Prerequisites to Admission

For consideration for Admission to the PA Program candidates must successfully complete the following courses and other requirements of the Graduate School AND of the PA Program.

General Requirements

Bachelor’s Degree

  • A bachelor’s (or higher) degree from a regionally accredited college or university is required (due by program start, not by time of application).
  • Official transcripts from all colleges/universities attended (due by program start, not by time of application).
  • International students may be required to have transcripts evaluated by a credentialing service.

Grade Point Average

GRE Scores

  • Satisfactory exam scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) are required.  Satisfactory is defined by the JMU PA Program as a 25th percentile minimum on each of the three sections (due by program start, not by time of application).
  • The applicant may report the best score from each section of the exam even if the exam was taken on multiple occasions.
  • The reporting code is 7442. The GRE is only waived if an applicant has a previously earned graduate degree.
  • Our program has no immediate plans to adopt the Physician Assistant College Admission Test (PA-CAT) as an admission requirement

Letters of Recommendation

  • You must submit three (3) required letters of recommendation as part of the CASPA application.  You do not need to submit the letters of recommendation with the Graduate School application.
  • Letters are best from prior supervisors/employers, university professors, and/or medical professionals (clinicians) who have observed you working or volunteering in a patient care environment (not simply someone you shadowed briefly). Letters of recommendation from friends or family members are highly discouraged.

Prerequisite Course Requirements

Course Name Necessary Grade Length Lab required? Expiration Other Notes
ANATOMY
(human or mammalian)
“B”, 3.0 (or better) a one semester course Yes.  In-person lab preferred, but online is acceptable Must have been completed within 7-years of matriculation  
PHYSIOLOGY
(human or mammalian)
“B”, 3.0 (or better) a one semester course No Must have been completed within 7-years of matriculation  
BIOCHEMISTRY “C”, 2.0 (or better) a one semester course No Must have been completed within 7-years of matriculation Organic Chemistry does NOT meet this requirement
GENETICS “C”, 2.0 (or better) a one semester course No Must have been completed within 7-years of matriculation  
MICROBIOLOGY “C”, 2.0 (or better) a one semester course No Must have been completed within 7-years of matriculation  
MEDICAL TERMINOLOGY “C”, 2.0 (or better) a one semester course No Can have been completed within any number of years Must be taken for credit (generates a transcript) – it CANNOT be a certificate

Why is there a time limit for most of the prerequisite courses?

This seven year time frame is calculated from the date of the course to the date of PA Program matriculation (not application).  These time periods are to assure some degree of current information in these fields.  By their very nature some working positions require people to maintain an adequate degree of current information in these basic sciences. Candidates employed in such positions should apply and include an explanation for the admissions committee on how they have maintained a degree of current information in these fields.   The committee will decide whether or not to accept the explanation as sufficient to meet the prerequisites.  This kind of exception is rarely granted.

Must all prerequisite courses be completed to apply?

No, these prerequisite courses do not all need to be completed prior to applying to the program.  They must be completed prior to actually starting the PA curriculum in August (if you are offered a seat).

What else should I know about prerequisite courses?

  • All prerequisite courses must be taken from an accredited institution and must be taken “for credit”, i.e., they must generate an official transcript and cannot generate only a certificate.
  • Courses taken online or at community colleges are acceptable.
  • Courses must grant a final letter grade (they may not be simply “pass/fail”).
  • For all prerequisite courses, it does not necessarily matter what the exact course title is so long as it matches the intent of the requirements.  For example, all of the following course titles would fulfill our Biochemistry prerequisite:  “Introduction to Biochemistry”, “Foundations of Biochemistry”, “Principles of Biochemistry”, “Concepts of Biochemistry” or “Fundamentals of Biochemistry”.

Further Details about Anatomy & Physiology Coursework:

  • Candidates may meet the anatomy and physiology prerequisites by taking a semester course in each topic or by taking the entire sequence of combined anatomy & physiology courses at a single college.  The combined courses must cover all of the body systems and regions and must include a laboratory component in anatomy.
  • The total credit hours for two semesters of anatomy and physiology should combined be at least 6 credit hours.
  • Anatomy must include laboratory work either as a component of the anatomy course or as a separate laboratory course.
  • An online lab for Anatomy is acceptable.  An in-person lab is preferred only because it will help the successful applicant in the future graduate-level anatomy course within the PA program.  However, this is a recommendation, not a requirement.

Direct Patient Contact Experience - Prerequisite Requirement

A minimum of 1,000 hours of direct patient contact experience is required as a prerequisite to admission to the PA Program.  However, students who are successful in gaining admittance typically have greater than 1,00 hours accumulated.  These hours may come from one experience or a combination of experiences and may be voluntary or paid work. Experiences having higher levels of training and responsibility are more desirable. 

The table below is intended to provide basic guidance on how the Admissions Committee evaluates direct patient care experience.  Although the table lists specific occupations as examples, the actual job title is much less important to the Admissions Committee than the tasks, duties and level of responsibility associated with it.  Therefore, in order to receive the most accurate evaluation, it is in your best interest to provide the program (through the CASPA application) with a detailed job description.

If your job entails some direct patient care duties and some duties that do not involve patient care, you should list these hours separately in the appropriate areas on the CASPA application.

Tier  Description Examples

I

-High level of responsibility

-Significant autonomy

-Makes decisions

-Leadership roles

-Paramedic
-Physical Therapist (PT)
-Occupational Therapist (OT)
-Pharmacist
-Registered Nurse (RN)
-Registered Dietician (RD)
-Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) 
-Therapist (Psychiatrist or Psychologist)

II

-Some level of responsibility

-Some autonomy

-Some decision making

-EMT-Basic
-EMT-Intermediate
-Surgical Assistant/Tech
-Respiratory Therapist (RT)
-Patient Care Technician
-Cardiac Stress Technician
-Registered Cardiovascular Invasive Specialist (RCIS)
-Sleep Technologist
-Mental Health Counselor (Licensed Professional Counselor or Rehabilitation Counselor)
-Intraoperative Neurophysiologist

III

-Little responsibility

-No true autonomy

-Little decision making

-Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
-Radiology (X-ray) Technician
-Ophthalmology Technician (not Optometry Technician)
-Medical Assistant
-O.T. Aide
-P.T. Aide
-Phlebotomist
-Ultrasound Technologist
-Clinical Research Assistant^^
-Mental Health Worker
-Registered Behavior Technician (RBT)

-Experiences listed in Tiers I, II, and III ALL COUNT towards the 1,000 direct patient contact hours prerequisite requirement

-The Admissions Committee prefers experiences that entail higher levels of responsibility and autonomy (such as Tiers I and II), however we also understand that some of the listed experiences are not always feasible for applicants.  Having all of your hours from Tier III does NOT exclude you from admission to the Program.  In fact, applicants who have completed all of their hours in Tier III are still accepted quite frequently.

IV

Do not involve direct patient care and/or is not considered part of the medical discipline

-Optometry Technician
-Optician 
-Pharmacy Technician
-Medical Scribe**
-Pathology Assistant
-Medical Technologist
-Clinical Laboratory Scientist
-Shadowing of a clinician
-CPR/ACLS Instructor
-Lifeguard
-Dental Assistant
-Dental Hygienist
-Patient Transporter 
-Unit Clerk
-Candy Striper
-Tissue Recovery Technician
-Non-clinical Research Assistant
-Aesthetician
-Personal Trainer
-Massage Therapist

-Experiences listed in Tier IV DO NOT COUNT towards the 1,000 direct patient contact hours prerequisite requirement

-Applicants with one or more of these experiences should still list them on their CASPA application as it is still valuable information for the Admissions Committee to know

PLEASE NOTE:  The 1,000 hour minimum of direct patient contact hours must be completed prior to beginning the PA curriculum in August, not prior to applying for admission to the program.
^^ hours as a clinical research assistant (CRA) may be counted when actual direct patient care takes place.  For example, when the CRA is drawing blood, taking vital signs, performing wound care, etc.

**some medical scribes are cross-trained as patient care technicians or medical assistants.  In these situations the individual may count these hours.  It is only when someone is solely a medical scribe that the hours may not be counted towards the 1,000 hours of direct patient care.

Other professions and experiences not listed may also qualify as direct patient care.  Hours completed while in the role of a student/intern DO NOT count.  For example, hours accrued while training to be an EMT cannot be counted – only the hours completed once EMT certification is achieved.  Although desirable for other reasons, PA and/or physician shadowing experience does not count toward the required 1,000 hours of direct patient care experience. Please contact us at paprogram@jmu.edu if you have any questions regarding your healthcare experience.