Navigating the PA School prerequisites is vital for every aspiring Physician Assistant seeking a competitive edge to get into PA school. This article delves deep into the essential degree requirements, highlighting the most widely accepted majors and shedding light on the pivotal courses you shouldn’t overlook. Equip yourself with the knowledge needed to enhance your PA School application, understanding the nuances of prerequisites across both US and Canada. Stay ahead by ensuring your educational trajectory aligns with these key insights.

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PA Degree Prerequisites PA Major Prerequisites PA Course Prerequisites Conclusion FAQs

Degree Prerequisites: Laying the Educational Foundation

The journey to becoming a Physician Assistant (PA) is marked by rigorous academic preparation. In the evolving landscape of healthcare, PAs are entrusted with an ever-expanding array of responsibilities, from diagnosing illnesses to performing procedures. It’s only fitting then, that the educational prerequisites to enter this esteemed profession are stringent. When it comes to degree prerequisites for PA programs, the consensus among institutions is clear: a solid foundation, typically exemplified by a bachelor’s degree, is imperative.

The Bachelor's Degree: A Gold Standard

At the heart of PA school prerequisites for both physician assistant programs in the US and physician assistant programs in Canada is the requirement of a bachelor’s degree. This isn’t just a tick in the box. A bachelor’s degree provides a comprehensive educational journey, introducing you to a diverse array of subjects and cultivating your critical thinking and problem-solving prowess. Such a well-rounded education ensures that, as a PA, you are technically proficient and equally adept in the softer nuances of patient care.

Why Not Just an Associate Degree?

If you’re pondering whether a two-year associate degree might suffice, there are compelling reasons why a majority of the best PA schools favor applicants with a bachelor's degree:

Considering Post-Baccalaureate Programs

If you feel like you overlooked specific prerequisites during your undergrad, or you're aiming to spruce up your academic credentials, post-baccalaureate programs could be your answer. Typically ranging from one to two years, these programs are crafted to align with the prerequisites of health disciplines and have ushered numerous individuals into PA school.

To wrap it up, while there's more than one route to PA school, the bachelor's degree unmistakably reigns supreme. Its exhaustive essence, coupled with the depth of academic and experiential opportunities it grants, solidifies its place in the PA school application process. As trends indicate, you, like many before you, acknowledge its worth, arming yourself with a bachelor’s degree, primed for your PA aspirations.

Major Prerequisites: Choosing the Right Academic Pathway

As you contemplate a career as a Physician Assistant (PA), it's essential to realize that your journey doesn't solely hinge on meeting the degree prerequisites. The major you embrace during your undergraduate years can significantly influence your readiness for PA school or even which of the PA specialties you pursue, particularly concerning the necessary coursework. In this section, we'll navigate through major prerequisites, spotlighting the academic fields most frequently pursued by PA school hopefuls.

1. Most Common Majors Among PA Applicants

Based on historical data, the following majors tend to be the most popular among PA school applicants:

  1. Biology or Biological Sciences: Often considered the most traditional route for those eyeing medical or health-related graduate programs. Biology covers a broad range of topics, many of which overlap with the science prerequisites for PA school.
  2. Chemistry: Another robust major that touches on several core concepts required in PA programs. While not as comprehensive as biology in terms of covering PA prerequisites, many chemistry majors end up taking supplementary courses that fill the gaps.
  3. Health Sciences or Allied Health: Tailored for those seeking careers in the health sector, these majors often cover many of the courses that PA schools list as prerequisites. They also offer a holistic view of healthcare, which can be beneficial for prospective PAs.
  4. Kinesiology or Exercise Science: These majors can be especially relevant if you're interested in the more physical or rehabilitative aspects of healthcare. They generally cover anatomy and physiology comprehensively, which are crucial for PA school.
  5. Nursing: Given the clinical exposure and comprehensive health training that nursing programs offer, many nurses eventually decide to transition to the PA profession, bringing with them a wealth of real-world experience.

Here are our tips for acing your PA school interview questions!

2. Flexibility and Diversity in Major Selection

Even though the majors listed above are prevalent, it's imperative for you to appreciate that PA schools cherish diverse academic tapestries. They value the myriad perspectives and expertise that different academic backgrounds bring to the healthcare tableau. Consequently, majors in non-science disciplines like Psychology, Sociology, or even English can be your gateway to PA school as long as you fulfill the necessary science courses.

3. Making an Informed Choice

When deciding on a major, consider the following:

In essence, while some majors might be predominant among PA school candidates, what truly holds weight is your dedication and what you can contribute to the PA profession, your academic milestones, and your adeptness at meeting course prerequisites. By judiciously selecting a major that mirrors your interests and aligns with your PA aspirations, you're poised to lay a robust foundation for a rewarding PA career.

Course Prerequisites: Building a Strong Academic Base

Securing a spot in a Physician Assistant (PA) program is more than just having the right degree or major; it's also about ensuring you've completed the essential coursework that forms the academic foundation for the profession. These course prerequisites not only ensure you have the necessary knowledge to embark on the PA journey but also attest to your dedication and preparation for the rigorous curriculum of PA school. In this section, we will outline the courses that are most commonly required for PA program applications in both the US and Canada.

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Course Prerequisites for US PA Programs

With 303 ARC-PA accredited PA programs in the United States, the journey to becoming a Physician Assistant is marked by both rigor and excellence. These programs aim to produce highly qualified PAs equipped to meet the demands of modern medicine. To ensure that students are adequately prepared for the academic and clinical challenges these programs offer, there are several foundational courses required as prerequisites. These courses not only provide a foundational knowledge base but also ensure students are primed to delve into the intricacies of patient care, disease mechanisms, and treatments.

By satisfying these course prerequisites, prospective PA students not only demonstrate their commitment to the profession but also ensure they possess the foundational knowledge needed to succeed in any of the esteemed ARC-PA accredited programs across the nation.

Here's an overview of the commonly required courses in U.S. PA programs:

Course Prerequisites for Canadian PA Education Programs

Canada, known for its world-class education and healthcare sectors, offers aspiring PAs a range of top-tier educational programs. While there are several PA programs available worldwide, in Canada, three distinguished institutions stand out for their exemplary training and curriculum: McMaster University, the PA Consortium encompassing the University of Toronto, Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and The Michener Institute for Education at UHN, and the University of Manitoba. Each of these institutions provides a unique approach to PA education, ensuring graduates are well-equipped to excel in the dynamic world of healthcare. 

1. McMaster University Physician Assistant Education Program

Bachelor of Health Sciences (Physician Assistant) [BHSc(PA)]

While the McMaster PA program doesn't mandate specific courses, it does require candidates to have completed a minimum of 10 full courses or 20 half courses (equivalent to two years). Notably, courses that involve small group, self-directed, or inquiry-based learning approaches are recommended as they provide excellent preparation for the PA program.

2. PA Consortium (University of Toronto, Northern Ontario School of Medicine, The Michener Institute for Education at UHN)

Bachelor of Sciences Physician Assistant Degree [BScPA]

  • Human Anatomy: This course offers a comprehensive overview of the structures of the human body, detailing each body part and system.
  • Human Physiology: Physiology delves into the functioning of the human body, exploring how our organs and systems work in tandem.

3. University of Manitoba

Master of Physician Assistant Studies [MPAS]

  • Human Anatomy: An in-depth look at the structures and systems of the human body.
  • Physiology and Biochemistry: While physiology focuses on the body's function, biochemistry studies the chemical processes within living organisms, shedding light on the molecular mechanisms driving bodily functions.
  • Microbiology: This course explores microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa, studying their roles in health and disease.
  • Psychology: A study of human behavior, thought processes, and emotions, helping PA students to understand patient behavior better and thought patterns.


Your journey to PA school might feel overwhelming at times, but by understanding the key prerequisites, you can pave a clearer path forward. At the core of a standout application are foundational elements: the right degree, an appropriate major, and the essential courses that PA schools expect their applicants to complete. These prerequisites are more than just boxes to tick; they serve as a foundational scaffold ensuring you're aptly prepared for the dynamic and fulfilling role of a Physician Assistant.

Your thorough preparation and meticulous planning are paramount. By carefully crafting your academic and extracurricular roadmap, you position yourself as a competitive applicant, ready to thrive in PA programs. As healthcare landscapes shift and evolve, you, as a future PA, will play a pivotal role in patient care, touching and improving countless lives.


1. What is the importance of fulfilling PA school prerequisites?

Prerequisites ensure that students have the foundational knowledge necessary for PA programs. They set a standard, ensuring all students, regardless of their undergraduate major, begin with the same baseline knowledge.

2. Do all PA programs have the same course prerequisites?

While there's a common foundation for many PA program requirements, specifics can vary among institutions. Always verify the prerequisites of each program you're considering.

3. Can I apply to PA school if I haven't completed all the prerequisites?

Some programs might accept applications if you're finishing your prerequisites, provided they are completed before the program commences. Check with the specific program for their policy.

4. Is there an expiration date for prerequisite courses?

Some programs mandate that certain courses must have been taken recently, often within the last 5-10 years, to ensure current knowledge. Refer to individual PA program guidelines for details.

5. Are hands-on lab experiences necessary for courses like Anatomy or Chemistry?

Many PA programs emphasize the importance of hands-on lab experience, especially for science courses, as it provides practical understanding and application. It's advisable to check with individual programs if they accept courses without lab components.

6. How does the PA application process evaluate prerequisite coursework from different institutions?

Most PA programs evaluate the rigor of the coursework, the reputation of the institution, and the grade received. While the institution's prestige can play a role, the emphasis is typically on the applicant's performance in the course and its relevance to the PA curriculum.

7. If I have an advanced degree, do I still need to complete the undergraduate prerequisites?

Yes, even with an advanced degree, PA programs usually require all applicants to complete the specific undergraduate prerequisites. Advanced coursework can, however, enhance your application.

8. Can I take the prerequisite courses online?

Many PA programs accept online courses from accredited institutions, but it's always best to check with the individual program you're interested in.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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