How to Get Into PA Schools in California (Key Stats & Admission Info)

Most PA schools use the common Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistant (CASPA) application to choose their candidates. PA programs usually use the medical model but are much shorter than normal medical school. Once done with the basics, you can study in a specific field of your choice. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at the top 5 PA schools in California, and guide you through their admission process and requirements.

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Interested in learning about the PA Programs of other schools and colleges, finding useful admissions tips, etc? Check out our PA Programs articles here – we cover all major schools!

1. University of Southern California – LA

The PA program offered by the Keck School of Medicine of USC educates students in a range of social, medical, and behavioral science required to practice as a PA. These students are taught the skills needed for medical decision-making. 

Plus, the PA program is also offered in Spanish, which ensures that care is provided in different neighborhoods.

Admission Requirements/Process

You should have a GPA of 3.0 or higher, with science prerequisites completed at the end of the fall semester. These courses must be completed and have a grade of C or higher. Lower will not be considered. 

You should look at the course equivalency listing to ensure your coursework matches the PA program requirements but here’s a quick overview:

  • General biology or human biology
  • General chemistry with lab
  • Microbiology with lab
  • Human anatomy with lab
  • Human physiology
  • Medical terminology
  • Statistics
  • Introduction/general psychology
  • English and beginning Spanish

Non-science courses must be completed by spring as well. You have to submit your complete applications by November 1st and courses by June 30th on the year of entry. 

You must complete and submit both college applications (with documents) and the CASPA application by September 1st, as they offer rolling admissions (throughout the year). 

To strengthen your application, you should have paid healthcare experiences and hours of shadowing a PA in a normal patient care environment. You need a minimum of 3 letters of reference with a maximum of 5 letters through the CASPA application.

After the first application assessment, applicants are approached for an interview.

Check out the video below for more on USC’s PA program…

2. Stanford University 

Stanford offers a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies and teaches their students through extensive simulation learning, innovative education, and various clinical experiences. They prepare their students with the skills and knowledge necessary to be a leading PA in any specialty. 

Admission Requirements/Process

Since the college looks at its applications holistically, your overall potential as a student is also considered for admission. However, you need a regional bachelor’s degree in any field (minimum of 3.0 GPA)

You would also need to take the Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics test (CASPer).

Preparatory coursework must be completed in the following:

  1. Anatomy & Physiology
  2. Chemistry
  3. Statistics
  4. Psychology
  5. Medical terminology (recommended)

It’s also recommended to complete three additional upper-division bioscience courses prior to applying (more info on preferred course titles here).

You need to submit two essays through the CASPA application:

  • The first one is the general CASPA personal essay which will ask to describe why they want to be a PA. (5000 characters)
  • The second one is a Stanford program-specific essay that will ask to describe in detail how they would contribute to the PA profession, accomplish the program goals and use their skills in a professional setting and underprivileged communities. (2000 characters)

Although not required, it’s beneficial to also have letters of recommendation, a good GRE score, and patient care experience. If you have about 500 hours of clinical experience, then that’s a win on your side!

Stanford’s preferences are listed on their PA admissions page.

After the application review, about 10% of applicants are invited for a panel-style interview. 

University of California- Davis

The University of California-Davis has the vision to improve and advance health, with the mission of the PA program to educate future health care professionals to give care as part of teams and as leaders. PA training is aligned with transformative care and research. 

Admission Requirements/Process

You must complete a CASPA application and meet the selection criteria. A selected pool of applicants will then be invited to apply to the UC Davis application. Applications open in late April and close on August 1st

The ideal student will have a bachelor’s degree in any field with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. The school also requires a GPA of 2.7 in science prerequisite courses (this is expected to increase to a 3.0 minimum soon).

Prereqs include:

  • One course in human anatomy with lab
  • One course in human physiology with lab
  • Or human anatomy and physiology series: Part I and Part II with lab  
  • One course in chemistry with lab 
  • One course in microbiology or bacteriology with lab
  • One course in English composition
  • Two courses in social sciences. Ideal courses provide exposure to human or organizational behavior — such as psychology, sociology, ethnic studies, women’s studies or cultural anthropology

You are also asked to submit a statement of why you’d make a good PA student, three letters of recommendation, and official transcripts through the CASPA website. 

Your coursework should be from an accredited school and must be on the transcript that you need to submit. It is advantageous to have a minimum of 1000 hours of paid direct patient care experience in a healthcare setting. 

More on this program in the video below…

Samuel Merritt University

Samuel Merritt University provides a diverse and inclusive culture that supports its student’s success in a well-oiled learning environment. They use medical simulation technology, their cadaver lab, and community service to enhance learning. 

Admission Requirements/Process

The average GPA of their accepted students is about 3.4, however, the minimum overall GPA is 3.0 (as calculated by CASPA). The courses listed must be completed with a minimum grade of C or higher.

Prerequisite requirements must be the following:

  • Human anatomy (no lab required – A&P acceptable)
  • Human physiology (no lab required)
  • Microbiology (no lab required)
  • Biology elective (any area)
  • Statistics
  • Inorganic/general chemistry
  • Organic chemistry

Strong preference is given to those completing these courses in the last 5 years. See the admissions page here for details.

In addition to prereqs, SMU focuses on those with at least 1000 hours of healthcare experience, but they also look at the whole application, including background and letters of recommendation. 

Healthcare experience can include medical assistants and EMTs, however, they do consider other clinical experiences. Preference is given to those who have shadowed a PA. The university also values community service, especially commitment to a particular service. 

Those who meet the requirements are called in for an interview, where the university judges their communication skills and how they work in a team. 

The video below provides a nice intro to PA education at Samuel Merritt…

Marshall B. Ketchum University

The faculty at this school prides itself on providing interprofessional education that focuses on communication, quality of care, and safety. Marshall B. Ketchum’s PA program prepares you to work in teams or as a leader to give the best patient care/experience and outcomes. 

Admission Requirements/Process

You must apply through CASPA and understand the requirements and other instructions provided. The school requires a baccalaureate degree from an accredited university or college. They don’t require GRE scores. 

Although the PA program doesn’t need you to have lots of requirements compared to other schools, it is advantageous to have a science GPA of 3.0, an overall GPA of 3.0, at least 1000 hours of healthcare experience, and submit three letters of recommendation. This is usually done through the CASPA website. 

They ask for coursework in the following subjects:

  • Microbiology with lab
  • Human Anatomy with lab (must be taken in the last seven years)
  • Human Physiology with lab (must be taken in the last seven years)
  • Biological sciences, any area
  • Genetics
  • Biochemistry or Organic Chemistry
  • Statistics
  • General Psychology

The school really values community service volunteers. Those who are dedicated to the community, especially doing services that benefit underprivileged groups, are desirable.

When the admission team reviews applications, they call a selected number of applicants for an interview. These interviews are usually conducted from October to December. 

Marshall B. Ketchum’s 2021 class profile for their PA program had an overall GPA of 3.5, science GPA of 3.46, and combined patient care hours over 5,000.