As you probably know by now, if you want to get into PA school, you must complete the necessary prerequisite coursework.
I have discussed this in detail in a previous post Prerequisite Coursework: How to Design the Perfect Pre-PA School Curriculum.
Today, we are going a step further by giving you answers to some of the most common PA school prerequisite questions.
And the best part is:
These answers are directly from the PA school admissions committee themselves.
PA School Prerequisite Q&A
- Do You Look Down On Community College Prerequisite Coursework?
- Do PA School Prerequisite Classes Expire?
- Can I Apply With Coursework in Progress?
- Do My Prerequisite Courses Fulfill The Requirements?
- Do You Accept Online Prerequisite Coursework?
- Is There a Minimum GPA for Prerequisite Coursework?
- Do You Accept Prerequisite Courses Completed at Different Colleges?
- Is Lab Required?
- How About Repeat Courses?
- Graduate Or Undergraduate Courses?
- Dropped Courses?
The following are questions asked by pre-PAs as part of the annual Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) forum, where ADCOMs from thirty top PA schools come together for a weekend and answer your questions. Schools such as Duke, Butler, Penn State College of Medicine, Yale, and Case Western Reserve (to name just a few).
Below you will find the question in bold with the ADCOM (admissions committee) answer in the blockquote. I have provided a summary of recommendations in yellow at the end of each section and an overall summary at the end of this post.
Got more questions or some helpful advice? Please let us know in the comments section.
1. Do You Look Down on Community College Prerequisite Coursework?
What is your take on applicants that take only one required course at a county college?
One or two community college courses is fine. The only time it becomes a concern is if ALL of your science or prereqs come from a community college, or there are multiple community colleges you have attended. - A.T. Still University
How do you view community college classes? Say I took a prerequisite course at a community college, but it was a simple general education class such as sociology?
Community college classes are fine. We know many people do not have the resources to go back and take pre-reqs at four-year schools - Duke University
I took all my science classes at community college. Will that be a problem?
Having all of your science from a community college will be a weakness on your application. If you have some science courses at a 4-year university that will help, but having completed all your science classes at CC will be a negative factor. - A.T. Still University
If I do plan to retake some courses, does it matter if it's at a local college or university? I can take some at the university level but others I can only retake at the college level because of financial hardship.
You can complete coursework at any regionally accredited institution. This can include a community college or online as well. - Butler University
So long as the courses are completed at a regionally accredited institution, they will satisfy. It does not matter to us if they are from a community college or a four-year institution. We are aware of the significant costs for applicants and students alike and we encourage you to complete them in a way that is cost-effective and works for you. - Penn State College of Medicine
I took all of my prerequisites at the community college level. Would you suggest re-taking any at a university or would it be better to put my focus on improving other areas of my application, such as patient care? How much of a negative impact does this hold? My GPA is strong, and I have significant volunteer hours.
In your case, I would not suggest retaking the courses. Yes, focus on your strengths so that you can offset the community college science courses. If you have an opportunity to take an upper-level science course at a 4-year university, you might consider that, but focus on the strong aspects of your application. It's not a one-strike and you are done - the whole process is flexible and holistic. - A.T. Still University
I had a school tell me that because I took my last few courses at a community college, this was held against me and that I was three of their scoring points away from an interview. How do you feel about that?
Upper division prerequisite requirements can be completed at a four-year institution, community college, or online courses from regionally accredited institutions. We do not look down on community college coursework. It will be factored in the same way - Penn State College of Medicine
Does your PA program accept prerequisites from Tri counties community college?
Yes, we will accept prerequisites from Tri C or other community colleges. - Case Western Reserve
Does Attending Community College Hurt Your Chances of Getting into PA School?
2. Do PA School Prerequisite Classes Expire?
I would like to know if the prereq classes taken in undergrad in 2003 would be considered in factoring GPA or should I retake them. I can try to retake some at a university, but because of my financial situation, I can only afford community college courses. Will this be ok? Thanks
Courses you have taken do not expire for us. We will use your coursework from 2003 in our transcript review to determine which prerequisites are fulfilled. - Yale University
I completed my science classes in 2008, should I retake them?
If you've been working in healthcare full-time since graduating we would waive that requirement - Penn State College of Medicine
Do you accept a three-credit Humanities course if it was taken six years ago in 2011?
Yes, we will accept humanities credits that are older than 5 years. Only science credits must be taken within 5 years. - Touro University
My question is whether or not classes taken during undergrad "expire?" I graduated with a B.S in Biology in 2013 but started college in 2006. I was in the Air Force, so my undergrad took a long time to complete. As it stands, I am currently living as an Air Force dependent in Germany with my spouse while they finish their 4-year tour. I will not be applying to PA school for another three years. I was wondering since I will have been out of school for six years when I apply, will this hurt my application? I don't know if the time since my classes were taken, will work against me?
The courses that "time out" are Anatomy and Physiology. That course series must be completed within 5 years of matriculation so you may need to refresh those courses. - Carroll University
I am a medical graduate from India applying for PA program. When you talk about GPA, is it the GPA of the prerequisite courses or the bachelor's degree too? I received my bachelors in 1995 and have completed the prerequisites in the past two years. So which one counts more towards selection process?
The prereqs which must be completed within 10 years of applying count towards the selection process so we wouldn't look at your 1995 coursework at all actually. - Case Western Reserve
I have a biology degree but graduated in 2002, are there any courses that your program wants to be more recent?
All of the prerequisites have to be completed within 10 years of applying to our program. - Case Western Reserve
Do classes have an expiration date? Also, can I repeat some of the undergrad courses at a community college?
College credits do not expire. I only suggest retaking if you did very poorly in a prereq. Some students will take refresher courses or upper-level science to get back into "student mode" but remember, community college credits are not as rigorous as 4-year university credits. - A.T. Still University
I graduated with a BS in 2011, taking some core science classes in 2007. Since graduating, I have been working as a certified medical assistant and now working with CHC on the central coast. Would I need to retake the core classes?
No need to retake the prereqs. Having them completed more than 5 years ago is not ideal, but you have more recent coursework and clinical/volunteering to make up for it. So I suggest not worrying about retaking any courses unless you earned a C or below in one. - A.T. Still University
3. Can I Apply With Coursework in Progress?
I took Anatomy and Physiology (separate and both with their respective labs) over seven years ago. I will be retaking these courses next spring. Can I still apply during the upcoming cycle?
Yes, you can apply with coursework in progress, you would list it as either in progress or planned on the application. - A.T. Still University
Can I take biochemistry after submitting my application? If so, does not having taken this class reflect negatively on my application?
You can have three outstanding prerequisites at the time of application. You must show your plan to complete the courses prior to entering the program. It will not reflect poorly if you have not yet completed biochemistry - Butler University
Genetics is the only prerequisite I have not taken. Could my application still be reviewed considering I have additional classes that offer a more holistic approach to the medical field?
You can apply with one outstanding prerequisite (Genetics), however, if accepted you will need to prove you took the course by December 31st and passed with a B or better. - Yale University
Many programs only allow non-science courses to be "in progress." Should I be worried that my Biochem will still be in progress when I apply? Should I wait to apply?
No more than two prerequisites can be outstanding at the time of application and they need to be done by the fall of the application year. - Case Western Reserve
4. Do My Prerequisite Courses Fulfill the Requirements?
What do you accept for the human anatomy prerequisites? I attended Penn State University, where I took Biology 129, titled Mammalian Anatomy. I also took Biology 497, a human cadaver dissection course, and I used the dissected cadavers to teach my section of the Biology 129 lab. So, the Biology 129 course is called Mammalian Anatomy, but it is primarily human-focused. Will these courses be sufficient for the human anatomy prerequisite? And if so, should I match both of them on the CASPA application?
Sometimes those need approval by our PA Chair on a case by case basis so if you have a question about a particular class I would email the chair and include a complete course description (and syllabus if you have it) so we can run that by the chair to get approval for you. - A.T. Still University
I have a question about some wording on your website concerning your prerequisite coursework. Per your website, the prerequisite biology classes must be "at or above the 200 level." I have completed two combined anatomy and physiology courses with labs that are on par with what is usually required to apply. However, at my school, these were not listed as being at the "200 level". Could you give any more information on this pre-requisite expectation?
We will look at your transcripts and if your courses are listed at the 200 level or higher in a biology related course then the course will count as fulfilling a prerequisite. - Butler University
Is it possible to substitute organic chemistry with biochemistry for the prerequisites?
We are not able to substitute Biochem for Organic Chem - Duke University
For the 2-semester psychology requirement, will neuroscience count? It is listed under the psychology department at my undergraduate university.
Neuroscience offered through your psychology department will be accepted as one of the two psychology prereqs. - Carroll University
I was wondering if students that are applying would be able to designate which courses they would like to use as prerequisites, such as the choice between organic chemistry and biochemistry. Will the course with a higher grade automatically be used?
When you are asked to complete our secondary application, you will identify which courses you believe best satisfy our pre-requisites. We then verify these courses across your entire transcript. So my advice would be to best align your course with our course not necessarily take a course less appropriate just because it received a higher grade. As for OChem vs. Biochem - it absolutely is your choice - we require either - or....not both. - Penn State College of Medicine
Could you please let me know the equivalent courses for biochemistry and organic chemistry or the course numbers?
The program does not endorse any one course or university/college at which to take prerequisite courses. We do accept either undergraduate or graduate level courses for biochem and organic but they must be separate courses and they must be specific to biochem and organic, not overview courses that combine lots of different topics. - Case Western Reserve
What are your thoughts on having endocrinology as an upper-level bio class compared to some of the other upper-level bio courses?
While endocrinology is not a prerequisite for Yale, certainly any upper-level biology courses will only help enhance your application and prepare you for a rigorous curriculum in a PA Program. - Yale University
5. Do You Accept Online Prerequisite Coursework?
I live in a small town with a private university and a community college. I still need to take a couple of prereqs and was thinking of taking them through UNE online courses because the school in my town is so much more expensive than UNE. Would the UNE online courses be accepted as a prereq?
Online courses count as long as they are taken at a regionally accredited institution - Duke University
Can we take prerequisite courses online and attached lab on the campus?
Our requirement is that all prerequisite courses with labs must be taken "on ground." - Case Western Reserve
6. Is There a Minimum GPA for Prerequisite Coursework?
If I have a C in one of my prerequisites, but my overall prerequisite GPA is a B would you suggest I retake that course?
It is difficult to say if you should retake the prerequisite, certainly the higher the better for your prerequisite GPA, so it may be to your benefit. - Yale University
So, your guys' pre-requisite courses do not necessarily expire, but all prereqs must be met with a grade of a B?
The prerequisites do not have a grade minimum, but we calculate an overall prerequisite GPA. If you are admitted to the program and have one outstanding course, you must complete the course by December 31st and earn a grade of B or better. - Yale University
Do you require all prereqs to be completed with a B or higher, or does your cumulative GPA just need to be a 3.0 or higher?
Your cumulative needs to be a 3.0 or higher. - Case Western Reserve
7. Do You Accept Prerequisite Courses Completed at Different Colleges?
I took Anatomy and Physiology 1 at one school and Anatomy and Physiology 2 at another. Will this affect my application?
No this does not impact your application from our standpoint - Penn State College of Medicine
8. Is Lab Required?
I noticed one of the prereqs is physiology with a lab. How important is having this lab requirement? I have taken physiology without a lab and multiple anatomy classes with labs. I am also having trouble finding physiology lab classes to take separately.
Physiology lab is indeed a basic pre-requisite. We are strict about that. - Case Western Reserve
9 How About Repeat Courses?
Do repeated college courses give a bad impression of a student?
It depends on how many and what the trajectory of your studies look like.. Everyone has rough spots but the question is if its a pattern or if its an isolated instance with steady improvement thereafter. - Case Western Reserve
10. Graduate or Undergraduate Courses?
Does your program factor graduate level work differently than undergraduate?
It does not. - Case Western Reserve
11. Dropped Courses?
Do you take into account if you dropped a class then ended up retaking it later on? Will it essentially effect the application in any way?
We do consider if an applicant dropped a class and retook it later. - Case Western Reserve
Highlights and Summary
- Community college classes are fine. We know many people do not have the resources to go back and take pre-reqs at four-year schools - Duke University
- One or two community college courses is fine. The only time it becomes a concern is if ALL of your science or prereqs come from a community college, or there are multiple community colleges you have attended. - A.T. Still University
- All of the prerequisites have to be completed within 10 years of applying to our program. - Case Western Reserve
- You can apply with coursework in progress, you would list it as either in progress or planned on the application. - A.T. Still University
- Our requirement is that all prerequisite courses with labs must be taken "on ground." - Case Western Reserve
- Make sure to check when credits expire. You may (or may not have to retake courses)
- We require that the pre-reqs be taken within ten years of your application. - Case Western Reserve
- The prerequisites do not have a grade minimum, but we calculate an overall prerequisite GPA. If you are admitted to the program and have one outstanding course, you must complete the course by December 31st and earn a grade of B or better. - Yale University
Do you have more questions or a helpful suggestion? Let us know in the comments section below, I always reply.
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I graduated from UCLA in 2020 with a BS in Bio on the pre-med track and am considering applying to PA schools. I am currently working FT, volunteering 2x a week at a clinic (where I have been shadowing the MD and PA), and am planning on completing 3 science pre-reqs (Microbio, Anatomy, and Physio) [weirdly enough, these weren’t pre-reqs for pre-meds]. UCLA offers courses for those who have already graduated, and I was looking at an Anatomy course being offered this Fall. However, both the lecture and the lab are only being offered remotely. Then I considered taking an in-person anatomy class offered at LA City college, a community college. What do you think I should do?
I completed my undergraduate degree in Biology in 2015 and my master’s degree in Physiology in 2018. Since then, I have worked as a medical assistant and clinical manager for the past four years. Will I have to re-take any pre-req courses that have expired, or will my experience and master’s degree help me?
Stephen Pasquini PA-C says
Hi Staci, this depends on the programs to which you are applying as each program has its own rules regarding prerequisite courses and expiration dates. They may offer exceptions based on your work experience so if there is any question whatsoever, I would encourage you to reach out to each program directly. I hope that helps.
Stephen Pasquini PA-C
Hello, I am an international student who is getting her undergrad degree in math in the US and I graduate soon. I have always wanted to study in the medical field but due to some problems couldn’t make that happen. I want to become a PA but I realized that I need to complete the prerequisites before applying to a PA school. I am almost done with my bachelor’s and cannot extend it just to take the prereqs required for PA programs. I was thinking of taking these prereqs during my masters program which I want to do in a science field. Do you think that will be a good idea and is that something that can be done? Can I get a masters degree in a healthcare field during which I take the prereqs and fulfill the shadow hours/clinical rotations that PA programs need and then apply for PA school? I am not sure how this works and my case seems a little bit complicated given that I am a non science major. Do you have any suggestions for me? Thank you!
I am an international student doing my bachelors in India and an US Citizen, i am planning to do my masters in US and the PA Profession really inspired me and i definitely want it be my top priorities while deciding on my long-term jobs. I am doing Btech Biotechnology in India and pre-reqs like Biochemistry, Microbiology, Statistics, Genetics are there in my coursework but others like Human Anatomy and Physiology, Psychology are not there and i am willing to finish them as a part of the mandatory 30-credit coursework in US an international applicant is supposed to take before applying to PA Schools. I have few questions, it would grateful if you could answer them for me,
1. Should all the pre-reqs be taken in a US university or some can be taken outside(like in my case, India)?
2.Is a Bachelor of Technology accepted in PA Schools for International students?
3.How many International Applicants are accepted each year?
Thank you in advance!
Stephen Pasquini PA-C says
1. Should all the pre-reqs be taken in a US university or some can be taken outside(like in my case, India)? I would recommend completing all required prerequisites at a US institution if you can as international credits may or may not transfer.
2.Is a Bachelor of Technology accepted in PA Schools for International students? There is no requirement for your undergraduate major only that you complete the requisite coursework as required by the PA program.
3.How many International Applicants are accepted each year? This depends on the program. You can find a list of PA programs that accept international student on my companion website here: https://www.paschoolfinder.com/cat/international-applicants/
Sadie Madding says
So I was thinking about a biomedical degree for pre-pa school but I know it will be a rigorous degree, however, it will get most of my pre-requisites in. If I majored in something a little less rigorous like nutrition but that degree doesn’t include all the required pre-requisites will I have to be taking extra classes to get my pre-requisites in?
Stephen Pasquini PA-C says
The answer is yes, you will have to complete those prerequisites somehow and if it is not part of your major then you will have to be a bit more creative. This is why scheduling an appointment with an academic advisor at your institution early on is so important. They can help you design a plan that will maximize your time, money and make sure you are able to complete all the required coursework to make yourself a competitive PA school candidate.
Stephen Pasquini PA-C
Madison Eggert says
I am applying to PA school and a lot of schools require statistics. Would PA schools accept take Psych Stats?
Due to this whole COVD-19 thing, I ended up having to take human physiology online (4 credits, including lab- summer A); I would think that would be acceptable, as I really didn’t have much of a choice?
Stephen Pasquini PA-C says
Yes, Pepper, I am sure programs would accept this online course. If you have any doubts you can contact the PA program directly. You can also mention this in your CASPA application.
Julia Lynn Frye says
My university, Ohio State, offers two physiology courses — Physiology 3200 (5 credits) and EEOB 2510 (3 credits). Neither have lab, so I am only applying to those schools that don’t require a physiology lab. Does it matter to PA schools which one of these I take?
Stephen Pasquini PA-C says
Hi Julia, what is the difference between the course offerings per the course handbook?
I have already earned my bachelors degree and am currently in grad school. However, I am applying to PA school and I have never taken statistics. I am currently taking an online stats class that isn’t through an institution but can be transferred to one. Is it possible for me to transfer those credits to my undergraduate institution even if I have already graduated?
Stephen Pasquini PA-C says
HI Vanessa, I would suggest you contacting your undergraduate institution and speaking with the office of the registrar (or whichever department handles this at your institution). They will most definitely be able to help you.
I know prerequisites can expire at some programs… but what about health care experience? I worked full time as a medical assistant for 18 months, but that was 7 years ago. Any idea if those 3,000 hours (1,500-2,000 of which were hands-on care) would still be considered?
Carl James Lacsina says
I attended a four-year university but earned a very low GPA. Could I possibly restart by taking community college courses and have that, if done very well, be applied to PA school applications?
Stephen Pasquini PA-C says
Hi Carl, you wouldn’t technically be “re-starting” as much as you would be going back and retaking courses where you may have scored a lower than desirable grade. This new grade will be averaged with the prior grade. If you ace your classes the second time around this will look very good to the admissions committee. Keep in mind, while most PA programs accept CC coursework not all do. So make sure to do some research here as well.
Will taking science courses over the summer affect my chances of getting into pa school ?
Jessy Hulbert says
Does anyone know if you have to take the course Anatomy & Physiology 1 and 2 or if you can take Human Anatomy and Human Physiology as separate courses? Or does it not matter?
Stephen Pasquini PA-C says
Hi Jessey, It does not matter. Both options would fulfill the required prerequisite.
I’m a graduate student finishing up my Master’s degree in Speech Pathology. I have experience interning at a rehab, am currently interning at a hospital, and plan on applying for CFYs within a hospital or rehab once I graduate in December. I’ve recently decided to pursue a career as a PA, but I honestly have no idea where to start. I plan on completing some pre-requisites either online or through a CC once I begin my CFY. My undergraduate coursework required general bio, statistics, psychology, and A & P of the speech mechanism (no lab). I’m wondering if you could direct me towards any sources that clearly outline what prerequisites I should generally complete before applying to school? I haven’t started looking into specific schools assuming they would all require similar pre-reqs. Also, any advice for someone making this transition would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!
Stephen Pasquini PA-C says
The physician assistant forum (https://www.physicianassistantforum.com/) and the pre-physician assistant group on Reddit (https://www.reddit.com/r/prephysicianassistant/) are wonderful places to ask questions of applicants going through the process.
The PAEA program directory has all the PA schools with their requirements: http://directory.paeaonline.org/
I also created two tools. One is a geo-based tool at http://www.paschoolfinder.com and the other is a sortable table that is here on this site that allows you to narrow down schools using many variables. Unfortunately not prerequisites: https://www.thepalife.com/pa-program-picker/
Most programs will require at least:
One year of chemistry with labs*
One course each of human anatomy and physiology with labs
One course in microbiology with lab
One course in statistics
One course in psychology
Other frequently required or recommended courses:
additional courses in social/behavioral sciences
languages (some schools require coursework in Spanish)
Of course, every school has their own requirements, just to keep you guessing.
So I’m going to give you two action steps:
1. Create a CASPA account today: https://caspa.liaisoncas.com/applicant-ux/#/login
It’s never to early to create an account and it will help organize you right away by giving you an outline of exactly what you will need to accomplish.
2. Check out the PAEA directory and start browsing through PA schools: http://directory.paeaonline.org/
You can use the other resources I used as well, but at least do those two things if you haven’t already.
Stephen Pasquini PA-C
I completed my BS in biochemistry at a university. However I still have to take psychology, stats, and physiology. It is okay that I take these at a community college? Or would it be preferred to take it at a university.
Stephen Pasquini PA-C says
Hi Husna, as you may have read, most schools accept community college credits, including some of the big names like Duke. Although there continue to be some schools that only accept coursework from 4-year institutions. I think it is ridiculous personally but I would recommend you check with the school you plan to apply to just to be on the safe side.