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Preparing for

Physician Assistant




Welcome to the HPPLC pre-PA guidelines!

While this page includes some information specifically about the IU PA program, the HPPLC site is intended for use by all IUB undergraduates and alumni regardless of whether they plan to apply to the IU program or not! The guidelines and strategies explained throughout are widely applicable, regardless of which programs you intend to pursue. IUB students and alumni successfully apply to programs all around the country.


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IMPORTANT: Start By Reading This!
(Hint: it will make your life easier!)

  1. Don't simply skip to the sample prerequisite chart! Classes are only one part of the admission requirements. The guidelines and resources on this page go well beyond prerequisites and program websites, and will help you understand, plan, and achieve each admission component.
  2. Don't let the abundance of information on this page overwhelm you. It is meant to be quite complete - your close companion throughout your preprofessional process. The right-hand Contents menu is a linked outline of the entire page and thus provides an easy way to navigate.
  3. Do read the Overview of the Admission Process. It'll take just 10 minutes, and will take some of the mystery out of being preprofessional.
  4. Do frequently consult the Timeline page throughout your entire preprofessional and application processes! It not only offers another indispensable way to navigate the site, but also provides ideas for organizing your entire preprofessional process with short term and long term To Do lists. The Timeline page also serves as a list of Action Items for your iGPS plan.
  5. Do Consult this page often and consistently, as it is regularly revised and expanded, will save you a great deal of time and labor, help you become a stronger applicant, and help you avoid common mistakes.
  6. We do not suggest simply printing this page, as there are many sub-pages linked from it which contain significant information and guidance.



Choosing An Appropriate Pre-PA Degree / Major

A bachelors degree, along with prerequisite courses and other admission requirements, is required for admission to all Master of Physician Assistant Science (MPAS) programs. While it is easier to work the PA prerequisites into some degrees/majors than others, most offer adequate flexibility. In addition, MPAS programs, including iU's, have no preference as to what degree/major applicants complete! Using the tips, guidelines, and resources at Choosing an Appropriate Degree / Major, you may be surprised how quickly you can narrow the field and move toward the options which best suit you!


What Is A competitive GPA?

What grade point average is competitive for admission depends on a number of factors. Visit our Competitive GPA page to gain a general sense of what GPA goals to set for yourself, and how GPA figures in relation to other admission requirements.


Pre-PA Timeline

Want to know what you should be doing now? How to "keep on track"? What your preprofessional timeline ought to be? Visit the preprofessional timeline page! Our detailed sample timeline can give you a sense of what you should be doing right now, and also help you with your long range planning.


Description Of The Profession And PA Training

The average PA applicant is 24 years old

The typical applicant to PA programs is 24 years old, and has a good amount of hands-on, direct patient care experience, along with significant experience shadowing a PA. However, this does not mean that those who are younger or who have less experience cannot become strong applicants. In fact, the average age of applicants to PA programs has been falling. Every year, IUB students and alumni are accepted into PA programs around the country. PAs come from a wide variety of professional and academic backgrounds, including those who have worked in non-health fields, and those applying directly from their undergraduate degree. PA programs have no inherent preference for older applicants. They simply choose the most promising from their applicant pool.

What PAs do

A physician assistant is a health care professional licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. As part of their comprehensive responsibilities, PAs conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries, order and interpret lab tests and x-rays, counsel on preventative health care, assist in surgery, and write prescriptions. (As of 2009, Indiana PAs are authorized to write prescriptions.)  PAs practice in all areas of medicine: primary care (e.g., family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, and so on), emergency medicine and trauma, surgery, surgical sub-specialties, and in all other areas of practice.


In fact, PA school is often referred to as "accelerated medical school"! PAs essentially need to function as physicians. In some settings - for example, in some rural clinics - a PA may be the primary healthcare provider, even though under the supervision of an off-site physician. Though not yet pervasive, some states even allow PAs to operate their own practices, again, under the supervision of an off-site physician (see physician supervision of the physician assistant). Most PAs function as members of a team; interprofessional caregiving has become paramount to healthcare delivery.


One benefit that often draws people to the PA profession is the relative ease with which PAs can garner different kinds of specialization and expertise. They do so by working under the given type of physician, or in the kind of setting in which they wish to practice. In this way, PAs can garner multiple areas of specialization and expertise over their career. In many settings PAs are also able to work a more standard week, with fewer on-call hours. These details are negotiated between the PA and the physician or physician group that hires them.


The American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) site contains excellent information about PA practice, including details about working as a part of a team, how physicians and PAs collaborate, related healthcare ethics, and much more.


Interestingly, there has been some controversy over the very title physician assistant. Some within the profession believe physician associate more accurately reflects the traditional function that PAs have fulfilled within healthcare - that of a primary care provider, as distinguished from a "mere" assistant who is simply an extension of the physician's eyes and hands, so to speak. In fact, a few PA programs use the term physician associate, and there has been discussion within AAPA of changing the title, but such a change seems unlikely in the near future. The term physician assistant remains the current standard, as reaffirmed by AAPA in 2007. Physician's assistant (with an apostrophe s) and physicians assistant (plural s) are considered non-standard. In your conversations, emails, and other communications, we suggest you use the standard term, physician assistant.


For additional information, articles, and ephemera describing the history of the physician assistant profession, visit the Physician Assistant History Society site.

Use the links in Additional PA Information and Resources to learn about wages, job outlook, and other career and job information. Pay particular attention to the links to professional organizations like the American Academy of Physician Assistants, and the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, from which you can learn a lot about the profession.

Skills and characteristics important to the PA profession[image]

Excellent critical thinking, problem-solving, and science skills; the ability to work quickly and make good decisions under pressure; empathy; being an excellent communicator; the ability to work well independently as well as with a team of care givers and with a variety of personality types (as mentioned prior, interprofessional caregiving has become paramount) - all of this, while exhibiting consistent professionalism and impeccable ethics with patients and colleagues.

These and other professional development components are a critical part of any undergraduate degree. Carefully consider the guidelines on the HPPLC Professional Development page.


Physician supervision of the physician assistant

The manner in which a PA is supervised by the physician depends on the laws of the given state, the specific healthcare setting, and the guidelines agreed upon by the PA and physician. Below are four EXAMPLES of different supervisory methods, from the Physician Assistant Committee site. Each item describes a different way in which the physician and her or his PA might collaborate. There are other methods; these are just a few:

  • The physician sees the patients the same day that they are treated by the PA.
  • The physician reviews, signs, and dates the medical record of every patient treated by the physician assistant within thirty days of treatment.
  • The physician adopts written protocols which specifically guide the actions of the PA. Within 30 days of treatment, the physician must select, review, sign, and date at least 10% of the medical records of patients treated by the physician assistant according to those protocols.
  • In special circumstances, the physician provides supervision through another mechanism approved in advance by the [Physician Assistant Committee].

Physician Assistant compared to Nurse Practitioner (NP)

The differences and similarities between PAs and NPs noted below are contingent upon many variables, including the specific work setting, differing state regulations, and the preferences of the supervising physician.

  • The length of formal training is roughly the same for NPs and for PAs enrolled in masters degree programs (about 24 - 27 months), although most NP programs require that applicants spend one or two years working as a registered nurse (RN) prior to beginning NP training.
  • Pre-PA undergraduates may pursue any degree / major as they prepare to apply to PA programs. It is most common for those planning NP to first earn their BSN, work as a nurse for a year or two (or longer if they wish), and then enter an NP masters program. (There are other paths to the NP, but we won't go into those details here.)
  • In some respects PA and NP are competing professions, so patient care responsibilities are very similar, even identical in some settings.
  • It is often noted that NPs may operate their own medical practices, and, depending on certain circumstances, can often function more independently than PAs, both in terms of setting and the kinds of responsibilities they undertake. Some states allow PAs to operate their own practice, though these opportunities are not yet pervasive. In some settings where a local physician is not often present, such as in some rural clinics, a PA may be the main health care provider, even though technically they are under the supervision of an MD or a DO. Furthermore, how independently a PA practices is also very contingent upon state law, work setting, and the employment agreement between physician and PA.
  • Both NPs and PAs may need to be on call, but PAs may have more predictable schedules with less on-call time, depending on the setting and their agreement with the supervising physician.
  • PAs are covered by the physician's insurance. Depending on the setting, NPs often must have their own insurance. This is particularly true for NPs operating their own practice.
  • Most PA degree programs are generalist in nature. PAs specialize by simply working and training with different kinds of physicians. By contrast, different NP training programs offer different specializations from the start. (For examples, see IU School of Nursing graduate programs.) Thus, for an RN or NP to move into another area of specialization (called "advanced nursing practice"), further schooling and certifications are necessary. There are some PA specialization training programs, but many within the PA profession argue against them because they believe PA training should, by definition, remain focused on producing general practitioners, that this more expansive training is one of the strengths of the traditional PA path, and that PA specializations should continue to be developed in the work setting, between the PA and their supervising physician, instead of through additional formal (and expensive) education.
  • It is often noted that PAs are trained according to a medical school model (we noted before that PA school is often referred to as "accelerated medical school"), whereas NP training employs a model similar to that of RN training. But what does this mean? It said that PA training generally focuses on the efficient gathering of information, assessment of symptoms related to the physical ailment, and the reaching of a diagnosis; whereas NP training is said to instill a more "holistic" approach to diagnosis - one that entails the assessment of the patient's whole physical, emotional, psychological, and cultural circumstances. According to this idea, while a busy NP may appear to be simply assessing physical symptoms and rendering diagnosis and treatment, the underlying philosophy of the NP's training and practice would nonetheless be holistic. At the same time, it would be a mistake to believe that an effective PA simply ignores a patient's psychological state, or cultural factors which might impact the patient's condition or treatment thereof. Those who job shadow both PAs and NPs, or who have been patients of each, often say they didn't experience much different between the two. It could be that this distinction is often more philosophical than practical.
  • In 2006, an article in the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants stated, "While PAs embrace the physician-PA team concept and physician supervision, NPs generally use the term 'collaboration,' meaning a close working relationship between different professions. That said, NPs do view themselves as part of an interdisciplinary health care team" ('What's the Difference Between PAs and NPs?," JAAPA, V.19, No. 10 OCT 2006). More recently, "interprofessional collaboration" has become a hot topic. PA, NP, and healthcare in general, seem to be moving toward more collaborative, team-based care, which could mean that the practical distinctions between PA and NP could become even less discernible.

PA school "versus" medical school

Whether a given characteristic of med or PA is a so-called benefit or drawback, advantage or disadvantage to you, depends upon your personal circumstances, personality, aptitudes, goals, preferences, resources, and other factors. Length of professional training, for example, is a commonly cited difference between med and PA, but the choice between the two is not simply about the next stage of your education. It's also about which career and lifestyle seems the best fit for you. So what seems like a pro for one person might be a con for another; a factor that is important to one person might be inconsequential or neutral to another person.

As noted, PA school is often described as accelerated medical school, minus the residency component. This simple description is meant only as a starting point. If you are trying to decide between these two career paths, do some research through the actions and items below, and then feel free to meet with a HPPLC premed or pre-PA advisor to discuss your particular situation (click the Make An Appointment link on our homepage and follow the simple instructions).

  • Arrange clinical observation (job shadowing) of both PAs and physicians so you can learn about the distinctions, commonalities, and collaborative styles between the two professions.
  • You can learn a lot about the professions by spending a couple of hours reading around in both PA and medical journals (IUB Herman B. Wells library), especially articles focused on best practices.
  • Explore the career and education information on professional organization sites affiliated with each field (e.g., AMA, AAPA).
  • On PA program sites, look up curricular information (what sorts of courses you would take in med or PA school, what kinds of clinicals you would undertake, how classes tend to be taught, and so on). Also read descriptions for actual medical and PA school courses. Doing so can further enhance your understanding of the similarities and differences between the med / PA educational and career paths.



Description Of Physician Assistant Programs

In 2007, the American Academy of Physician Assistants recognized that PA education is conducted at the graduate level, and indicated its support for awarding the masters degree for new PAs. There are currently more than 220 accredited PA training programs in the US, 97% of which award a masters, with PA bachelor's degree programs all but gone. The average curriculum runs 24 to 27 months. Most programs begin in May, June, August, or January.

By far the most common pre-PA route would be for you to earn an undergraduate degree while completing the admission requirements for the masters degree PA programs to which you plan to apply. Some people manage to work in all their prerequisite courses, direct patient care hours, GRE prep / exam, shadowing, and other necessities into a four-year degree time frame, but the majority of applicants take one or more gap years to prepare prior to applying. It is perfectly fine to graduate and then finish up your pre-PA process. PA programs have no preference about an applicant's undergraduate degree / major, and are also perfectly fine with gap years!


PA training: the classroom experience & clinicals

PA education consists of classroom and laboratory instruction in the basic medical and behavioral sciences (such as anatomy, pharmacology, pathophysiology, clinical medicine, and physical diagnosis), followed by clinical rotations in internal medicine, family medicine, surgery, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, emergency medicine, geriatric medicine, and others.

Because of the close working relationship PAs have with physicians, PAs are educated according to a medical school model designed to reflect physician training, both methodologically and philosophically. The specific pedagogical (teaching) methodology varies by program. For instance, some programs opt for a traditional lecture-based teaching style, others incorporate problem-based learning strategies, some have an outcome-based dimension, and some are a combination.


One example of a problem-based learning environment is as follows: PA students are presented with a mock clinical scenario in which they must assess a patient's symptoms and circumstances, collaboratively and independently research possible diagnoses and treatments, report the results of this research to their peers, then assess and reflect upon the learning experience. For additional information abut problem-based learning, read UCI's What is Problem-Based Learning? Because you could develop a preference for one kind of program over another, we encourage you to look up on the web each of the teaching methodologies mentioned above and spend a few minutes reading around the info. You could then try to work your preferences into your program research.


Some programs, like the one offered through Indiana University, incorporate state of the art simulation centers into their training. Sim centers use computer-driven mannequins which simulate actual medical symptoms, vital signs, and so on.


Most programs also incorporate research components, the type and extent of which varies.


PA training is intentionally focused on general practice. PAs can specialize by working with different kinds of physicians and in different settings, so it is possible for PAs to gain multiple areas of specialization over their career. For additional details, Click HERE.



Overview Of PA Admissions

IMPORTANT: for tips and guidelines pertaining to the admission process, click HERE. The overview page includes important information pertaining to managing competitive admissions; rolling admissions; required criminal background checks; academic misconduct; professionalism; and the various components which comprise the application.


Click the center of the video box below to play an informative but lighthearted cartoon short about rolling admissions.

HPPLC tip video: Rolling Admissions



Physician Assistant Studies At Indiana University

A Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) program is offered within the Indiana University School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS - Indianapolis campus). The IU program is one of a relatively small number of PA programs affiliated with a medical school. The MPAS degree is offered through SHRS in collaboration with the IU School of Medicine.

While IU Bloomington itself does not offer a PA program, IUB hosts hundreds of pre-PA students who fulfill admission requirements here and then apply to PA programs around the country, including the IU MPAS on the Indy campus. Admission to the IU PA program requires successful completion of a baccalaureate degree, prerequisite courses (which can be worked into most undergraduate degrees/majors), and most of the other admission criteria noted in the overview of PA admissions.

You may choose almost any undergraduate major as long as you also complete the PA prerequisite courses. The IU PA program has no preference for one degree or major over another. Indiana University does not offer an undergraduate PA major (very few schools do).

The IU MPAS professional coursework begins in May of each year. For those who plan to begin PA school immediately after graduating, the May start time means there will be essentially no break between the end of your undergraduate degree and the start of your graduate coursework. The average applicant to PA schools is around 24 years old. Many students defer their application till their senior summer, or a year or more after graduating, depending on where they are in their preprofessional process. Utilize the right-hand Contents menu and the PA timeline page throughout your pre-PA process!

As is common among graduate programs (although not true of all programs), in-state students pay less tuition than out-of-state students.

Guidelines For Planning Your Prerequisites (Important)

Below, we've assembled some important guidelines to help you plan your prerequisites efficiently, while avoiding common oversights:

  • Take into account the When To Apply guidelines. if you would like to discuss your preprofessional timeline or application timeline, you are very welcome to click the Make An Appointment link on the HPPLC homepage and follow the instructions to schedule a meeting.
  • Each PA program has its own set of prerequisites, minimum grade / GPA requirements, and so on. We strongly encourage you to research lots of programs and apply to 10 or 12. Don't worry: to help things go smoothly, we offer straightforward, step-by-step guidelines for researching programs.
  • Considerably higher grades than the minimum required are necessary, not only to be competitive for admission, but to help you develop the skills and knowledge you will need to thrive in intensive graduate-level coursework. Programs also like to see consistency on transcripts. For IU PA admission policies such as minimum required grades and GPA, refer to SHRS MPAS Admission Requirements > Academic Prerequisites.
  • It is usually best for pre-PA students to begin the chemistry prerequisites right away. Doing so can help you gauge your science aptitudes early-on. It's fine to wait and take others like anatomy and physiology later. If you are on a strict 4-year plan, then summer courses are likely necessary.
  • It is usually best to avoid overlapping multiple 4 or 5 credit lab courses. People usually earn lower grades when they take such classes in the same semester than had they taken them separately. For instance, most people are better off not taking CHEM-C 117 / 127 and ANAT-A 215 together.
    • We also caution about combining organic chemistry with 4 or 5 credit lab courses, since the 3 cr organic chem course is actually more like 5 or 6 credits of work.
  • Avoid online lab courses, as most programs will not accept them!
  • Most PA programs, including IU, calculate a separate science GPA and consider it along with your cumulative GPA. Therefore, most prerequisites count twice during the admission process, making your performance in these courses doubly important.
  • Programs calculate a total cumulative GPA in accordance with the given program's GPA policies, with all grades from all college-level courses, including original grades from transfer courses and dual credit. It doesn't matter how they transfer to IUB since programs go back to original transcripts. Programs will not use your Indiana University GPA. For easy to use GPA calculators, click HERE.
  • Be wary of taking prerequisites at community colleges (2-year colleges). Some programs accept them, whereas others do not accept them or prefer prereqs taken at 4-year institutions; this, because they believe the latter offer better preparation for graduate-level work. In addition, low- or mid-level courses taken at a community college (for example, chemistry) often do not provide adequate preparation for mid- or upper-level IUB science courses.
  • Do not take lab prereqs online, as most programs will not accept them!
  • Course retake policies vary by program. Some calculate your GPA with only the retake grade and not the original grade; others average the first grade with the retake; some will calculate just the retake grade, but only for one or two courses, and so on. Obviously it's best to avoid the situation and earn strong grades the first time.
  • All programs have prerequisite deadlines, which vary substantially. Generally, plan to have your prerequisites completed in accordance with your earliest prerequisite deadline, and in time to be competitive for your earliest rolling admission cycle. You may need to apply as early as June or July!
    • IU PA prerequisite deadline: For IU PA you may have a single prerequisite left to complete after the application deadline. Summer courses do not count toward this limit, so it's okay for summer courses to be in progress at the time you apply. For details about the IU PA prerequisite deadline, see SHRS PA Application Information > Prerequisite Course Completion Form. Contact the program directly if you have related questions.
  • Some programs may not accept Advanced Placement (AP) credit, credit-by-exam, or exemption from degree requirements in place of admission requirements, or may only accept such credit under specific circumstances. Check with each program to confirm its policies.
    • The IU PA program will accept unlimited AP credit with a score of 3+ for specific prerequisite courses, as long as the prereq credit appears on your official transcript. If IUB did not grant AP credit, or only awarded "undistributed (UN)" credit, then IU PA will not grant prereq credit for the given subject(s).
    • The IU policy includes only AP credit. Other special credit is not currently accepted (as of 2015); e.g., credit from the IUB biology placement exam, IB credit, etc.
  • For a general list of IU PA admission prerequisite course categories, without IUB equivalents, refer to the Prerequisite Course Completion Form linked from SHRS MPAS Application Information > Prerequisite Course Completion Form.


IU physician assistant prerequisite courses

IMPORTANT: Admission requirements vary by program. Thoroughly research programs to assemble a complete list of all the prerequisites and other requirements you need to fulfill for all of the programs to which you hope to apply. We strongly recommend applying to 10 or 12 programs if at all possible.

For complete prerequisite information and descriptions for courses listed below, refer to IUB Academic Bulletins.


P: = prerequisite (must be taken prior to the given course)           C: = corequisite (can be taken with the given class)

* Asterisk = required for admission to IU PA

In addition to including the PA prerequisites themselves, the sample chem sequence below incorporates the required chemistry department prerequisites for the courses. The courses are listed in more or less the order in which they are most commonly completed.

Before taking CHEM-C 117 / 127 you should take the Chemistry Placement Exam (CPE). On the CPE page, read about your placement options and eligibility requirements. If necessary, discuss with your academic advisor.

Note: If you are also considering other professional programs which recommend N330 among their prerequisites, you may wish to complete N330 instead of C118. If you are focused exclusively on PA, PT, or OT, then in most cases C118 is acceptable. Always confirm prerequisites with each program.


* General Chemistry I: CHEM-C 117 / 127 Principles of Chemistry and Biochemistry I 1, 7

* Organic Chemistry I Lectures: CHEM-C 341 (P: C117). 341 may be taken prior to C118. 3

Organic Chemistry II Lectures: CHEM-C 342 (P: C341).
C342 is not an IU PA prereq; however, the Chemistry Department recommends that 342 be taken before or with C343 2, 4

* Organic Chemistry I Laboratory: CHEM-C 343 (P: C117 / 127. C342 is a recommended prereq) 4 2
* General Chemistry II: CHEM-C 118 Principles of Chemistry and Biochemistry II (P: C117 / 127) 7
Alternatively, CHEM-N 330 Intermediate Inorganic Chemistry can be taken instead of C118 (N330 - Fall, Spr, Sum; P: C342 and C343). Most programs have no preference. Chem majors should take N330.
Biochemistry: As of 2016, not required by IU PA, but many PA programs do require biochemistry. Thoroughly research programs ahead of time to determine whether you need this background. For biochem options and guidelines, click HERE. 3
Biological Sciences Credits

* Most Common General Biology Sequence: BIOL-L 112 Biological Mechanisms and BIOL-L 113 Biology Laboratory + either BIOL-L 111 Evolution and Diversity or BIOL-L 211 Molecular Biology (L211 P: BIOL-L112 and CHEM-C 117).8  L211 l may provide better preparation or be more widely accepted - check with programs. As of 2015, IU PA does accept 111.

6 - 9

* Microbiology: M380 and M315 (P: BIOL-L 211 prior to 380); or BIOL-M 250 and 315 (P: Two semesters of college chemistry; and R: BIOL-L 211 prior to or concurrent with 250). Most programs accept BIOL-M 200 and M215 (Spring only; microbiology for non-biology majors). 5, 6

4 - 5 total
* Human Anatomy: ANAT-A 215 (be sure to closely follow the A215 study tips) 5

* Human Physiology: PHSL-P 215 (recommended prerequisite: ANAT-A 215)

IU MPAS has accepted BIOL-P 451 Integrative Human Physiology in place of PHSL-P 215; however, confirm that P451 will work for programs to which you plan to apply. P451 P: senior standing or permission of Instructor.

4 - 5
Other Prerequisites Credits
* Statistics or Biostatistics: STAT-S 303 Applied Statistical Methods for the Life Sciences, STAT-S 300, PSY-K 300, or equivalent statistics course. Most 300-level stats are sufficient for most professional programs. 3 3 - 4
* Psychology: Introductory or advanced 3
* Medical Terminology: CLAS-C 209 (1 cr minimum required by IU program) 1 - 2
Other Prerequisites For Non-IU Programs: For information about additional prerequisites you might encounter during your program research, click HERE. Thoroughly research multiple programs and apply to 10 or 12 if at all possible. Varies


Important prerequisite course notes (pertaining to the table above):

  1. Before taking CHEM-C 117 / 127 you must take the Chemistry Placement Exam (CPE), and meet certain other requirements.
  2. C342 is also a prereq for ceratin IUB biochemistry courses, such as C483 and 484. A fair number of PA programs require biochemistry. Click HERE for options.
  3. Statistics courses generally assume minimum proficiency at the MATH-M 014 (algebra) level, but some assume more previous math experience. For instance, finite math is a suggested prerequisite for SPEA-K300; either finite math or calculus is recommended prior to PSY-K 300; MATH-M 119 or equivalent calculus is a prerequisite for MATH- K 310. Double-check bulletins and course descriptions for detailed prerequisite information, as prerequisites vary, and can change unexpectedly.
  4. C342 recommended taken before or concurrently with C343. Note that while this combination is 5 credits, the workload is more akin to 7 or 8 credits. Students often report having to spend about 20 hours per week between 342 and 343 (10 or more on 343 alone), so you may wish to reduce your course load to 12 or 13 hours that semester if you take them together. (As always, your options and necessities will depend on your circumstances.)
  5. BIOL-M200 / 215 cannot count toward biology major / minor requirements.
  6. BIOL-M 255 lab is for microbiology majors only.
  7. Despite having the word "biochemistry" in their titles neither C117 nor C118 will fulfill biochemistry requirements for PA program requiring biochem. 117 and 118 are NOT in practice biochemistry courses.
  8. Ultimately, programs choose what prereq equivalents they will accept, but if a program expresses concern that your general biology sequence only includes a single lab, explain that L113 is a full 3 credit lab course, and includes at least as much or more lab time / instruction as a 4+4 gen bio sequence. IUB has chosen to combine the equivalent of two semesters (and perhaps more) of lab into one semester.

Additional prerequisites for other PA programs

Prerequisites vary! Thoroughly research other PA programs to learn what additional courses you might need.

Additional prerequisites you might encounters during your program research Credits

Biochemistry: Many PA programs require biochemistry. Thoroughly research programs ahead of time to determine whether you need this background.

For those NOT majoring or minoring in chemistry one option may be CHEM-C383 Chemical Organization of Living Systems, a biochemistry course specifically designed for pre-PA and premed students (P: CHEM-C 341). Note: C383 is a rigourous biochem course; however, a small number of PA programs may not accept C383 because currently (Spring 2016) the title does not include the word "biochemistry." Check the College of Arts and Sciences bulletin or contact the Chem Dept for updates.

CHEM-C 483 Biological Chemistry (P: CHEM-C 342 or R340) and CHEM-C 484 Biomolecules and Catabolism (P: C342) are also possible options, especially for chem majors and minors. Both 483 and 484 are very intensive courses and will require substantial investment of time each week and a willingness to seek consistent help.

Note: Despite having the word "biochemistry" in their titles neither C117 nor C118 will fulfill biochemistry requirements for PA program requiring biochem. 117 and 118 are NOT in practice biochemistry courses.

Immunology: BIOL-L 321 Principles of Immunology (P: BIOL 211 and CHEM-C 117; R: BIOL-L 312) 3
Molecular Biology: BIOL-L 211 (P: BIOL-L112 and CHEM-C 117) 3
Genetics: BIOL-L 311 (P: BIOL-L 211) 3

Psychology - acceptable courses vary: If general psychology, then PSY-P 101 and perhaps 102, or P155, may be acceptable. If upper level is required than most any 300-level PSY course may be sufficient. Confirm with the given program.


Lifespan Development or Developmental Psychology: SPH-F 150, EDUC-P 314, or PSY-P 3151.
PSY-P 315 may be a more flexible option, depending on program preferences. If Lifespan or Developmental Psychology is required it may need to cover the full lifespan, birth to death. Confirm with programs.

General Physics - zero, one, or two semesters: PHYS-P 201 / 202 (or 221 / 222) 2 5 - 10
Humanities: some programs require a certain minimum number of humanities courses. For options, refer to the IUB General Education list of A&H courses. (Select Arts & Humanities. Once the list populates be sure to click Next to reveal additional options.) varies

Important prerequisite course notes (pertaining to the table above):

  1. Officially, the prerequisite or corequisite for EDUC-P 314 is PSY-P 101 or P155. Prerequisite for PSY-P315 is PSY-P 101 and 102, or P155 by itself. (P155 is generally recommended only for psychology majors.)
  2. Prerequisite for PHYS- 201 / 202 is a solid trigonometry background. 221 and 222 are calculus-based physics courses and require a strong calculus background, such as MATH-M 211 / 212.


Researching Accredited Physician Assistant Programs

IMPORTANT: Thoroughly utilize the HPPLC PA Researching Accredited Programs page throughout your preprofessional process! It includes important guidelines and tips for identifying accredited programs, deciding where to apply, organizing your research process, finding programs for which your GPA is competitive, and much more. Use only the lists of programs linked from that page. Other lists are incomplete, outdated, and driven by marketing. Be sure to research and consider both CASPA and non-CASPA programs.

Other Admission Requirements

A word about the pre-PA timeline

It is extremely common for people to wait an additional year or two (or more) to apply to PA programs so they can complete prerequisites, garner more direct care experience, more clinical observation, and so on. Feel free to discuss options, and your particular circumstances, with the HPPLC pre-PA advisor.

Frequently consult the Timeline page throughout your entire preprofessional and application processes! It not only offers another indispensable way to navigate the pre-PA site, but also provides ideas for organizing your entire preprofessional process. The Timeline page also serves as a list of Action Items for your iGPS plan.

Clinical observation (job shadowing)

IMPORTANT: After you read the information below, read the HPPLC Clinical Observation page for important details about how to arrange clinical observation (shadowing) , how to log your hours, and how to document your experiences for the benefit of your personal essay and admission interviews.

Direct patient care experience

IMPORTANT: After you read the information below, consult the HPPLC PA Direct Patient Care Guidelines page, which explains what we mean by "direct patient care," how to understand the differing program requirements, and how to document your experiences for the benefit of your personal essay and admission interviews. We've also included a list of specific patient care options.


Other professional development

Clinical observation (shadowing) and direct patient care are the two most important pre-PA professional development experiences. In addition, use your time as an undergraduate to develop a strong sense of professionalism and professional etiquette, which graduate programs will assume you posses. Effective time management can still allow for other undergraduate experiences, which you can explore on the HPPLC Professional Development page.

Personal essay

IMPORTANT: Thoroughly read the HPPLC Drafting Your Personal Essay page, which includes important essay guidelines, an essay timeline, ideas for beginning your first draft and building credibility with admission committees, tips for creating an effective introduction and conclusion, and much more.

Refer to the IU SHRS PA Admission Requirements page for IU program personal essay information.


Letters of recommendation & CASPA

IMPORTANT: After you read the information below, visit Gathering and Submitting Letters of Recommendation, where you will find important information and tips about how, from whom, and when to collect and submit recommendations, information about central application services, and much more.

In addition, it is important that in the year leading up to your application, you read the HPPLC guidelines related to the PA application process, including information about when to apply, common mistakes to avoid, and more. Fully utilize the PA Gathering and Submitting Letters of Recommendation page!

Refer to the IU SHRS PA Admission Requirements page for specific IU program letter requirements.


Graduate Record Exam (GRE - revised General Test)

IMPORTANT: After you read the information below, thoroughly read the HPPLC Graduate Record Exam (GRE) page, which includes important information and tips about when to take the GRE, preparing for and arranging to take the exam, how scores are reported, and how to decide whether or not to retake the exam.

As part of the application process, most PA programs require that you take the GRE revised General Test. A small number of PA programs require or accept MCAT scores in place of the GRE. See MCAT scores and PA programs for further explanation.

For related application cycle information, refer to the timeline page, letters of recommendation, and the application process.

IU PA Program admission exam requirement

Refer to the IU SHRS PA Admission Emphasis.

MCAT scores and PA programs

A small number PA programs require for will accept scores from the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) in place of GRE scores. (Program websites should indicate if this is the case.) The MCAT option sometimes arises when a premed student who has already taken the MCAT switches to pre-PA, or in those rare instance where a PA program requires it. If you think you might be in this situation, consult with a HPPLC advisor to discuss pros, cons, and options.

Please thoroughly read the HPPLC Graduate Record Exam (GRE) page!

Admission interviews

IMPORTANT: After you read the information below, thoroughly read the HPPLC Preparing for Admission Interviews page, which includes sample interview questions, interview tips, information about interview formats, and more.


Indiana University Physician Assistant Program admission interview

The IU MPAS program interviews approximately 3 applicants for every 1 applicant admitted. Interviews are held on the IUPUI campus. As with many program interview processes, you should plan to arrive early and spend the entire day on campus, unless you learn otherwise from the given program.

Refer to the IU SHRS PA Admission Requirements page for details about when the IU program conducts interviews.


Certification in Basic Life Support (BLS) for Health Care Providers

Prior to beginning professional coursework, many programs require that you become certified for adult, child, and infant CPR, commonly referred to as BLS certification, Health Care Provider CPR, or CPR for the Professional Rescuer.

Training courses are offered for a fee through the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross. The IU Bloomington course, SPH-H 160 First Aid And Emergency Care (3 cr), also includes all necessary instruction, including use of the Automated External Defibrillator (AED). Upon completing H160, students are eligible to complete CPR/AED certification for the Professional Rescuer and Health Care Provider, and can also become first aid certified.

A Contingency (Back-Up) Plan

It is not uncommon for people to change their goals, or for changing circumstances to necessitate revised career plans. If this were to happen, you will feel better and be more secure if you have developed a contingency plan. HPPLC and the career advisors for your degree can help you.

Sometimes a contingency plan means simply taking a while longer to become eligible for more programs, and to strengthen your application.

Other times - for example, if after shadowing you realize you are no longer drawn to your initial career choice, or if you find that you will have a difficult time being competitive for admission - developing a contingency plan means exploring other career options.


And sometimes preprofessionals actually employ both of the above strategies - working toward building a stronger application and casting a wider application net, while also undertaking some parallel career research just in case.


Which contingency strategy is best for you depends on your circumstances. To help think through the possibilities, you can meet with a HPPLC advisor and/or with an advisor in your school's career services office. Also make full use of our self-assessment and health career research resources.


Click the center of the video box below to play a lighthearted but informative short cartoon about the importance of having contingencies, or a back-up plan.

HPPLC tip video: Miri wishes she had developed a contingency plan


The Application Process

Indiana University Physician Assistant Program application

Consult the IU School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences PA application and selection process details, after reading the information below.

  • The PA application is due very early! Plan to apply to PA programs during the summer! Fall is often too late!
  • Plan your coursework well in advance; carefully read the prerequisite course deadline information.

CASPA and non-CASPA programs

Some professional programs require that you apply through a central application service (CAS) such as the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA); whereas others require that you instead apply directly to the program itself. It is common for people to apply to both CAS and non-CAS programs. Whether or not a program uses the CAS has absolutely no bearing on the quality of the program! It is simply an administrative choice. If you apply to both CAS and non-CAS programs, it simply means you will follow two or more primary application processes.

  • About 80% of PA programs require applicants to submit an application, letters of recommendation, and other materials through CASPA. See details and deadlines on the CASPA site.
  • That said, remember to consider the dozens of non-CASPA programs, or risk overlooking excellent opportunities! Whether or not a program partners with the central application service has absolutely no bearing on program quality or accreditation; it is simply a choice they've made about their application process.
  • Fully utilize the CASPA FAQs pertaining to the CASPA application process. The FAQs are good, and will thoroughly address most of your questions about CASPA.
  • Plan to apply to PA programs during the summer! Fall is often too late!
  • Get to know your instructors and request letters of recommendation 6, 8, or more weeks before you plan to submit applications! Follow the HPPLC guidelines for Gathering and Submitting Letters of Recommendation, which include insight into the process for both CAS and non-CAS programs.
  • For CASPA programs, consult CASPA's Letter of Reference FAQ before submitting recommender information.

When to apply

Application cycles vary considerably. Some programs begin during the summer, some in the fall, others in the spring.

  • Avoid the common misconception that "fall is when you apply." This is usually INCORRECT! Some application deadlines are as early as August 1!
  • Programs are receiving more applications than ever, so submit your application many weeks before deadlines, taking into account rolling admissions cycles! (More info about rolling cycles, below.)
  • Generally speaking, the busiest application time is during the SUMMER. Fall is too late for many programs, including IU's.
  • For programs that begin in January, applications are often submitted the spring prior.
  • Get to know your instructors and request letters of recommendation 6, 8, or more weeks before you plan to submit applications!

Application cycles occur roughly 8 to 11 months prior to when admitted applicants will begin the PA program itself. In other words, you apply the year prior to when you plan to enter PA school. Some pre-PA students choose to apply during the summer after Junior year (if they are on the traditional "4 year plan"), but most choose to (or find that they must) defer their application for a year or more so they can garner more patient care experience, work in additional shadowing and prerequisites, etc. (For help planning your timeline, click HERE.)

  • PA program application cycles and deadlines are different from the CASPA application cycle!
    • The "CASPA application cycle" consists of the 11 months out of each year during which the CASPA application is available. The CASPA cycle opens in mid-April of each year, and closes in mid-March of the next year. In the year you plan to apply, we suggest you open a CASPA account once CASPA announces that the new application cycle has opened (i.e., mid-April).
    • Within the CASPA application cycle, each CASPA program will have its own application cycle, i.e., its own opening and closing date. Some programs begin accepting applications as early as mid-April, while other program application cycles occur later. Click HERE for more detailed information about CASPA-program application cycles and deadlines.
    • Remember there are many, many programs that choose not to use the central application service (CAS); don't overlook these opportunities! Refer to the HPPLC Program Research page for links to complete lists of both CAS and non-CAS accredited programs.
  • In addition, many programs have "rolling admissions" (or "early decision"), meaning they begin filling spaces as soon as the program's application cycle opens for the given year. For programs with rolling admissions, we recommend that you submit your completed application toward the beginning of their application cycle. Applying late during rolling admissions can greatly decrease your chances of being admitted to some programs. In fact, we recommend you set the opening of your earliest rolling admissions cycle as your own soft application deadline. It is also true that the timing of your applications depends on other variables, such as how much time you need to prepare for and take the GRE, allowing yourself enough time to compose an excellent personal essay, and so on. Therefore, you have to plan your application according to what is most advantageous and necessary within your circumstances.
  • For programs that do not have rolling admissions - i.e., ones that do not fill spaces until after the program's application deadline - turn in all application materials several weeks before the deadline to allow time for processing, and in case there are mistakes, oversights, or other delays.
  • The central application service suggests you allow 4 weeks for them to process your application and transmit it to your programs. Optimally, this would mean submitting your CAS application 4 weeks before the most competitive period of your earliest rolling admissions cycles. In other words, you want your applications processed before the competition really heats up during rolling admissions.
  • Note that CASPA purges all non-submitted applications from their database in mid-March (i.e., applications of people who began to fill it out but did not end up applying). CASPA does retain certain portions of submitted applications in case the applicant plans to re-apply if not admitted to a program.

Note: Be aware of financial aid deadlines, which can arrive during or shortly after your application period!

Tips to avoid application delays

(aka, common application mistakes)

  • Get to know your instructors and request letters of recommendation 6, 8, or more weeks before you plan to submit applications!
  • Mistakes listing your coursework and transcript information can delay or invalidate your CAS application. Inputting this information is tedious, but nonetheless must be done with perfect accuracy and attention to detail. Past applicants have told us it works best if you systematically enter this information more or less at one time, such as over the course of a weekend, instead of doing it piecemeal.
  • When listing courses you transferred into IUB, you must refer to the transcript from the original school, not to your IUB transcript. All courses must be listed in the application with original course numbers, grades, credit hours, and so on.
  • Inform both CAS and non-CAS programs if your name is different on one or more of your transcripts compared to how you've listed it on your application.
  • Allow plenty of time for application materials to be processed. Complete all application requirements and submit both CAS and non-CAS applications as close to the opening of your earliest rolling admission cycle as possible. This includes allowing several weeks for GRE scores to be reported, 8 or more weeks for letters of recommendation to be written and submitted, 4 or more weeks for official transcripts from each and every college / university attended to be delivered, ample time for multiple drafts of your personal essay, ample time to complete shadowing and hands-on / direct care experience, and time for fees to be processed. Missing components or incomplete / inaccurate information will delay your application processing.
  • Check the website of each of your programs for any supplementary materials or secondary applications that must be submitted directly to the school and/or professional program itself. Note the secondary applications often include additional, specific short essay questions to which you must respond.

After you have submitted applications

After you have submitted your applications:

  • Double-check with the central application service, and any non-CAS programs to which you've applied, to make sure your application is complete.
  • Once you've confirmed that all of your applications are complete, we recommend you send a professionally written follow-up email to each of your programs in which you reiterate your interest in the program, thank them for considering your application, and express your hope that you will have the opportunity to discuss both their program and your interest in more detail.

Admission waitlists

If after the interview you learn that you have been put on an admission waitlist, immediately contact the program to express your continued and enthusiastic interest. Sometimes applicants who take the time to do so are among the first to be contacted if spaces open up. If after doing so you don't hear back for a week-and-a-half or two weeks, feel free to contact them again to express your interest.

Contacting CASPA and PA programs

If you are applying to CASPA programs, as you complete the online application you will be prompted as to various CASPA procedures. The CASPA site includes detailed information about each step in the CASPA application process, including a very important FAQ section. Consult the site often and consistently to make sure you understand their policies and procedures. If you have specific questions about CASPA procedures, or technical questions about the electronic applicant itself, you can contact CASPA directly. CASPA tends to have pretty good customer service, so a phone call is often your best bet.

Don't hesitate to contact PA programs directly to ask questions about their application process, or anything else pertaining to their program. They expect such contact. Always check websites first.

Always be perfectly professional and polite when talking with anyone and everyone! We know of applicants who were denied admission because of a single discourteous moment. Remember, too, hat you are an ambassador for this university.


Residency / non-residency status

The process for establishing residency to perhaps eventually garner in-state tuition varies from state to state and program to program. Contact programs directly to learn about related policies and procedures.

Retaking and dropping classes

Course retake policies vary by program. Some calculate your GPA with only the retake grade and not the original grade; others average the first grade with the retake; some will calculate just the retake grade, but only for one or two courses, and so on. Obviously it's best to avoid the situation and earn strong grades the first time.


Application addendum (optional)

An addendum is a very brief supplemental document sometimes included with an application, in which the applicant explains extenuating circumstances he or she feel could adversely impact the application, or explains why they believe their transcript does not accurately reflect their academic abilities. Visit the HPPLC Application Addendum page to read more about what an addendum is, and whether / how to include one with your application.


Financing Your Degree

Click HERE for resources related to researching scholarships and grants, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and FAFSA application timing and deadline information. (When to file will depend on when your program begins. The January prior to the start of your program might be a useful benchmark, but it is your responsibility to confirm the timing.)


Additional PA Information And Resources

  • If you are not on the HPPLC PA email list, visit our homepage and join today. We send important announcements about application changes, visiting programs, group advising sessions, the GRE, and so on.
  • GPA calculators: Having clear, realistic projected GPA information is especially important for preprofessional students, who are usually pursuing admission to programs with moderately or highly competitive admissions. For links to some useful GPA calculators, click HERE..

  • Researching scholarships and educational grants: Click HERE for resources related to researching scholarships and grants, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and FAFSA application timing and deadline information.

  • Follow our ANAT-A 215 Human Anatomy Study Tips, which include advice from students who have succeeded in this all-important class.

IU Physician Assistant Program contact information

(Indianapolis campus)

Deanna L. Hart
Director, Student Enrollment Services
IU School of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS)
Coleman Hall CF120
1140 W. Michigan St.
Indianapolis, IN 46202-5119
Phone: 317.274.7238

PA research resources



This information was prepared for Indiana University Bloomington students by the Health Professions and Prelaw Center. Please note that specific requirements and policies can change at any time without notice. Students are responsible for obtaining the most current information directly from application and testing services, and the schools and programs in which they have an interest. Refer to each program's web pages, bulletins, and other publications for the most current information. Students are responsible for understanding degree course requirements, as well as other requirements, policies, and procedures related to the degree(s) they are pursuing; for enrolling in appropriate courses; for understanding IU policies/procedures; and for following through properly with regard to all of the preceding.