CASPA Experiences Section: A Guide to Categorization

PA School • May 27, 2023

In this video, we’ll be discussing how to categorize CASPA experiences section. We’ll go over some tips and tricks to help you make the most of your experiences and give you an idea of what kinds of things admissions committees are looking for.

CASPA Experiences Section: A Guide to Categorization

The CASPA (Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants) application plays a crucial role in the admission process for PA schools. The CASPA experiences section often causes confusion among applicants. With numerous categories available, it can be challenging to determine where to categorize your experiences. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive guide on the CASPA experiences section.

Understanding the Categories

Within the CASPA application, there are nine categories in which you can classify your experiences. These categories are:

  1. Healthcare Experience
  2. Patient Care Experience
  3. Volunteer Work
  4. Shadowing
  5. Extracurricular Activities
  6. Research
  7. Teaching
  8. Leadership
  9. Non-Healthcare Employment

Categorization Guidelines

Categorizing your experiences correctly in the CASPA experiences section is crucial to presenting yourself as a well-rounded applicant. Here are some guidelines to help you determine which category to use for your experiences:

  1. Healthcare Experience vs. Patient Care Experience:
    • Healthcare experience refers to non-direct patient care roles, such as administrative work in a hospital or transporting patients.
    • Patient care experience includes direct contact with patients and involvement in their medical care. Examples include patient care technicians, medical assistants, and certified nurse assistants.
  2. Volunteer Work vs. Patient Care Experience:
    • If you have already accumulated over 2,000 hours of patient care experience, consider listing volunteer work separately under the Volunteer Work category.
    • However, if you have limited patient care experience and your programs accept volunteer patient hours as patient care experience, you can list it as such and specify whether it was compensated or volunteer work.
  3. Double Dipping:
    • It is important to avoid double-dipping your hours, which means using the same hours for multiple categories.
    • For example, if you worked alongside a PA in a clinical job, you cannot list those hours as both patient care experience and shadowing. Instead, deduct those hours from your total patient care hours and list them specifically under shadowing.
  4. Teaching and Research Experience:
    • Teaching experience includes roles as a tutor, teaching assistant, or any involvement in educational activities.
    • Research experience can include both clinical and non-clinical research. If you use research hours as patient care experience, ensure it involves patient-focused clinical research, not laboratory research.
  5. Extracurricular Activities and Leadership:
    • Extracurricular activities encompass involvement in clubs, sports, fundraisers, sororities/fraternities, and other non-academic pursuits.
    • If you held a leadership position within any extracurricular activity, classify those hours as leadership experience. Highlighting leadership roles strengthens your application.
  6. Non-Healthcare Employment:
    • Non-healthcare employment, such as working in a restaurant, coffee shop, or as a nanny, can be listed if it is meaningful and relevant to your application.
    • Skills gained from customer service, conflict management, and interpersonal interactions can be valuable in healthcare settings.


Properly categorizing the CASPA experiences section is essential for presenting yourself as a well-rounded applicant. Remember to maximize the impact of your hours in each category, accurately represent your direct patient care experience, and avoid double-dipping. While it may seem daunting, don’t hesitate to seek guidance from experienced professionals or PA school admission coaches to ensure your experiences are categorized appropriately. By following these guidelines for the CASPA experiences section, you can effectively highlight your strengths and enhance your chances of being accepted into a PA program.

Also read: 3 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a PA

About me:

I’m Michele Neskey, aka The Posh PA. Welcome to my YouTube channel! My mission is to provide personalized guidance, education, and motivation to build confidence and promote wellness for aspiring physician assistants and beyond.   

Having been a PA for 17+ years and helped hundreds of students gain acceptance into PA school,  I understand the admissions process. I know what they are looking for, and I can help you tailor every component to make you shine, giving you the BEST chance of getting accepted to a program.  But it doesn’t end there. I create personalized plans for PA students and practicing PAs including test-taking strategy for the PANCE, contract negotiations, and tools to overcome and prevent provider burnout. 

My goal is to get you into a physician assistant (PA) school & survive the rigorous program, help you prevent burnout as a practicing PA, and help you take care of yourself so you can be the best version of YOU for your patients, family, and most importantly YOU!