Prerequisites for PA School

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When it comes to the classes required to get into PA school, most programs are pretty similar across the board.  Occasionally one program will be more picky than another or have more required courses, but the basics tend to be the same.

If you already have a Bachelor's degree and are going back to take classes, it will be easier to pick and choose what you need.  Some schools require that courses be done within a certain time frame (like the last 5 or 10 years), while others will accept coursework no matter when it was done.  This is definitely something to look when deciding where to apply if your undergraduate work was done some time ago.

If you are working on your degree and know you want to go to PA school (or do something medical), you have a choice of what major to choose.  There are many majors that will also require the majority of prerequisites needed for PA school, and although it would be wise and most time efficient to choose one of these, you may have other interests that you would like to pursue as well.  I majored in Biology, but in my graduating class there were all kinds of degrees, including Math and Accounting.  Some other majors to consider would be Chemistry, Health Promotion, Biological Science, or Kinesiology.  Your school may have some other specific majors that would get you what you need as well.  So it's not really what your major is that matters, it's what classes you take.

So the basic classes you will need for PA school are typically as follows:

  • Biology w/ lab - usually 2 semesters
  • General chemistry w/ lab - usually 2 semesters
  • Anatomy and Physiology w/ lab - usually 2 semesters of a combined course or one of each if they are separate
  • Statistics or Biostatistics - Some schools will only accept one of these so be sure to check the program's website and if you still are not clear, call the program and ask specifically

Classes you might need, and should consider taking if possible:

  • Psychology
  • Organic chemistry and/or biochemistry w/ lab - (Organic chemistry II was my only C+ in college, and it was miserable, so unless you have a deep love for chemistry, avoid this if possible.   Mine was part of my Biology major so it was not an option.)
  • Microbiology w/ lab
  • Other science electives

It is a good idea to check the website of any program you are interested in and the prerequisites should be clearly listed, and then crosscheck this with courses you have already taken or what is required for your major.  My biology major only counted Anatomy as a general elective, so I ended up taking over the summer since it was basically just extra.  I was concerned about taking it at a different school than UGA, so I called ask the programs I was interested in if that was ok, and the consensus was that as long as I had the prerequisites, it didn't matter where it was at.

As daunting as the coursework may seem, it is really to your benefit when you start PA school.  It's so fast paced that there isn't time to review everything from undergrad, and they need you ready to go and familiar with science basics.  Most medical schools don't even require anatomy or some of these other courses, but it's because they study anatomy for an entire year, while PA students typically do it in 1 semester!  These are tough classes, so if you are able to spread them out, that may be in your favor if you are able to get better grades.  In some cases schools want at least a C or B, no matter what your overall GPA is.  So start planning as soon as possible to get all of your classes done to be ready to apply!