Frequently Asked Questions

Prerequisite coursework and experience

Do all of my prerequisite courses need to be completed by the time I apply to CCPA program?

Yes. All prerequisites need to be completed prior to submitting an application.

What are the prerequisite courses?

  • General Chemistry* (min. 6 semester credits with or without a lab)
  • Human Anatomy & Physiology* (min. 6 semester credits with or without a lab)
  • Microbiology* (min. 3 semester credits with or without a lab)
  • College Statistics* (min. 3 semester credits)
  • Medical Terminology* (min. 1 semester credits)
  • Three letters of recommendation through ATSU’s application service
  • Minimum 2.5 cumulative and science GPAs
  • No GRE required

Can I take prerequisites at your institution?

No. ATSU does not offer undergraduate courses.

Is a baccalaureate degree required before matriculation?

Yes, completion of a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum 2.5 cumulative overall grade point average* is required. However, it is not required to be completed prior to applying for the program. (Please see above that prerequisite courses are required to be completed prior to applying to the program)

* All prerequisite coursework and degree must be completed from an United States regionally accredited institution. Prerequisite courses completed at foreign or other institutions that are not regionally accredited in the United States are not accepted. Course and transcript evaluations of equivalency are not accepted. The Central Coast Physician Assistant (CCPA) Program supports all educational experiences from either U.S. regionally accredited colleges and universities, by residential, hybrid, or online instruction, or by credit by examination.

Do the preresquisites ‘expire’ or need to be taken within a certain number of years prior to appling?

There is no 5 year prerequisite requirement for our program - that is for the Mesa PA Program

How many hours of clinical experience do I need?

No set number of hours are required. Experience in healthcare delivery sufficient to be able to recognize the physical and psychological demands of dealing with patients and to appreciate the challenges and rewards of being a healthcare professional.

What type of experience should I get to accumulate hours for clinical experience”?

Keep in mind that your goal is to become a physician assistant, therefore, your experience should provide you with as much exposure/experience as possible to the roles and responsibilities of physicians, PAs and other medical professionals, whose primary responsibility is patient care.

Does a letter of recommendation written by a nurse practitioner, chiropractor, or other health professional count for my healthcare letter of recommendation?

Applications to the CCPA program must include three letters of recommendation. One of the required letters of recommendation must be from a healthcare provider which includes a doctor of osteopathic medicine, medical doctor, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner, who can attest to your potential as a healthcare professional based on direct observation. The second letter should be from a physician assistant who you have shadowed. The third letter should come from a faculty member, employer, or supervisor

Is there someone available to review my application, transcripts, reference forms, resume and personal statement prior to submission?

No. Read the PA program’s online material very carefully. Everything you need to know is explained in there.

Does the program offer advanced placement or accept transfer credits?


Can a course in “exercise physiology” satisfy the human anatomy & physiology prerequisite?


How are ‘introductory level courses’ considered for one of the prerequisites?

Any questions about prerequisites should be referred to the admissions office. They can be contacted at

Application process

How to apply to the program?

We are utilizing ATSU’s online application service. We will not be utilizing the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) website this year.

Will I need to apply to the CCPA Program if I applied to the Mesa Program through CASPA?
Yes you will need to apply on the ATSU’s online application service. The Mesa ATSU Program is a separate program with a separate application process and separate requirements.

What is the application timeframe?

Applications are being accepted on a rolling basis.

When is the application deadline?

The deadline for applying for the starting class of October 2021 is on April 1, 2021.

What is a Hometown Scholar?
A Hometown Scholars endorsement from a community health center leader lets ATSU know the applicant has the heart to become the compassionate community-minded healers they would like to employ. In this way, you can learn about that community health center’s approach for improving community health, and hopefully, gain the endorsement from that community health center.
A community health center leader can advocate for your acceptance into ATSU by sending a Hometown Scholars endorsement letter to Gary Cloud, PhD, Vice President of University Partnerships. Hometown Scholars letters of endorsement do not replace the regular application process. Hometown Scholars endorsement letters parallel the regular application process – a process that requires its own letters of support.

Interview process (online/virtual)

How will I be notified if I’m being invited for an interview?

The invitation for our online interviews will be made by email; therefore, it is important that you provide us with current contact information.

How do I prepare for the interview?

Be yourself. Be prepared. Do your homework regarding the PA profession and ATSU. Practice by asking others to “mock” interview you. Be professional in your attire, but allow it to reflect who you are.

CCPA program

Do you have a distance learning option for the entry-level program?


Where will classes be held?

The first 12 months will be in Santa Maria, California, where we have a state-of-the-art learning center designed to facilitate our innovative learner-centered curriculum.
The second 12 months, students will be assigned to a community health center located in underserved communities across the country

Does it make a difference for admission if I am from out-of-state?

No. Your state of residence does not impact your chances for admission.

Can students attend part time?

No, due the nature of the delivery of curriculum part-time attendance is not an option.

Will I be able to work while I am in school?

Because of the rigorous nature of the physician assistant course work, the PA program faculty strongly discourage students from working. Typically, PA students are engaged in learning activities throughout the day Monday through Friday, with an occasional required weekend or evening hours

Does ATSU offer financial aid? Where can I find scholarship information?

i. Yes, we offer financial aid and scholarships to our students. Learn more about financial aid.

How many people apply to CCPA program each year?

CCPA program expects to enroll 100 students per PA student cohort (pending ARC-PA provisional accreditation).

Is there housing convenient to the University?

Yes. Students find housing in many of the neighboring communities. There is no ATSU student housing.

Who is on the PA admission committee?

Committee members consist of program faculty and practicing physician assistants.

What is the tuition of the PA program?

The anticipated tuition for the entire program is $100,928. Please note PA program costs are subject to change upon approval of the University Board of Trustees.

What are the curriculum components of the program?

The pre-clinical first year is residential. The students will spend the first year at the Santa Maria, California, campus. The average week is expected to include:

  • interactive small group learning (70%) facilitated with case studies, interactive learning, and projects.
  • laboratory and clinical simulations (20%) through small-group labs working with other students and faculty to practice skills (clinical skills, procedures, history taking, and physical exam).

These experiences culminate in periodic standardized patient encounters and off-campus pre-clinical community experiences. Classroom lecture is expected to comprise less than 10% of the instructional design.

How long is the program?

The program is 24-months. First year, the preclinical year (residential), is 12-months. The second year, the clinical year (off-campus at assigned CHCs), is 12-months.

Do you offer a cadaver lab?

No, we will not have a cadaver lab. We use 3D representations available online, including diagrams, AR and VR, and radiologic cross sections. There is also excellent cadaver dissection video available online format should you prefer.

Will I need to move to California to attend the program?

Yes, for the first year, students will need to move to Santa Maria, California, for the residential component. The second 12 months, students will need to move to their assigned community health center located in an underserved community across the country.

Do you provide options for shadowing physician assistants?

We are not currently providing shadowing experiences. However, we are working on developing some opportunities.

Are students required to have health insurance?

Yes, students will need to provide proof of health insurance.

Are students covered by malpractice insurance?

Yes, through ATSU the students are covered.

Is there a classroom personal appearance policy?

Yes, we provide students with a University Program Handbook which outlines policies including personal appearance.

Are there special technology requirements for the program?

Please view the ATSU technology requirements for full details. A laptop with specific requirements is necessary to have prior to matriculation.

Can you tell me more about accreditation status?

The Central Coast Physician Assistant (CCPA) program is a master of science in physician assistant studies (MPAS) offered by A.T. Still University. CCPA has applied for Accreditation-Provisional from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) and anticipates matriculating its first class in October 2021, pending achieving Accreditation - Provisional status at the June 2021 ARC-PA meeting. 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. If provisional accreditation is not granted, program admissions will be delayed until accreditation is received. Prospective students will be notified as soon as we are informed of accreditation results. Should the program not receive provisional accreditation, all deposits will be returned to candidates. Information on accreditation is available at

Any further questions?

Contact the admissions office at or call 866.626.2878.