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College of Arts and Sciences


Pre-Physician Assistant Curriculum

The “pre-physician 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.



What Should I Major In?

Physician Assistant (PA) schools require that students have a Baccalaureate degree (eg. B.S., B.A., etc); however, PA schools do not require a particular major. Although most pre-PA students choose a major in one of the sciences (i.e. Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry), 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 or choose not to pursue a PA program. Regardless of major, students are advised to take more than the minimum number of medicine-related science courses.



PA School Possibilities

Students with Missisippi Resident status desiring a career as a Physician Assistant typically apply to the Mississippi College Physician Assistant Program in Clinton, MS. Mississippi State University is currently developing a Physican Assistant program as well, which will be located at their Meridian campus and is projected to begin in January 2020. To view a directory of all PA programs nationwide, please visit the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA). For information about the PA Profession, visit the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA).

While many of our students apply to Missisippi universities, there are a number of other local programs, listed below. These programs traditionally take 27-30 months to complete and result in a Master of Science in Medicine (MSM) or similar degree and eligibility to sit for licensure to practice as a Physician Assistant.


Local PA Schools

College/University Location Accreditation Status** Website
University of Alabama at Birmingham Birmingham, AL  Continuing
University of South Alabama Mobile, AL Continuing
Mississippi College Clinton, MS Continuing
Mississippi State University* Meridian, MS Applying**
Louisiana State University

New Orleans, LA

Shreveport, LA


Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University Baton Rouge, LA Continuing

*This program is not yet enrolling students. The program is currently projected to begin in January 2020.

**Accreditation status (applied by the PAEA) indicates that a program has met national standards and is fit to enroll and educate students. Those listed with Continuing status have been accredited and have maintained their accreditation as of their last campus check. Those with Probationary status are in current violation of their accreditation status and have a maximum of two years to rectify any issues or risk losing accreditation status permanently. Those with Provisional status have met initial accreditation standards but are still new programs being observed. Those with Applying status are currently in the process of attaining accreditation and are not yet enrolling students.



Requirements for Applicants

Admission to a PA program is competitive; successful applicants typically exceed the minimum criteria for admission. While some schools may offer early admission options, generally students must earn a bachelor's degree from a four-year university prior to matriculation. While prerequisites are fairly common, each individual program has its own unique requirements; therefore, the student must maintain contact with all desired schools to stay informed of specific admissions requirements and deadlines.

The typical admissions requirements include a minimum of two years of undergraduate study (though a bachelor's is usually preferred even if not required); a minimum overall GPA of 3.0 (with competitive applicants generally sitting at approximately 3.5); completion of prerequisite coursework with a grade of C or higher; GRE scores or, in some cases, MCAT scores; three letters of recommendation; approximately 1,000 shadowing hours; a successful background check; and the ability to meet each program's technical standards.

The following list of prerequisite courses meet only the minimum requirements of the Mississippi College PA Program.

  • BSC 250/L & BSC 251/L*

  • BSC 380/L*

  • CHE 106/L & CHE 107/L

  • CHE 255/L & 256/L

  • PSY 360 or other statistics course

  • Recommended

  • BSC 370, BSC 360, BSC 476, CHE 420 (or 421/422/424), BSC 461, BSC 451

*Students are highly encouraged to take general biology (110/111) prior to taking anatomy and physiology (250/251); in addition, general biology is a prerequisite for all upper-level biology courses.


Students interested in pursuing a PA program should remember to check with their desired schools for their specific requirements.


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



BSC 110/L OR BSC 111/L a  4h BSC 111/L OR BSC 111/L a  4h
CHE 106/L 4h CHE 107/L 4h
MAT 101 b 3h MAT 103 b 3h
ENG 101 c 3h ENG 102 c 3h
One additional course d 3h One additional course d 3h

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 Placement in mathematics (MAT) courses depends on the student’s ACT mathematics subtest score.

c Placement in English Composition courses depends on the student’s ACT English subtest score.

  • 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)

d “Additional” courses include courses required by the student's chosen degree plan and/or "recommended" courses from the student's desired PA program.


Strategy for Success

  • Students should visit the preprofessional office for advisement or for any pertinent questions/comments.

  • Students should focus on doing well in their academic studies, particularly in 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. Competitive applicants often have much more than 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. (Prerequisites include ENG 101 & 102, BSC 110/L & 111/L, CHE 106/L & 107/L, MAT 101 & 103 OR one Calculus course, and a 3.2 GPA overall, in the major, and in the BCPM areas). Student may participate in the externship twice for credit.

  • 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.




Year 2



CHE 255/L 4h CHE 256/L  4h
BSC 250/L OR BSC 251/L 4h BSC 251/L OR BSC 250/L 4h

3-4 additional courses d,e

 8-11h  3-4 additional courses d 8-11h 

e 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 for additional credit in the Fall of the third year. Prerequisites include ENG 101 & 102, BSC 110/L & 111/L, CHE 106/L & 107/L, MAT 101 & 103 OR one Calculus course, and a 3.2 GPA overall, in the major, and in the BCPM areas


 Strategy for Success

  • Students should continue with success strategies from Year 1.

  • Students should visit with the preprofessional office as needed.

  • 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 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



BSC 380/L

4h Additional courses d   15-18h

PSY 360


Additional courses d



Strategy for Success

  • Students should continue with success strategies from Year 1 and Year 2.

  • Students should visit with the preprofessional office as needed.

  • Students typically take the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) in the Fall of Senior year. Students may take the exam earlier if they feel prepared; regardless, students should prepare as Juniors. USM offers several GRE prep courses, includng MLS 480, MLS 481, MLS 482, and MLS 483 (focusing on the test as a whole, the quantitative section, the verbal section, and the writing section, respectively).

  • Students should consider particiapting in the Hatten Externship for a second time.

  • Students should begin the application process if applicable.


Year 4



Classes to fulfill major, minor


Classes to fulfill major, minor 



Strategies for Success

  • Students should continue with previous success strategies.

  • Students should begin the application process if they have not already done so.

  • Students should visit the preprofessional office for application assistance, interview preparation, and other helpful sessions.



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 for program requirements and deadlines.



Students should take the GRE in their junior year to prepare for a senior-year application cycle. Students may take the GRE earlier if they feel prepared, though the GRE should never be taken as a practice attempt

There are many study materials available for the GRE, both free and paid. While the preprofessional office does not endorse any product over another, it is recommended that students take multiple practice tests to ensure they are prepared and understand what to expect.

USM offers several GRE prep courses, including:

  • MLS 480 (Conquering the GRE Computer Adaptive Test)

  • MLS 481 (GRE Preparation: Quantitative)

  • MLS 482 (GRE Preparation: Verbal)

  • MLS 483 (GRE Preparation: Analytical Writing)

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



Applicants typically submit applications through the online Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA). While each PA school has its own deadline, CASPA applications should be submitted more than a month in advance of these individual deadlines. For institutions that do not utilize CASPA, students should contact their respective admissions offices for additional information on how to apply.


The Interview

Students are advised to practice their interview skills BEFORE attending their first interview. For interview preparation at USM you may use the online Perfect InterviewTM resource. You can also sign up for mock interviews through Career Services or the preprofessional office (contact information below).   



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

Dr. Jeffrey Evans

Preprofessional Advisor


Phone: 601-266-4315

Office Location:

Bobby Chain Technology Center (TEC 100)

Destiny DeLancey

Preprofessional Advisor


Phone: 601-266-4636

Office Location:

Liberal Arts Building (LAB 212A) 


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