Physician Assistant Studies Admissions Requirements

As the population of the United States becomes increasingly diverse, cultural competency within the physician assistant profession is critical. Our program is seeking individuals who demonstrate a clear understanding of the Canisius College Jesuit mission, with a commitment to improving health care outcomes for vulnerable patient populations. Special consideration will be given to candidates who display a passion for social justice and an understanding of the lived experiences of patients from diverse backgrounds. Applicants are reviewed holistically for their unique experiences, leadership potential, and commitment to education.

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Application Requirements

  • Completion of CASPA application in full by the deadline (given at The application cycle for the 2022-23 review in CASPA begins on April 28, 2023. Application materials will be reviewed in CASPA only. We will not meet with applicants or review materials outside the formal CASPA process.
    • The current CASPA deadline for this application is: September 1, 2023, at midnight EST
  •  Three (3) letters of recommendation on professional letterhead are required. At least one letter of recommendation must be from a health care professional.
  •  A current resume or curriculum vitae (CV) that reflects a minimum of 500 hours of direct patient contact/healthcare experience in addition to at least 100 hours of shadowing (preferably with a physician assistant)
  •  An essay in 600 words or less addressing the following:

    "We seek to eliminate healthcare disparity and improve the wellbeing of underserved populations by developing competent, compassionate, and mindful clinicians who may not share a similar background as their patients. Tell us about an experience that has broadened your own view of social justice and has enhanced your ability to understand those unlike yourself."

  •  Bachelor's degree with minimum 3.0 overall GPA, including the following prerequisite courses
    • Anatomy and Physiology I & II (Minimum 6 credit hours) *Separate physiology courses may not require a lab
    • General Chemistry I & II (8 credit hours)
    • Organic Chemistry (4 credit hours) 
    • Biochemistry (3 credit hours) 
    • Microbiology (4 credit hours)
    • Developmental Psychology or equivalent (3 credit hours)
    • Statistics (3 credit hours) 
    • Medical Terminology (1 credit hour)
  • Minimum of 3.0 overall GPA in prerequisite sciences; A minimum grade of C must be achieved in each prerequisite course. Grades less than 2.0/C are not accepted for any prerequisite (C minus not accepted). Prerequisite courses must be completed at the time of the application deadline. All prerequisite coursework must be completed at an accredited institution within the United States or Canada. Exceptions may be made for applicants with a completed medical degree from an international institution. Advanced Placement (AP) credit is not accepted or offered for the required prerequisite courses.
  • minimum of 500 hours of direct patient contact. A heavy emphasis is placed on the quality of the patient contact experience.  The program defines quality as hands-on responsibility for the patient. Examples of experiences are: positions directly dealing with patients (LPN, RN, EMT/paramedic, respiratory therapist, etc.), medical scribes, medical researchers with human subjects, etc. 
  • A minimum of 100 hours shadowing a physician assistant (PA). Applicants are encouraged to shadow medical professionals from multiple disciplines as well (physicians, nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, etc.). Shadowing hours may be waived for internationally trained physicians or other professionals who have demonstrated a substantial history of working alongside PAs. Virtual shadowing will be considered during times of Covid-19 restrictions due to limited access. 
  • minimum of 100 hours of community service. This list offers some examples of quality community service activities but is not all-inclusive. If you have a question about whether an activity qualifies as community service for this program, please reach out to the graduate admissions counselors. Those that have not met the required hours by the time of application must demonstrate a plan to obtain the remaining hours before classes begin if accepted into the program as with the direct patient contact hours.
    • Organize a food drive and deliver donations to a food bank
    • Serve in a soup kitchen
    • Volunteer to support your local veterans
    • Volunteer with Big Brother/Big Sister or school literacy groups
    • Habitat for Humanity
    • Organize a clothing drive through local church or charity organization
    • Tutor for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs
    • Volunteer in music therapy programs
    • Volunteer to work with nursing home residents (non-medical)
    • Community clean-up projects/environmental support
    • Offer support to local animal shelters/animal rescue agencies

This program does not allow advanced placement to this program or waive any courses in the curriculum based on prior training or employment.

In accordance with CDC recommendations, the New York State Dept. of Health, and Canisius College policy, ALL students who attend this program must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 before classes start in January of the cohort they are admitted to. Exemptions for religion or medical reasons are not accepted at this time. 


Technical Skills for Applicants

1. Observation and Sensory: The student must be able to observe demonstrations in the basic sciences, perform clinical laboratory diagnostic tests, utilize patient monitoring devices, interpret diagnostic images and reports, and examine patients for the purposes of assessment and diagnosis accurately. The student must have the ability to discern and comprehend spatial relationships of structures and must be able to assess all areas of the body through inspection and palpation. The student must be able to perceive the presence of abnormalities in a specific body system such as masses, lesions or inflammation, and must also be capable of perceiving the signs of disease through the use of all sensory tools (e.g. vision, hearing, smell, touch) throughout the comprehensive head to toe physical examination of the patient. The process of physical assessment includes, but is not limited to, information that is derived from observation and palpation of body areas, palpable changes in various organs and tissues, and auditory information such as patient voice, and heart/lung/bowel sounds.

2. Communication: The student must be able to communicate in English clearly, efficiently, and effectively with instructors, fellow students, patients and caregivers, physicians, and other members of the healthcare team verbally and in written formats. These communication skills require the ability to examine all information provided, conduct a well-focused follow-up inquiry, and relay relevant feedback in the oral and written communication format. Students must be able to communicate in a group setting in an effective and constructive way to facilitate optimal learning and care of the patient. Additionally, students must be able to recognize barriers to effective communication based on differences of language, religion, social status, education status, or other factors, and find the best way to communicate with patients and their families in a way that is clear, concise, and fosters confidence in the plan of care. Effective communication also relies on the student’s ability to use appropriate judgment in seeking supervision and consultation in a timely manner. Finally, students must learn to clearly, efficiently, and thoroughly document all aspects of the patient care process including chief complaint, history of illness, examination findings, testing results, assessment, and care plan.

3. Motor: The student must have sufficient motor function to effectively move themselves and others in order to perform physical examinations and to provide medical care and treatment. During clinical coursework and in eventual practice, the student must demonstrate motor skills related to patient physical examination and performing testing or treatment procedures. Additionally, the student must be able to physically ensure the safety of themselves and patients at all times, including meeting the acceptable standards of universal precaution and sterile technique. Students will need to demonstrate physical ability and skill in tasks such as suturing, splinting, injections, joint manipulations, removing foreign bodies from the skin, flushing eyes, ears, or wounds, performing digital pelvic or rectal examinations, and more. Many of these procedures require fine motor skills and relative strength.

4. Intellectual: The student must have the cognitive abilities necessary to master relevant content in the basic sciences and clinical courses at sufficient breadth and depth determined by the PA profession. These skills may be described as the ability to comprehend, memorize, analyze, and apply learning material. The student must be able to develop reasoning, problem-solving, and decision-making skills appropriate to the practice of medicine. Additionally, the student must be able to recognize the limits of his/her ability, request assistance when necessary, and create a professional development plan based on their individual needs.

5. Behavioral and Social Attributes: The student must demonstrate personal attributes of caring, integrity, and cultural competence. The student must possess the emotional health and stability required for full application and use of their intellectual abilities, the exercise of good judgment, the prompt and effective completion of all responsibilities under stress, and adapt to a clinical environment that may change rapidly without warning and/or in unpredictable ways. The student is expected to interact with others in a respectful and responsible manner at all times. The student must be able to accept and respond to constructive criticism and resolve conflicts in a socially acceptable and professional manner. Additionally, students must continually demonstrate the ability to self-assess, self-correct, and self-direct; identify needs and sources of learning, and continually seek new knowledge and understanding. Students will also be expected to understand the Jesuit philosophies of Canisius College and apply these philosophies to the learning process and in clinical practice.

*Students will be asked to sign the handbook upon matriculation that indicates they understand and acknowledge these standards along with all other policies and procedures

Preference for Specific Applicants

The Canisius College Physician Assistant Program gives preference to applicants graduating from the following universities/colleges:
•        Canisius College
•        University of Buffalo

Any applicant applying to the PA Program from these two universities who meet the admission requirements will be offered an interview. This does not guarantee acceptance to the program. 

Additional point preference is given during review of the application based on overall GPA, science GPA, prerequisite GPA, and overall GPA from the last 60 credit hours taken based on points above the minimum 3.0 requirement. Additional quality points are also given for patient contact experience that exceeds the minimum 500 hours and/or based on quality, community service that exceeds the minimum hours and directly aligns with our mission statement, and strong evidence of mission awareness in the essay and reference letters provided.

No preference is given to New York State residents or based on any other criteria.  This program is an equal opportunity program and does not discriminate based on age, gender, sexual orientation, race, or military service.

Additional Requirements for International Students

 Canadian and other international applicants must provide a completed Certification of Finances Form. 

  • International students who have completed university coursework outside the U.S. and Canada are required to have their transcripts and degrees evaluated by a foreign credential evaluation service such as World Education Services (WES). 
  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score, IELTS (International English Language Testing System) score, or a CAEL (Canadian Academic English Language) score. 
    • TOEFL: 79 IBT or 550 PBT
    • IELTS: 6.5 overall
    • CAEL: 70 overall
  • Students from Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa are waived from the language proficiency requirement.
  • Students who completed a 4-year degree (on campus) at a U.S. college/university are waived from the language proficiency requirement.

For more information about program policies, procedures, and expectations, please refer to the Canisius College Physician Assistant Studies Student Handbook located on this webpage.

For more information about the profession, student resources, and PA leadership, please visit: