Last Updated on August 28, 2023
Program Admission Requirements
The Physician Assistant (PA) program is administered by the Keck School of Medicine of USC. The minimum standard for admission into the program is a United States bachelor’s degree (in any discipline), or its equivalent from a regionally accredited institution, and completion of all program prerequisite coursework. Applicants are expected to have a minimum cumulative undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 (on a scale in which A = 4.0). It is expected that all science prerequisites be completed by the end of the fall semester, in the year prior to matriculation, with a minimum grade point average of 2.75. All prerequisite courses must be completed for a letter grade with at least a grade of C (2.0) earned.
Starting in 2022, Applicants are expected to have a minimum Science GPA of 3.0.
All non-science prerequisite courses must be completed by the spring semester prior to matriculation, but no more than two non-science prerequisite courses may be in progress in the spring semester or quarter following the November 1 application deadline. Applicants are strongly encouraged to review the course equivalency listing to assure their coursework meets the program prerequisite course requirements. Applicants are also strongly encouraged to attend an informational session, which occurs periodically.
Only applicants who submit complete applications by November 1, and complete all PA program prerequisite coursework as previously described and bachelor’s degree requirements by June 30 of the year of enrollment, will be considered for entry. It is strongly recommended that applicants complete and submit both the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) application and the supplemental application (including all supporting documents) by September 1, as the program conducts rolling admissions. Additionally, it is recommended that applicants keep copies of all materials submitted to the program. Students are admitted for fall entry only.
Please Note: There is no advanced standing offered on entry to, or during enrollment in, the program.
One (1) year sequential coursework for biological-based science majors in each of the following:
Option 1: General Biology or Human Biology1:
– OR –
Option 2: 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||Genetics|
Option 1: General Chemistry with lab: One (1) year sequential coursework2
– OR –
Option 2: One (1) semester/quarter of General Chemistry or Human Chemistry and one (1) semester or two (2) quarters of an additional Chemistry course(s) with a lab from the list below:
|Organic Chemistry||Quantitative Analysis||Inorganic Chemistry|
Three (3) semester units or four (4) quarter units of each of the following:
Microbiology with lab3
May be in the following:
|General Microbiology||Medical Microbiology|
Human Anatomy with lab4
A minimum of one (1) semester/quarter unit at a regionally accredited institution or submit a medical terminology certificate of completion from a regionally accredited institution or vocational program:
Medical Terminology5 (starting for 2022 application cycle)
Three (3) semester units of four (4) quarter units for each of the following:
One (1) year for each of the following:
Beginning Spanish language (Must be college-level credit earned either through coursework or by placement examination. There are no language substitutions.)
*International applicants only
1 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.
2 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. Applicants from an institution that is on the semester system: You are required to take two (2) semesters of General Chemistry (Inorganic) with lab. No exceptions.
3 If your institution does not offer one of the following courses, then you MUST send a course description and/or syllabus to [email protected] for verification.
4 Combined Human Anatomy and Physiology (A&P I and A&P II) will fulfill the Human Anatomy and Human Physiology with lab prerequisites.
5 Medical Terminology will be required starting in the 2022-2023 cycle. An applicant can complete a minimum of 1 semester/quarter unit at a regionally accredited institution or submit a medical terminology certificate of completion from a regionally accredited institution or vocational program.
For applicants that received AP credit in prerequisites.
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 coursework as outlined above (i.e., a complete 2-semester or 3-quarter course with lab), or 2) complete a minimum of 6-semester (9-quarter) units of upper-division coursework 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 6-semester (9-quarter) units of upper-division coursework 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.
All science prerequisite courses must be completed within 10 years of the year that an application is submitted. 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 eight 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 sciences, clinical sciences or other appropriate disciplines (e.g., MS, MPH, DVM, PharmD, PhD, MD) within 10 years of the application deadline. In either case, all coursework 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. It is the responsibility of the applicant to submit all requested documents in support of this request and to ensure that these documents were received. The chair of admissions will review all submitted documents and render a decision to the applicant within two weeks of document receipt. All decisions are final. If an exemption is not granted, and the applicant wishes to continue the application process, the prerequisites as specified for all applicants will apply.
Requests to waive the 10-year requirement will be considered on a case by case basis by the selections committee and a strong history of continued scientific contributions in the applicant’s career will be considered. Applicants should provide evidence of their continuation in a scientific or health-related field as part of their waiver request.
Prerequisites Completion Requirements
All science prerequisite coursework, including coursework under consideration for exemption as noted above, must be completed by the end of the fall semester of the year prior to matriculation. It is highly recommended that science prerequisites be taken as recently as possible. No more than two non-science prerequisite courses can be in progress in the spring semester or quarter following the November 1 application deadline. If you are reapplying to the PA program you must submit all new materials.
All prerequisite coursework must be completed at a regionally accredited institution. A listing of course prerequisites that may be completed at more than 200 institutions can be found at the Course Equivalencies page. Applicants are expected to review this information, as it is the applicant’s responsibility to assure that their prerequisite coursework meets the USC PA program requirements.
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.
GRE or MCAT Examination
Applicants are required to take either the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) or Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT) examination. The examination must be taken within five (5) years of the year that an application is submitted. Official scores of the General and Analytical sections of the GRE must be submitted to USC by using the Keck School of Medicine of USC CASPA code 1416. Please place the code into the CASPA application. Applicants with MCAT scores must provide their Association of American Medical Colleges (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 than 295.
Hands-on, paid, patient care clinical experience is preferred. Please refer to our list of common clinical experiences. Other health care experience is equally acceptable as long as the clinical 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, as well; the applicant is encouraged to describe their hands-on experience, whether it is paid or volunteer.
Shadowing Physician Assistant (PA) is preferred in the admissions application process. The selections committee defines shadowing as observing a PA in the care of patients, working alongside a PA on a day-to-day basis, or attending virtual shadowing opportunities. Examples of virtual shadowing include telehealth, provider platforms, and websites that offer case studies provided by a PA. The goal of shadowing is to help an applicant articulate the role of a PA.
Community Service Activities
A demonstration of community service dedication is expected of all applicants. Service that benefits underserved or disadvantaged groups is highly desirable, as the program has a commitment to training its students as primary care providers with these populations. Examples include Habitat for Humanity, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, tutoring, soup kitchens and homeless shelters.
Letters of Reference
A minimum of three (3) letters of reference are required with a maximum of five (5) letters allowed through the CASPA application process. Additional letters will not be considered by the program. Reference letters should not be from personal friends or family members. Letters of reference must be submitted directly to CASPA and postmarked on or before November 1. Letters of reference will only be accepted through CASPA. No exceptions. Examples include physician assistant, science professor, physician, nurse or mentor.
After an initial screening and assessment of applications, a portion of the applicants are invited for an interview. Interviewees are required to submit a passport-size photo ID. Interviews are typically conducted in Alhambra, between early fall and early spring.
Health Requirements and Technical Standards
All accepted candidates are required to meet the 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 their current health status and immunizations. Students are also required to maintain university-approved health care insurance coverage, while enrolled in the program. The university offers a health plan; for more information, email [email protected] or call (213) 740-0551.
We reserve the right to confirm and verify all employment, volunteering and clinical experience as included in all submitted applications.