Requirements Overview

Process and Deadlines

All science prerequisites are expected to be completed by the end of the fall term in the year prior to matriculation. All non-science prerequisites must be finished by the end of the spring term just before the matriculating fall semester. A maximum of two non-science prerequisite courses can be in-progress during the spring term prior to matriculation.

All prerequisite courses must be completed for letter grades with at least a grade of C (2.0) earned.

To ensure their coursework meets the program’s requirements, applicants should check the course equivalency listing. They are also strongly encouraged to attend our virtual events and watch the prerecorded information sessions.

To be considered for the Physician Assistant program, applicants must meet the following requirements:

  1. Submit a complete application package, which consists of the (1) CASPA application, (2) USC Supplemental Application, and (3) non-refundable supplemental application fee, by November 1st.

  2. Complete the necessary prerequisite coursework and hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution by June 30 prior to the matriculating Fall semester.

It’s highly recommended that applicants submit their complete application package by August 1, as the program reviews applications continuously and admits students on a rolling basis.

Applicants should also keep copies of all the materials they submit to the program. The program only accepts students for entry in the fall semester; therefore, applications for other terms will not be considered.

Please note: There is no advanced standing offered on entry to, or during enrollment in, the program.

Science Prerequisites

One (1) year sequential coursework (2 semesters or 3 quarters) in General Biology and Chemistry with Lab for biological-based science majors. One semester (3 units) or quarter (4 units) of Microbiology with Lab, Human Anatomy with Lab, and Human Physiology.

All courses must be completed with “C” grade or higher. Science prerequisites have a 10-year expiration.

  • Option 1
    General Biology or Human Biology1: One (1) year sequential coursework

    – 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:

    Option 2 biology courses must be designed for biological-based science majors.
    Cell Biology Molecular Biology Genetics
    Endocrinology Pharmacology Immunology
    Histology Embryology Neuroscience
    1 If your institution does not offer a General Biology or Human Biology series, then you must provide proof of completing the introductory biology series for biological-based science majors (e.g. Zoology, Cell Biology, etc.). 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.
  • Option 1
    General Chemistry with Lab1: One (1) year sequential coursework

    – OR –

    Option 2
    One (1) semester/quarter of General Chemistry with Lab and one (1) semester or two (2) quarters of an additional Chemistry course(s) with a lab from the list below:

    Option 2 chemistry courses must be designed for biological-based science majors.
    Organic Chemistry Quantitative Analysis Inorganic Chemistry
    Biochemistry Analytical Chemistry
    1 If your institution does not offer a General Chemistry with Lab series, then you must provide proof of completing the introductory chemistry with lab series for biological-based science majors. Applicants from an institution on the quarter system: If your institution does not offer three (3) quarters of General Chemistry with Lab, you may elect to take two (2) quarters of General Chemistry with Lab and one (1) quarter of one of the following: Organic Chemistry with Lab, Biochemistry with Lab, or Inorganic Chemistry with Lab.
  • One semester (3 units) or quarter (4 units).

     

    May be in the following:

    Microbiology Introductory Microbiology
    General Microbiology Medical Microbiology

     

    If your institution does not offer one of the above courses, then you must send a course description and/or syllabus to uscpa@usc.edu for verification.

  • One semester (3 units) or quarter (4 units).

     

    A combined Human Anatomy and Physiology (A&P) with Lab series can fulfill the Human Anatomy with Lab and Human Physiology prerequisites. If completing an A&P series, then you must complete one (1) year of sequential coursework (2 semesters or 3 quarters). For example, if your regionally accredited institution offers a three-quarter A&P series, then you must complete all three courses.

  • One semester (3 units) or quarter (4 units).

     

    A combined Human Anatomy and Physiology (A&P) with Lab series can fulfill the Human Anatomy with Lab and Human Physiology prerequisites. If completing an A&P series, then you must complete one (1) year of sequential coursework (2 semesters or 3 quarters). For example, if your regionally accredited institution offers a three-quarter A&P series, then you must complete all three courses.

Non-Science Prerequisites

One (1) year sequential coursework (2 semesters or 3 quarters) in Beginning Spanish. One semester (3 units) or quarter (4 units) of Statistics and Psychology. Minimum one (1) unit (semester or quarter) or certificate of completion for Medical Terminology.

All courses must be completed with “C” grade or higher. Non-science prerequisites do not have an expiration.

  • One (1) year (2 semesters or 3 quarters). Must be college-level credit earned either through coursework or by placement examination. There are no language substitutions.

  • One semester (3 units) or quarter (4 units).

  • One semester (3 units) or quarter (4 units).

  • 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.

  • One (1) year (2 semesters or 3 quarters).

Additional Requirements

We reserve the right to confirm and verify all employment, volunteering, and clinical experiences as included in all submitted applications.

  • All science prerequisite coursework, including coursework under consideration for exemption as noted above, must be completed by the end of the fall term 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 term following the November 1 application deadline. If you are reapplying to the PA program, then you must submit all new materials.

    All prerequisite coursework must be completed at regionally accredited institutions. A list of course prerequisites that may be completed at more than 200 institutions can be found at the Course Equivalencies page. It is the applicant’s responsibility to review and complete all of the prerequisites necessary to be eligible to apply for the USC PA program.

  • In general, prospective applicants who have completed their education in countries outside of the United States must secure a report by the International Education Research Foundation to preliminarily verify that they have completed the 1) equivalence of a bachelor’s degree and 2) admission prerequisites.

    Two semesters of college-level English composition are also required. In addition, the USC PA Program may require applicants to take the TOEFL to indicate proficiency in English. If granted an interview and offered admission to the USC PA Program, applicants must submit official international transcripts to USC for verification of the preliminary, unofficial review conducted by the evaluation service.

    In addition to the above, international students must complete and submit the USC Online Graduate School Application and all supporting documents no later than November 1 each application cycle.

    Please reach out to uscpa@usc.edu to verify the required materials before applying.

    For additional information, international students should visit:

    We reserve the right to confirm and verify all employment, volunteering, and clinical experience as included in all submitted applications.

  • For applicants that received AP credit in science prerequisites:

    Advanced Placement (AP) credit for science prerequisites will not be accepted. If an applicant has received one semester or quarter of AP credit (or equivalent) for Biology or Chemistry with Lab, then the applicant may elect to satisfy the prerequisite(s) in one of two ways:

    1. Complete the specific course sequence as outlined above (i.e. complete two semesters or three quarters of the general science course series), or
    2. Complete a minimum of two semesters (6 units) or three quarters (9 units) of upper-division coursework for biological-based science majors.

     

    For example, if you received AP credit for one term of general biology, then you may satisfy the Biology prerequisite in one of two ways:

    1. Complete a one-year (two semesters or three quarters) general biology course sequence for biological-based science majors, or
    2. Complete a minimum of two semesters (6 units) or three quarters (9 units) of upper-division coursework for biological-based science majors (e.g. cell biology, genetics, histology, etc.). Upper-division courses for non-majors will not be accepted.
    For applicants that received AP credit in non-science courses:

    AP credits for non-science prerequisites can be accepted. If you intend to satisfy prerequisite(s) with AP transfer credit, then your official transcript must display the (1) university course equivalent (e.g. “PSY 101: Intro to Psychology”) and (2) the number of AP transfer credits received. If your official transcript does not display this information, then you’ll need to request for your university’s specific department (e.g. Psychology department) to send our team an email at uscpa@usc.edu stating how many AP transfer units you received and the equivalent university course which your AP credits satisfy.

  • All prerequisite science courses must be completed within 10 years of the application submission year. Exceptions to the 10-year science prerequisite time frame may be granted on an individual basis to individuals who have completed one of the following:

    1. A minimum of eight semester units of graduate credit in a medically-related natural science discipline, with at least a 3.0 GPA, completed within seven years of the application deadline, or
    2. Received an advanced degree in the natural sciences, clinical sciences, or other appropriate disciplines within 10 years of the application deadline.

     

    In either case, all coursework completed and degrees conferred must be from institutions of higher education which are accredited by a regional accrediting agency recognized by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. Requests for this 10-year exemption should be directed to uscpa@usc.edu.

    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, then the applicant will need to complete the prerequisites as specified.

    Requests to waive the 10-year requirement will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the Chair of Admissions, 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 10-year extension request.

  • Hands-on, paid, patient care clinical experience is preferred. Please refer to our list of common clinical experiences. Other healthcare 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 environments, 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. Applicants are encouraged to describe their paid and volunteer hands-on patient care experiences.

  • Applicants are expected to demonstrate a commitment to community service. 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. This can include experiences with Habitat for Humanity, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, tutoring, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters.

  • It is not required to shadow a PA, and we do not have a minimum number of required hours for the admissions process. However, shadowing experience is highly recommend for your personal and professional development. Shadowing can be 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 and explain why they want to be a PA.

  • A minimum of two (2) 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 through CASPA no later than November 1. No exceptions. References can include physician assistants, science professors, physicians, nurses, or other mentors.

  • After applications have been reviewed, selected applicants will be invited for an interview. Interviewees are required to submit a passport-sized photo ID. Interviews are conducted in Alhambra or virtually between September to March each cycle. Interviews are conducted on a rolling basis and are subject to cancellation if the cohort is fully seated.

  • All accepted candidates are required to meet the program’s technical standards (physical and psychological competencies of performance) prior to and throughout the program. 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 studenthealth@usc.edu or visit the USC Student Health website.