Skip navigation

College of Arts and Sciences

Pre-PA

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.

Physician Assistant (PA) schools typically require that students have a Baccalaureate degree (e.g. 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.

Some students already have a B.A. or B.S. and then decide to pursue becoming a physician assistant. Students in this category should consult with our pre-professional office. In general, these students lack some of the science courses required by most PA schools. In some cases, the required courses may be over 10 years old, which most PA schools do not accept. It is common for these students to take the prerequisite science or non-science courses for PA school at USM as post-baccalaureate students while also working on polishing their applications and taking the MCAT, GRE, or PA-CAT.

Some post-baccalaureate students take the prerequisite courses as a non-degree student while other students choose a second major to pursue at USM. In either case, students must go through the University Admissions Office to be admitted (or re-admitted for former students) before enrolling in courses.

PA School Possibilities

 

Requirements for Applicants 

The typical admissions requirements for PA school are as follows:

  • 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, MCAT, or PA-CAT scores
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Approximately 1,000 hours of direct patient care experience, with supplemental shadowing hours
  • A successful background check
  • 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.

  • General Biology - BSC 110/L & 111/L*
  • Anatomy and Physiology - BSC 250/L & BSC 251/L*
  • Microbiology - BSC 282/L*
  • General Chemistry - CHE 106/L & CHE 107/L
  • Organic Chemistry - CHE 255/L & 256/L
  • Statistics - PSY 360 or other statistics course
  • Recommended but not required:
    • 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 academic 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.

Fall

  • BSC 110/L or BSC 111/L (4h) a
  • CHE 106/L (4h)
  • MAT 101 (3h) b
  • ENG 101 (3h) 
  • One additional course (3-4h) c

Spring

  • BSC 110/L or BSC 111/L (4h) a
  • CHE 107/L (4h)
  • MAT 103 (3h) b
  • ENG 102 (3h) 
  • One additional course (3-4h) c

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   Additional courses include courses required by the student's academic major or minor, as well as supplemental courses from the student's desired PA program.

Strategies for Success

  • Students should visit the pre-professional 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 study for long-term retention of knowledge for use on entrance exams and in PA school.
  • 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, as well as their supervisor's contact information and the duties performed. 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. Direct patient care is different than shadowing and can be accomplished by a variety of programs, such as paid or volunteer work in phlebotomy, EMT, or CNA programs.
  • 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 Pre-Professional Honor Society, as associate members at any time even if they do not fulfill the requirements for full membership (must be enrolled at a university for a minimum of three semesters and meet specific course and GPA requirements). Full members are inducted during the spring semester, typically of their Sophomore year. 

Fall

  • CHE 255/L (4h)
  • BSC 250/L or BSC 251/L (4h)
  • Additional courses (7-11h) d, e

Spring

  • CHE 256/L (4h)
  • BSC 250/L or BSC 251/L (4h)
  • Additional courses (7-11h) e

d  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

e   Additional courses include courses required by the student's academic major or minor, as well as supplemental courses from the student's desired PA program.

Strategy for Success

  • Students should continue with previous success strategies.
  • Students should visit the pre-professional office as needed.
  • 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).

Fall

  • BSC 282/L (4h)
  • PSY 360 (3h)
  • Additional courses (8-12h) f

Spring

  • Additional courses (15-19h) f

f   Additional courses include courses required by the student's academic major or minor, as well as supplemental courses from the student's desired PA program.

Strategies for Success

  • Students should continue with previous success strategies.
  • Students should visit the pre-professional office as needed.
  • Students typically take the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) or other required admissions test in the Summer before Senior year. Students may take the exam earlier if they feel prepared; regardless, students should prepare as Juniors.
  • Students should consider participating in the Hatten Externship for a second time.
  • Students should begin the application process if applicable.

Fall

  • Classes to fulfill major, minor (15-18h)

Spring

  • Classes to fulfill major, minor (15-18h)

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 pre-professional 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. Students should check with the schools to which they plan to apply to determine specific variations on deadlines and required courses.

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.

Students should take the GRE a minimum of several months before their application date. 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 pre-professional 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.

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

 

Pre-Professional Office Contact Information

Dr. Jeffrey Evans

Destiny DeLancey

 

Contact Us

College of Arts and Sciences
Liberal Arts Building 210
118 College Dr. #5004
Hattiesburg, MS 39406

Campus Map

Email
CoASFREEMississippi

Phone
601.266.4315