Overview of the Profession

Admission Statistics

While the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) does not make public admission statistics by GPA and test scores, there is a wealth of other information available about matriculating students and programs in their PAEA Annual Program Reports.

Course Requirements

Visit Become a PA on the American Academy of Physician Assistants’ website to see the course requirements at your schools of interest.

To see which UCLA courses satisfy the most common course requirements, refer to the UCLA Pre-Health Requirements Worksheet, found here.

Meet with an academic advisor at UCLA for advice on course planning for medical school.

Do I have to be a specific major to be able to apply to PA school?

A: No, PA programs do not give preference to any major. The most common majors are biology, and chemistry.

Centralized Application Service

The Central Application Service for Physician (CASPA) simplifies the PA school application process by allowing you to apply to multiple programs with only one application.  Login here.  The application opens in April for entry the following year.  View CASPA participating programs and deadlines.

Utilize the CASPA Applicant Help Center to guide you through all components of the centralized application process.

Application Timeline

The Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) cycle opens in April and closes in April the following year (exact dates vary from year to year).  This checklist provides helpful considerations to keep in mind when planning your path to PA school.

Entrance Exam

Physician Assistant (PA) schools vary when it comes to which exam they require. The majority of PA schools require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).  Many will accept the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) instead of the GRE.  Most schools require the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) for non-native English speaking applicants.  Some schools do not require any entrance exams.

When should I take the exam(s)?

Because it is beneficial to submit your application at the beginning of the cycle (CASPA application opens in late April), it would be ideal to take the GRE by March as scores typically take 2-3 weeks to be released.  Most PA schools only accept GRE scores within four years of the exam date.

Letters of Recommendation

Every PA program will ask for LOR’s, but the number of letters required may change from program to program. Letters should not be from personal friends or family members and they must be submitted directly to CASPA before submission deadlines.

For guidance and UCLA resources for asking for letters of recommendation, visit the Prepare to Apply section of this website.

Personal Statement

For guidance and UCLA resources for writing a personal statement, please visit the Prepare to Apply section of this website.

Choosing Schools & Programs

The Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) Program Directory is a database that provides information on the nation’s PA schools and is searchable by such criteria as accreditation status, CASPA participation, minimum GPA requirement, GRE requirement, international student admissions, and more.

Deciding which schools to apply to and attend is a complex and highly individualized process. Visit the Prepare to Apply section of this website for considerations that may help you with these decisions.

Gain Experience

Although some schools have no firm requirement, most schools now require between 200 and 3000 hours of previous health care and/or patient care experience.  The CASPA defines Patient Care Experience (PCE) as having direct responsibility for a patient’s care, while Healthcare Experience (HCE) is both paid and unpaid work in a health or health-related field where you are not directly responsible for a patient’s care but may still have patient interaction.

Patient Care Experience will allow you to:

  • Work directly with patients.  This means being with them in person, talking to them, touching them.
  • Assess patients medically or psychologically.  What are their problems?  What are their needs?
  • Provide some form of medical or psychological treatment, such as psychotherapy, CPR, a nutrition plan, administering medication, taking vitals, etc.
  • Use of your own professional judgement.  This means that you make at least some of the decisions yourself, as opposed to carrying out only decisions made by others.

You can get PCE being a (not an exhaustive list):

  • Medical Assistant (MA)
  • Emergency medical technician (EMT) or Paramedic
  • Medic or Medical Corpsman
  • Peace Corps Volunteer
  • Lab Assistant/Phlebotomist
  • Registered Nurse (RN)
  • Emergency Room Technician
  • Surgical Tech
  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
  • Medical Scribe (only accepted as PCE by some PA schools, considered HCE by others).

Many PCE jobs require specialized training or certifications.

Healthcare experience for PA school: https://www.thepalife.com/hce-paschool/

PA Related Student Organizations at UCLA:


Many Physician Assistant Programs are dedicated to the advancement of physician assistant education, and emphasizes service to the medically underserved. Volunteering in both health-related, and non-health related settings is highly recommended.

How to find PA’s to shadow:

Shadowing PAs is preferred in the admissions application process. Shadowing is defined as observing a physician assistant in the care of patients. Working with a PA is not considered shadowing, but can be counted towards health care experience. The average applicant has 1-2 shadowing experiences. This experience not only gives the applicant an insight into the profession on an intimate level, but also affords the applicant an opportunity to see if she or he is a ‘good-fit’ for the profession.  See Gain Experience for more information about finding shadowing opportunities.

Search for employment opportunities (jobs, internships, research, and more) on Handshake.

Visit the Gain Experience page of this website for more ideas on how to gain clinical, research, leadership,  community service experience or training and certifications that can help you clarify your goals, develop your skills, and demonstrate your commitment to healthcare.