA of students who were accepted to PA school was 3.6. Also, accepted students had, on average, a 3.5 science GPA, 3.6 non-science GPA, and 3.5 BCP GPA.

These figures paint a more accurate picture of how competitive admission into the program can be.

However, these numbers are not also to scare you. Remember, your GPA isn’t everything, as there are other PA school requirements such as GRE scores, healthcare experience, and letters of recommendation.

So if you’re below the average GPA, don’t panic; just ensure you meet the minimum GPA requirement of your school. You’ll definitely stand a chance to impress PA programs with the other aspects of your application. 

GRE Requirements For PA Schools

Most PA schools require that applicants must meet the GRE requirement by submitting scores from the GRE General Test (verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing sections).

Still, from the PAEA report, over half of PA schools require the GRE. Although few schools offer you the choice of the GRE or the MCAT, none specifically require the MCAT. So, it would be in your best interest to take the GRE test—and do well.

Also, GRE is a lenient aspect of your PA school application. The reason is that you can take the GRE up to five times within twelve months, and you only need to wait twenty-one days between test attempts. 

Not to worry – your PA school won’t know you took the GRE multiple times. This is because ETS allows you to only send the scores you want to choose schools. Therefore, retaking the GRE to improve your score is in your best interest.

Now, what is the required GRE score for PA schools?

Note that just like other PA school requirements, the GRE score varies among programs.

From the earlier stated 2019 PAEA report, the average GRE score of accepted students was 306 —combined verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning. On the other hand, the average analytical writing score was 4.1. 

Here is some advice for you as an intending student.

Ensure you take the GRE well ahead of the PA school application deadlines. This will help you take a few re-takes to get your score above the average.

Furthermore, consider investing in GRE prep resources to maximize your highest score.

Check this: List Of PA Schools With Low GPA Requirements In 2023

Prerequisite Coursework For PA Programs

Just like the bachelor’s degree requirement, the prerequisite coursework of PA schools must be completed at a US regionally accredited College or University.

Although the physician assistant prerequisite coursework varies among PA schools, the majority of PA programs have the following prerequisites:

  • Chemistry
  • Physiology
  • Anatomy
  • Microbiology
  • Biology

Also, most PA schools require you to take the following non-science prereqs:

  • English
  • Statistics
  • Psychology

The above are the minimum PA school requirements held by the majority of programs. However, completing these courses alone will limit your options and decrease your competitiveness as an applicant. Especially knowing how competitive admission to the program can be.

This being the case, it is advisable you take additional coursework to fulfil the stricter requirements of more selective PA schools.

Although this will require a more rigorous undergraduate curriculum, the extra effort will increase your program options as well as your chances of getting accepted into a PA school.

Additional Prerequisite Coursework For PA Programs

Here is some additional coursework you can take in your undergrad:

  • Organic Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Medical Terminology
  • Genetics
  • Physics
  • Sociology (or a different social and Behavioral Sciences or humanities course)
  • Foreign Language ( the foreign language requirements or preferences are likely from PA schools located in areas with diverse populations).

PA School Healthcare Experience Requirements

Most PA schools require that students have some years of experience in a healthcare setting before entering a program.

This is one of the most important and daunting(for applicants) PA school requirements. The reason is that a strong GPA and high GRE score won’t get you in the door of a competitive PA program if you don’t have any related healthcare experience.

In fact, a lot of PA schools will designate a minimum number of healthcare hours required for applicants, and the designated amount varies widely.

For instance, the University of Florida encourages applicants to complete one year (2000 hours) of Direct Patient Care (DPC) experience before their intended matriculation (enrollment date)

On the other hand, the University of Iowa, one of the top-ranked PA programs by U.S. News, requires 1,000 hours of direct patient care experience.

That is to say; other schools require may 1,000 hours, 2,000 hours or even more.

Regardless, some PA schools, including the top-ranked ones, don’t require healthcare experience hours at all. Also, others will say hours are preferred but not required.

Determining the number of experience hours can get confusing. So, this and more make this PA school requirement daunting for applicants.

The CASPA application categorizes professional experience in distinct ways, so we’ll explore them individually and look at the average hours earned in each category by accepted students ( as seen on the PAEA report).

  • Patient Care Experience
  • Healthcare Experience
  • Shadowing
  • Volunteering
  • Research
  • Leadership Experience
  • Teaching Experience

Patient Care Experience

This basically covers experiences where you have responsibility for a patient’s care. It includes performing procedures, developing treatment plans, directing a patient’s treatment, etc. 

Typically, most students earn these hours while working as an EMT/paramedic, physical therapy aide, CNA, phlebotomist, dental hygienist, LVN, or RN.

However, note that some programs may specify that only paid patient care experience will satisfy this PA school requirement.

The PAEA report shows the average number of hours earned by accepted students is 3,020.

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Healthcare Experience

This category covers paid and unpaid work in a healthcare setting where you interact with patients but are not directly responsible for their care.

Although used interchangeably with patient care, it is quite different. Patient care experience is any time you’re working hands-on with patients. Everything else can be counted as a healthcare experience.

This includes cleaning patients, delivering food, taking vitals, administering medication, or working as a scribe. 

The PAEA report shows the average number of hours earned by accepted students is 1,024.


This covers experiences where you officially shadow a healthcare professional, preferably a physician assistant. 

From the PAEA report, the average number of hours accepted by students earned is 143.


This basically consists of volunteer work you complete in a non-healthcare setting, like fundraising for charity, tutoring, building homes with Habitat for Humanity, etc.

So here, if you’ve gone on a medical mission trip or something similar, you can include those hours as healthcare or patient care experience instead. 

From the PAEA report, the average number of hours earned by accepted students: is 488.


This is a major PA program requirement, but it does look good on your application. It includes your experience conducting scientific or medical research.

There are no average hours here.

Leadership Experience

This covers any leadership roles you’ve held within an organization. This may not necessarily be medical-related.

Your leadership experience is basically an opportunity to show your preferred PA schools your potential to make an impact on others as a physician assistant. 

There are no average hours here.

Teaching Experience

This covers instances where you’ve been in charge of instructing others. It includes being a teaching assistant or tutor.

There are no average hours here. Average hours not provided.

Letters of Recommendation

This is one of the major prerequisites for a physician assistant program. The number needed, however, vary among schools.

For instance, the University of South Florida requires three letters of recommendation for their PA program.

These letters should be from Physicians, Physician Assistants, Nurse Practitioners, Research Mentors, Professors, and Volunteer Coordinators/Supervisors who directly interact with the applicant and can attest to his/her qualities, strengths and suitability for a career as a Physician Assistant.

Furthermore, at least one letter of recommendation must be from an individual who supervised the applicant in a clinical setting.

Also note that as an applicant, you must ensure that none of your letters come from a peer or family member.

On the other hand, when you submit your PA school applications through CASPA, you’ll be asked to add three to five recommenders under the Evaluations section. The CASPA system will then email an evaluation request to each recommender directly. 

To make sure this PA school requirement is satisfied in a strong way, follow these guidelines:

  • Select your ideal recommenders.
  • Make sure you ask your recommenders for permission to receive an evaluation request.
  • Finally, Send recommenders information to prepare them.

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Select your ideal recommenders.

It will do you more good if these individuals have known you for a while in a professional capacity and have witnessed you interact with patients. The ideal choices are mostly professionals who actively practice medicine (a recommendation can also come from a science professor).

Ask your recommenders for permission to receive an evaluation request.

You also need to be considerate and give your recommenders plenty of time to prepare a thorough evaluation.

Contact them beforehand (maybe a month or two) before you submit your PA school application. If they agree to write a recommendation for you, confirm the best email address to use and then inform them of the CASPA evaluation process.

Send recommenders information to prepare them.

Before adding your recommenders to your CASPA application (which will require the evaluation request to be sent), email your recommenders an updated resume.

In your resume, make sure you include a list of the programs you’re applying to and any specific achievements you’d like to remind them of as they write your evaluation.

Also, bear in mind that they are quite busy, so you show them gratitude by making their job as easy as possible with your email.

PA School Essay/Personal Statement Requirements

Your essay is a way of tooting your own horn, and you will want to make every word count.

Basically, the CASPA Personal Statement of at least 5,000 characters is your chance to impress your application readers and secure an interview.

Regardless of the fact that there is no definite prompt, you’re expected to explain your motivation or desire to become a physician assistant.

The PA school essay requirement is the best opportunity to share your unique story and communicate why you should be considered for the PA program.

Tips For Writing A PA School Essay/Personal Statement Requirements

Here are some tips to help you while writing your PA school essay/personal statement:

  • Start your statement on time, at least a month before your PA school applications are due. This will give you time to brainstorm, write, edit, and polish your essay without rushing.
    You can also seek insight from other PAs and have someone proofread your essay.
  • Choose the qualities you want to focus on. Select those that will contribute to your effectiveness as a PA, such as compassion, interpersonal skills, or resourcefulness. 
  • Describe a story of you showing your chosen qualities. Strong personal statements mostly show and not tell. Basically, use your story-telling skills to engage your readers and draw them into the narrative.
    If your healthcare setting experience is not your most compelling story, then don’t use it.
  • Your statement is about you. Don’t get carried away describing the setting or other people in your story. When you are done with your statement, the readers should be able to list what they learned about you.
    Things like your goals, most meaningful experiences leading you to the medical field, reasons for choosing to become a PA, etc.
  • Make sure you write a captivating introduction and a strong conclusion. Basically, the beginning and end of your essay will be the most memorable parts of this PA school requirement.

    You can start with your story, a meaningful quote or even song lyrics, provided that they are in line with the rest of your statement.

    Furthermore, your conclusion should connect with your introduction. You can paraphrase the main points of your statement and retell your desire to be a PA in an unforgettable way.

Tips For Getting Into PA School

Below is some advice for getting into PA school.

#1. Start getting ready early by locating your program

Start researching the programs you wish to apply to during your first year of college. The Physician Assistant Education Association is where you may find them.

If you intend to enrol in a program after your senior year of college, start planning early because each program has quite different criteria and cultures.

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Obtain medical experience

For most of their top PA schools, “direct patient healthcare experience” must total between 1000 and 4000 hours. Some call for compensated clinical hours.

So earning a certificate at a community college is one method to attain that experience. Consider training to be an EMT or emergency room technician (ERT) if you are interested in a career in emergency medicine.

If you want to work in surgery, you can become a surgical technician (also known as a “scrub tech”) and study the surgical equipment and the rules of the sterile field in the operating room.

Maintain your GPA.

A cumulative GPA of 3.0 to 4.0 is often required for elite universities. While many admissions criteria vary, the majority have a minimum GPA. PA programs are competitive academically, which speaks for itself.

In your first two years, establish a strong academic emphasis and build a strong foundation in the sciences. This will make it simple to go on to upper-level science courses. Additionally, performing well in early general education classes will ensure a good cumulative GPA.

#2. Participate in extracurricular activities.

Join your college’s pre-PA group or start one. Even better, get to the position of the officer.

#3. Select your undergraduate courses carefully.

Third, select your undergraduate courses carefully.

Whether it is a requirement or not, medical terminology is a required course depending on the program.

Additionally, the hardest classes in the first year of PA school are pathophysiology, pharmacology, and human anatomy, so aim to take the undergraduate equivalent of each to get a head start.

Also, college science courses tend to get harder as they progress and build upon one another. (i.e., General Chemistry I to General Chemistry II).

Furthermore, avoid taking a summer break between science course sequences. Too much knowledge will be forgotten. For instance, instead of waiting until the following fall semester, aim to finish General Chemistry II in the summer if you enrol in General Chemistry I in the spring.

Remarkably, General Chemistry is a “weed out” course. Consider enrolling in an introductory chemistry course for your first semester if you don’t have much experience with the subject. There is no race in the voyage.

#4. Work in the summer

Make some research

There are summer research opportunities for undergraduates at the National Institute of Health and the majority of medical schools.

Because they have early deadlines, the challenge is to apply early in the spring semester. Any form of graduate school will be impressed by research experience.

Bonus advice: If you have the option, choose your project over a lone role on a huge, well-established project. With your project, you can follow it from beginning to end and earn experience at every stage of the inquiry.

Travel for medical missions.

Healthcare professionals may help some of the world’s most neglected populations by participating in medical mission trips.

Providers provide free medical care to people who otherwise lack access to it during these trips. In addition to dealing with patients, you can observe how different countries practice medicine.

In some organizations, you can volunteer while still a student.

Become an ER or medical scribe.

Medical or emergency department scribe employment is undoubtedly one of the best pre-PA jobs that many students undertake. It will adequately prepare you for the work you’ll accomplish in PA school.

You will participate in the medical interviewing process and help with the medical charting. As a result, you become accustomed to using medical jargon and writing patient histories and physicals.

Read also: Accredited Physician Assistant PA Schools In Georgia 2023

#5. Look for mentors

A mentor will move mountains and throw open doors for you throughout your career. The assistance of mentors will make a variety of experiences feasible.

Potential mentors include your professor, faculty advisor, summer research investigator, the physician you shadowed, or guidance-giving officer from a student organization.

So, as a student, you can create a LinkedIn account and connect with your mentors.

Resources For Physician Assistants

Here are some resources for prospective physician assistants. They include associations you can join as a PA in the USA, PA accrediting and certification bodies. Do well to click on each of them to learn more about them.

FAQs On PA School Requirements 2023: How To Get All Prerequisites Ready For Physician Assistant Degree

Who is a physician assistant?

A physician assistant is a medical professional who operates under a doctor’s supervision. Also known as PAs, they basically practice medicine on teams with physicians, surgeons, and other healthcare workers.

What is the educational qualification of a physician assistant?

Typically to become a physician assistant, you need a master’s degree from an accredited educational program.

Is a physician assistant qualified to take PANCE?

Upon graduation from an ARC-PA-accredited physician assistant master’s program, future PAs qualify to take the PANCE as well as earn licensure from their state to practice.

What is ARC-PA?

The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) is an independent accrediting body authorized to accredit qualified PA educational programs leading to the professional credential, Physician Assistant (PA). 

What are the requirements for PA schools?

1. A bachelor’s degree in a relevant area, such as health science or nursing.
2. A minimum cumulative GPA of 3.25 and a minimum 3.25 GPA in science-related courses.
3. A minimum score of 300 on the GRE.


To pursue a career in the PA profession, one must meet the requirements and prerequisites of physician assistant schools to get admitted into the school in 2023.

From the bachelor’s degree requirements to the GPA, GRE scores, letter of recommendation, etc. In fact, all PA school admission requirements must be met for you to get an invite to an interview.

So as a prospective PA student, it’s of the essence you start your preparation on time to be among the few persons who secure a spot in this highly competitive program.

I hope this article on physical assistant prerequisites for 2023 helps you in your decision-making.

Good Luck And Success!!!


  • Learnhowtobecome – How to Become a Physician Assistant: PhSysician Assistant Programs and Careers
  • Shemassian – PA School Requirements: The Ultimate Guide
  • UFHealth – Requirements For The School Of Physician Assistant Studies Admissions


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