Physician Assistant FAQs

General

What is a Physician Assistant (PA)?

PAs are licensed healthcare professionals who practice medicine with physician supervision. PAs deliver a broad range of medical and surgical services to diverse populations in both urban and rural settings. Their main focus is patient care in the primary care setting, but their duties may include education, research, and administrative activities.

How did the profession begin?

In the mid-1960s, physicians and educators recognized there was a shortage of primary care physicians. Dr. Eugene Stead of the Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina selected Navy corpsmen who had received considerable medical training during their military service and in Vietnam but who had no comparable civilian employment. In 1965 he put together the first physician assistant class and based the curriculum of the PA program in part on his knowledge of the fast-track training of doctors during World War II.

What area of medicine can physician assistants work in?

Physician assistants can be found in all areas of medicine which include but are not limited to primary care, family medicine, internal medicine, emergency medicine, pediatrics, women’s health, surgery, orthopedics, psychiatry, and gastroenterology as well as many other areas. PAs can also work in areas such as education, government, administration, and research.

If I want to change areas of practice, do I have to go through additional training?

Because physician assistants receive a broad education in medicine and can perform duties assigned to them of the scope of practice under their supervising physician, physician assistants can change specialties without further training.

How and when should I apply to the PA program?

Pre-professional (Undergraduate Program)

Application packets may be obtained from the Admission Office or you can apply on line. High school students should apply by fall of their senior year. The priority application date for transfer students is March 15.  University of the Sciences is only able to take transfer students into the second year of the pre-professional program. More information can be found here:

Undergraduate Program

Professional (Graduate Program)

Application deadline will be November 1, 2016 for all verified applications.  For detailed information, please visit: Professional Program

Is the University of the Sciences Graduate Professional Physician Assistant Program accredited?

University of the Sciences has received approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Education and received provisional accreditation from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc.

What are your PANCE results in the last 5 years?

The first class of students will be taking their PANCE exams at the completion of spring 2016. Once those results are received, they will be posted on the website along with how successful the Program is in achieving its goals.

Why is shadowing experience required?

Having a minimum of 400 hours shadowing experience and/or patient contact prior to the professional phase of the program provides you with direct patient contact in various areas of medicine.  We want to be assured that you have adequately explored the physician assistant profession and are certain of your career choice.

What do you mean by patient contact hours?

Patient contact hours are defined as experience in a healthcare setting, including work experience and volunteering. For more information please consult our PDF.

Do you have any suggestions on how I can obtain the required 400 hours of patient care experience?

Many applicants begin working in the healthcare field the summer between high school and college. By working each summer, the applicant can accrue the necessary hours. Some areas of interest include (volunteer or paid) Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), nursing aid, LPN, RN, military corpsmen or medic, PT/OT, athletic trainers, cardiac rehabilitation, medical technologist, home healthcare aide, phlebotomist, and volunteers for nursing home/assisted living facilities, community mental health, or family planning organizations.

What type of academic background and/or degree is likely to optimize my potential for success in the programs?

Strong biology, chemistry, and math (especially statistics) is highly recommended. The number and level of courses in addition to performance in these classes are important considerations. Applicants should demonstrate their ability to handle social sciences and humanities coursework in psychology, sociology, critical thinking, and ethics. Degrees in related majors will help insure success in the program.

How can I get a job after graduation?

Although the PA Program does not maintain a formal job placement service, the Program receives requests from prospective employers throughout the year and happily passes the information to our graduates. In addition, students make contacts during the clinical rotations, which assist in their job search.

Do I need to meet all of the program’s admission prerequisites or can some be waived on the basis of work experience in healthcare?

Prior healthcare experience will be applied to the program’s patient care experience requirement. No other prerequisites for admission are waived on the basis of prior healthcare/life experience.

Does University of the Sciences offer part-time option/distance learning courses?

Our program does not offer a part-time or distance learning course.


Undergraduate

Who should apply to the Undergraduate Pre-professional PA Program?

The program is looking to bring in undergraduate students who are looking for a fast-paced, challenging, high quality, preparatory physician assistant program. Applicants should have a high science aptitude and a desire to understand the complexities of the human body functions and disease processes. Applicants should also demonstrate strong motivation towards the PA profession, be accountable, mature, and graciously accept responsibilities.

How and when should I apply to the Undergraduate Pre-professional PA Program?

Application packets may be obtained from the Admissions Office or you can apply on line. High school students should apply to the undergraduate program by fall of their senior year. The priority application date for transfer students is March 15.  University of the Sciences is only able to take transfer students into the second year of the pre-professional program.

What should I do to improve my chances of being accepted?

High school students should have a 3.0 or B+ average with no science courses below a B. Your SAT scores should include a combined score of 1150 or above with at least 550 critical reading/550 math. ACT scores should be 23 or higher. You should also shadow a practicing PA in order to understand and appreciate the scope of practice of the PA.

Can I obtain a bachelor's degree in Physician Assistant Studies at University of the Sciences?

No. Successful students who enter either of the graduate professional PA programs (Usciences or PCOM) will receive a Bachelor of Health Science from the University of the Sciences after completion of the first year in either graduate professional PA program.

What does "pre-professional" mean?

Pre-professional refers to the undergraduate curriculum prior to the entry into either graduate professional program. It takes place within the first three years of the program and includes classroom and laboratory work as well as shadowing. It is designed to offer you a solid foundation in the natural and social sciences as well as history taking, physical exam skills, and medical terminology before you enter either graduate professional program.

If accepted to USciences PA Studies Program, will I automatically be accepted to USciences or PCOM?

A space is reserved in the graduate professional programs for students who meet the progression standards in the undergraduate pre-professional program and an interview is guaranteed. Students  must meet all of the academic, behavioral, and patient contact hour requirements, as well as successfully pass an interview, for progression to the graduate professional programs.

Would it be useful for me to shadow a PA within a clinical setting prior to applying?

Shadowing, which involves observing a PA in his or her daily clinical practice, offers you the opportunity to understand the role and responsibility of the PA. Please note that if you are accepted, this experience is required of all students in the undergraduate pre-professional program. This experience will be documented and submitted prior to your first day of classes.

  • Form (PDF) for all applicants entering into the 1st year
  • Form (PDF) for all applicants transferring into the 2nd year

Is the Physician Assistant Program accredited?

Please see the accreditation status page for the USciences Graduate Professional Physician Assistant Program.

Please see the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine Physician Assistant Program website.

Why is shadowing experience required?

Having a minimum of 400 hours shadowing and/or patient care experience prior to either of the graduate professional programs will provide you with direct patient contact in various areas of medicine.  We want to be assured that you have adequately explored the field of physician assistant and are certain of your career choice.


Graduate

What is the deadline to apply to the Graduate Professional Physician Assistant Program?

Your CASPA application must be submitted and verified no later than November 1. Applications that are not received or verified by November 1 will not be considered eligible for interview.  Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis.

Can I apply with outstanding courses and/or health care experience?

Yes. You must document that you are enrolled to complete any outstanding course requirement(s). Courses must be completed by June 1 prior to the matriculating year.

The 400 hours of healthcare experience must be completed and received by the Program by the deadline of June 1 prior to matriculation.

Failure to complete any outstanding requirements will result in forfeiture of the program’s offer of admission.

What are the admission requirements?

Please visit our Admission Requirements page for a full list of requirements.

Is there a specific time frame in which prerequisite courses must be completed?

All science prerequisite courses must be completed within seven (7) years of the application year. For example, science courses completed prior to 2009 will not be considered for the 2016 admission cycle.  The psychology and statistics courses may be completed beyond that time frame. Any courses in progress at time of application must be completed and a transcript submitted documenting satisfactory completion by June 1st of the matriculating year.

I had outstanding courses at the time of application. Should I send my transcripts?

Please do not send any transcripts to the program unless requested by the Graduate Professional Physician Assistant Program Admission Coordinator.

Does your program require Graduate Record Exams (GRE)?

No, GREs are not required for the Program consideration. Unfortunately, we are unable to evaluate the GRE score as part of the application packet. As such, GRE scores should not be submitted to USciences.

Do you require a supplemental application?

Yes, we do require a supplemental application. However, the supplemental application will only be sent to qualified candidates after initial CASPA application review. An email will be sent to qualified applicants with instructions on how to complete the supplemental application and submit it directly to the Program with the $50 application fee online. This must be submitted for your application to be considered “complete” in order to be evaluated for an interview.

Failure to submit the supplemental application and fee online within two (2) weeks of the date it was sent by the program will negate your eligibility for an interview. Supplemental applications that are not solicited will not be reviewed.

Can I send additional patient contact hours and references to the program?

At this time, the University can only accept patient contact hours and references that are submitted through CASPA.  Therefore, please ensure that all hours you have completed at time of application and all three references are included on your CASPA application prior to submitting it to the program. 

If a verified application is submitted to the program and a reference is not available it will not be included in the application evaluation process.

If I do not have a bachelor’s degree, what should I do?

A bachelor’s degree is mandatory for admission into the Graduate Professional Physician Assistant Program. You must have or be in the process of completing a bachelor degree by matriculation in order to be eligible for admission. Your degree must be completed by June 1st prior to the matriculating year.

If I meet all of the admission requirements, does that guarantee a seat in the PA Program?

Seats in the Graduate Professional Physician Assistant Program are limited to 40. As such, getting into a Physician Assistant program is competitive and meeting the minimum requirements alone does not guarantee a seat in the Program. 
 
The Graduate Professional Physician Assistant Program has been designed to incorporate a diversity of student populations.  These include successful students from the University of the Sciences Undergraduate Pre-Professional Physician Assistant Program as well as post-baccalaureate applicants. 
 
Ideal composition of each 40 seat class will consist of a mix of post-baccalaureate students and Undergraduate Pre-Professional Physician Assistant Program students.  To that end, preference will be given to eligible Undergraduate Pre-Professional Physician Assistant Program students for up to fifty percent of existing seats.  Actual percentages will vary depending on the eligible number of pre-professional students.
 
Our application screening and interview process takes into consideration all aspects of our candidates. Applications are screened in the order we receive them and interviews are granted in the order that all components of the application are completed.
 

Who is granted an interview?

Interviews are granted to qualified individuals based on an internal screening matrix as determined by the faculty. Interviews will allow the applicant to be evaluated on cognitive ability, professional awareness, commitment to the profession, leadership qualities, communication skills (both verbal and written), personal and behavioral qualities, self-confidence, motivation and initiative, and professionalism. Meeting the minimum academic requirements does not guarantee an interview.

How will I receive notifications on the status of my application from the program?

All notifications and communications from the program will be sent via email. Notifications about application status and interviews are regularly sent by USciences via the CASPA email system.  For that reason we strongly encourage all applicants visit the CASPA FAQs for more information about the process and ensuring emails do not get marked as spam by your email provider.

At this time we are unable to provide any status updates via phone.

If I am accepted into the program, is there a deposit?

All accepted students are required to make two deposits.  The first deposit of $500 is due within two weeks of the date of the acceptance letter. A second deposit of $1000 is due within 90 days of the date of the acceptance letter. Deposit deadlines and a confirmation code for making payments online are included in the Acceptance Letter.

Due to the highly competitive nature of PA programs, we are unable to waive the deposit fees. If the deposits are not received by the deadline indicated in the acceptance letter, your seat will be forfeited.

What credentials will I have upon graduation from University of the Sciences Graduate Professional Physician Assistant Program? Where can I practice?

Students are granted a Master of Science of Physician Assistant Studies upon graduation and are eligible to take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) offered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).

When does the program begin?

The Graduate Professional Physician Assistant Program begins in mid-August with a one week orientation that occurs prior to the start of the fall semester.

What is the structure of the Physician Assistant Program?

There are two phases of the curriculum.

The first phase is the didactic phase which consists of three semesters of medical science courses including clinical medicine, human anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology, diagnostics, history and physical, and other professional courses. Students will also have the opportunity to interview medical patients and perform physical examinations.

The second phase is the clinical phase which consists of 11 five-week rotations in a variety of medical specialties; primary care, internal medicine, pediatrics, women’s health, emergency medicine, surgery, behavioral/mental health, geriatrics, and two electives. Electives may be taken in any of the core rotations or may include, but are not limited to, diverse areas such as dermatology, plastic surgery, cardiothoracic surgery, hematology/oncology, orthopedics, and ENT.

Would I be able to hold a job while enrolled in the graduate program?

Program faculty does not advise outside employment while participating in the Physician Assistant Program. Faculty recognizes that employment may be an issue that some students will face. Given this recognition, realize that Program obligations will not be altered due to a student’s work obligations. It is further expected that work obligations will not interfere with the student’s learning progress or responsibilities while in the Program. Working often interferes with learning opportunities during rotation activities. The schedule of clinical experiences and clerkship hours to be observed are set by the Program or preceptor and are not negotiable. The Program also discourages the student from working clinically at the same site where they are completing clinical experiences or clerkships.

Students who are involved in, or commence, volunteer or paid work during the course of their Physician Assistant training, cannot use their affiliation with the Physician Assistant Program in any aspect of that job. Work outside the Physician Assistant Program undertaken by the student, independent of the Program, is not covered by the liability offered for clinical work associated with the educational experience and students may not represent themselves as University of the Sciences Physician Assistant students.

Students may not be employed by the Department of Physician Assistant Studies at any time.

Housing

Graduate student off campus housing is available but space is limited.

Tuition Refunds

Information regarding tuition refunds can be found on the University of the Sciences catalog.

As a Physician Assistant Student what policies affect me as a student?

All University policies are found in the University of Sciences Student Handbook.

Policies regarding the Physician Assistant program can be found in the Graduate Professional Physician Assistant Program Student Handbook which will be provided to accepted students during orientation week.

If I have additional questions or need clarification, how can I contact the program?

The Graduate Professional Physician Assistant Program Admission Coordinator can be contacted via email at: paprogram [at] usciences [dot] edu.

Accreditation Provisional Statement

The ARC-PA has granted Accreditation-Provisional status to the Graduate Professional Physician Assistant Program sponsored by University of the Sciences.  

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.

Accreditation-Provisional does not ensure any subsequent accreditation status. It is limited to no more than five years from matriculation of the first class.