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Physician Assistant Studies (MS)

PA student looking at a patient's eye

Prepare to become a compassionate, competent healthcare provider in one of today’s fastest-growing professions.

Why Major in Physician Assistant Studies?

A national doctor shortage has created an unprecedented demand for physician assistants and nurse practitioners. As part of a team of doctors, surgeons or other healthcare providers, physician assistants (PAs) can examine, diagnose and treat patients.

In rural and medically underserved communities, PAs often serve as a primary care provider in close collaboration with a physician — this capability is one reason PAs have become one of the nation’s fastest-growing professions.

Physician Assistant is Ranked One of the Nation’s Top Careers

Physician assistant is ranked #9 on the U.S. Department of Labor’s 20 Fastest Growing Occupations list for 2019-2029. In its Best Jobs publication, U.S. News and World Report also ranks PA among the best careers to pursue; among the honors:

  • #2  – Best Healthcare Jobs
  • #3 – Best 100 Jobs
  • #3 Best STEM Jobs

How to Become a PA

To become a PA, you first need to earn a master’s degree from an accredited program (for physician assistant schools, this is typically by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant.) Once you have your degree and required clinical hours, you’ll be eligible to sit for your state’s licensure exam.

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Career Outlook & Success

31%

increase in demand for physician assistants expected through 2029 (BLS.gov)

95%

USF first-time pass rate on the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam -- higher than the national average for PA programs

$96,120

median annual salary for physician assistants in Indiana (BLS, 2019)

Why USF for Physician Assistant Studies?

The University of Saint Francis is renowned for its healthcare education, and that includes our nationally recognized physician assistant master’s program. Our graduates are continually sought out by employers, not just for their sound clinical reasoning skills and competency in evidence-based medicine, but also for the high level of compassion and integrity they bring to their roles.

USF’s strong academics are rooted in the Catholic tradition of treating everyone with respect and kindness, a practice that aligns perfectly with both the medical credo and the PA program’s focus on underserved populations.

Expert Faculty & Innovative Facilities

If you’re looking for a physician assistant studies student on our campus, you’ll likely find them in the Doermer Health Sciences Center. This innovative learning center contains:

  • The USF Simulation Laboratory (SIM Lab for short)
  • A cadaver laboratory for human anatomy
  • A resource lab with patient units and exam rooms
  • High-fidelity and mid-fidelity patient simulators
  • State-of-the-art instruments and equipment

You will learn from an outstanding faculty, which includes many active healthcare clinicians. The real-world experience they bring from their professional lives to the classroom is invaluable to your USF experience.

Extensive Clinical Experience & Speciality Track Options

The best PA programs offer robust and outstanding clinical experiences that will develop you into a well-rounded healthcare professional. With more than 1,000 clinical education partners throughout our region, USF will help you find rotation sites that align with your goals.

Core Clinical Rotations

Five Weeks

  • Family medicine
  • Internal medicine
  • General surgery
  • Emergency medicine
  • Elective of your choice

2.5 Weeks

  • Pediatrics
  • Obstetrics and gynecology
  • Psychiatry

Additional Speciality Rotations

You’ll have the flexibility to choose two additional rotations from one of the following four tracks based on your professional goals. Your track options — as well as subspecialties and provider types — include:

Trauma/Surgery

  • Outpatient Clinic/Occupational Medicine
  • Surgery Subspecialties
  • Trauma Emergency Medicine
  • Medical Office Orthopedics
  • Radiology

Hospital-based Care

  • Cardiology
  • Pulmonology
  • Oncology
  • Intensive Critical Care Unit
  • Neurology
  • Gastroenterology

Family Practice

  • Pediatrics (additional 2.5 weeks)
  • Geriatrics
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology (additional 2.5 weeks)
  • Psychiatry (additional 2.5 weeks)
  • Urgent Care

Internal Medicine

  • Cardiology
  • Pulmonology
  • Neurology
  • Nephrology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Endocrinology
  • Rheumatology
PA students working with a simulator

Campus & Community Involvement

USF is home to campus ministries, student groups, and service organizations. Among these clubs is the PA Student Society, which offers social, educational and networking opportunities to members and the greater campus community.

What You Can Do With a Degree in Physician Assistant Studies?

Most students pursue a PA degree to provide patient care as part of a medical team, and more than 40% work in a hospital. With the variety of specialities and subspecialties available to PAs, you’ll find these professionals in almost every medical setting from a private practice to a large healthcare system.

The three most common areas of practice, according to the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants are:

  • Surgical subspecialities (18.7%)
  • Family medicine/general practice (18.6%)
  • Emergency medicine (12.8%)

Some of the more unique places you can practice as a physician assistant: schools, colleges, correctional facilities, retail clinics and telehealth providers.

Others might wonder how to become a physician assistant that works in a non-clinical setting, such as in research or public health. The American Academy of PAs states that physician assistants can use their background to work for biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device companies; to work in medical writing, healthcare communications and public policy; or to teach the next generation of PAs.

Where You’ll Find Our Graduates

USF physician assistant studies graduates demonstrate the diversity of this field, practicing medicine at places such as:

  • Ascension
  • Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center
  • Beacon Health System
  • Beaumont Urgent Care
  • Beloit Hospital
  • BMG Orthopedics
  • Carle Foundation Hospital
  • Cleveland Clinic
  • Colon & Rectal Surgery Associates
  • Credo Family Medicine
  • Decatur Health Services
  • Ear, Nose & Throat Associates
  • First Choice Medical
  • Genesis Convenient Care
  • Gunderson Health System
  • Hamilton Community Health Network
  • Hospitalist Physicians Medical Group of Michigan
  • Johns Hopkins Hospital
  • Mayo Clinic Health Systems
  • McLaren Medical Group
  • Mercy Health Ohio
  • MercyOne Waukee Family Medicine
  • MidMichigan Urgent Care
  • San Juan Neurosurgery Spine Center
  • Southern Indiana Nephrology & Hypertension
  • Spectrum Health
  • St. Vincent Health
  • University of Utah Health
  • West Michigan Cancer Center & Institute for Blood Disorders

Accreditation

At its September 2019 meeting, the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA) placed the University of Saint Francis Physician Assistant Program sponsored by the University of Saint Francis on Accreditation-Probation status until its next review in September 2021.

Probation is a temporary status of accreditation conferred when a program does not meet the Standards or when the capability of the program to provide an acceptable educational experience for its students is threatened.

Once placed on probation, programs that still fail to comply with accreditation requirements in a timely manner, as specified by the ARC-PA, may be scheduled for a focused site visit and/or risk having their accreditation withdrawn.

Specific questions regarding the Program and its plans should be directed to the Program Director and/or the appropriate institutional official(s). The program’s accreditation history can be viewed on the ARC-PA website.

Admission Requirements

  • Hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution in the United States of America or submit equivalency verification for foreign credentials.
  • Satisfactorily complete and submit scores from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) with at minimum 4.0 on the Analytical Writing.
  • A minimum overall GPA of 3.0
  • A minimum overall science GPA of 3.0
  • Satisfactorily complete 12 semester credit hours in chemistry with a grade of “C” or better including courses in general chemistry, organic chemistry and biochemistry.
  • Satisfactorily complete 15 semester credit hours in biology courses with a grade of “C” or better including human anatomy/physiology and microbiology.
  • Satisfactorily complete 6 semester credit hours with a grade of “C” or better in the area of psychology.
  • Possess direct patient care experience.
    • The most direct and responsible forms of patient care experience in a compensated position are preferred.
    • Clinical components of the educational experience required for other healthcare professions are considered, but will not totally fulfill this requirement.
    • Volunteer activity and/or appropriate life experience will be considered, but will not totally fulfill this requirement.
  • In order to participate in clinical experiences, clinical requirements as set by the Physician Assistant Studies Program and clinical agencies must be met including, but not limited to, criminal background checks, drug testing, immunizations and health screening.

Program Goals and Outcomes

Board Exam Pass Rate

Since the M.S. in Physician Assistant Studies curriculum was implemented with the class of 2004, 410 USF graduates have taken the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE). Of those 410 students, 400 passed on the first attempt (98%). The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) provides a NCCPA PANCE Pass Rate Summary Report that displays first-time Graduate Performance on Certification Exam results by exam administration year. The program report below demonstrates USF first time pass rate by graduation cohort since 2008.

Graduation Year USF First-Time Pass Rate USF Aggregate Pass Rate National First-Time Pass Rate
2020 92% 100% 95%
2019 95% 100% 93%
2018 96% 100% 98%
2017 100% 100% 97%
2016 100% 100% 96%
2015 100% 100% 96%
2014 100% 100% 95%
2013 100% 100% 94%
2012 100% 100% 93%
2011 100% 100% 91%
2010 100% 100% 94%
2009 95% 100% 92%
2008 100% 100% 94%

Mission and Vision Statement

The Department of Physician Assistant Studies provides education in medical knowledge and competencies needed by individuals to serve effectively as physician assistants who are mindful of the needs of underserved populations. The Department prepares students to be clinicians who achieve professional standards and have enhanced critical thinking, clinical reasoning, and competency in evidence-based medicine. We foster an educational environment of mutual respect, personal growth, and professional advancement.

Vision Statement

The Department of Physician Assistant Studies will prepare students to become compassionate and accomplished practitioners who are engaged in life-long learning and dedicated to service, education, and leadership.

Attrition Rates

Graduation Year Maximum entering class size (as approved by ARC-PA) Entering class size Graduates Attrition Rate Gradation Rate
Class of 2020 25 25 24 4% 96%
Class of 2019 25 25 21 16% 84%
Class of 2018 25 25 22 12% 88%

Attrition rate calculation: Number of students who attritted from cohort divided by the entering class size.

Graduation rate: Number of cohort graduates divided by the entering class size.

The table above can also be viewed as a PDF.

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Academic Plan

An academic plan is a general blueprint showing how one might complete the degree, semester by semester. Get an idea on what each semester could look like.

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