Preparing to Apply to Physician Assistant Programs

Interested in applying to physician assistant degree programs? There are many things to know so that you can prepare to submit the best applications possible to the schools you are interested in. This page will break down what you will likely need to submit as part of your application, and how you can become competitive in every area possible.


Common Physician Assistant Degree Application Materials

When submitting applications to physician assistant (PA) programs, many schools will ask for the following. Continue to read this article to learn more about things you might consider when preparing for each of these requirements:

  • GRE Scores
  • GPA
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Healthcare Experience
  • Supplemental Applications
  • Prerequisite Coursework


Last Updated: 9/24/20

Common Physician Assistant Degree Program GRE Requirements to Consider

Over half of accredited physician assistant programs require students to submit GRE scores, but there are still many schools that do not require scores at all. If you take the GRE, make sure to check with the schools you apply to to see what their minimum score requirements are, if any. 

If your goal is to apply to an accredited physician assistant program that requires that you submit your GRE scores, then you might want to consider researching helpful resources for studying for the GRE exam. There are many strategies you can use and resources you can take advantage of to best prepare for the exam and maximize your score.

If you do not feel that you have the time to commit to study for the GRE or just do not wish to take it for whatever reason, there are PA programs available that do not require you to take this test in order to apply. You can check out which ones do not have this requirement on our list of PA schools that do not require the GRE.


Meeting Physician Assistant Program GPA Requirements

As with most graduate programs, undergraduate GPA is often a factor used to determine who gets into a program and who doesn’t. It’s common to find physician assistant programs have some form of GPA requirement that you must meet in order to be considered. Typically, this requirement is a cumulative GPA for undergraduate coursework or perhaps one that includes graduate coursework if you have completed such work already. Other common GPAs that PA schools look at are a science specific GPA or a GPA for any prerequisite coursework requirements that the school has. Some programs will have several GPA requirements based on several of these metrics.

The Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) has a great directory you can use to look up any and all GPA requirements that the schools you are interested in have. To make it easier to find schools that are in your GPA range, we have created a resource that looks at overall PA school GPA requirements side by side for all schools (unless the school only requires a science or prerequisite GPA, in which case we have noted what the broadest requirement is). Use this as a preliminary means of narrowing your school search, but no matter what, always consult the schools themselves to make sure you are meeting every GPA requirement in case they have several.

One can presume that the best way to become competitive in this area is of course to study hard and get good grades. Meeting a minimum GPA requirement does not guarantee you a spot in a PA program, the average GPA accepted at a program may be significantly higher than that minimum requirement. The higher your GPA, the safer you are. Additionally, pay attention to your science grades as science and prerequisite GPA minimums are used at many schools. Much of the prerequisite coursework you will need to complete is typically in the sciences.

Already done with undergraduate school and concerned about how competitive your GPA is? There are several schools on our list of GPA requirements that have no minimum GPA requirement or a lower requirement. 

You can learn more about GPA requirements by school with our list of GPA minimum requirements by program.


Letters of Recommendation for Physician Assistant School

Another requirement for a wide arrange of physician assistant school applications, according to PAEA, is letters of recommendation. Typically three letters are required, though some schools may require more or fewer letters. It is common for schools to require that certain types of people write these recommendation letters – common requirements include physician assistants and medical doctors (MDs), as well as academic advisors, employers, and other types of references. Some schools will specifically tell you that family recommendations are not allowed. So, make sure that there are people that you know, particularly PAs and MDs, that will want to write you a stellar recommendation! Connections can be forged in the classroom, during volunteer work, and at the hospital that can become valuable references you can call on in the future.


Healthcare Experience Requirements for Physician Assistant Programs

Some PA schools will require students to have some healthcare experience in order to apply to PA school, according to PAEA. This can often mean several hundred hours or more of paid direct patient care experience, in roles such as an emergency medical technician (EMT), licensed practicing nurse (LPN), and more. Check with the schools you are applying to to see what these requirements are.

Even if you are still in undergraduate school and don’t know what PA schools you want to apply to yet, it doesn’t hurt to get healthcare experience under your belt. Not only could you possibly need it to get into PA school, it can also help you gain a better understanding of whether a career as a physician assistant is right for you, and if there’s an area you wish to specialize in. Also, relevant experience always looks good on an application, whether it is required or not.


Prerequisite Coursework for PA Programs

It is common that physician assistant programs will require some prerequisite coursework that you must complete during undergraduate education or at some point before you start applying to PA school. Many potential requirements are in the area of the sciences, including:

  • Anatomy
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Nutrition
  • Pharmacology
  • Physics
  • Physiology


Additionally, there may be more specific content requirements for science classes in these areas, as well as the level of the class and whether or not lab work was completed.

Some programs may require non-science prerequisite coursework as well, in areas that include:

  • CPR
  • English
  • History
  • Math (Various subjects)
  • Medical Terminology
  • Social Sciences (Ethics, Government, Humanities, Sociology, Psychology)
  • Spanish


If your goal is to apply to a physician assistant program that requires that you take science or non-science prerequisite classes, you might want to put your best foot forward and try your hardest to pass all of your prerequisite classes with flying colors. Make sure you have a strong science background as well as completed coursework in a variety of other areas to make yourself as versatile an applicant as possible.

Schools may have additional application requirements beyond the ones listed on this page, such as the CASPer test.


Does Your Physician Assistant Program Meet State Licensure Requirements?

Ultimately, you are going to physician assistant school so that you can meet the requirements to become licensed as a physician assistant in your state. Some states may have certain specifications beyond whether a program is accredited that your program must meet. Always check with your state licensing board to make sure the school you enroll in meets any state requirements/properly prepares you for licensure in your state.