Admission Requirements and Procedures
Application to the Physician Assistant Program requires completion of a bachelor's degree (in any discipline) from a regionally accredited four-year institution and completion of academic prerequisite requirements.
Admission to the program is for the fall semester only. Admission is granted by the physician assistant selections committee after careful review of all eligible applications. Selections are made on the basis of a formal interview (for competitive applicants) and consideration of a variety of factors, which include: academic record, type and amount and type of clinical experience, multicultural sensitivity, community service experience and understanding knowledge of the profession.
Applicants are required to submit an application through the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) as well as a USC Supplemental Application by November 1 of each year. Admissions decisions are made on a rolling basis. Further details regarding admission procedures including those for international student applicants are provided online at usc.edu/pa. The program will not waive any aspect of the application or deadline.
Transfer Students or Advanced Placement
The Physician Assistant Program does not accept transfer students, nor do we allow advanced placement based on prior education or clinical experience. Each applicant who is admitted is required to complete the full Master of Physician Assistant Practice curriculum in residence at USC. No waivers or substitutions are permitted.
Students receive information regarding registration in the summer prior to enrollment.
Information sessions are available for prospective students who would like to receive more information regarding the program. Applicants are encouraged to view one of the program's information videos online where PA faculty and staff describe the program, the application process and answer commonly asked questions. Information sessions may be found via links at usc.edu/pa or call (626) 457-4240 to learn more.
A bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution and completion of all prerequisite course work are required for admission to the Physician Assistant Program.
Biology (Courses must be taken for Biological Based Science Majors)
General Biology or Human Biology*: One year sequential course work (equivalent to two semesters or three quarters**)
*If your institution does not offer General Biology or Human Biology, then you must provide proof for the biology series of introductory biology for biological based science majors (i.e. Zoology, Cell Biology, Botany).
**Applicants from an institution on the quarter system: If your institution does not offer three (3) quarters of General Biology or Human Biology, you may elect to take two (2) quarters of General Biology and one (1) quarter of one of the following – Genetics, Molecular Biology, Immunology or Cell Biology.
- OR -
One (1) semester/quarter of General Biology or Human Biology and;
One (1) semester or two (2) quarters of an additional Biology course(s) from the list below:
- Cell Biology
- Molecular Biology
Chemistry (Courses must be taken for Biological Based Science Majors)
General Chemistry with lab: One year sequential course work (equivalent to 2 semesters or 3 quarters*)
*Applicants from an institution on the quarter system: If your institution does not offer three (3) quarters of General Chemistry (Inorganic) with lab, you may elect to take two (2) quarters of General Chemistry with lab and one (1) quarter of Biochemistry with lab or one (1) quarter of Organic Chemistry with lab.
- OR -
One (1) semester/quarter of General Chemistry with lab and;
One (1) semester or two (2) quarters of an additional Chemistry course(s) in the following:
- Organic Chemistry w/lab
- Biochemistry w/lab
- Quantitative Analysis w/lab
- Analytical Chemistry w/lab
- Inorganic Chemistry w/lab
Three semester units or 4 quarter units of each of the following: human anatomy with lab* and human physiology*
*Human anatomy and physiology may be completed by taking a two-semester sequential course of human anatomy and physiology I and II or a quarter system equivalent sequential course.
Three (3) semester units or four (4) quarter units of one of the following.
May be in the following:
- Microbiology with lab
- General Microbiology w/lab
- Introductory Microbiology w/lab
- Medical Microbiology w/lab
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.
Medical terminology is strongly recommended.
All science prerequisites should be completed within 10 years of application to the program. 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 seven 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. In either case, all course work completed and degrees conferred must be from institutions of higher education accredited by an accrediting agency recognized by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. Requests for this 10-year exemption should be directed to the chair of Admissions.
3 semester units or 4 quarter units of each of the following:
- Statistics (preferably statistics for psychology, sociology or biology. Introduction to Statistics offered by a math department is acceptable.)
- Introduction/General Psychology
2 semesters or 3 quarters of beginning Spanish language (must be college level credit earned either through course work or by placement examination. There are no language substitutions or waivers.)
International applicants must also have completed two semesters or three quarters of English composition (AP course work is acceptable).
Note: Advanced Placement (AP) credit for science prerequisites will not be accepted. If an applicant has received one semester of AP credit (or equivalent) for one or more of the science prerequisites, the applicant may elect to complete the specific science prerequisite in one of two ways: 1) take the specific course work as outlined above (i.e., a complete two-semester or three-quarter course with lab), or 2) complete a minimum of six-semester (nine-quarter) units of upper-division course work for majors in that specific discipline. For example, if you received AP credit for one semester of general biology, you may satisfy our biology prerequisite in one of two ways: 1) complete a one-year sequential course for biology majors in general biology with laboratory, or 2) complete a minimum of six-semester (nine-quarter) units of upper-division course work for biology majors (e.g., cell, biology, genetics, histology, mammalian physiology, etc). Upper-division courses for non-majors will not be accepted for this purpose.
Students who intend to apply to the Physician Assistant Program should contact the admission office for evaluation of previous baccalaureate and/or post-baccalaureate course work.
Applicants are required to take either the GRE or MCAT examination. The examination must be taken within five years of the application deadline of November 1. Official scores of the general and analytical sections of the GRE must be submitted to USC by using the USC Keck School of Medicine CASPA code 1416. Please place the code into the CASPA application. Applicants with MCAT scores must provide their AAMC verification code to the USC PA Program. GRE or MCAT scores must be submitted by November 1. The PA Program expects that all applicants earn a combined quantitative and verbal GRE score of no less 295.
Clinical Experience Prerequisite
Hands-on paid patient care clinical experience is preferred. Successful applicants often have 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, physical therapy aide, radiological technician, respiratory therapist, chiropractor or registered nurse. Other health care experience is equally acceptable as long as the experience is "hands-on" in nature. It is important that PA applicants are familiar with medical care environments and the role of a physician assistant, and have experience working with patients. Volunteer clinical experience is also considered in the application process and should be entered into the CASPA application, but the applicant is encouraged to describe his or her hands-on experience whether it is paid or volunteer.
Physician Assistant Shadowing Experience
Shadowing PAs is preferred in the admissions application process. Shadowing is defined by the selections committee as observing 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 one to two shadowing experiences.
Community Service Prerequisite
A demonstration of community service dedication is expected of all applicants. Service that benefits underserved or disadvantaged groups is highly describe as the program has a commitment to training its students as primary care providers with these populations. Examples include: Habitat for Humanity, Boys & Girls Club, Big Brother / Big Sister, soup kitchens, homeless shelters.
The completion of the 33-month professional curriculum is required to earn the Master of Physician Assistant Practice degree. Students do not have choices of courses to take nor are they permitted to drop any course or courses during the semester. Progress is permitted only when the prior semester is successfully completed. Students should view the curriculum outlined here as advisory only and subject to modification.
A summative evaluation is conducted on each student during the sixth and final semester of the program to verify that each student is prepared to enter clinical practice.
Health Requirements and Technical Standards
All accepted candidates are required to meet the PA program's technical standards (physical and psychological competencies of performance) prior to entering the program and throughout training. Upon acceptance, students will be required to submit and maintain evidence of current health status and immunizations. Students are also required to maintain university-approved health care insurance coverage while enrolled in the program. Specific details outlining these technical standards are located at usc.edu/pa.
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.
All USC Physician Assistant students are required to pass a background check prior to admission to the Master of Physician Assistant Practice (MPAP) Program.
All students in the Master of Physician Assistant Practice degree program must meet course and grade point average requirements. All students must complete each semester with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or greater. Failure to achieve a 3.0 cumulative grade point average will result in automatic academic probation and a subsequent semester below a 3.0 cumulative grade point average will result in academic dismissal. The degree will not be conferred until the student has successfully completed all degree requirements. Students are subject to the degree requirements in the catalogue current for the semester of their admission into the program.
Physician assistant students are enrolled in a standard curriculum during their 33 months in the program. The following courses must be successfully completed in order to earn the Master of Physician Assistant Practice degree. Only physician assistant students may enroll in these courses. Departmental clearance is required to enroll.