Admissions - PA School Requirements

Image of Physician Assistant Studies students.


Thank you for your interest in the USA Physician Assistant Studies program.  If you have any questions please follow this link to email us. 

▼   PA School Requirements

Applicants who wish to apply to the University of South Alabama (USA) Physician Assistant Studies (PA) program must meet the following minimum PA requirements. Please note that admission to the USA PA program is very competitive and accepted students typically exceed the minimum PA school requirements.

All of the following PA school requirements must be met to be considered for admission into the USA PA program.

  1. Completion of a Baccalaureate degree in any field from a U.S. regionally accredited institution prior to the starting date of the program is required.  Note: International degrees or coursework does not satisfy this requirement.
  2. A minimum overall, science and last 60-hours GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, as calculated by CASPA (includes post-baccalaureate undergraduate and graduate work).

  3. Completion of prerequisite course work completed with a grade of "C" or higher, from a U.S. regionally accredited institution with one semester of at least 3 credits for each course below (except Medical Terminology 1+ credits).    All prerequisite courses for the Physician Assistant Studies program must be completed one semester prior to Matriculation (completed by December to enter the following May) .  Courses are not required to be taken within a timeframe.  Bonus Courses are NOT required but if completed with a “C” or above will strengthen the application. All Bonus courses must be upper level science courses. Quarterly credits are accepted, however, courses that are in a sequence must be completed.  For example,  Anatomy and Physiology I, II, and III.


  1. Completion of the General Graduate Record Examination (GRE) within the past five (5) years from the October 1 deadline. The department accepts:
    • A minimum of 145 in both the Verbal and Quantitative sections. The Analytical Writing section is required.
    • The highest complete exam score is used in the ranking of applicants: We do not mix and match scores from different attempts.
    • Official scores must be sent electronically to USA PA Studies Institution Code 2169. USA PA Studies Institution Code 2169 will allow GRE scores to be sent to both USA and your USA designated CASPA application. Scores must be received by CASPA no later than the October 1 deadline to be considered for the current cycle.
    • About the GRE: visit ETS for more information.

  2. Completion of Direct Patient Care Experience is required:  See Direct Patient Care Experience section below.  Applicants will document these hours on their CASPA application.

  3. Submission of three (3) reference letters, one of which must be from a Medical Doctor (MD), Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) or Physician Assistant (PA)  submitted to CASPA and included with your CASPA application.   Reference letters sent directly to our office will not be accepted. CASPA will not start the verification process of your application until two of your three letters of reference have been received.

  4. Submission of completed application materials by October 1 as stated in How to Apply, which includes the USA PA Studies Program Supplemental Application (uploaded to the CASPA application, USA Program Materials, Documents Section) and the USA PA Studies Program Application Fee (paid online). CASPA applications must be SUBMITTED to USA, COMPLETED and VERIFIED by October 1.

International Students
have additional PA requirements and application steps for the USA PA program. Please see How to Apply for information.

▼   Background Experiences

Merit is given to an applicant who is an Alabama resident, a service- area resident, a member of the armed forces/military. 

Merit is also given to applicants from HRSA-specific geographic locations and disadvantaged backgrounds.

Merit is given to applicants who have served as leaders at their undergraduate institution or in their communities and those who have volunteered in their communities.

▼   Healthcare Certifications

The program recognizes and awards merit to an applicant who has additional healthcare certifications.
Examples include BLS, ACLS, AHA, MA, CNA.

▼   Additional Degrees

The program recognizes and awards merit to an applicant who has an additional Bachelor’s or Master’s degree.

▼   PA Shadowing

The program awards merit to a prospective student who shadows a PA. The program does not recognize a minimum number of hours of shadowing. The Program does not accept any virtual shadowing hours at this time.

▼   Advanced Placement

The USA PA program does not offer advanced placement.

▼   Application Screening Criteria and Interviews

Selection Process

Upon receipt of the verified CASPA application, supplemental application with application fee and GRE scores, the completed application packet is reviewed by the Admissions Coordinator.  Applicants who meet all of the minimum PA school requirements will be considered for an interview.

Applicants are selected for the USA PA program based on a holistic evaluation.  Many factors are taken into consideration:

  • GPA – The applicant must be able to succeed in the academic demands of the program.  Each applicant will be evaluated based on academic achievements in light of the opportunities available to the applicant and demonstrated capacity to contribute to the intellectual life at the USA. Any GPA trends are noted; grade deficiencies should be addressed in the USA custom question section in the Program Materials section of the CASPA application.
  • GRE – Standardized test performance may be an indicator of success during the program as well as on the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE).
  • Direct Patient Contact/Healthcare/Shadowing Experience – It is vital that applicants have a thorough understanding of the PA profession as well as experience in the healthcare industry and working directly with patients.
  • Community Service – We strive to produce culturally sensitive and compassionate PA’s.  Paid work or volunteering with underserved populations is strongly recommended.
  • Residency
  • Background and Experience


Residency Preference

While preference is shown to Alabama residents, highly qualified Service Area and out-of-state applicants whose academics and experiences indicate that they may be a success in both the program and the PA profession will be given consideration.  Non-residents will be required to pay the non-resident tuition and fees as set by the University.  For information on residency please contact the Office of the Registrar.


The interview process has been designed to complement the evaluation of an academically proven applicant by the holistic appraisal of non-academic traits.

Approximately 120 applicants to the USA PA program will be selected for an interview during the fall. Invitations for interviews will be emailed throughout the interview cycle. All interviews will be conducted via Zoom beginning in late October through November. Of those interviewed, 60 will be invited to matriculate in the class.

▼   Technical Standards

Students must be able to demonstrate abilities in observation, communication and motor functions, as well as critical thinking, interpersonal skills, and behavioral and social attributes. For a full description of the technical standards for admission to the USA Physician Assistant (PA) Studies program, visit Technical Standards.

▼   Direct Patient Care Experience

Direct Patient Care Experience providing healthcare and doing for patients, (i.e. taking vitals, drawing blood, performing diagnostics, wound care, small procedures, administering therapy or treatments, bathing/grooming patients, helping from bed to bedpan/toilet, providing psychological/behavioral treatment).

  • Our minimum requirement is 100 hours for direct patient care for the 2023 admissions cycle.
  • Paid or volunteer work will be accepted. UPDATE: Volunteer work will continue to be accepted for future cycles.
  • These hours must be completed at the time the CASPA application is submitted.
  • Hours credited as part of a training, educational, or internship program, with patient contact, will be considered as part of those hours. UPDATE: The portion of these hours with patient contact will continue to be accepted for future cycles.
  • There is no time frame for when hours have been earned.
  • PA/Physician Shadowing does not count towards these hours.
  • Hours will be documented on the CASPA application, however, additional verification may be required by the Department.

Examples of Direct Patient Care Experience:

  • Armed Services:  medic/military corpsmen
  • Athletic Trainer
  • Caregiver/Home Health Aide
  • Chiropractor
  • Clinical Nutritionist or Dietitian
  • Community Health Worker
  • Dental Assistant/Hygienist
  • EMT/EMS/Paramedic
  • Massage Therapist
  • Medical Aide/Assistant/Technician: (Radiology, PT, OT, EMT (basic & paramedic), MA, CNA, Nursing Aide, cardiology, ER, surgical tech, ultrasound, other hospital tech positions)
  • Mental/Behavioral Health Counselor
  • Optometric Technician
  • Other Health Professions:  Nursing, OT, PT, RT, Communications Sciences
  • Patient Care Tech
  • Phlebotomist
  • Fireman w/ medical calls

*Please contact the Admissions Coordinator for approval for any other Direct Patient Care (DPC) Experience categories not listed, include a detailed job description. Though work as a Medical Scribe is excellent exposure to healthcare, we typically do not consider it Direct Patient Care (DPC) experience.  Scribes who have been given additional responsibilities by their supervisor that include DPC (i.e. wound care, assisting with small procedures, taking vitals, etc.) may be given partial credit.  To determine if your job will satisfy any hours required for DPC experience, you may email the job description and the supervisor’s contact information for further evaluation. We do not consider work as a Pharmacy Technician as DPC.