Course Catalog

Please visit the USC Course Catalog for more information about specific courses in the PA Program curriculum.


Diagram of PA Program 33-month curriculum.

  • The program is a full-time educational/professional training program. Students are required to participate in all scheduled program activities as well as comply with all program policies, including requirements of professional behavior. Instructors include PA, NP, MD, DO, PhD, MSW, OT, RN and PharmD- educated faculty from the schools of medicine and pharmacy, allied-health divisions, and clinicians in practice throughout the Los Angeles region and beyond. While most classes are held during the day, there are some curricular activities in the evening. Clinical assignments include both day and evening shifts, weekends and some on-call schedules. Written examinations and performance evaluations are scheduled regularly throughout the duration of the program. Students must pass each component of the curriculum in order to make satisfactory academic progress in the program. Student learning services may be recommended for students who experience academic difficulty. Students must meet all health requirements and maintain current health records.

    General areas of study include basic sciences (anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, genetics, pharmacology); cross-cultural critical thinking; health behavior; clinical skills including patient interviewing, history-taking, written documentation, all components of physical assessment; laboratory and radiological principles; nutrition; principles of primary care, including prevention and patient education; medical Spanish; interpretation of medical literature; professional development; and specialty seminars in research, education and medical care organizations. Additionally, students participate in clinical training in the areas of family medicine, pediatrics, women’s health, general surgery, general orthopedics/occupational medicine, medicine (internal medicine, geriatrics), behavioral and mental health, and emergency medicine. The curriculum consists of 33-months of didactic and clinical training. The educational process consists of a total of 4 semesters of didactic (classroom-based) instruction and 54 full-time equivalent weeks of on-site clinical education.

    Clinical education takes place at various clinical sites throughout the greater Los Angeles area including the Keck Hospital of USC, USC Arcadia Hospital, USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, Adventist Health, Los Angeles General Medical Center, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and a range of private offices, federally qualified health centers, community-based clinics, VA facilities, and specialty settings.

    Clinical training sites and clinical preceptors are established and maintained by the PA program. The program assigns students to the appropriate clinical rotations and exercises the right to assign students within a sixty (60) mile radius of the USC Health Sciences Alhambra Campus.


  • Year 1

    • Fall Semester – Basic Medical Sciences I (3 units); Behavioral Sciences I (4 units); Clinical Skills I (4 units) and Topics in Medicine I (6 units), PA Critical Thinking Course I (1 unit)
    • Spring Semester – Basic Medical Sciences II (3 units), Behavioral Sciences II (4 units); Clinical Skills II (4 units); Topics in Medicine II (6 units), PA Critical Thinking Course II (1 unit)

    Summer (year 1)

    • Vacation

    Year 2

    • Fall Semester – Basic Medical Sciences III (3 units), Behavioral Sciences III (4 units); Clinical Skills III (4 units); Topics in Medicine III (6 units), PA Critical Thinking Course III (1 unit)
    • Spring Semester – 18 weeks of Clinical Rotations*; Post-Clinical Activities (return to campus for lectures & testing)

    Summer (year 2)

    • 12 weeks of Clinical Rotations*; Post-Clinical Activities (return to campus for lectures & testing)

    Year 3

    • Fall Semester – 18 weeks of Clinical Rotations*; Post-Clinical Activities (return to campus for lectures & testing)
    • Spring Semester –Clinical Skills IV (3 units); Advanced Education (4 units); Advanced Research (4 units); Medical Care Organizations (4 units)
    • Note: Students must take and pass all PA program courses in sequence to make satisfactory academic progress. There are no advanced standing or part-time options available.

    Students who have made satisfactory academic progress at the end of the spring semester (Year 1) will have no coursework during their first summer. Beginning with the spring semester (Year 2), all students complete 48 continuous weeks of clinical assignments continuing through the summer until the end of the fall semester (Year 3).

    Students who have demonstrated academic progress by successfully completing all of their coursework will be eligible to complete all PA Program requirements and graduate in May of their final year (Year 3).

  • Basic Medical Sciences

    Anatomy, Physiology, Pathology, Cadaver Lab.

    Behavioral Sciences I-III

    Growth and Development/Sexuality; Death and Dying; Introduction to the PA Profession, Introduction to Research, Cultural Competency, Medical Spanish, Health Promotion, Ethics, social determinants of health; vulnerable populations; and Service Learning Activities.

    Clinical Skills I-III

    Interviewing, Documentation and Oral Presentations, BCLS, Physical Examination, Technical Skills (Bandaging & Splinting, Endotracheal Intubation, Casting, Drug Orders, Suturing, X-ray Interpretation, etc.), Breast, Pelvic and Male Exams, Clinical Reasoning, ACLS, Informed care and telemedicine.

    Topics in Medicine I-III

    Psychiatry, Dermatology, Hematology, Endocrinology, Infectious Diseases, Ophthalmology; Otolaryngology, Neurology, Orthopedics, Pulmonology, Cardiology, Gastroenterology/Hepatology, Urology/Nephrology, Rheumatology, Women’s Health, Pediatrics, Geriatrics, Surgery, Emergency Medicine, and systems-based pharmacology, pathology and pathophysiology.

    PA Critical Thinking Course I-III

    Team-based learning to prepare the physician assistant student to learn and practice, applying critical thinking in clinically relevant scenarios.

    Clinical Assignments

    Emergency medicine, family medicine, internal medicine, mental/behavioral health, orthopedics, pediatrics, surgery, and women’s health. There is also a primary care selective, where students may have additional experience in family medicine, pediatrics, women’s health, outpatient internal medicine, or street medicine.

    Advanced Topics Seminars

    Research (Evidence-Based Medicine; Application of Medical Literature to Clinical Guidelines/Patient Education); Education (Community Health Promotion – Disease Prevention, Patient Education, Board Review Seminar); Medical Care Organizations (Health Care Structure; Financing; Billing and Coding).

    Clinical Skills IV

    Clinical Practice Preparation: personal & professional development, employment preparation (CV, interviewing skills, credentialing), California PA Laws and Regulations), and Senior Clinical Rotations (~250 hours)

    Summative Evaluation

    A summative evaluation, using standardized clinical cases and a written examination, is completed within the final four months of the program to access each student’s preparedness to graduate, and enter clinical practice.