Academic Preparation Overview
Physician Assistant programs require earning a Bachelor’s degree and completing a set of prerequisite classes, which can vary from school to school. See the Required and Recommended Courses link to learn which BYU-Idaho courses can meet PA school prerequisite requirements.
PA schools do not have a preference regarding your choice of undergraduate major, so study something you love! If you need help choosing a major, please come and see us in Career and Academic Advising.
Required and Recommended Courses
This guide is designed for applying to a range of PA schools. It is not a comprehensive list. Requirements may vary by school. See a Health Professions Advisor if you have additional class planning questions.
Check with individual schools to see if they accept Advanced Placement (AP) credits earned in high school towards their prerequisites. AP credit is acceptable for General Education requirements and other degree requirements.
Grading Policies and GPA Requirements
- GPA—PA schools generally look at three GPAs: Overall GPA, Science GPA, and All Other (Non-Science) GPA.
- Generally, the minimum GPA required for Overall, Science, and all Non-Science is 3.0 but may be higher or lower depending on the school.
- To be most competitive, strive to earn at least a 3.6-3.8 GPA.
- Withdrawals—W’s should be used only for emergencies, although W’s will not affect your GPA.
- Repeated/Retaken Courses—PA schools take EVERY grade in ALL attempts of a course when calculating GPA. For example, if you took CHEM 105 and earned a D and then repeated the course and earned a B+, BOTH grades will be figured into your GPA calculations.
- CLEP Credit & Correspondence Study—Not acceptable as part of the pre-PA curriculum
- AP Credits—Generally, students must take coursework beyond introductory classes waived by AP, but may be accepted by individual schools
Preparing for Letters of Recommendation
When it is time to apply to PA school, you will need 3 letters of recommendation. Your letters should support your application by speaking to things like your academic ability, your commitment to service, leadership, teamwork, reliability, and clinical work experience. Your letters should support your application, both academically and non-academically. This means seeking out references who have supervised you or worked closely with you in a clinical (patient care) setting. Letters from individuals who can speak to your potential as a PA are especially valuable.
Collecting letters: As you prepare to collect your letters of recommendations, it is best to subscribe to a service like Interfolio.com. Interfolio.com allows you to collect all your letters in one place and have them sent to each application service when the application opens up. It in not best to wait until your application opens to obtain your letters of recommendations.
Types of Letters Needed
Academic Letters: 1-2 Science Professors (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, or Math)
Mentoring Letters: Medical professional (ideally a PA), Supervisor from your clinical experience, Community Service Supervisor, Research Supervisor, etc.
Tips to Get to Know Your Professors/Mentors
- Visit their offices regularly
- Look for mentors, not just letter writers
- Be genuinely interested in those you seek as mentors
- Be humble and gracious
- Ask thoughtful questions
- Share your academic and career goals
- Inquire about their areas of interest and research
- After you have gotten to know professors, ask about further opportunities, e.g., teaching assistantships, individual research projects, etc.