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Pre-Physician Assistant/Associate Track Requirements

The pre-physician assistant/associate (PA) track is designed to prepare students academically for PA school through a rigorous, personalized grounding in science and other prerequisite courses. 

You will have an individualized credit requirement based on the type of medicine you plan to pursue and your unique background.

Getting Started

Interested in applying to the pre-physician assistant/associate track at Harvard Extension School? We accept applications each year between January 10 and April 10.

Pre-PA Track Curriculum 

Study Online or on Campus

Unlike medical schools, most PA schools accept online coursework. If you are on the pre-PA track, you may take courses either online or on the Harvard campus. 

Note: Some PA schools that accept online lecture courses may still require in-person labs; you are strongly encouraged to check the requirements of the specific schools to which you plan to apply to be sure you will meet their prerequisites when you submit your application.

Typical PA School Requirements

Prerequisite coursework for PA school can vary widely by institution but often includes a rigorous grounding in multiple science disciplines. Most PA schools will require that your application demonstrates that you have successfully completed: 

  • Biology I & II with labs 
  • General Chemistry I & II with labs
  • Organic Chemistry I OR Biochemistry
  • Anatomy and Physiology I & II
  • Microbiology
  • Medical Terminology
  • Statistics
  • Psychology and/or Sociology

In addition, many schools recommend English (or another writing intensive course), mathematics, nutrition, or other advanced biology electives such as genetics, immunology, or cell biology. 

Clinical Hours

Many PA programs require 1,000+ hours of clinical experience prior to applying to PA school. The Premedical Program does not supply clinical experiences. You will need to arrange for and complete the necessary number of clinical hours for your application either before applying to the Premedical Program and/or in parallel with your Premedical Program coursework.

During your preparations, check the requirements of the specific schools to which you plan to apply to ensure you will meet their prerequisites when you submit your application.

Your Individualized Credit Requirement

Accepted students are assigned a credit requirement, ranging from 32 to 44 credit hours (8-11 courses), which must be completed with grades of B- or higher. This assignment is based on past academic history, including courses taken and grades received. 

The pre-PA track is a three-year program if you study part-time. You will take one to two courses per term (fall, spring, and summer).

If you have no previous science background and need to complete all core medical science courses, we recommend the following path:

Sample Course Path for the Pre-Physician Assistant Track

Year one:

  • Fall semester – General Chemistry 1A* with lab, Medical Terminology
  • Spring semester – General Chemistry 1B with lab, Psychology

Year two:

  • Fall semester – Biology 1A** with lab, Organic Chemistry I with lab OR Biochemistry
  • Spring semester – Biology 1B with lab, Microbiology

Year three***:

  • Fall semester – Anatomy & Physiology I
  • Spring semester – Anatomy & Physiology II

*Advising note: If you have not taken a science or math course recently, then we recommend taking a mathematics course during the summer term such as Precalculus, Calculus, or Biostatistics. Alternatively, you could review algebra, geometry, and trigonometry on your own. Chemistry relies heavily on a strong working understanding of mathematics.

**Advising note: It is critical that you complete general chemistry prior to biology. Students who attempt to complete biology first (or at the same time as general chemistry) have a lower academic performance than those students who have already completed general chemistry.

***Advising note: PA programs have highly variable prerequisites, and you should customize your electives in Year 3 to ensure eligibility to whichever PA programs you plan to apply to.

You will meet regularly — at least once per semester — with a Premedical Program advisor to guide course selection. The sequential nature of most science courses will determine when you take specific required courses throughout your program of study.

You will begin the application process during the spring of your third year, including completing the GRE and/or PA-CAT.

Applying to PA School

For more information on applying to PA school, visit the Physician Assistant Education Association or the American Academy of Physician Associates.

Enrollment & Academic Standing

Be sure to review the Premedical Program Enrollment Policies and Academic Standing.

Enrolling in Courses

Once you’ve been accepted to the program, you will:

  • Meet with your Premedical Program advisor: You’ll work together to review your academic background and your professional goal to help you select your first course or courses.
  • Enroll in summer or fall classes: You must start your course of study in the summer or fall after acceptance to the program. A spring start is not allowed due to the sequential nature of many science courses.

How to Apply 

The online application to the Premedical Program is the same for all students, whether you intend to apply to medical school, physician assistant school, veterinary school, or dental school. Choose the track you plan to follow on the online application.

Applications are accepted from January 10 to April 10. All application materials must be received by the admissions office no later than April 10. Late or incomplete applications are not accepted. 

Acceptances are announced on a rolling basis. Accepted students must accept their offer of admission no later than May 20.

Completed application materials include:

  • Online application
  • Essay
  • Resume or CV
  • Transcripts