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Physician Assistant

Physician Assistants (PAs) practice medicine on healthcare teams with physicians and other providers. They practice under a supervising physician. A PA earns a master’s degree through a Physician Assistant program.

The University of Houston does not currently offer a Physician Assistant program.

There is no single "best" major for pre-PA students nor are there any majors that will make you stand out. Instead, you should consider the pre-requisite courses required for admission by PA programs as well as the types of classes or majors that you would be most interested in pursuing.  As long as you show proficiency in the sciences and a general pattern of challenging yourself, your major is largely unimportant to admission committees.

That said, the more common majors for pre-PA students include: Health, Nutrition Sciences, Exercise Science, and Psychology. Majors such as Biology or Biochemistry, while suitable, do not often inherently include the specific courses that a pre-PA student will need for admission into many programs in their degree plan.

The basic course requirements for PA school are as follows:

  • Anatomy & Physiology: BIOL 1334/1134 & BIOL 1344/1144**
  • Biology: BIOL 1361/1161 & BIOL 1362/1162
  • English: ENGL 1303 & ENGL 1304
  • General Chemistry: CHEM 1331/1111 & CHEM 1332/1112
  • Genetics: BIOL 3301
  • Immunology: BIOL 4323 (only for UTMB)
  • Medical Terminology: HLT 3325
  • Microbiology: BIOL 3332/3132
  • Organic Chemistry: CHEM 3331/3221
  • Psychology: PSYC 1300
  • Sociology: SOCI 1300
  • Statistics: MATH 3339 or PSYC 3301 (NOTE: MATH 2311 is not universally accepted by PA programs in fulfillment of the statistics admission requirement due the absence of ANOVA in its course content).

While most PA programs will require the above pre-requisite courses, it is up to you to visit the individual schools’ admission office’s webpage to learn about their specific admissions requirements and to confirm the UH courses they will accept in fulfillment of these requirements.

**NOTE: Baylor College of Medicine has not historically accepted the UH BIOL 1334/1344 A&P sequence; however, this issue has been resolved as of Spring 2021. If you encounter issues with your application to BCM PA due to the Anatomy & Physiology requirements, please contact our office: prehealth@uh.edu.

PA programs via the CASPA application compute several different GPAs for each applicant:

Year-Level GPAs/Academic Status
• Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior, Post-Baccalaureate, Cumulative Undergraduate, Graduate, Overall

Course Subject Category GPAs 
• Biochemistry, Biology & Other Life Sciences, Inorganic Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physics, Other Science, Math,  English, Social & Behavioral Science, and Other Non-Science

Science, Non-Science, and Total GPAs
• CASPA divides each Year-level GPA into Science, Non-Science, and Total

College/University GPA
• Separate GPA for college/university attended based on PharmCAS GPA calculation rules.

Yes, to a certain extent, you may complete pre-requisite courses outside of the University of Houston. However, our general advice is that if you are enrolled at the University of Houston, you should only take courses that fulfill prerequisites for your professional school application at the University of Houston. Taking 1-2 courses in the Summer outside of UH is not a big deal, but avoid making it a regular occurrence, as it can give them impression your actively avoiding taking difficult classes at your home institution.

That said, if you are a transfer student bringing in credits from another institution, then you do not need to retake prerequisites for your professional school application. That includes transfer students who are transferring from community college as well as four-year institutions. The quality of your education will be tested in the coursework that you take once you enroll at the University of Houston.

Yes, depending on the PA programs in which you plan to apply, you may be required to complete the GRE, PA-CAT, or both.

Graduate Record Exam (GRE)

The GRE is the standardized exam that the majority of PA programs require for admission and is offered monthly via University Testing Services. You should plan to take the GRE in your junior or senior year depending on when you plan to apply. Most applicants take the GRE between January-May as they head into the application cycle.

Cost:$205

The GRE consists of three sections:

  • Quantitative
  • Verbal
  • Essay
You should not plan to take the GRE more than 1-2 times.

Physician Assistant College Admissions Test (PA-CAT)

The PA-CAT is a new exam that was recently developed specifically for the use by PA programs. It is a specialized test that is designed to measure applicant knowledge and application in key prerequisite science subjects typically required for PA school. The PA-CAT measures general academic ability and scientific knowledge necessary for success in the demanding Physician Assistant curriculum. We recommend taking the PA-CAT at least 2-months prior to the beginning of the PA application cycle.

List of PA programs are currently recommending or requiring the PA-CAT.

Cost: $228

Scoring Range: 200-800 (scores are valid for 2-years)

The PA-CAT 4.5 hours in length and consists of 240 multiple-choice questions covering the following topics:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • General Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • General and Organic Chemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Behavioral Sciences
  • Genetics
  • Statistics

There are no hard and fast rules for gaining admission into PA school. That said, a competitive applicant has:

  • Strong GPA (>3.5)
  • Strong GRE (>300 combined)
  • Pattern of taking challenging coursework and credit-load (>12/semester)
  • Extra-curricular involvement (leadership in student organizations, research, employment, etc.)
  • Significant experience or exposure in healthcare settings (shadowing and/or employment)

The key is to perform well in your science classes, do well on the GRE, and immerse yourself within various healthcare settings, including shadowing PAs and physicians or finding employment as a CNA, Medical Assistant, or EMT. It also important that you follow your interests as well, even if they are not directly related to healthcare. Sports, literature, film, music, acting, dancing, hobbies, and any sort of competition all fall in this category. Admissions committees value applicants that well-rounded and have interests outside of medicine. 

As in any career choice, applicants should confirm their decision to become a PA through personal experience. Such experience ranges from shadowing a PA, working in a clinic or hospital alongside physicians, nurses, and PAs.

Keep track of all experience (date, location, description) because some schools request log of your experience and employment when you apply. Further, many schools  require a letter of evaluation from a PA with whom you have interacted.

Working in a pharmacy as a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) is a great way to obtain long-term exposure to the daily life of pharmacist. In Texas, you must pass the exam given by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and pass a background investigation by the State of Texas. Beginning January 1, 2020, completion of a PTCB-recognized education/training program OR equivalent work experience will be required of all new CPhT applicants. Additionally, some shadowing and internship programs require you have your PharmTech trainee certification in order to participate. You should gain certification as soon as possible so that you are able to participate in activities.

Unlike shadowing, many PA programs have set requirements for the number of hours in which you have participated in "direct patient care." This usually means being hands-on involvement in the treatment of patients, rather than simply observing. Common routes for gaining this experience is to work as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Medical Assistant (MA), or Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Medical scribing, while counted as healthcare experience, is sometimes not viewed as direct patient care.

PA programs vary in terms of the amount of experience required for admission, with some programs requiring as many as 1000 hours. In Texas, most PA programs do not have minimum requirements but instead wish for applicants to have worked, volunteered, and/or shadowed within healthcare settings to a sufficient degree that they are certain of their choice to pursue PA school and have a solid understanding of the field.

It is not uncommon for many pre-PA applicants to take a gap-year following their graduation from college to gain the requisite experience. Please review the individual PA schools in which you hope to apply for their specific requirements.

Most PA schools utilize the CASPA application. Non-participating PA schools will use their own individual application. 

The CASPA application usually opens in April each application cycle, however, PA programs differ in terms of their individual application deadlines. That said, most PA programs in Texas have Fall deadlines (August-October) for Summer starts (May-August).

You should apply to multiple PA schools. Further, it is important that you research the requirements and mission of each school to which you hope to apply.

After submitting your CASPA application, you will need to complete the supplemental applications for each school that requires one . These applications often include additional short-essay prompts and are specific to each school. You should plan to complete the supplemental applications as soon as possible after you submit the CASPA application.

Yes, PA schools will require applicants to submit 2-3 individual Letters of Evaluation as a part of their application.

These letters should typically consist of:

  • One letter from licensed PA practicing in the US
  • One letter from a science faculty member
  • One additional letter from another healthcare professional, faculty member, or teaching assistant, advisor, employer, or supervisor.

Note: Always waive your right to view your letters of evaluation.

Yes, although most applicants focus mainly on GPA and GRE scores, the personal statement is a very important component of your application and should be carefully written. This is your opportunity to highlight things about you that are not mentioned in other sections of your application and to distinguish yourself from other applicants.

The CASPA essay is limited to 1-page, 5000 characters.

Your Personal Statement should address what your motivations are for pursuing a career as a physician assistant and why you feel are a strong candidate. Do not personalize your essay for one particular program, as the same statement will be provided to all schools selected in the CASPA application.

Physican Assistant Admissions Data for EY2019*

  • UH Applicants: 83
  • UH Accepted: 31
  • UH Acceptance Rate: 37% / National Average Acceptance Rate: 38%
University of Houston (EY2019)
Overall GPA Science GPA GRE Quantitative GRE Verbal
Applied 3.42 3.31 151 150
Accepted 3.59 3.49 153 150
Total CASPA Applicants (EY2019)
Overall GPA Science GPA GRE Quantative GRE Verbal
Applied 3.40 3.30 152 151
Accepted 3.59 3.53 151 151

*Note: Includes only those applicants who designated the University of Houston as their primary institution in CASPA and authorized release of their application data to the Pre-Health Advising Center.