Preparation for Physician Assistant, Physical Therapist and Occupational Therapist at Behrend

Preparation for Physician Assistant, Physical Therapist and Occupational Therapist at Behrend

What do Admissions Committees look for in an Applicant?Physical Therapy Symbol

  • Can the student handle the academic rigors of these programs?
  • These careers tend to be even more ‘people focused’ than other medical professions. Do they want to be in the profession for the “right” reasons and know the dedication the career entails?
  • Do they have a diverse set of physical and intellectual skills necessary to succeed in these professions?

How does Penn State Behrend help the student to succeed?


No particular undergraduate major is required for these programs. Most programs require a specified set of prerequisite coursework that we offer at Penn State Behrend. Due to the advanced biology requirement for many programs, a biology or biology-related major is often pursued. Prerequisite courses for most programs include:

  • General Biology: BIOL 110 and BIOL 240W
  • Microbiology: BIOL 230W or MICRB 201/202*
  • General Chemistry: CHEM 110/112
  • General Chemistry Laboratory: CHEM 111/113
  • Organic Chemistry: CHEM 210/212 OR CHEM 202*
  • Organic Chemistry Laboratory: CHEM 213 OR CHEM 203*
  • Anatomy BIOL 129 OR BIOL 421*
  • Physiology: BIOL 141 OR BIOL 472*
  • Physics: PHYS 250/251
  • Calculus: MATH 140/141* (usually one semester)
  • Psychology: PSYCH 100
  • English (3 -6 credits): ENGL 15, 202C

Humanities and social science classes (6-9 credits is typical)

* The student needs to check the requirements of the individual programs for which they are applying. Not all PA schools require the same level of microbiology or organic chemistry, for example. It is ALWAYS in your best interest to take more difficult courses in preparation for a graduate level program!

Our Pre-Health Option of our Bachelor of Science degree in Biology covers all of these prerequisites. However, other biology, chemistry and physics degree programs can easily be customized to meet these requirements. At Penn State Behrend, you will have a dedicated, personal Pre-Health Adviser who will guide you through the process!


The more rigorous the academic preparation in the sciences, the more prepared students are for advanced coursework in these programs. The student must demonstrate a consistent and high GPA.

A Strong Candidate

Applies to 4-7 schools with a mean GPA >3.3. The candidate also has 500+ hours of shadowing or work experience in a health professions setting. The student should have a demonstrated capacity for physical manipulation and dexterity.

The minimum GPA considered on average is 3.0

Shadowing and Volunteering

To answer the question of “why do you want to be in a health-care career,” it is necessary to observe a dentist at work for as many hours as you possibly can schedule. Most dental programs are taking a holistic “whole candidate” approach to admissions. Simply having a high GPA and standardized test score is no longer sufficient for acceptance.

You should also try to shadow different individuals within your chosen field that work in the various specializations. Most schools are looking for at least 500 hours of shadowing/clinical experience.

Volunteering is a great way to show your dedication to helping people! Opportunities at local hospitals, nursing homes, and schools for special needs children require some research on your part, but can really set your application apart.

Opportunities for Leadership and Scholarship

To determine if the candidate has a diverse set of skills necessary to be a dentist, they look for evidence of leadership, involvement in professional organizations and participation in scholarly activities like research.

  • Penn State Behrend is one of the few schools that combine the small class size of a liberal arts college with the research facilities of a larger university. You will have opportunities to conduct research with a faculty mentor who is an active researcher in his or her field of expertise. Many of our students who participate in undergraduate research present their work at local and national conferences.
  • Our campus has a vibrant and diverse set of student organizations that offer leadership opportunities. We have the Scrubs Club and the Behrend Chapter of the American Medical Students Association for students interested in health degrees. These and our other clubs and organizations organize and participate in many philanthropic activities that you can become involved in.

Helpful Links

Physician Assistant

Physical Therapy (4-year)

Occupational Therapy (4-year)

Other Links