Prerequisites - Courses
There are approximately ~130 PA programs and because of a lack of standardization in the application process, there are almost as many differences in what is required prior to application.
CASPA (Central Application Service for Physician Assistants) is a service providing a centralized application system similar to medical school admissions. Many programs are joining CASPA and now about 110 programs participate. This way PA applicants only have to fill out one application to apply to as many PA programs as they desire.
However there are still quite a bit of differences in what is required.
Because of these differences it is very difficult to meet all of the requirements for all the programs. If you plan on taking a year or more after college before applying you can make sure you have all the requirements based on specific schools you would like to apply to. If you would like to go striaght from your undergraduate to a PA program, this will take some planning, or you may be drastically limited to which programs you will be eligible to apply to.
For the most part your college courses should be similar to pre-med students, with some exceptions. I feel that the most common prerequisites which are different from medical school requirements are the following.Human Anatomy, as opposed to Anatomy that may not be specifically in Human. For example for my bachelors degree I took a comparative chordate anatomy. Since this was not acceptable for most all PA programs, although sufficient for medical school application, I had to take an additional Human Anatomy course at SDSU in their undergraduate program while taking my full course load at the University of San Diego.
Human Physiology, as opposed to Physiology that may not be specifically in Human. I had the same issue in this subject, I had to take an additional Human Physiology course at SDSU, this time in their graduate program so that the units would transfer to USD and count towards my bachelors degree.
Some PA programs require general psychiatry, some want you to take abnormal psychology, while others want you to take developmental psychiatry. Why each program differs I cannot say, but I was not a psychiatry minor and didn't want to take extra courses that were not necessary, so while reviewing each program I excluded programs that required a psychiatry course I had not taken. I took a general psychiatry course over a Summer break.
Not typically a requirement of medical school. I took this course over a Summer break.
Some programs require it, some don't.
Most programs required one course but not a full year as is often the case in medical school.
Typically this is a very basic course that medical transcriptionists take.
It is also important to note that many programs require that all prerequisite courses are completed at the time of application or by December of the year you are applying in. For medical schools, many pre-med students are still taking courses that are required during their application process.
Find out each individual programs requirements from the PA Program Directory (link)