Physician Assistant

To print a copy of this information, click on this link: prephysician_asst_curriculum_rev_8-2013.pdf

The Major

The “prephysician assistant curriculum” is just a list of courses that are required for admission to a Physician Assistant (PA) Program. It is NOT an academic major, a minor, or an emphasis area.

PA schools do not require a particular major. Although most pre-PA students choose a major in one of the sciences, other majors are acceptable including those in the humanities, social sciences, or business. Students should select the major in which they feel the most comfortable and in which they would like to work if they are not accepted into a PA school. Regardless of major, students are advised to take more than the minimum number of medicine-related science courses.

Progress toward a Baccalaureate Degree

Course work toward a baccalaureate degree at Southern Miss must be planned so the student meets all the requirements for the preprofessional curriculum, a major, a minor if appropriate, the University General Education Curriculum, and the College core. At Southern Miss, a minimum of 124 hours is needed for most baccalaureate degrees, with 45 of these hours from courses at the 300-level or above.

For information about the PA Profession, visit the American Academy of Physician Assistants website: http://www.aapa.org/.

There are ~160 accredited PA programs nationwide. For more information about PA schools, visit the Physician Assistant Education Association: http://www.paeaonline.org/

The PA professional program typically takes about 27 months to complete.

Requirements for Applicants

Admission to a PA program is very competitive; successful applicants typically exceed the minimum criteria for admission. Although there may be accommodations for early admission at some schools, students wishing to apply typically must earn a baccalaureate degree and must complete a series of prerequisite courses as part of a preprofessional program, for example at Southern Miss.

The prerequisites for admission to PA programs are somewhat different, depending on the school, so the student will need to determine the specific preprofessional curriculum to be followed.

Students must consult the specific admission requirements and application deadlines for the school(s) to which they plan to apply.

Typical requirements for admission:

  • At a minimum, applicants must complete two years of undergraduate courses in basic and behaviorally sciences as prerequisites.
  • Many PA schools require that applicants complete a baccalaureate degree prior to the starting a PA program, with a minimum overall undergraduate GPA of 3.0 on 4.0 scale. Highly competitive applicants will have an overall GPA of 3.5 or higher.
  • Completion of prerequisite course work with a grade of C or higher in each course is a minimum requirement. A GPA of 3.5 or higher is desirable for a competitive application.
  • Some PA schools will accept online courses taken at a regionally accredited college, but others do not.
  • Completion of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) within the past five to ten years (requirements vary with the school). The “old” GRE was administered until July 31, 2011 and the “revised” GRE went into effect on August 1, 2011. Link: www.gre.org
    Required scores vary, but are typically:
    –    Revised GRE score of 150 in Verbal and 150 in Quantitative and 3.5 in Analytical Writing
    –    Old GRE combined score of 1000 in Verbal and Quantitative and 3.5 in Analytical Writing
  • Three letters of evaluation/recommendation. At least one typically must be from a clinician [Medical Doctor (MD), Doctor of Osteopathy (DO), or Physician Assistant (PA)] who has personal knowledge of the student’s character and work habits.
  • Many PA schools require applicants to have completed at least 6 months (1,000 hours) of hands on patient care experience. Experience in hospitals, clinics, and private practices offers exposure to a wider range of patients and providers than does experience in nursing homes and with home health organizations.
  • Criminal history background check and/or drug tests typically are required before or after matriculation, depending on the school.
  • Must meet technical standards of school (eg. physical or other abilities)

Mississippi College in Clinton has the only PA program in the state; applications are available May 1 for the following year; application deadline is March 1, with classes starting in late May. A Bachelor’s degree is required for admission.  Students earn a Master of Science in Medicine degree: http://www.mc.edu/academics/departments/pa/

Mississippi College PA Program

Required courses

  • two courses in Human Anatomy and Physiology (BSC 250/L; BSC 251/L)
    NOTE:  Southern Miss students are strongly recommended to take general biology before attempting the Anatomy and Physiology sequence
  • one course in Microbiology (BSC 380/L)
    NOTE:  admission to upper level biological sciences classes at Southern Miss requires two general biology courses (BSC 110/L; BSC 111/L)
  • two courses in General Chemistry with laboratory (CHE 106/L, CHE 107/L)
  • one course in Organic Chemistry with laboratory (CHE 255/L)
  • one course in statistics (PSY 360 recommended, depending on student’s major)
  • online courses, with the exception of statistics, are not accepted for required coursed

Recommended

  • additional upper level science classes such as Genetics (BSC 370), Cell Biology (BSC 360), Molecular Biology (BSC 476, BSC 478L), Biochemistry (CHE 420) or (CHE 421, 422)

Mississippi College recommends the equivalent of six months experience (1,000 hours) direct patient care before the student enters the program.

Another nearby PA program is at the University of South Alabama in Mobile; applications are due November 1. A Bachelor’s degree is a requirement for admission. Students earn a Master of Health Science: http://www.southalabama.edu/alliedhealth/pa/

University of South Alabama PA Program

Required courses (labs are not required for the PA program, but they are required co-requisites for most science courses at Southern Miss)

  • one course in General Biology (BSC 110/L)
  • one course in Human Anatomy and one course in Human Physiology (BSC 451) OR Anatomy and Physiology I and II (BSC 250/L and BSC 251/L
    NOTE: Southern Miss students are strongly recommended to take general biology before attempting the Anatomy and Physiology sequence
  • one course in Microbiology (BSC 380/L)
    NOTE: admission to upper level biological sciences classes at Southern Miss requires two general biology courses (BSC 110/L; BSC 111/L)
  • two courses in General Chemistry (CHE 106/L, CHE 107/L)
  • one course in Organic Chemistry (CHE 255/L)
  • one course in mathematics (college algebra minimum)
    NOTE: most majors in the College of Science and Technology require Calculus (MAT 114 or MAT 167)
  • one course in general psychology (PSY 110)
  • one course in statistics (PSY 360 recommended at Southern Miss, depending on the student’s major)
  • one course in medical terminology (MTC 201)
  • online courses are accepted from a regionally accredited school
  • courses not accepted are those in nursing, exercise science, physical education, and veterinary.

Bonus courses (count towards bonus points on application)

Genetics (BSC 370), Biochemistry (CHE 420 or 421,422,424), Immunology (BSC 486), Physics (PHY 111/L or 112/L (or 200 level versions), Pharmacology, Genomics, or Pathophysiology

Suggested Course Sequence & Strategies for Success

The suggested course sequence below is merely a guideline to complete the courses required for a PA program in a timely manner. Courses to fulfill the major must be worked into the student’s schedule.

Students must consult the USM Undergraduate Bulletin, the USM Class Schedule Guide for each semester, and their academic advisor. During the last semester of the Sophomore year, students should develop a more detailed plan for the Junior and Senior years because many upper level courses in all majors are offered in specific semesters (Fall or Spring only) and/or on a rotating two-year cycle.

YEAR 1

Fall Spring  
BSC 110&L OR BSC 111&L a  4 h BSC 111&L OR BSC 110&L a 4 h 
CHE 106&Lb4 h CHE 107&L4 h
MAT 101c  3 h MAT 103c 3 h
ENG 101 d  3 h ENG 102 3 h
One other coursee 3 h One other coursee 3 h

a, The order that students take the introductory Biological Sciences (BSC) courses does not matter; BSC 110/L covers molecular and cellular topics whereas BSC 111/L covers ecology and organisms.

b, Students enrolling in CHE 106&L must have passed high school chemistry or passed CHE 100 at USM. CHE 100 is required when the chemistry background is not adequate. Students may enter CHE 100 directly, if they choose. Students enrolled in CHE 106/L will take a test about two weeks into the class to determine if they should remain in CHE 106/L. If they do not meet the minimum score, these students are strongly recommended to move to a CHE 100 class, which is offered at the same time as CHE 106.

c, Placement in mathematics (MAT) courses depends on the student’s ACT subscore.

Calculus is required for most majors in the College of Science and Technology (CoST), but is not required for PA school or for majors outside of CoST.

  • ACT mathematics subtest score 19 or below:  must take MAT 99 (Intermediate Algebra)
  • ACT mathematics subtest score 20 or above:  MAT 101 (College Algebra)
  • ACT mathematics subtest score 24 or above (or grade of C or better in College Algebra):  MAT 103 (Trigonometry). NOTE:  Trigonometry is a prerequisite for Physics I and pre-PA students are advised to take MAT 103.
  • ACT mathematics subtest score 24 or above (or grade of C or better in Trigonometry): MAT 114 (Calculus for the Arts and Sciences)
  • ACT mathematics subtest score 26 or above:  MAT 167 (Calculus I)

d, Placement in English Composition courses depends on the student’s ACT English subscore.

  • ACT English subtest score 16 or below:  ENG 99E (Expanded Composition Studio) and ENG 100E (Composition I expanded)
  • ACT English subtest score 17-19:  ENG 100E (Composition I expanded)
  • ACT English subtest score 20 or above:  ENG 101 (Composition 1)

e, “Other” courses include those in the General Education Curriculum and in the major and/or minor as well as any “recommended electives” suggested by the PA school.

Strategy for Success

  • Students should focus on doing well in their academic studies. Aim for a minimum 3.6 GPA on science and math courses.
  • Students should become involved with extracurricular activities, including meaningful community service learning, volunteer activities, and leadership positions that will demonstrate effective interactions with diverse people and effective time management skills.
    Students should maintain a record of the dates and total hours spent performing such activities. This will be needed when it comes time to apply to PA school.
  • Students must get hands-on exposure to medicine (sights, sounds, smells, feel). Many programs recommend several hundred hours or more of direct patient care. Other programs require a minimum of 6 months (1,000 hours) of direct patient care.
  • Students are strongly encouraged to complete the prerequisites for the Hatten Externship (BSC 392) during the first year. The Externship course is offered in the Fall semester, so students must fulfill the prerequisites by the end of the preceding Summer semester.

Students may participate in the externship twice. Since students typically apply to PA school at the end of the Junior year, participation in the Externship as Sophomores and Juniors is recommended.

Externship prerequisites are ENG 101, 102; BSC 110/L, 111/L; CHE 106/L, 107/L; [MAT 101, 103 OR one Calculus course]. Minimum GPA of 3.2 for USM GPA, degree GPA, and BCPM GPA.

  • Students may join AED (Alpha Epsilon Delta), the national Health Preprofessional Honor Society, as associate members at any time even if they do not fulfill the requirements for full membership (must be enrolled at Southern Miss for a minimum of three semesters and meet specific course and GPA requirements). Full members are inducted during the Spring semester.

Information and links to AED Full and Associate Member applications are available on the Southern Miss Preprofessional website: http://www.usm.edu/science-technology/alpha-epsilon-delta

YEAR 2

Fall Spring  
CHE 255&L 4 h CHE 256&L4 h 
BSC 250&L OR BSC 251&L 4 hBSC 251&L OR BSC 250&L4 h
3-4 other classese, f 4-11 h3-4 other classese8-11 h

f, Students are strongly encouraged to take the Hatten Externship course (BSC 392) in the Fall semester of the second year; the course can be repeated in the Fall of the third year. Prerequisites are ENG 101, 102; BSC 110/L, 111/L; CHE 106/L, 107/L; [MAT 101, 103 OR one Calculus course]. Minimum GPA of 3.2 for USM GPA, degree GPA, and BCPM GPA.

Strategy for Success

  • Students continue to focus on doing well in their studies.
  • Students remain involved with meaningful community service learning, volunteer activities, and leadership positions.
  • Students continue to participate in hands-on exposure to medicine.
  • Students are strongly encouraged to participate in the Hatten Externship (BSC 392), which is offered in the Fall. Students may participate in the externship twice. Students typically apply to PA school during the Senior year, so participation in the externship as Sophomores and Juniors is recommended.
  • Students are typically inducted into AED, the national Health Preprofessional Honor Society, in the Spring semester of the Sophomore year, but may be inducted in Junior or Senior year (must be enrolled at Southern Miss for a minimum of three semesters and meet specific course and GPA requirements).

YEAR 3

Fall Spring  
BSC 380/L4 hClasses to fulfill major, minor, etc.g15-18 h 
Classes to fulfill major, minor, etc.g12-14 h  

g, PA applicants must take a statistics course; PSY 360 is suggested, depending on the student’s major.

Competitive student will take additional science courses beyond the basic minimum. Advanced science courses include Genetics (BSC 370), Cellular Biology (BSC 360), Molecular Biology (BSC 476, BSC 378L), or studies in advanced chemistry areas such as Biochemistry [CHE 420 (Principles of Biochemistry) is suggested for student seeking only a single semester of Biochemistry. Otherwise, students may take courses in the series intended for majors: BSC 421 (Biochemistry I), BSC 422 (Biochemistry II), BSC 424 (Biochemistry III).]

Students typically take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) in the Fall of the Senior year, but may take it earlier. They should prepare as Juniors. USM offers several GRE prep courses: MTC 480 (Conquering the GRE Computer Adaptive Test), MTC 481 (GRE Preparation: Quantitative), MTC 482 (GRE Preparation: Verbal).

Strategy for Success

  • Students continue to focus on doing well in their studies.
  • Students remain involved with meaningful community service learning, volunteer activities and leadership positions.
  • Students continue to participate in hands-on experiences to medicine.
  • Students could participate in the Hatten Externship, which is offered in the Fall semester. Students may participate in the Externship twice.

YEAR 4

Fall  Spring  
Classes to fulfill major, etc.15-18 h Classes to fulfill major, etc.15-18 h 

The Application Process

The application process to a PA program could begin during the Junior or Senior year, depending on the school.  Check with the specific school(s) to which you plan to apply.

  • Take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) in the Fall or earlier: www.gre.org
  • Students should study on their own to prepare for the GRE or they may take one or more of the USM GRE review classes:

MTC 480 (Conquering the GRE Computer Adaptive Test)

MTC 481 (GRE Preparation: Quantitative)

MTC 482 (GRE Preparation: Verbal)

Check the Class Schedule Guide to determine when these courses are offered.

  • Students are strongly encouraged to take an online practice GRE before taking the GRE that they will use on their application. There are a number of websites that have practice questions or practice tests; use Google to search for “practice GRE questions”.
  • Applicants typically submit applications through the online Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA): www.caspaonline.org

The Interview

Students are advised to practice their interview skills BEFORE attending their first interview.

For More Information about a Career in Healthcare, Contact the Preprofessional Office

The Healthcare Preprofessional Office is located in Bobby Chain Technology Building (TEC) Room 103.

Website:  http://www.usm.edu/science-technology/preprofessional

Phone number: 601.266.4741

Mailing address:

Healthcare Preprofessional Office
College of Science and Technology
118 College Dr., #5165
Hattiesburg, MS 39406-0001

Preprofessional Assistant:

Ms. L. Machell Haynes
601.266.4741
ladonna.haynes@usm.edu

Preprofessional Advisor:

Dr. Jeffrey Evans, Preprofessional Advisor
601.266.4883
jeffrey.evans@usm.edu