Are you considering pursuing a career as a physician assistant?

One of the biggest questions prospective students have is just how difficult it is to get into PA school.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: PA school admissions are highly competitive, and acceptance rates vary widely depending on the program.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what you can expect when applying to PA school, including prerequisites, the application process, and tips for increasing your chances of acceptance.

Prerequisites for PA School

Physician Assistant (PA) school is highly competitive, with acceptance rates ranging from 5% to 15%, depending on the program. To increase your chances of getting into PA school, you need to meet certain prerequisites. In this guide, we will discuss the education requirements, healthcare experience, and other requirements you need to fulfill to apply to PA school.

Education Requirements

The first step to becoming a PA is to earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. While a degree in a healthcare-related field such as biology or nursing is preferred, it is not mandatory. However, you will need to complete certain prerequisite courses, including:

  • General Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Human Anatomy and Physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Statistics

It is important to maintain a high GPA in these courses, as well as in your overall academic record. Most PA programs require a minimum GPA of 3.0, but the average accepted applicant has a GPA of 3.5 or higher.

Healthcare Experience

In addition to the education requirements, you will need to gain healthcare experience to be a competitive applicant. There are several ways to gain this experience, including:

  • Working as a medical assistant
  • Volunteering at a hospital or clinic
  • Shadowing a PA or other healthcare provider
  • Working as an EMT or paramedic
  • Working as a nurse or other healthcare professional

Most PA programs require a minimum of 1,000 hours of healthcare experience, but the average accepted applicant has over 3,000 hours of experience. This experience is important because it shows that you have a good understanding of the healthcare system and have developed the skills needed to succeed in a healthcare-related field.

Other Requirements

In addition to the education and healthcare experience requirements, there are several other requirements you need to fulfill to apply to PA school. These requirements may vary depending on the program, but they typically include:

  • Letters of recommendation from healthcare professionals
  • A personal statement explaining why you want to become a PA
  • A minimum score on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
  • An interview with the PA program

It is important to research the specific requirements for each PA program you are interested in applying to. You can find this information on the program’s website or by contacting the admissions office. Meeting these requirements will increase your chances of getting into PA school and starting your career as a healthcare provider.

Applying to PA School

If you are considering applying to PA school, it is important to understand the application process and requirements. Here is a comprehensive guide to help you navigate the process.

CASPA Application

The Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) is the primary application service used by most PA programs. The application opens in late April and closes in March of the following year for the upcoming class. The application fee is $179 for the first program and $55 for each additional program.

The CASPA application requires various components, including:

  • Basic information
  • Educational history
  • Transcripts from all colleges and universities attended
  • GRE scores (if required by the program)
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement

It is important to carefully review the program’s specific requirements for the CASPA application and ensure that all materials are submitted by the deadline.

Supplemental Applications

After submitting the CASPA application, some programs require a supplemental application. This application is specific to the program and typically requires additional essays, information, and fees. The supplemental application deadline is often later than the CASPA deadline, but it is important to submit the application as soon as possible to remain competitive.

It is essential to thoroughly research each program’s requirements and deadlines for the supplemental application to avoid missing any important information.


After reviewing applications, programs invite selected candidates for an interview. The interview process varies by program but typically involves a group interview or one-on-one interviews with faculty and staff members.

Interviews are an opportunity to showcase your personality, communication skills, and passion for the PA profession. It is essential to prepare thoroughly for the interview by researching the program, practicing potential interview questions, and dressing professionally.

After the interview, it is important to send a follow-up thank-you note to the program to express your appreciation for the opportunity.

Increasing Your Chances of Acceptance

Getting into PA school can be a challenging process, but there are some steps you can take to increase your chances of acceptance. Here are some ways to improve your application:

Volunteering and Shadowing

Volunteering and shadowing are important for getting hands-on experience in the healthcare field. It not only gives you an idea of the day-to-day life of a physician assistant, but also shows your dedication to the profession. Look for opportunities to shadow PAs in different specialties to gain a well-rounded understanding of the field. Volunteering at clinics, hospitals, or other healthcare-related organizations can also demonstrate your commitment to serving others.


Networking is an important aspect of any career, and it can be especially helpful in the healthcare field. Attend events and conferences where you can meet and talk to practicing PAs, as well as admissions representatives from PA programs. Joining professional organizations, such as the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), can also provide opportunities to connect with others in the field.

Retaking Courses and GPA Improvement

If your GPA is not as strong as you would like it to be, consider retaking courses to improve your grades. This shows admissions committees that you are willing to put in the effort to succeed. Some schools may also offer post-baccalaureate programs to help improve your GPA and prepare you for the rigors of PA school.

Test Preparation

The GRE is often a requirement for PA school, so it’s important to prepare for this exam. There are many study resources available, such as prep courses, study guides, and practice exams. Take advantage of these resources to improve your scores and demonstrate your ability to succeed academically.

Volunteering and Shadowing Networking Retaking Courses and GPA Improvement Test Preparation
  • Hands-on experience
  • Demonstrate dedication
  • Well-rounded understanding of the field
  • Meet practicing PAs
  • Connect with admissions representatives
  • Join professional organizations
  • Improve grades
  • Show willingness to succeed
  • Post-baccalaureate programs available
  • Improve scores
  • Demonstrate academic ability
  • GRE is often a requirement

PA School Acceptance Rates

One of the most common questions among aspiring physician assistants is, “How hard is it to get into PA school?” The answer is not straightforward, as acceptance rates vary widely among programs. However, understanding the factors that affect acceptance rates and reviewing examples of acceptance rates by program can give you a better idea of your chances of getting accepted.

Factors Affecting Acceptance Rates

Several factors can affect the acceptance rate of a PA program. These include the number of applicants, the number of available seats, and the competitiveness of the program. Programs with higher rankings or reputations may also have lower acceptance rates, as they attract a larger pool of qualified applicants.

Other factors that may impact acceptance rates include the program’s location and mission. Programs in areas with high demand for healthcare providers may receive a larger number of applications, while programs with a focus on serving underserved communities may have a more competitive applicant pool.

Examples of Acceptance Rates by Program

According to the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA), the average acceptance rate for PA programs in 2020 was 20.9%. However, acceptance rates can vary widely among individual programs. Here are a few examples:

Program Acceptance Rate
Yale University 3.4%
University of Utah 5.7%
Emory University 7.4%
University of Nebraska 29.3%

It’s important to note that acceptance rates can change from year to year and may also vary based on the applicant pool. Additionally, acceptance rates alone do not necessarily reflect the quality of a program or your chances of success as a PA student.

PA School vs. Medical School Admissions

Differences in Admissions Requirements

When it comes to the admissions requirements for PA school versus medical school, there are some key differences. While both programs require a bachelor’s degree, medical school typically requires a higher GPA and MCAT scores. PA school, on the other hand, may place more emphasis on healthcare experience and patient care hours.

Additionally, medical school is a longer and more intensive program, often taking 4 years to complete, while PA school can typically be completed in 2-3 years.

Pros and Cons of Each Path

There are pros and cons to both paths of becoming a healthcare provider. Medical school provides a more in-depth education and training in a specific field of medicine, allowing for the opportunity to become a specialist. However, it also requires a greater time commitment and financial investment.

PA school, on the other hand, provides a more versatile education and allows for the opportunity to work in various medical specialties. It also typically has a lower cost and shorter time commitment, making it a more accessible option for some students.

Ultimately, the decision between PA school and medical school comes down to personal preference and career goals. It’s important to carefully consider the admissions requirements and program structure of each option before making a decision.

For more information on PA and medical school admissions, visit the websites of the American Academy of Physician Assistants ( and the Association of American Medical Colleges (


While getting into PA school is undoubtedly a challenge, it’s important to remember that it’s not impossible.

By carefully researching programs, gaining healthcare experience, and taking steps to improve your application, you can increase your chances of acceptance.

Remember, the rewards of a career as a physician assistant are well worth the effort and dedication required to get there.

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