Common Questions

FAQs About Degrees

What kind of bachelor's degree is most beneficial?
The title of the degree doesn't matter, and there is no best degree. Most PA programs are generally more interested in a candidate's overall demonstrated academic performance rather than the title of the degree.

Which bachelor's degree will cover all of the prerequisites?
Degree requirements vary all over the country. Additionally, PA programs have differing prerequisites. Accept that you may have to take additional courses beyond what is required by your major in order to meet the prerequisites needed for all of the PA programs to which you plan to apply.

Can I apply before I have my bachelor's degree?
You can apply prior to completing your bachelor's degree, but your graduation date must be no later than May 8, 2020, if you are applying in the upcoming application cycle. The start date for the 2020 incoming class is Monday, May 11, 2020. You cannot begin our master’s degree program without first completing a bachelor's degree, and there are no exceptions.

Do you accept online degrees?
Only online degrees from regionally accredited colleges and universities will be considered.

FAQs About Prerequisite Coursework

When do I have to compete my prerequisites?
Your prerequisites must be completed for a letter grade before you submit your application. Grades must be published on your transcripts and verified by CASPA.

Can I send you my updated transcripts for summer coursework?
Please do not send transcripts to us. We do not accept updates, and evaluate only by what is verified by CASPA.

Are labs required?
You must take labs with anatomy classes, and most are automatically required as a part of the course curriculum. For other courses, we strongly recommend, but don't strictly require, that labs be taken when offered to complement coursework. Separate lab credit, if accompanied by a letter grade, may be included toward the total minimum prerequisite credits.

Do you accept online classes for the prerequisites?
Yes, as long as they are taken from a regionally accredited university or college for credit and a letter grade. In-person coursework and labs are preferred, and we don't recommend that all of your prerequisite coursework be taken online, but a class or two is fine.

Do you accept community college coursework?
Yes, we do. However, because some of your other programs of interest may not accept or prefer community college prerequisites, we recommend that you take prerequisites at the university level if you are able, to avoid disqualifying your candidacy to those programs that do not accept or prefer community college coursework for prerequisites.

Do you accept HTHS 1110 & 1111/Biomedical Core from Weber State University to fulfill your anatomy and physiology requirement?
Yes, we do.

FAQs About GPAs

I did not have a strong GPA when I was an undergraduate student. Can I still be a competitive candidate?
The University of Utah requires a 3.0 undergraduate GPA to enter the graduate school. Candidates with lower GPAs may be able to offset with strengths in other areas to become competitive. For example, we have been able to acquire graduate school exception to some candidates with GPAs slightly under 3.0, and those candidates have tended toward very high levels of professional health care experience. Upward trajectory of academic performance is taken into consideration. Candidates with overall or science GPA below 2.7 as calculated by CASPA will not be considered.

How do you look at GPAs and academics?
Applicants are given a baseline score according to what is the average for the applicant pool, typically around 3.30 cumulative. Academic review scores then go up or down depending on other circumstances around the your academic history. For example, a score goes up when the science GPA is higher than the cumulative or recent coursework is considerably stronger than old coursework or down for poor academic habits, such as excess of withdrawals, or poor recent academic performance.

Can I re-take some courses to bring my GPA up?
It is very difficult to significantly raise one's GPA, but it is possible. CASPA does not eliminate the lesser grade on coursework re-taken with better performance. If you are concerned about your academic background, feel free to contact us with your questions. 

FAQs About Health Care Experience

I can't find a list of what is acceptable for health care experience on your website. How do I know if my experience will be accepted, and does shadowing count?

We couldn't possibly come up with an exhaustive list of acceptable job titles! Nearly all forms of health care experience* are considered and accepted but we do not factor shadowing hours or student experiences into your total hours. Generally, we prefer that candidates have had some direct patient care experience, although candidates whose health care experience has been primarily in a non-patient care setting (such as in a lab) may still be competitive.

If you feel that your health care experiences and exposures have prepared you for PA education, then it is your responsibility to make it relevant on your application.

If you have not had any patient care exposure at all, then, how would you know that you would enjoy and be successful at working with patients in a career as a PA? Therefore, if your health care background were primarily in a not-patient setting, we would strongly encourage you to supplement your experience in some way, through volunteering in a patient setting for example, and be able to produce at least one letter of reference from a clinician who is able to address your patient interaction skills.

Think of it this way: your patient interaction skills are truly best acquired through real life experience, as opposed to taught in a PA classroom. Further, it will likely show itself in some way through your application.

*Administrative work in medical settings and caring for family members are not accepted.

What can I do to get health care experience?
Most PA programs strictly require or strongly recommend health care experience, but what you choose to do to get it depends on you—your interests, your time frame, whether you are willing to acquire professional training or certifications if needed, what jobs are available where you live, and the like. Given these factors, it is not possible for us to advise candidates on what they should do in order to acquire experience.

I find it hard to believe that the average applicant has so much health care experience. Can you explain that?
Most applicants to PA programs, according to annual applicant surveys, report that they first learned about the PA profession through their health care experience as opposed to from their college or career advisors.

The majority of our applicants have been out of college for more two years and have been working in healthcare during that time. Unlike with many master's degree programs, new college graduates are not among the majority of traditional PA applicants or accepted students. This information is not intended to discourage you from applying if you are a college senior or recent graduate and are ready to enter PA school. Rather, our citation of this demographic is intended to keep you from becoming too discouraged if you are not accepted to PA school the first time you apply. Each year, many of our accepted students were people who had previously applied.

Other FAQs

Is PA shadowing required?
PA shadowing is not required, but is highly recommended, particularly if you do not work in a setting alongside PAs. After all, how else would you know that you want to become a PA if you've never actually seen one work? Getting some exposure to the PA profession will help you to better understand what it means to be a PA. Shadowing experiences should be listed in the shadowing section of your CASPA application and are not included with your patient care hours.

How do I arrange to shadow a PA?
Check with clinics in your area to see if they have a PA, then contact the PA, let them know you are exploring the profession, and ask if you can shadow. Some clinics may not allow shadowing due to HIPAA regulations.

What do you look for in letters of reference?
We require three letters of reference, and recommend that you do not submit the five maximum allowed by CASPA. Preferred letters of reference come from clinicians who have supervised you in a health care setting, thoroughly address your patient care abilities, and speculate your prospects for becoming a successful PA in the future. In general, we want to know about your clinical abilities from the perspective of other clinicians. Our PA faculty like to see letters from other PAs, but PA letters are not specifically required. Letters are submitted through CASPA and are accompanied by an evaluation form. We do not accept additional letters.

Do you give preference to in-state students?
We have always accepted a national applicant pool and historically have not given automatic preference to in-state students. However, as a state institution, we do consider Utah residency and regional factors, and aspire to accept a cohort of students that represents the region, and the diversity of the region. 

Can I email a current student mentor with more specific questions about the program or student life?
Yes. Send an email to UPAPmentor@yahoo.com, and a student mentor will answer you within a few days. Please limit your questions to student life and program questions and refer your admissions related questions to admissions@upap.utah.edu to assure that you are getting accurate application advice.

Do you accept international students?
International students are welcome to apply as long as they have met the standard requirements noted on the main admissions page, and have completed a total of 60 semester credits of US coursework. Non-native English speakers must also submit an acceptable TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score that is less than two years old. International students with foreign degrees should also allow extra time to apply, as transcript translations must be processed as well. If living abroad at the time of application, international applicants who are offered interviews should be prepared to come in person. International applicants are responsible for their own student visa fees and paperwork and should note that there is no funding (such as federal financial aid) available for international applicants.

Are you accredited?
UPAP has held continuous accreditation since the inception of our program in 1971. ARC-PA, Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc., www.arc-pa.org is the accrediting body.

Do you offer any online classes?
All students must attend classes in person. We do not offer our program as an online course.

Where can I do my clinical rotations? Do I have to provide my own preceptors?
Students are not required to supply their own clinical sites or preceptors. Preceptors and clinical training sites must meet numerous requirements to qualify for a student placement. Core clinical year placements are at the discretion of UPAP and will take place in Utah. Elective rotations outside the state of Utah (including international rotations) are not guaranteed.

How much is tuition?
View current year tuition fee schedules. Out-of-state applicants may opt to become Utah residents after about one year in our program, thus becoming eligible for in-state tuition during the second year of the program.

Is it possible for students to work part-time?
Due to the rigorous full-time demands of the program, we strongly discourage students from holding jobs while enrolled in classes.

How can I apply for financial aid?
The most common source of financial aid is through federal loans, available online through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  Because maximum federal aid awards may fall short of covering all expenses, students may also supplement their expenses with bank loans and may rely on help from working spouses, family support, or personal savings.

How much debt do students acquire?
Based on our recent annual graduate survey responses, our students acquired approximately $100,000.00 in debt, on average.

Are there any scholarships?
Scholarship funding is generally very limited for PA students.  Some small awards are available, but there is no full tuition scholarship offered by the Utah PA Program. Please see individual scholarships under the scholarship tab on the PA Program Home Page for more information.

Students may opt to apply for National Health Service Corps scholarships or tuition repayment plans in exchange for primary care service in healthcare shortage areas. Check the US National Health site for information. Branches of the military also offer scholarships in exchange for military service.

If you are a resident of a western state that participates in WICHE, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, may also be a resource.

Information Sessions

Register for a pre-admissions information session today!

Register Today

Contact Us

Admissions Coordinator

(Monday–Friday, 8am – 5pm)
Phone: 801-581-7969
Email: admissions@upap.utah.edu

Student Mentor

Email: UPAPmentor@yahoo.com

Mailing Address

Utah Physician Assistant Program
375 Chipeta Way, Suite A
Salt Lake City, UT 84108
801-581-7766