Physician Assistant Program


The Penn State Physician Assistant (PA) Program, located at the Penn State College of Medicine campus in Hershey, PA, is a 24-month, full-time graduate program enrolling 30 students each May.

Our first class graduated in May 2016.

Consistent with the goals of the entire College of Medicine, the PA Program emphasizes humanism in medicine, which takes into account the dedication required for individualized and personalized medicine.

Mission & Goals

The Physician Assistant Program's mission is to prepare graduates to be academically, clinically, professionally and culturally competent in the delivery of health care services, to develop critical thinking and application skills, and to provide compassionate and comprehensive care to the patients they will serve. Our graduates will improve the health of their patients and the populations they serve in an efficient and cost-conscious manner.

We believe that the Penn State PA program will prepare its graduates for modern medical practice and that these graduates will be supremely prepared for their role as clinicians. The goals of our program are:

  • To attract an academically qualified, diverse student body with special consideration for veterans and those from economically or educationally disadvantaged backgrounds (see progress toward this goal)
  • To promote application of learning and development of critical thinking skills (see progress toward this goal)
  • To enable graduates to practice competent and compassionate health care with emphasis in primary care (see progress toward this goal)
  • To prepare students for their role as clinicians, professionals, educators, and leaders in the physician assistant profession (see progress toward this goal)
  • To treat the entire patient with cultural competency, addressing physical, medical, psychosocial, and emotional dimensions of the patient (see progress toward this goal)


PA Program Prerequisites

Applicants will need to complete an undergraduate bachelor's degree (or equivalent) prior to matriculation into the PA Program.

We prefer that your major be in the health sciences, but this is not a mandatory requirement for application or admission. For admissions consideration, an applicant should ordinarily have:

  • A CASPA-calculated overall cumulative GPA of at least 3.0
  • A CASPA-calculated overall science GPA of at least 3.0

Detailed Prerequisites

We require several course prerequisites for admission consideration, although completion of this coursework is not required until the time of matriculation. Applicants can submit their CASPA and secondary applications with courses in progress or planned.

A minimum of one semester is required and science labs are strongly encouraged to supplement any science course lecture component. Prerequisite courses are:

  • General biology
  • Anatomy and physiology – two semesters (or one semester each)
  • Microbiology
  • General or principles of chemistry
  • Biochemistry or organic chemistry
  • General psychology
  • Statistics or bio statistics
  • Two semesters of English composition (or two courses listed as writing intensive courses)

We offer conditional admission in the event that a course(s) or hours are outstanding at the time a candidate interviews with the program.

AP and CLEP Credit

AP credit that was accepted by your undergraduate institution can satisfy a number of our prerequisites including general biology, general chemistry, psychology, statistics, and English composition courses. You can also use CLEP credit to satisfy course prerequisites.


Each prerequisite can be satisfied by one full semester, typically 3 to 4 semester-hours. For applicants on a trimester schedule, five-to-six quarter hours at minimum satisfy a prerequisite.

Keep in mind that requirements to graduate with a bachelor's degree versus requirements for admission to Penn State’s PA program will undoubtedly vary. For instance, completion of General Chemistry I can satisfy our prerequisite but often General Chemistry I and II are required to enroll in Organic Chemistry I at most institutions.

Online Courses

We accept online courses from regionally accredited institutions.

Currency and Exceptions

Three prerequisites have a five-year currency. They are:

  • Anatomy (or A&P I)
  • Physiology (or A&P II)
  • Microbiology

This currency requirement will be waived for any applicant who has been working full time and continuously in the healthcare field since completing the coursework.

English Composition Courses

Any course that the institution deems as having satisfied a “writing intensive” will suffice. The course can be in any major and does not need to be an English-major based course. Additionally, if completion of a bachelor's degree incorporates writing across the curriculum, please share this information with the admissions committee.

Healthcare Experience

For admission consideration, a candidate should have 500 hours of health care experience (paid or volunteer). These hours can be in progress or planned during the application cycle, and you can update the program directly to add hours accrued after initial submission of the CASPA and secondary application. Hours must be completed by the time a candidate would matriculate into the program.

While our program is flexible in accepting a wide variety of hours to help satisfy the 500-hour requirement, hours as a personal trainer or lifeguard are unacceptable.

Technical Standards

The technical standards for Penn State College of Medicine's Physician Assistant Program have been established to ensure than students have the ability to demonstrate academic mastery, competence when performing clinical skills, and ability to communicate clinical information.



Graduation Requirements

Graduation requirements for PA students include:

  • Satisfactorily completing all requirements in the specified curriculum and in good academic standing
  • Attainment of good professional standing
  • Enrollment in the program for the time period specified by the professional accrediting body, if applicable
  • Successful passage of a summative experience and final evaluation
  • Recommendation for graduation by the faculty of the specific program and the general faculty
  • Satisfaction of all financial obligations to Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine
  • Follow the approved course of study, satisfactorily completing all courses within the professional component
  • Complete all courses with a cumulative 3.00 average, with no course or rotation below a “C”; a “C-“ grade in any course or rotation does not meet this standard. For courses that are administered on a pass/fail basis, the student must achieve a "pass" for the course
  • Repeat, as approved, and earn a minimum grade of “C” for any required course or rotation in the professional phase for which a grade of “C-“ or below was earned

The PA Program requires 101 credits for successful program completion. The program curriculum contains a senior summative, one-credit course that also must be successfully completed in order to meet the program requirements for graduation eligibility.

All courses offered in the curriculum are required, and all of these courses must be successfully completed (as detailed above) to meet this eligibility for graduation.

Advanced Placement Policy

The program will not count coursework completed at a previous institution as fulfilling any of the requirements to graduate. If a student requests special exemption to this policy, it will be denied.

Work & Attendance Policy

The Penn State PA Program will not prohibit students in the program from working. The program believes each student is the correct person to make personal decisions regarding his or her life outside the program. The program is cognizant that students have made a number of personal sacrifices to matriculate into a PA program and are aware of the challenges of succeeding in a PA program. To this end, the program respects the student's personal decision regarding work. The program generally does not have mandatory attendance policy for classes — we would like you to attend class because we feel the teachers will be excellent classroom facilitators and instructors, but we respect different learning styles and the student's decision on how to best assure their success. Each course will provide information regarding attendance policy, though student are required to attend all scheduled tests. Though the program does not prohibit outside employment during the pre-clinical or clinical training, we do not encourage working because of the demands and dedication required for PA training. Students attending clinical rotations will have a minimum of 40 hours a week at the clinical site, which may involve different shifts and weekends — which would make employment very difficult. Students are expected to conform to the schedule that individual preceptor makes, as preceptors will not alter the schedule to accommodate a student's work schedule.

Course Timeline

You’ll need 101 credits total to complete our program: 55 credits in the pre-clinical year and 46 credits in the clinical year, as described below.

All courses in the curriculum are graded on a letter grade basis with the exception of the Advanced Cardiac Life Support Course, the Health Care Ethics Course, and the Evidence-Based Medicine Course in the pre-clinical curriculum. These are Pass/Fail courses.

Pre-Clinical Year: Summer

PAS 701Applied Human Structure and Function I2
PAS 702Applied Human Structure and Function II2
PAS 704Clinical Medicine I5
PAS 707Pathophysiology I2
PAS 710Pharmacology I2
PAS 713Pharmacotherapeutics I1
PAS 716History and Physical Examination I2
PAS 721US Health Care System/Legal Medicine1
PAS 724Laboratory Interpretive Methods1
Total Credits18

Pre-Clinical Year: Fall

PAS 703Applied Human Structure and Function III2
PAS 705Clinical Medicine II5
PAS 708Pathophysiology II2
PAS 711Pharmacology II2
PAS 714Pharmacotherapeutics II1
PAS 717History and Physical Examination II2
PAS 719Evidence-Based Medicine1
PAS 723Principles of Behavioral Medicine1
PAS 725Physician Assistant Professional Practice1
PAS 728EKG Interpretive Methods1
PAS 730PA Fundamentals of Health Humanities1
PAS 731Radiology Interpretive Methods1
Total Credits20

Pre-Clinical Year: Spring

PAS 706Clinical Medicine III5
PAS 709Pathophysiology III2
PAS 712Pharmacology III2
PAS 715Pharmacotherapeutics III1
PAS 718History and Physical Examination III2
PAS 720Pediatric Studies1
PAS 722Principles of Human Sexuality and Reproductive Health1
PAS 726Advanced Cardiac Life Support1
PAS 727Clinical Skills1
PAS 729Principles of Emergency Medicine1
Total Credits17

Clinical Year

During the clinical year, students will take three mandatory primary-care rotations in the area of family practice and internal medicine. Each rotation lasts five weeks.

Mandatory Rotations
PAS 732Emergency Medicine Rotation I5
PAS 734Family Medicine Rotation I5
PAS 737General Surgery Rotation I5
PAS 739Inpatient Internal Medicine Rotation I5
PAS 741Behavioral Health Rotation I5
PAS 743Pediatrics I5
PAS 745Reproductive Health I5
PAS 747/748Internal Medicine III Rotation5
One Elective Rotation (See Below)5
PAS 756Summative Experience 11
Total Credits46

Upon completion of the clinical training, students will participate in a one-credit Summative Experience. In addition to taking the PACKRAT examination (which does not impact student placement in the PA Program), students will participate in assessments for knowledge, technical skills, interpretation, and performance of diagnostic evaluations. The Summative Experience must be successfully completed as one of the final requirements for program completion.

Elective Rotations

Choices for the elective rotation are:

PAS 733Emergency Medicine II Elective5
PAS 735Ambulatory Care Selective5
PAS 738General Surgery Rotation II5
PAS 740Internal Medicine Rotation II5
PAS 742Mental and Behavioral Health Rotation II Elective5
PAS 744Pediatrics II Elective5
PAS 746Women's Health II Elective5
PAS 749Endocrinology I Elective5
PAS 750Gastroenterology I Elective5
PAS 751Ear, Nose and Throat Elective Rotation5
PAS 752Hematology & Oncology Elective Rotation5
PAS 753Orthopedics & Sports Medicine I Elective5
PAS 754Trauma I Elective 5
PAS 755Dermatology Elective5
PAS 760Cardiothoracic Surgery I Elective5
PAS 762Critical Care Medicine I Elective 5


The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) has granted Accreditation - Continued status to the Penn State College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program sponsored by The Pennsylvania State University.

Accreditation-Continued is an accreditation status granted when a currently accredited program is in compliance with the ARC-PA Standards.

Accreditation remains in effect until the program closes or withdraws from the accreditation process or until accreditation is withdrawn for failure to comply with the Standards. The approximate date for the next validation review of the program by ARC-PA will be September 2027. The review date is contingent upon continued compliance with the Accreditation Standards and ARC-PA policy.

Professional Licensure/Certification

Many U.S. states and territories require professional licensure/certification to be employed. If you plan to pursue employment in a licensed profession after completing this program, please visit the Professional Licensure/Certification Disclosures by State interactive map.


Physician Assistant Program
Penn State College of Medicine
500 University Drive
Hershey, PA 17033

717-531-0003, ext. 285595