Welcome to our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page for the Physician Assistant Program, School of Health Sciences. Here you will find answers to the most common questions from prospective students.

If you have a question that isn’t answered here, please contact us at PAprogram@pacific.edu.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long is the program?

The program is 27 months in length. The program is taught year-round over seven semesters.

How many students are in each cohort?

ARC-PA has granted program expansion over the next three years. For the class matriculating in January 2024, the maximum cohort size will be 60 students. For the class matriculating in January 2025, the maximum cohort size will be 75 students. For the class matriculating in January 2026 and subsequent cohorts, the maximum cohort size will be 90 students.

How many units is Pacific's PA program?

There are 114 units in the program.

Is the University of the Pacific PA Program accredited?

Yes, the University of the Pacific PA Program is fully accredited.

The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA) has granted Accreditation-Continued status to the University of the Pacific Physician Assistant Program sponsored by the University of the Pacific. 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remains in effect until the program closes or withdraws from the accreditation process or until accreditation is withdrawn for failure to comply with the Standards.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 the ARC-PA will be March 2031. The review date is contingent upon continued compliance with the Accreditation Standards and ARC-PA policy.

The program’s accreditation history can be viewed on the ARC-PA website.

Is there an online or part-time option?

The PA program does not offer an online or part-time option. It is a full-time program.

Can I work while in the program?

While we do not have a policy prohibiting outside work while in the program, it is strongly discouraged. We will not make any accommodations related to employment while in the program.

Is financial aid available?

Yes, financial aid is available. Please see the financial aid website or contact finaid@pacific.edu for more information.

Do I need to find my own clinical preceptors?

No, we will find clinical preceptors and training sites for you to ensure that you receive optimal clinical training and mentoring. Students are NOT REQUIRED to develop, arrange, or solicit “cold call” clinical sites or preceptors (A3.03). Students do have the opportunity to request rotation assignments and recommend potential preceptor sites. Placement at the requested or recommended site is not guaranteed. You may be required to travel extended distances to clinical sites.

I think I’m ready to apply. Is there an easy way to check if I have met all of the requirements?

Before you apply, you should make sure you meet all of the prerequisites and other admission requirements. Use our pre-application self-checklist now to see if you’re ready.

Can I visit or tour the campus? Are there information sessions I can attend?

We offer on-campus information sessions and webinars starting in late fall running throughout the admissions cycle. During the on-campus events, attendees are given a tour of the program facilities. Campus tours are offered during admission interviews.

Due to the high volume of applicants, we are unable to offer unscheduled campus tours. See our full listing of upcoming events.

Do you offer one-on-one advising sessions/transcript review sessions?

Unfortunately, due to the volume of applicants, and in order to ensure fairness in the evaluation of applicants, we are unable to meet individually with applicants. The information sessions offer an excellent opportunity for applicants to interact with the faculty and learn more about the profession. The program is also happy to correspond with you via email (preferred) or telephone if you have questions or need further information.

Is there a preferred undergraduate major?

We do not have a preferred undergraduate major and your undergraduate major will not affect your application.

Is there a preference between a community college or four-year institutions for completing prerequisite coursework?

There is no preference as to where you complete your prerequisites. We accept prerequisites from all accredited US institutions.

I’m looking to better prepare myself for the rigors of PA school. Are there any non-prerequisite courses that I could take to help prepare me?

We’re glad that you are interested in making sure you are prepared before entering a PA program. There are a few recommended courses for those interested in better preparing themselves for PA school.

Science Courses

  • Immunology
  • Genetics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular & Cell Biology
  • Physics

Non-Science Courses

  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Life Span/Developmental Psychology
  • Additional Math — Algebra and/or Calculus
  • Additional Writing or English Composition
  • Medical Terminology

Do prerequisite courses expire?

No, we do not require that your prerequisites be completed within a recent time-frame. However, it does strengthen your application if there is some recent coursework.

My bachelor’s degree will not be completed until after the admissions cycle closes. However, I have completed all other prerequisites. Can I still apply?

No. In order to meet all prerequisites, your degree must be awarded and appear on an official transcript at the time of application submission.

Do I need to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)?

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is not required, but applicants can elect to submit their scores at the time of testing using the designated institution (DI) code 7363. If you have previously taken the GRE and would like to submit your scores, University of the Pacific’s GRE code is 4065. Scores are valid for 5 years per ETS website.

How do you calculate my GPA?

We use CASPA calculated GPAs, specifically the Overall Total GPA and Overall Science GPA. We will not recalculate GPAs for admissions purposes. It is therefore very important that all grades have posted and appear on your transcript prior to submitting your application. Learn more about how CASPA calculates GPAs.

Are pass/fail courses acceptable for prerequisite courses?

Pass/fail courses are acceptable to meet prerequisite courses if taken at an accredited US institution. Please note, pass/fail courses do not affect your GPA per CASPA’s GPA calculation policy. Learn more about how CASPA calculates GPAs.

Is there a minimum grade for prerequisite courses?

The minimum allowable grade for prerequisite courses is a C-. Prerequisite courses may also be met with pass/fail courses.

Can AP/CLEP courses be used to meet prerequisites?

AP/CLEP courses can be used to meet non-science prerequisites. AP/CLEP credit must show on a college transcript for credit. Simply taking an AP/CLEP course or exam is not sufficient. Note: AP/CLEP credits cannot be used to meet science prerequisites.

If AP credits are lumped together on your transcript without course credit equivalencies (i.e. AP credits – 12.0), please request a letter of explanation for AP credits from your university’s Registrar. Once obtained, please upload the letter to CASPA to accompany your application materials. The letter must be on university letterhead or bear the seal of the institution.

I have vertebrate (or another type of) anatomy. Will that satisfy the Human Anatomy requirement?

No, we require Human Anatomy to satisfy the Human Anatomy prerequisite requirement.

I have one composition class and one literature class. Do I need to take another composition class to satisfy the English requirement?

No. As long as you have successfully completed at least one composition course, we will accept a literature, writing-intensive, or composition course to complete the requirement. AP/CLEP credit (if recorded on a transcript) may also be used to fulfill the English requirement.

I am an international medical graduate. Which services do you accept for academic evaluation?

We will only accept the World Education Services (WES) evaluation of foreign training. CASPA will also accept the WES evaluation of transcripts so this is the required service for our program. For more information visit www.wes.org.

Is the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) required? If so, what is the cut-off score?

Please consult the TOEFL flowchart. The TOEFL cut off score is 100. TOEFL scores are valid for two years after the test date per ETS website. IELTS scores can be substituted for the TOEFL exam with a cut-off score of 7.0.

CASPA allows up to 5 letters of recommendation, but your program only requires 2. If I submit 5, will they all be considered, or will you pick only 2 to read?

Our admissions committee considers the letters of recommendation as a whole, so if you have more than 2, they will all be considered. It is neither an advantage nor a disadvantage to your application if you have more than the 2 required letters.

Do you accept online courses to meet prerequisites?

Yes, online courses are accepted to meet both science and non-science courses.

I have a pending prerequisite course, but my degree and all the rest of my courses are complete. Can I apply with the course in progress if it finishes before I would matriculate?

No. We do not accept in-progress prerequisites. You must wait until your prerequisites are complete and appear on a transcript to apply.

What type of health care experience will satisfy the health care experience requirement?

We do not consider one type of clinical experience greater than another (i.e. experience as an RN is not more valued than that of a medical assistant). Experience may be paid or unpaid. We do not accept hours accrued for academic credit or as part of a training or experiential learning course/program.

Examples of experiences that typically satisfy the HCE requirement:

  • Athletic Trainer
  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)* Must be licensed.
  • Chiropractor
  • Chiropractor Assistant
  • Dental Hygienist
  • Dietician
  • EKG/EEG Technician
  • Emergency Medical Technician (Basic or Intermediate)
  • Emergency Room Technician
  • Medical Assistant (Back Office)
  • Medical Scribe
  • Military Medic or Corpsman
  • Nurse
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Occupational Therapy Assistant or Aide
  • Ophthalmic/Optometric Assistant / Technician
  • Paramedic
  • Pharmacist
  • Phlebotomist
  • Physical Therapist
  • Physical Therapy Aide/Tech/Assistant
  • Radiological Technician
  • Rehabilitation Technician
  • Respiratory Therapist
  • Surgical Technician / Assistant
  • Ultrasound Technician

Examples of experiences that typically do not satisfy the HCE requirement:

  • Basic Caregivers & Companions
  • Behavioral Health Technicians
  • Billing / Insurance
  • Caring for family members
  • Case Management, Records Management
  • Clinical Care Extender
  • Dietary Aide / Clerk
  • Greeter
  • Health Educators
  • Lifeguarding
  • Medical Translation / Interpreting
  • Medical Transcription / Virtual Scribe
  • Patient Navigator
  • Patient Transporter
  • Personal Trainers
  • Pharmacy Clerks (Retail)
  • Shadowing
  • Veterinary care or other experiences working with animals
  • Experiences mainly administrative in nature
  • Any experience accrued for academic credit or as part of a training or experiential learning course/program

At a minimum, the applicant's clinical experience should include one of the following:

  • Collecting of, and/or reporting in the patient's chart, data necessary to establish a diagnosis or evaluate the progress of the patient's treatment plan;
  • Assisting a health care worker in the performance of diagnostic, therapeutic, or surgical procedures;
  • Under the supervision of a health care provider administering or dispensing medications;
  • Other work involving direct patient contact and interaction.

HCE credit is determined by the duties you performed, not solely by job title. It is imperative when completing your application to include a detailed description of your job duties to ensure the Admissions Team can accurately determine HCE applicability.

If you are not sure if your experience will satisfy the requirement please contact the program at PAprogram@pacific.edu for further clarification.

Should I still apply if I won’t have 1,000 hours by the application deadline?

The program requires a minimum of 1,000 hours of health care experience (accrued at the time of application). If you will not be able to accumulate at least 1,000 hours of health care experience by the deadline, then you should wait to apply during a future cycle. The program does not project hours up to our application deadline or matriculation, but rather considers the number of hours accrued at the time you submit your application.

I made a mistake/omission on my application. I have now fixed the issue. Can you re-evaluate my application with the new information?

Unfortunately, we use the CASPA application, as submitted and verified, to make admission decisions. We know the application is a snapshot in time, however, we must have stability in applications to make an “apples to apples” comparison between applicants. Accordingly, we will not accept any changes to submitted and verified CASPA applications within a given application cycle. Thus, it is imperative that applicants review their applications thoroughly prior to submission.

Can I submit supplemental application materials to the program?

We do not have a supplemental application. Please do not submit documents directly to the program unless requested. We use the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) program to keep all of your application documents in one secure online location. We encourage you to make sure to include all pertinent information in your initial CASPA application, as it is sometimes difficult to add documents later.

My grades have now posted for courses that were in progress when I submitted my CASPA application. Can you recalculate my GPA?

We use CASPA-calculated GPAs, specifically the Overall Total GPA and Overall Science GPA. We will not recalculate GPAs for admissions purposes. It is therefore very important that all grades have posted and appear on your transcript prior to submitting your application.

All applicants who are offered a seat in the class will have their GPAs verified prior to matriculation to ensure that any non-prerequisite, in-progress courses, maintained a GPA, in both overall total and overall science calculations, above the required 3.0. Learn more about how CASPA calculates GPAs.

Can I use CASPA’s professional transcript entry service for my coursework?

Yes. Please keep in mind that the professional transcript entry service requires additional time once you have submitted your application. If you utilize the service, plan to submit your application early enough to allow for the extra steps to be verified by our deadlines.  For more information about professional transcript entry, please refer to the CASPA Help Center.

What is your timeline for reviewing applications, interviewing candidates, and selecting a class?

We will review each application once it has been verified by CASPA and delivered to our program. CASPA states that the average application is verified within 2 weeks. Until it is verified by CASPA, our program is unable to provide you with any information regarding the status of your application. Upon CASPA verification, your application will undergo a complete, holistic review, beginning with verification of prerequisite completion. The application review process can take several weeks; however, it is not uncommon to receive a response within a few days.

Qualified applicants will be invited to interview for a position in our program. Interview invitations are extended throughout the admissions cycle at a rate determined by the quality of our applicant pool each year. Interviews take place from July through September, with our final class selection taking place no later than Oct 1.

What is the application submission deadline? Do my transcripts need to be verified by CASPA by the deadline?

Applications must be submitted and in “complete” status by 11:59 p.m. EST ( 8:59 p.m. PST) on Aug. 1. A complete date is given when an application is e-submitted and all transcripts, payments, and at least two letters of reference have been received by CASPA and attached to the application. Note: CASPA states that the average application will be verified within 2 weeks. It is up to the applicant to ensure that their application materials are submitted in a correct and timely manner so that the application can quickly move through the verification process. Exceptions are not granted, so be sure to plan ahead to meet the posted deadlines.

​​​​​​​I have substantial volunteer hours that I completed in high school. Should I include these hours in my application?

We only review volunteer hours earned post-high school. Please do not include hours earned during or before high school.

Do you have rolling admissions or offer early acceptance?

All seats will be offered after the final interviews have been conducted. Due to our admissions timelines and in fairness to all applicants, we do not offer early admission.

I was invited for an interview. What will the format of the interview day look like?

The interview day lasts several hours and consists of an orientation, panel interview, and group interview. Tours of the program facilities and campus are included.

I was invited for an interview. Can I bring updated materials (résumé, transcripts, letters of recommendation, etc.) to the interview?

We use the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) program to keep all of your application documents in one secure online location. We will not accept any documents on the interview day. Please do not submit documents directly to the program unless requested.

I received a notification that I will not be offered a seat in the class this cycle. What can I do to improve my application for the next cycle?

With more than 2,500 applicants for 45 seats, the applicant pool is deep and competitive and most programs do not have the time or staffing to give applicants who did not meet their criteria feedback about how to improve their application. We do not offer specific advice for applicants; however, if you look at the average matriculant to PA school in 2019, you can get an idea of what a competitive applicant looks like. The average matriculant had a BS degree in biology or health sciences, a GPA of 3.58, 3,240 hours of health care experience involving direct patient care, and variable volunteer work. (PAEA, 2019). Every program has certain things they are looking for, so there is not any solitary thing to focus on, but you will want to be competitive with those that are matriculating and pay attention to the program mission. You may also want to consult our matriculant data on the PA Program Data page.

Is there an alternate list for acceptance?

With a robust and highly competitive applicant pool, we cannot accept every qualified applicant. During class selection each September, the admissions committee selects applicants for the alternate list. Applicants can expect to be notified of their alternate status no later than Oct. 1. The alternate list is ranked; however, the rankings are not public and will not be shared. Alternates can expect to be offered a seat in the class up until Feb. 1.