Physician Assistant Program FAQs

Can I apply in CASPA before having completed all necessary pre-requisites?

>>Yes. Applicants can submit their CASPA and secondary applications with courses in progress or planned. This will not impede the admissions review process. Our requirement is that all pre-requisite courses and hours be completed by the time of matriculation.

We offer conditional admission in the event that a course(s) or hours are outstanding at the time a candidate interviews with the program. 

Do you accept AP/CLEP credit to satisfy a pre-requisite?

AP Credit that was accepted as credit from your undergraduate institution can satisfy a number of our pre-requisites including General Biology, General Chemistry, Psychology, Statistics, and English Composition courses.

CLEP credit can also be utilized to satisfy course pre-requisites. 

How many semester hours/trimester hours are required to satisfy a pre-requisite?

>>Each pre-requisite can be satisfied by one full semester, typically 3-4 semester hours. For applicants on a trimester schedule, 5-6 quarter hours at minimum satisfy a pre-requisite.
Keep in mind that requirements to graduate with a bachelor's degree versus Penn State's requirements for admission will undoubtedly vary. For instance, completion of General Chemistry I can satisfy our pre-
requisite but often times General Chemistry I & II are required to enroll in Organic Chemistry I at most institutions.

Do you accept online courses? 

>>Yes. To satisfy a pre-requisite ALL courses must be completed from a regionally accredited institution. Online courses, including lab component, that are offered through a regionally accredited institution are acceptable.

Do you have a currency on course completion? Are there any exceptions to this?

>>Three pre-requisites have a five (5) year currency. They include:

  • Anatomy (or A&P I)
  • Physiology (or A&P II)
  • Microbiology

This will be waived for any applicant who has been working full time and continuously in the healthcare field since completing the coursework.

What other courses can satisfy two required semesters of English Composition?

>>Any course in which an institution deems a course as having satisfied a 'writing intensive' will suffice. The course can be in any major, and does not need to be an English-major based course. Additionally, if completion of a bachelor's degree incorporates writing across the curriculum, please share this information with the admissions committee. 

Do you require a lab component?

>>We do not require a lab but if you have yet to enroll in a science course, Penn State strongly encourages an applicant to complete the lab as part of the course.

CASPA, the Secondary Application & Deadlines

Pre-Matriculation Healthcare Hours

Standardized Exams


CASPA, the Secondary Application & Deadlines

What is CASPA?

>>Penn State is participates in the Central Application System for Physician Assistant Programs (CASPA). All applicants must complete a CASPA application as the first step in their application to Penn State.
Click here to learn more about CASPA.

When will I receive the Penn State Secondary Application?

All verified-CASPA applicants will receive the Penn State secondary application via email invitation. There is no application fee to submit the secondary application.

Pre-Matriculation Healthcare Hours

By when must an applicant satisfy the 500 healthcare hours?
>>It is acceptable to have hours in progress or planned during the application cycle. Our policy is that all hours must be completed by the time an applicant would matriculate into our program (May program start date).

How do I update the admissions committee on hours accrued after submission of the CASPA application?

>>Utilize the 'Documents' tab within the CASPA-Penn State Program Materials page. Applicants can upload up to 3 additional documents for the admissions committee to review.

Must an applicant shadow a PA?

>>No, the 500 hours can be completed many ways and we do not specify any amount be strictly shadowing. Each applicant can determine their own way to best satisfy this requirement. 

What types of hours can satisfy the 500 hour minimum?

>>Penn State is relatively flexible in accepting a wide variety of hours to help satisfy the 500 requirement; paid, volunteer, or observing with preference towards building direct patient hours, though not mandatory. 

Hours as a personal trainer or lifeguard will not satisfy our requirement.
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Standardized Exams

Do you require official GRE's for admission to Penn State?


Do you accept any standardized exam in lieu of GREs? 

>>Yes, Penn State will accept the following:

  • MCAT total score of 29 or higher (old version); 505 (new version)

  • PCAT total score 75th percentile rank or higher

  • DAT total score of 18 or higher

What if ETS no longer has record of my score given their 5-year window? Will you accept a student copy?

>>Penn State's PA Program will accept a student copy of your GRE results. You must upload this document into the CASPA-Penn State Program Materials-Document tab. If you no longer have a student copy, retaking the GRE's would be required.

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How many credits are offered at the Penn State Physician Assistant Program?
What are the graduation requirements?
Where can I view the program's course descriptions?


How many credits are offered at the Penn State Physician Assistant Program?
>>A total of 101 credits are offered by the program; 55 credits during pre-clinical year and 46 credits during clinical year.

Year and Semester Total Credits
Year 1; Semester 1; Summer 18 credits
Year 1; Semester 2; Fall 20 credits
Year 1: Semester 3: Spring 17 credits
Year 1: Sub-total 55 credits
Year 2; Semester 4; Summer 15 credits
Year 2: Semester 5: Fall 15 credits
Year 2: Semester 6: Spring 16 credits
Year 2: Sub-total 46 credits
  101 credits

All courses in the curriculum are graded on a letter grade basis with the exception of the Advanced Cardiac Life Support Course,  the Health Care Ethics Course, and the Evidence-Based Medicine Course in the pre-clinical curriculum.

During the clinical training year, each rotation lasts 5 weeks and offers five credits. The summative experience offers one credit of experience during the final semester (semester 6).


What are the graduation requirements for the Penn State Physician Assistant Program?

>>Click here to view the program's graduation requirements.


Where can I view the program's course descriptions?

>>Click here to view the program's course descriptions.


Does the program favor certain individuals or groups for admission?

>>One of the goals for the Penn State PA program is to attract and maintain a diverse class which will mirror the communities in which these health care providers will work. As part of our holistic review process, we assign screening points for certain attributes that we would like our students to possess, such as academic preparedness, having a journey in their life and a compelling story to tell about their inspiration to become physician assistants, having perspective from an underserved community by either living in such a community or working with underserved populations, being a military veteran, and having support for this career from others who know you well, as evidenced by your letters of reference.  Our holistic review allows us to personally get to know the applicant and what this person can bring to the program and our profession and this is so much more than the numbers that students submit as part of their CASPA application.

Consistent with Penn State University and the Penn State College of Medicine, the PA program will not discriminate against individuals on the basis of race, sex, age, national or ethnic origin, handicap, religion, political affiliation, or sexual identity or preference.

Does the program allow for advanced placement?

>>No, will not grant advanced placement or credit for experiential learning for any course required in the PA program.

All courses in the curriculum are required for completion of the program. Since all of the clinical rotations are part of the course offerings, all of the clinical rotations must be successfully completed as a condition of program completion.

What is the work policy?

>>First and foremost, we respect our students as adults who are able to make their own decisions.  We do not have a work prohibition policy because we feel that you are best able to make your own decision about whether you need to work.  We realize the sacrifice that you are about to make to attend a Physician Assistant Program and respect your ability to prioritize your school and financial obligations.  We know that you are aware of the enormous commitment that it takes in becoming a Physician Assistant, and we trust you to make responsible decisions about your school performance.

Is there a mandatory attendance policy?

>>No, we do not have a mandatory class attendance policy. As a rule, we provide notes, learning outcomes, and reading lists for all of the lectures in the curriculum on our academic management system known as ANGEL.  It is our expectation that the majority of students will attend each and every class for the actual presentation of these materials, but some students are self-directed learners and may instead want to take this information in an independent manner. We perform Team-Based Learning as part of the curriculum and it is essential to attend these seminars since groups function best when all members are present. Syllabi for individual courses detail attendance requirements for each of the classes in the pre-clinical phase.

What are the technical standards?

>>View our Technical Standards