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Physician Assistant (P.A.)

Physician Assistant

Physician assistants (PAs) provide healthcare services under the supervision of physicians. PAs should not be confused with medical assistants who perform routine clinical and clerical tasks. PAs are formally trained to provide diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive healthcare services as delegated by a physician.

As members of the healthcare team, Physician Assistants have the ability to take medical histories, examine and treat patients, order and interpret laboratory tests and X-rays, make diagnoses, and prescribe medications. They also treat minor injuries by suturing, splinting, and casting. PAs record progress notes, instruct and counsel patients, and order or carry out therapy.

Becoming a PA is one of those medical professions that is continuing to become more competitive due to popular demand. This page is intended to provide pre-PA's with the necessary information to begin, continue, and excel in their preparation for PA school and their requirements.


DISCLAIMER: The Health Professions Advising Center is NOT the CSUSB Physician's Assistant Program. This page serves as a resource for students. 

Physician Assistant Prerequisites

NOTE: specific prerequisite courses can vary by school--always check the website of each physician assistant school you apply to for specific requirements. Please review the CSUSB Catalog as a guide to completing the CSUSB prerequisites.

Required Common Prerequisites
Prerequisites CSUSB Course


A semester of Microbiology must include a lab.

A year of Anatomy & Physiology must include a lab. Courses can be separated into one semester of anatomy, one semester of physiology, or taken as a year-long series.

Some programs also require Genetics (BIOL 3300).


BIOL 2200 or BIO 3200

BIOL 2230 and BIO 2240 OR

BIOL 4630 and BIO 4640


One year or two semesters of General Chemistry with lab

Some programs also require students to take additional chemistry courses covering Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry.


CHEM 2100, 2100L & CHEM 2200,  2200L

CHEM 2400, 2400L or CHEM 3400 and CHEM 4100, 4100L


A semester of Statistics that contains descriptive and inferential statistical topics; and/or


A semester of college Algebra or Calculus.


Math 1201, KINE 3700, HSCI 2203, HSCI 3205, PSYC 2210 

MATH 1301, MATH 2210, or Math 2220

Recommended Coursework

Medical Terminology (KINE 2200)

Spanish (SPAN 1111 and SPAN 1112)

Sociology or Cultural Anthropology (SOC 1000, ANTH 1002)

General Psychology (PSYC 1100)

Learn About the Application Process: What is CASPA?

CASPA is a service for the Principle Application Service for Physician Assistants. Most PA programs use this service to receive applications as it simplifies the process by allowing candidates to submit to multiple programs with one application.

Review the CASPA instruction manual for tips and guides on how to: start your application, send transcripts, and successfully submit your application.

Class Statistics, GPA, Gender, Race/Ethnicity 

The latest PAEA data demonstrates that the overall average GPA for matriculants is 3.6, the average science GPA is 3.5, the average non-science GPA is 3.6, and the CASPA biology, chemistry, and physics (BCP) GPA is 3.5. Check the GPA expectations of your programs of choice before you apply, and keep track of your GPA in each category as you prepare for your applications.

PA applicants are expected to demonstrate versatility, community engagement, and altruism by participating in a variety of extracurricular activities. As a PA candidate, you should aim to have at least 2000 hours of hands-on patient experience at the time of application. 

Note: some physician assistant programs require these hours to be paid and will not accept volunteer work towards the required 2000 hours. Volunteer experience is highly recommended, though, in order to enhance your application.

For the last several years, physician assistant programs in Southern California have averaged 3500-4000+ hours.  

Examples of hands-on patient care experience (PCE)

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA): Becoming a CNA is a great option for undergraduate students. Not only do you collect the necessary clinical hours, but you also earn extra cash. CNA certification programs are available in most colleges, so check your own school and local community colleges to find the right program for you. Each program has its own schedule and length.

Emergency Medical Technician (EMT): Becoming an EMT is also possible during your undergraduate studies, as these programs do not require an undergraduate degree to qualify. First, you will need to enroll in an EMT program at a local college. Upon completion, you will need to pass a certification exam that allows you to work as an EMT. 

Personal Care Aides: Whether you work/volunteer at a long-term care home or a hospital, becoming a caretaker exposes you to patient-centric healthcare and provides you with insights into the challenges that such institutions face. For example, becoming a caretaker for a patient with chronic illness can teach you about the staggering cost of their medications, medical procedures, and nutrition. Such knowledge inspires empathy and compassion – qualities highly valued by all PA programs. 

Hospice Volunteer: working in a hospice is not for the faint of heart. A patient’s demise is the most difficult time for the physician, not to mention the patient’s family and loved ones. As a hospice volunteer, you will interact with patients, their families, and loved ones and learn how to communicate with them in the most vulnerable and painful times of their lives.

Other roles include:

Athletic Trainer, Clinical Care Exenter (CCE), COPE or other Health Scholar, Dental Assistant, Dietitian, Emergency Department Technician, License Vocational Nurse, Medical Assistant, Medical Scribe, Military Medic, Non-US physician, Ophthalmic Assistant, Physical Therapy Aide, Radiology Tech and/or Respiratory Tech.


For more information on Patient Care Hours and how to become a more competitive applicant, please visit: Admission Helpers - Direct Patient Care Experience for PA School Admission

Articulation Agreements

CSUSB's Master of Science in Physician Assistant Program 

The prerequisite courses above are a general list of pre-pa courses. For the complete list of CSUSB course options for the upcoming CSUSB Master of Science in Physician Assistant (MSPA) program, review the CSUSB-MSPA Articulation Agreement. For more information on admissions requirements, prerequisites, and curriculum,  be sure to frequently check the department's website.