Skip to main content
CSS do not delete

Frequently Asked Questions

Thank you for visiting our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) repository of questions. The program has built this inventory of inquiries based on experience with the most asked questions received through various platforms, both electronically and in person. Our inventory is designed with a question-and-answer format. Navigating the list is best approached by accessing the sections most likely related to your inquiry. If you do not see an answer to your specific question or have additional questions to a question already included here, please reach out to us by email at

Toggle below to explore:


Is the Atkinson PA Education Program at UC San Diego accredited?

The ARC-PA has granted Accreditation-Provisional status to the University of California San Diego Atkinson Physician Assistant Education Program sponsored by the University of California San Diego.

Accreditation-Provisional is an accreditation status granted when the plans and resource allocation, if fully implemented as planned, of a proposed program that has not yet enrolled students appear to demonstrate the program’s ability to meet the ARC-PA Standards or when a program holding Accreditation-Provisional status appears to demonstrate continued progress in complying with the Standards as it prepares for the graduation of the first class (cohort) of students.

Accreditation-Provisional does not ensure any subsequent accreditation status. It is limited to no more than five years from matriculation of the first class.

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

Where is the Program offered?

The Program is housed in the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and will be located on the School of Medicine campus.

Is the program offered with any part-time options?

No, the program is only offered on a full-time basis.

Is the program offered online?

No, the program is only offered on campus. Live attendance is required. The program does not offer optional attendance to on campus coursework.

What degree is granted?

Upon successful completion of program requirements, graduates are awarded Master of Advanced Science in Physician Assistant Studies (MAS-PAS) degree and a certificate of completion.

What are the admission requirements for the program?

View the admission requirements

Is the application process through CASPA?

Yes, the application process is through the CASPA system. In addition, there is a Secondary Application that must be completed and submitted by the August 1 deadline as well.

When and how can I apply, and when is the application due?

CASPA opens in mid to late April of every year. The Secondary Application will also be available during this time. All applications to CASPA must be submitted by August 1 and “verified” by CASPA no later than September 1. Applicants who are verified early will be reviewed on a first come first served basis. Applicants verified close to and after September 1 may not be considered if all 30 seats are already filled. Please consult with CASPA regarding verification policies and timelines. The Secondary Application must be submitted by the August 1 deadline.

Does applying earlier in the admissions cycle help or is it recommended?

Applying as early as possible is recommended. The admissions cycle runs from April through August 1 every year. Applicants will be reviewed on a first come, first served basis. Applicants who qualify for interviews will also be considered on a first come, first served basis. Applicants pending prerequisite coursework taken in the summer during the admissions cycle be denied due to incomplete prerequisites. Applicants taking prerequisite coursework during the summer should submit their applications closer to the August 1 deadline to allow for official grade posting and verification by CASPA.

What degree do I need to apply?

The program accepts any Bachelor’s degree; however, applicants with science degrees; i.e., biological sciences and chemistry, are preferable.

When will you make decisions about who is accepted into the program?

Applicants will be notified in the Fall. See our Admissions Timeline.

How many students will be accepted into the program?

Currently, only 30 seats are available for new students.

Will there be a wait list for the program?

Yes, in addition to the 30 individuals who will be selected for admission, other qualified applicants will be wait-listed (alternate status) in the event that positions in the class become available.

How do I make an appointment to meet with a program advisor?

Due to the volume of inquires we receive, we are not able to schedule individual appointments in most cases. We recommend attending one of our “Meet the Program” events which includes time for questions and answers. However, we do address email inquiries as quickly as we can. We do not offer transcript review. Our email address for inquiries is


When do prerequisite courses need to be completed?

All prerequisite courses must be completed, graded, and reported to CASPA at the time of application. The Bachelor’s degree does not need to be completed at the time of application; however, it must be completed by the time of matriculation (enrollment) into the PA program.

How do I know if the statistics course I take will be acceptable?

Any introductory course in statistics will fulfill the requirement, and should include topics such as statistics terms, analytical statistics, measurement of the mean and variance, null hypothesis, p-values, confidence intervals, and probability.

Does the program accept calculus for the statistics prerequisite?


Will courses from other colleges and universities be accepted to meet the pre-requisites?

Yes, prerequisite courses may be taken at any US regionally accredited school, including online programs.

What letter grade is required for prerequisite coursework?

A letter grade (A, B, C or D) or numerical grade (4.0, 3.0, 2.0 or 1.0) is acceptable. Generally, the higher the grade, the more competitive the applicant. Grades of F, W, WF and or DF are not accepted for any prerequisites. Grades of P (Pass) are accepted for 2020-2021 coursework only.

Will you accept advanced placement (AP) credits, CLEP, or concurrent enrollment for any prerequisite coursework?

AP/CLEP and concurrent enrollment will be accepted for prerequisite coursework only if the following conditions are met: Credit for the course(s) is documented on the official transcript sent to CASPA. Additional official/unofficial transcripts will not be accepted by the department. They must be available in the CASPA application. Credit for the course(s) is listed in detail on the official transcript with both course number and course title for each credit earned. Course without this detail will not be accepted.

Does the program accept online prerequisite courses?

Yes, as long as they are from a US regionally accredited institution and documented on the official transcript.

Are laboratory courses required to be taken with all science courses?

Laboratory components are required for both anatomy and physiology and the microbiology requirements. Some schools include laboratories as part of the overall credit for the parent course. Other schools require separate registration for laboratory courses. Applicants should ensure they follow their school’s requirements for laboratory components. Laboratory components for biologic sciences, chemistry, and the organic chemistry/biochemistry prerequisite courses are not required.

Does the program accept online lab prerequisite courses?

Yes, as long as they are from a US regionally accredited institution.

Do prerequisites have to be taken within a certain time frame? Do they expire?

No, applicants can use credit for prerequisites taken at any time in the past.

Does the program accept community college coursework?

Yes, as long as the community college is accredited and the coursework is documented officially on a transcript.

Does the program “waive” any prerequisites?


I attended medical school in the USA. Will the program give me credit for those courses?


I attended PA school at another PA program but did not complete the program. Can I apply to UC San Diego? Will the program give me credit for any of those courses?

Yes. You may apply to the PA program at UC San Diego. Admissions decisions are based on competitive application with the overall applicant pool. No special preference is given. In the event an applicant with prior PA coursework is invited to join the program, the student will not be given credit for any PA coursework taken at other institutions.

Do all prerequisites need to be completed and graded by the August 1 deadline?

Yes. Prerequisite courses cannot be “in progress” past the August 1 deadline. Applicants indicating courses as “in progress” on the CASPA application prior to the August 1 deadline are responsible for notifying the program of course completion.

I will be finished with my prerequisites before the application deadline (August 1), but I am submitting my CASPA application before I finish the course(s). Can I still apply?

Yes, you can still apply. However, the coursework must be finished, graded, and appear on the official transcript by the August 1 deadline. If an applicant submitted the CASPA application before finishing the prerequisite coursework, it is the applicant’s responsibility to follow-up with the program to be considered further. The program will not seek out applicants who have prerequisite courses missing and/or marked “in progress” on CASPA.

Does the program accept “continuing/professional education” courses to satisfy the prerequisites?

No. All coursework must be official coursework taken at a college and/or university. Coursework must be part of the official catalog of course offerings at an educational institution. Courses and trainings offered for the purposes of professional and career development are not considered for the satisfaction of PA program prerequisites.

Does the program have examples of courses that can meet the prerequisite requirements?

No. However, our friends and colleagues at the USC Primary Care PA Program have put together a strong list that we support and recommend applicants consult when making prerequisite course decisions. Check USC's list HERE


Do I have to submit official transcripts?

Yes, to CASPA upon application. In certain cases, UC San Diego may also need to collect offical transcripts upon matriculation. 

Do I send transcripts to the PA program?

No, unless the applicant is submitting updated transcripts for consideration or as requested by the program.

Do you accept unofficial transcripts?

No, unless otherwise requested by the PA program.

Do I need to submit transcripts from every school I attended even though I transferred coursework?

Yes. Transcripts from all schools attended are required regardless of transfer coursework. Consult CASPA policy for further details.

I have a degree from the USA and a degree from another country. Do I need to submit my foreign transcripts?

Yes. All transcripts from all schools attended are required. Foreign transcript evaluation may not be required for foreign transcripts for applicants with degrees from the USA although the admissions committee may still ask for an official evaluation. Applicants using foreign coursework to satisfy satisfy prerequisite and/or minimum Bachelor’s degree or higher requirements must submit transcript evaluations along with the foreign transcripts.

I attended another professional graduate school (medical school, dental school, etc.) but did not complete the degree. My Bachelor’s degree is complete. Do I still have to submit the incomplete graduate school coursework transcript?

Yes. All transcripts from all schools attended are required. Applicants with histories of failure to complete professional graduate degrees should be prepared to discuss circumstances in detail that contributed to prior degree incompletion. Applicants who fail to report prior degree work may be considered in breach of the CASPA Code of Conduct.

My transcript shows academic probation and/or academic dismissal. Will I still be considered for admission?

Yes; however, applicants must be prepared to discuss either and/or both in detail. Applicants may respond to this in the Secondary Application.

Do I need to submit high school transcripts?

High school transcripts are not required nor accepted. In some cases, high school transcripts may be requested to satisfy federal grant requirements for student scholarships, etc. Matriculants will be notified when and if they are necessary.

I am unable to request or obtain my international transcripts due to unrest in my country or due to asylum. Can I still apply?

It depends. Applicants should consult with CASPA regarding official transcripts. UC San Diego may require official transcripts in this case and has a process for addressing this issue. However, if an applicant cannot be "verified" by CASPA, the program will not process the application for admission.  


What is the minimum GPA required to for admission?

The minimum GPA for admission is a 3.0 GPA on undergraduate or overall graduate coursework (all courses, all schools, all transcripts) and a 3.0 GPA on all undergraduate or all graduate science coursework. Courses considered “science” are listed on the CASPA website.

How are GPAs calculated?

GPAs are calculated by CASPA from all coursework submitted by the applicant. UC San Diego does not recalculate nor correct CASPA GPA calculations. Applicants should consult CASPA for detailed information on GPA calculation. 

Is the minimum 3.0 sciences GPA required for all science courses taken or just the PA Program prerequisites?

The most qualified candidates will have a cumulative sciences GPA of at least 3.0 for all college level science coursework taken at all institutions. Applicants should consult CASPA for detailed information about science GPA calculation. 

Does the program use the “most recent” grade for a repeated course to “replace” older grades?

The program follows CASPA policy. CASPA includes ALL grades for ALL courses taken regardless of repetition.

What does the program look for on transcripts?

Besides successful course completion with competitive grades, the program looks for trends in performance, drops/withdrawals, repeats, and academic rigor.

How many semester credit hours should I be taking per semester?

The most competitive applicants take 15+ semester credit hours per semester. The least competitive applicants take greater than 9 semester credit hours per semester.

I worked full-time while I was enrolled in courses. I could not take 15 hours every semester. Does the program take working into consideration?

Yes, but it is crucial for applicants to document their work and course loads in CASPA.


Can I apply and be accepted as undocumented or DACA recipient?

Yes. The PA program accepts applications from those who are considered undocumented and DACA recipients.  Applicants can be admitted to the program through the traditional competitive admissions process. Undocumented and DACA status are not considered in admissions decisions.

What details do I need to know as an undocumented and/or DACA PA student?

The following points must be disclosed and considered by applicants, all of which are determined by California state law: Undocumented and DACA students do not qualify for federal financial aid. Undocumented and DACA recipients are eligible to apply for and obtain a license to practice as a physician assistant in California. Prospective applicants should consult the requirements of the licensing authority in any state in which they consider practicing to determine qualifications for licensure. Information concerning physician assistant licensure in California is available from the Physician Assistant Board.

California: SB 1159 (2014) offers professional licenses to anyone who completes the necessary training and other state licensing requirements regardless of immigration status. Thanks to Senate Bill (SB) 1159 (2014), California allows immigrants without SSN and EAD to receive professional licenses if they meet all other requirements. Applicants without an SSN must provide an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) when seeking a license.

Applicants interested in licensure through other states should consult with the state licensing boards of those respective states. 

Where can I get more information and resources for undocumented and DACA students at UC San Diego?

Additional information is available at the following links:

What scholarships are available for undocumnet and DACA students if admitted?

There are resources/scholarship opportunities listed here:

International Applicants & Degrees

I have a degree from the USA and a degree from another country. Do I need to submit my foreign transcripts?

Yes. All transcripts from all schools attended are required. Foreign transcript evaluation may not be required for foreign transcripts for applicants with degrees from the USA although the admissions committee may still ask for an official evaluation. Applicants using foreign coursework to satisfy minimum Bachelor’s degree or higher requirements must submit transcript evaluations along with the foreign transcripts.

Does the program accept international medical graduates?

Yes, provided all prerequisite courses have been completed in an accredited US institution and the applicant meets all other minimum requirements including residency requirements.

Does the program accept any other foreign transcript evaluations besides WES?

No. WES is preferred by CASPA and UC San Diego.

Can international medical graduates get advanced placement for coursework?

No. Advanced placement is not offered for any coursework for any individual for any reason.

Can the program review my international credentials to determine if I am qualified to apply?

Due to the volume of inquires we receive, we are not able to schedule individual appointments in most cases. The program will not review international credentials until the applicant formally applies to the program.

Does the program admit international applicants seeking F-1 and J-1 type student visas?

International applicants who meet the minimum requirements for admission, including residency, can apply to the program. The program does not sponsor F-1 and J-1 type student visas. 

Entrance Exams

Does the program require the GRE?


Does the program require the PA-CAT?


Does the program require the MCAT?


Does the program require the Casper assessment?



Does the program require direct patient care experience?

Direct patient care experience is not required; however, it is highly recommended.

Does the program prefer paid over volunteer health care experience?

The program does not prefer paid over volunteer health care experience. Both are considered valuable.

What type(s) of health care experience are recommended to fulfill the admission requirement of 500 hours?

The program accepts a variety of health care experiences. The program will check all submitted experiences to verify they are health care related. Verification will occur at the discretion of the program. Experiences submitted not related to health care will not be considered. The program prefers experiences that allow applicants to observe or participate in patient-provider and provider-health care team interactions. 

Is PA shadowing required for admission?

No, PA shadowing is not required for admission; however, shadowing a PA can provide some valuable insights about the profession. It can also be counted as health care experience. Some applicants also ask PAs whom they shadow to write letters of reference/recommendation. Applicants with PA shadowing and/or letters from PAs are not given any advantage in the admissions process.

Does the program require community service and/or extracurricular activities?

Although there is no minimum required, the admissions committee highly recommends community service and extracurricular activities. The most successful applicants have many hours of involvement. When documented, the program will score community service activity.

Can I count my clinical hours from a previous degree toward my 500 hour requirement for health care experience?

Yes. You may count those hours as long as the description of those hours in your CASPA application clearly defines that you were a student in training and that the experience was directly related to health care. Hours documented unrelated to healthcare will not be accepted. Please include details about your role and duties while acquiring that experience.

Letters of Recommendation

Are letters of recommendation required to apply?

Yes. Three letters of reference are required to apply.

How do I submit my letters of recommendation?

Letters are accepted through the CASPA system only. Please follow CASPA instructions for submission.

I need to submit a written and/or extra letter of recommendation? How do I submit it? Who do I send it to?

Letters of recommendation submitted outside of the CASPA system cannot be used in the admissions process. The will not be accepted nor acknowledged.

Who can write letters of recommendation for me?

Anyone the applicant chooses. Careful consideration should be given to clear conflicts-of-interest; i.e., personal, familial/kin, and marital relationships. Letters submitted to the program by email or postal mail will not be accepted. Applicants should consider garnering references from healthcare providers, professors, academic advisors, and employers/supervisors.

What should the letters of recommendation contain?

The letters of recommendation are standard format from CASPA. Please follow CASPA instructions for letters of recommendatioin.

The CASPA system is asking me to “waive” my right to see the letters of reference. What should I answer?

It’s up to the applicant, but the standard is to waive the right to see them. Many people, especially professors, will not write letters of recommendation without a waiver on file with CASPA.

I sent requests to all three of my references, but only two returned the letters to CASPA. The deadline has passed. What should I do?

Ultimately, it is the applicant’s responsibility to make sure the entire application/submission process is complete. The program does not make exceptions for lack of responsibility on the part of the applicant. Applicants should communicate with CASPA customer service to resolve any technological issues affecting letters of reference.


Will an interview be required? If so, when will it occur?

Interview day activities are required for admissions decisions. The most qualified candidates will be invited for a virtual interview. Interview activity dates are set to run for the months of September and October.

What is the purpose of the admissions interview?

The physician assistant program regards the interview as an important component of our holistic admission process. Invited candidates will be required to meet with Admissions Committee personnel. The committee looks for such personal attributes as emotional and academic maturity, empathy and compassion, motivation, ability to communicate, cultural sensitivity and humility, critical thinking skills, knowledge of the PA role in healthcare, understanding of the program’s mission and goals and the potential to achieve career fulfillment within the PA role. Interviews will be conducted virtually with Zoom technology during the months of September and October. A virtual multiple mini- interview (vMMI) format will be utilized. Interview days will include a virtual program/campus tour, a review of the program’s curriculum, technical standards, and any timely updates. Applicants will have opportunities to meet with program faculty, staff, and students throughout the day. It is anticipated that 90-120 applicants will be invited to interview.

How will I know if I am invited for interview activities?

All invited applicants will be notified by email. The email used to contact all applicants is the preferred email address entered into the CASPA application. It is the applicant’s responsibility to keep the email address current on CASPA and to check email correspondence in a timely manner. All correspondence from the PA program to the applicant is strictly documented to ensure both program and applicant are well informed.

How are applicants selected for interviews?

Each applicant’s file is reviewed in detail. Those with the best combination of more favorable characteristics are invited. PA program faculty make all interview decisions.

How many interview invitations are sent out?

The number of invitations varies every year. In general, the PA program prefers to interview at least three applicants for every position in the class.

Fellow applicants that also applied to UC San Diego received interview invitations. I did not get an invite when they did. Should I assume I will not receive an interview?

Interview day invitations are unlikely to be sent after November 1. Most invitations are sent between September 1 and October 1. Applicants who have not received a response from the program by November 1 should contact the program at

How can I prepare for my interview?

Search online for interview tips and techniques. Dress in business formal attire. Research as much as you can about UC San Diego’s PA program. Applicants are expected to be familiar with the curriculum and the mission of the program.

How much does the interview count toward the admissions decision?

This may vary from year to year and is not considered public information; however, the interview is a critical part of the admissions process. Applicants should put their “best foot forward” and sell themselves accordingly.

What happens during the interview day? What is the vMMI?

The vMMI consists of a series of short, carefully timed interview scenarios organized into stations. Each station aims to draw multiple samples of applicants' ability to think on their feet, to critically appraise information, to communicate their ideas, and to explore their reasoning with the station facilitator. Applicants will complete a circuit of timed mini-interview stations, rotating from station to station. At each station, candidates will have two minutes to read a 'scenario' or question prompt. Candidates then have eight minutes to either interact with a rater who may ask questions or be observed by the rater while interacting with an actor or another applicant. One station will be devoted to a more personalized, 15-minute one-on-one interview with program faculty.

I was invited for an interview and assigned a date. Can I attend the interview on a different date?

Yes and no. Logistics for scheduling interviews can be complicated and difficult to change. Although we prefer not to make changes to interview day schedules, we understand sometimes there may be some extenuating circumstances. Applicants with interview invitations having difficulty attending on the assigned date should communicate with the program as soon as possible to inquire whether any changes can be made. Unfortunately, changes requested that affect the last few dates for interviews are rarely able to be accommodated.


How many applicants are accepted?

Currently, the PA program accepts 30 new students per year.

Does UC San Diego have “rolling” admissions?

Yes and no. The PA program utilizes a “quasi-rolling” process to make admissions decisions.

Is there a difference between waitlist and alternate status?

Yes. The admissions committee follows a quasi-rolling process to make admissions decisions. A small number of applicants are either accepted or denied after each interview day. The rest (majority) are “waitlisted” for further review at a later time in the admissions cycle pending further review by admissions committee members. Once the admissions committee has completed the review process, an applicant’s status is changed to “offered, denied or alternate.” Alternate status is changed to “offered” only when the applicant has been invited to join the incoming class of 30 students of any one of the 30 “offered” applicants turns down the offer.

How many alternates are selected?

This number can vary from year to year and is not considered public information. Sufficient alternates are selected to meet the 30 new students per year.

Is the alternate list ranked in order of preference?

Yes, the alternate list is ranked in order of preference.

Will the PA program tell me what my alternate rank is to assess my admissions chances?

Yes, all alternates are given their rank order at the time of status assignment.

I have been waitlisted pending further review. Can I find out why? Is there anything I can do to help the admissions committee make a decision?

No. The admissions committee reserves the ability to make the best decision possible by utilizing as much of the data gathered from the admissions process. Our admissions professionals will communicate with waitlisted applicants when a decision has been made.

May I contact members of the PA faculty and/or admissions committee regarding my application?

No. Applicants should refrain from contacting faculty and admissions committee members. If there is an extenuating circumstance with some urgency that requires the immediate attention of our program, please contact our admissions staff by phone at 858-534-3703 as soon as possible. Our admissions staff will determine next steps on an individual basis.

I did not get accepted. Can I find out why? Who can I talk to?

Due to the volume of inquiries we receive and the sensitivity of all admissions decisions, the PA program does not discuss any admissions decision with any applicant. Applicants with difficulty gaining admission to the program should continue to attend as many information sessions on campus or virtual recruiting events as possible. Individualized advising by PA program faculty is reserved for enrolled PA students in the program and is not available for admissions purposes. Many of our faculty attend various recruiting events throughout the state of California where applicants are free to ask questions about the admissions process. Program policy prohibits any faculty member from reviewing admissions data and decisions with any applicant. The PA program continues to develop strong relationships with health professions advisors at colleges and universities throughout the state of California. Applicants should contact their school’s advisor’s advice regarding the admissions process.

I graduate undergrad just one week after the PA program starts Arrive & Thrive orientation. Am I able to matriculate?

No. This is common for quarter school applicants, especially from California. Even UC San Diego applicants are affected. If you do not have a completed and conferred degree by the first day of Arrive & Thrive, you will not be able to join the cohort and you will not be able to defer your decision. 

After Acceptance

How is residency status determined?

Residency status is determined at the time of admission to UC San Diego. If an applicant is offered a seat in the incoming class and the applicant accepts the seat, the PA program forwards the decision to accept and admit to the Graduate College. Residency status is determined by administration on the main campus only. The PA program makes no decisions locally regarding residency nor does it provide any advice locally regarding residency status assignments. Residency status does not impact the cost of attendance for this program. All learners pay the same tuition and fees. 

Can I work while I am enrolled in the program?

Most likely not. The program discourages students working while enrolled in the program.

Does the program require a security deposit if I get accepted?

Accepted applicants do not need a security deposit.

Can I enroll in the program part-time?

No. The program is offered only on a full-time basis.

Is a criminal background check required?

Several states have passed “Ban the Box” laws for higher education, which prohibit post-secondary institutions from asking applicants about their criminal history during the admissions process. The law further prohibits offering an applicant provisional acceptance to a program subject to a criminal background check. In 2020, California became the fifth state to enact this type of law (Cal Educ. Code 66024.5). The Atkinson UC San Diego Physician Assistant Education Program does not require a criminal background check prior to matriculating into the program and will not have access to criminal background data submitted to CASPA for programs outside the state of California. However, applicants should review the following: • An admitted learner’s ability to complete the program successfully and gain the appropriate licensure could be negatively impacted by their criminal history. • Supervised clinical practice experiences (SCPE) are a critical part of the program’s requirements for graduation. Many clinical sites will not place a learner on a clinical rotation unless they have successfully passed a criminal background check. Background check results that limit the program’s ability to secure SCPEs may prevent a student from progressing or graduating from the program. • As a part of the licensing process, many states require that graduates undergo a comprehensive background investigation. This process requires graduates of the program to disclose all past criminal convictions, even if they have been set aside or expunged. Applicants who have questions about criminal background checks should email the program prior to application at

Will my criminal background affect my ability to gain admission into the program?

No. The admissions committee does not use the criminal background to make admissions decisions. However, your criminal background may affect your ability to complete the program. If you feel your criminal background may affect your ability to complete the program, please consult with the Associate Dean/Program Director. Most, if not all, clinical sites require relatively clear criminal records in order to participate in and complete clinical rotations.

How often do I need to get a criminal background check?

Yearly while enrolled in the program.

What kind of criminal record may affect my ability to complete the program?

A felony crime will be difficult in most states to acquire licensure as a PA. In some states, serious misdemeanors will also result in a difficult path to licensure. For the purposes of most clinical rotation sites, criminal records should be clear of felony charges.

Are drug screens required?

Drug screens are required to rotate through certain facilities and clinical sites.

Is a pre-participation physical examination required?


Are there any health requirements?

Yes – health requirements for PA (SOM/SOP) students can be found at this page.

Are any immunizations required by the program?

Yes – immunizations required for PA students can be found at this page

If I am accepted and have an emergency, can I defer my decision?

No. Deferrals are not allowed unless offered by the Associate Dean directly. 

I have graduate level coursework in anatomy completed at another institution. Do I still need to take the Anatomy course required in this program?

Yes, all required coursework must be taken while enrolled in the program. No advanced placement/transfer credit is accepted.

I attended another PA program. Can any of my previous PA coursework be applied to my UC San Diego program of study?

No. Applicants with coursework from other PA programs will not be given advanced placement standing, credit or advantage in the competitive admissions process nor can the coursework be used to replace any UC San Diego coursework.

What is the process for requesting advanced placement credit?

There is no process for advanced placement credit. The PA program does not allow advanced placement credit for any courses for any reason from any discipline. Credit by examination for courses is not offered.

I have a documented disability that may require accommodations. What should I do about reporting my disability?

After acceptance, if you have a documented disability, you can request accommodations by contacting the Office for Students with Disabilities at (858) 534-4382 or at Once eligibility has been determined, students are required to register with the Office for Students with Disabilities every semester to activate their accommodations. Although you may request an accommodation at any time, in order for the Office for Students with Disabilities to best meet your individual needs, you are urged to submit a self-identification form and necessary documentation at least 4 weeks prior to the time you wish to receive accommodations. Applicants needing information about disability services prior to admission should contact the OSD for more information.

Didactic Curriculum

How difficult is the first year of PA school at UC San Diego? What can I expect?

PA education can be a rigorous and strenuous process. Although the PA program makes every effort to make PA school “enjoyable,” the overwhelming nature of large amounts of course content, curriculum, assessments, examinations, and commitments required of PA students renders the experience most likely less enjoyable than previously attempted experiences in higher education. Potential students should look carefully at our curriculum to make informed decisions about career planning and student/life balance.

How many hours per week are required for on campus coursework?

The number of classroom contact hours varies from course to course from week to week. However, potential students should expect to be occupied with on campus curriculum a minimum of 30 – 40+ hours per week depending on scheduling. PA students often spend 4 – 8 hours studying outside of the classroom per day.

How many exams per week are given by professors?

The number of exams and/or assessments given per week varies by course and type of exam/assessment. The PA program makes every effort to limit high stakes exams/assessments to no more than two per week. Due to scheduling and extenuating circumstances, PA students are expected to be flexible and ready to be examined/assessed with short notice. There are weeks; i.e., finals week and others, with three or more scheduled exams/assessments.

Does the program teach any online courses?

Yes and no. Currently, the PA program does not offer any exclusively online courses. Program faculty do utilize hybrid teaching modalities that require students to learn in online platforms. All courses include some element of online instruction to varying degrees. PA students are expected to be flexible and open to non-traditional, innovative, novel, and creative methods of curriculum delivery.

Does the PA program require any kind of technology upon matriculation such as a laptop or tablet computer? If so, what specifications and/or software are required?

Yes. Every PA student must possess a working and reliable laptop computer. Laptops should be recent technology with capability of connecting to the internet. Machines with either Windows or MacOS are required. Chrome (Chromebook) laptops are not compatible with testing software required for all courses. Tablet devices are both portable and valuable for the modern educational experience. Although they are not required, many students find them to be helpful adjuncts for learning and entertainment purposes. All PA students are expected to check online course management systems and email communication often. This may require paying for monthly internet service at home throughout the entire PA curriculum. UC San Diego provides the Microsoft Office 365 package to PA students while enrolled in the program for free. The PA program requires students to take written examinations on laptop using program provided software.

Does the PA program require any kind of equipment to be purchased for use while in the program?

Yes. The PA program requires all PA students to purchase a medical equipment kit just prior to matriculation. The kit includes such things as a high-quality stethoscope, otoscope/ophthalmoscope, tuning forks, and reflex hammer to name a few items.

Where do I buy medical equipment required for PA school and what do I buy? Which brands and specifications, etc.?

All matriculating students will be sent an order form containing a list of approved/required brands and specifications for medical equipment a few months prior to matriculation. The PA program has made every effort to secure volume student pricing to ensure the best possible pricing for each student. Every student is required to purchase the approved/required medical equipment kit through an approved vendor. The cost of the equipment varies from $1000 – 1500 and has been included in students’ financial aid budget.

Does UC San Diego offer childcare services while enrolled in the PA program?

Child care services are not available.

Does the program offer tutoring for PA coursework?

Formal individualized and group tutoring may be provided by the program as needed. The PA program employs a Director of Learner Success & Wellness who works closely with students to determine learning styles, best practices for studying, developing study habits, time management, exam performance, and certification exam preparation to name a few things. The program employs various remediation and retention techniques depending on course requirements and individual student needs.

Does the program require students to join any professional associations?

Yes. All PA students are required to join both the California Academy of PAs (CAPA) and the American Academy of PAs (AAPA) as student members. PA students should plan on paying for a student membership lasting the two years enrolled in the program.

Clinical Curriculum

What are clinical rotations and how many hours a week are required?

Clinical rotations are supervised clinical practice experiences completed under the supervision of a preceptor who is responsible for student training over a four-week time period. While some rotations have a 40-hour work week, the time required could be higher. The student is also expected to do additional studying after hours to meet the expectations of the rotations and the program.

What disciplines are covered in clinical rotations?

The ‘core’ clinical disciplines are covered in seven 4-week rotations. They are family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, Women’s health, mental and behavioral health, surgery and emergency medicine. There are also three elective or selective rotations. All rotation assignments are determined based on availability, and quality of the site.

Can clinical rotations be completed outside of California?

Not likely. Because of the mission of this program, every student is required to complete most, if not all, clinical rotations in California. Under very few circumstances, students may complete clinical rotations outside of the state. Requests for out-of-state rotations are approved for very limited reasons. Applicants hoping to complete clinical rotations in their home state should try to apply to PA programs located closer to home. Students may complete their elective clinical rotations in any location within the continental United States which includes Alaska and Hawaii.

Can I work while I am taking courses during the didactic year and/or completing the clinical rotations?

The program is an intensive and demanding course of study. Working while attending the program is strongly discouraged. Absences, tardiness, and failure to participate in program curriculum and activities will not excused due to work obligations and may result in poor performance and/or recommendation for dismissal from the program.

Where in California will the clinical rotations be located?

The program is responsible for the assignment of all clinical rotations. Clinical rotations are available primarily in San Diego and Imperial counties, and in a variety of settings. Students are expected to be flexible and although the program will make all reasonable attempts to accommodate student preferences, students may not always be assigned their choice of sites and locations. When feasible and at the students’ requests, placements are made in locations close to or within the communities where students have ties. This is in support of the program’s mission to develop health care providers for the underserved areas of California. Every student can expect to be assigned at least one distant and rural clinical rotation. Due to availability and scheduling, some students my be assigned more than one distant experience.

Is housing available for distant clinical rotations? If so, do I have to pay for housing?

Students are responsible for the cost of housing and transportation during the clinical phase of the program. The Program will maintain a list of affordable housing outside of San Diego County. Some rural clinical sites offer housing to students.

Does the program offer international clinical rotations?

The program does not currently offer any rotations located outside the United States.

Program Completion

What are the program’s graduation requirements?

Every student must successfully complete the entire curriculum with a minimum 3.0 GPA, no more than 14 accumulated hours of C grades, no F grades, and be continuously enrolled. In addition, every student must satisfactorily complete/pass several benchmarks designed to assess both knowledge and competency throughout the program. These include but are not limited to:

  • An independent capstone project
  • An End-of-Curriculum™ national multiple choice comprehensive written examination
  • A final summative standardized patient objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) using standardized patients that assesses medical knowledge, person-centered care, interpersonal and communication skills, and professionalism

Does the program place graduates in jobs after completion of the program?

No. The program does not participate in any job placement activities for alumni. However, the program and its faculty are a good resource for any PA job search. The program also relies on the California Association of PAs (CAPA) to assist with the PA job search via the position postings available to all CAPA members. [hyperlink]

How does the program prepare students for the PANCE?

Completion of the entire 29-month curriculum is the primary preparation method utilized by our program. The PA program prides itself on not being laser-focused on the PANCE as the only measure of success for any graduate. Program faculty are not only interested in successful scores on the PANCE, but also producing the best possible competent practitioners for our community and the public of California and beyond. Students enrolled in our program will be subject to frequent benchmarks and assessments to further develop their knowledge base and practical skills of assessment and critical thinking.