School of Health Sciences & Education

Physician Assistant Science, Master's Degree


Improve the health of others with your Physician Assistant degree from Saint Francis University 

As a leading educator in the field of physician assistant science, Saint Francis University will prepare you to become a qualified physician assistant in an accredited direct-admit, accelerated 5-year format, or upon completion of your bachelor's degree (2-year format). 


Established as one of the first physician assistant (PA) degree programs, Saint Francis University is nationally known for strong Physician Assistant National Certification Exam (PANCE) pass rates and graduates who excel in clinical competence, professionalism, and compassion.  


On-campus program with direct-entry and graduate admissions paths

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Direct-entry: the most efficient way to enter the PA field

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Over the past 5 years, SFU graduates have achieved a first-time pass rate well above the national PANCE pass rate

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A fully accredited program by ARC-PA

PA Students in ELC

Physician Assistant Science the Saint Francis Way

As a physician assistant science student, you will study alongside a cohort of peers who are all driven to fulfill the work of tomorrow's healthcare providers.  The format of our physicians assistant program enables enrolled students to form a strong, cohesive bond that focuses on collaborative learning experiences.

The PA Degree Student Experience 

Our accelerated 5-year physician assistant program format will reduce your time from enrollment to employment without sacrificing either a critical academic foundation or outstanding clinical skills.  If you have already earned a bachelor's degree, our 2-year graduate PA pathway is an excellent choice for furthering your education to reach your career goals. 


Our carefully crafted program is designed to support you with an appropriate knowledge base and sound clinical skills.  Hands-on experiences are woven throughout your academic career, providing the opportunity to apply what you have learned in the classroom.      


As you pursue your PA degree at Saint Francis, you will:  

  • Study under highly regarded faculty who have created an atmosphere focused on student success. 
  • Apply your academic knowledge in our state-of-the-art Experiential Learning Commons that includes varied simulation labs and high-fidelity manikins. 
  • Work with peers from other disciplines, enhancing your clinical skills, and incorporating that will drive you towards the practice of compassionate healthcare that is a hallmark of our graduates.  
  • Pursue co-curricular and student learning activities (athletics, study abroad, service opportunities) not commonly available at other institutions.   

What You’ll Learn in the PA Program

As a leading educator of physician assistant science, our courses are arranged for role concept and knowledge base development.  Your educational experience has been built to meet the high standards that the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) outlines.  These standards encourage excellence in PA education and drive results for our graduates.                                        

  • Degree Paths
  • Program Goals
  • Program Outcomes
  • Undergraduate PA Paths: 

    Degree PathDescriptionCourse Catalog Plan of Study



    B.S. in Health Science

    leading to MPAS (3+2)


    Direct-entry MPAS

    with a max of 55 students admitted per cohort

    Course Catalog - 23/24

    Plan of Study


    Pre-PA Concentration

    Interdisciplinary Health Care Studies, B.S.


    An alternative path to prepare for later grad school application

    Course Catalog - 23/24

    Plan of Study


    Graduate PA Path: 

    Degree PathDescriptionCourse CatalogPlan of Study

    Master of Physician Assistant Science
    (2 years)

    Students with a baccalaureate degree may be admitted based on space availability

    Course Catalog - 23/24

    Plan of Study
  • Graduates of the SFU PA degree program  will be able to provide the following services in a professional manner that is compassionate, competent, and efficient:


    Medical Knowledge: 

    Graduates will have medical knowledge including an understanding of anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology, patient presentation, differential diagnosis, patient evaluation and management, surgical principles, health promotion, and disease prevention enabling them to provide competent and comprehensive health care. Graduates will be able to demonstrate core knowledge about established and evolving biomedical and clinical sciences and the application of this knowledge to patient care utilizing an investigatory and analytic thinking approach to clinical situations.

    Clinical Competence: 

    Graduates will have the ability to provide effective patient care that includes assessment, evaluation and management to diverse populations across the lifespan in an ethical, compassionate and inter-professionally collaborative manner. Graduates will possess the necessary technical skills as well as clinical reasoning and problem-solving abilities to provide equitable and efficient patient-centered care.


    Interpersonal and Communication Skills:

    Graduates will possess interpersonal and communication skills (including verbal, nonverbal and written) that result in effective information exchange with patients, families, physicians, and other health professionals.



    Graduates will be able to demonstrate appropriate academic and professional skills, attributes, attitudes and behaviors necessary to function as a physician assistant. Graduates will possess an understanding of health policies and delivery systems to promote their participation as health care leaders in identifying solutions to community and professional challenges, and providing service to people and communities in need, as expressed through the Franciscan tradition.

  • Medical Knowledge Outcomes

    • All graduates of the MPAS class of 2023 passed the PANCE on their first attempt
    • The 2023 class average on the PANCE was at or above the 2022 national average in 13 of 14 organ systems and 7 of 8 task areas (The 2023 national average will be available in early 2024)
    • Students in the 2023 cohort participated in at least 56 hours of critical thinking and simulation sessions throughout the didactic year

    Clinical Competence Outcomes

    • 100% of the 2023 cohort passed the summative OSCE, with 96% earning a passing grade on their first attempt
    • All graduates demonstrated competence in a number of clinical tasks, including interpretation of imaging, lab findings, rhythm strips and EKGs; administration of injections; placement of sutures; and performing pelvic and breast exams

    Interpersonal and Communication Skills Outcomes

    • All graduates completed an extensive research-based Master’s Capstone project and presented their findings
    • Each student developed a sound foundation in medical documentation by composing 10 SOAP notes and 5 hospital admission notes from actual patient encounters during their didactic year

    Professionalism Outcomes

    • All graduates successfully completed PA 401:  Introduction to U.S. Health Care which provides instruction in health policies and delivery systems
    • 96% of 2023 graduates achieved ratings of good or excellent on professionalism from their preceptors during the clinical year
    • All graduates completed at least 25 hours of community service during the didactic year

PA Admissions Requirements

  • Undergraduate PA Admissions
  • Graduate PA Admissions
  • Application Deadline is November 20th, 2023 for the Fall 2024 Cohort


    The Physician Assistant Science (3+2) accelerated program is designed to provide three years of pre-professional study in which students will complete preparatory science courses, introduction to medicine classes, and all the components of our liberal arts education.  The last two years of the program (graduate phase) consist of three didactic semesters and three clinical semesters.  The didactic curriculum delivers content in an integrated holistic approach designed for the delivery of primary patient care. The clinical semesters begin in the summer and include 45 weeks of clinical rotations.


    In the 3+2 accelerated program format, students will receive a Bachelor of Science in Health Science degree after successful completion of the fourth year, and a Master of Physician Assistant Science (MPAS) degree after successful completion of the fifth year. Graduates of the program will be prepared to assume entry-level positions in a variety of diverse medical settings and sit for the national certifying exam.


    Throughout the tenure of the program, all students must complete required health and background clearances, and demonstrate solid academic performance in order to maintain program progression.


    Questions about the 3+2 accelerated format admissions process should be directed to:

    Office of Undergraduate Admissions


    Undergraduate Admissions Requirements

    Undergraduate PA students must enroll as freshmen; transfer admission is not available. There are approximately 55 spaces available each year, therefore applicants should plan to apply early.  The application process is highly competitive. 


    In addition to meeting the general University admission requirements, students should demonstrate academic excellence through factors such as high SAT/ACT scores, a high cumulative/core GPA from high school, and the completion of a rigorous high school curriculum.  The accelerated format of the program requires students to demonstrate maturity, academic honesty and a proven dedication to a career in health care.   

    2025 Freshman Admission Requirements 

    Without Standardized Test Scores: 

    • HS Cumulative GPA of 3.7 or higher out of 4.0 
    • Must have taken at least 3 years of science (including biology and chemistry), 4 years of math, and 4 years of English. 

    With Standardized Test Scores (Recommended): 

    • SAT of 1220 or higher or 
    • ACT of 25 or higher 
    • +HS Cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher out of 4.0 All students who complete the undergraduate requirements and have met all progression standards automatically matriculate into the Masters (accredited) portion of the program.

    Applicants must also be able to meet the 2024-25 Departmental Policy Manual, Progression Standards and Technical Standards.


    Ideal candidates for admission to the accelerated program often complete a visit to campus to meet with admissions and our faculty, provide a resume of leadership and involvement and letters of recommendation from teachers, as well as communicate regularly with their assigned admissions counselor.  Previous shadowing or clinical experience hours are preferable, but NOT required for admission.


    Progression Standards

    In order to ensure that patients receive the best medical care possible, the faculty of the Saint Francis Physician Assistant program has identified certain skills and professional behaviors that are essential for the successful progression of physician assistant students in the program.  A student must possess skills and behaviors at a level of capability to perform a variety of duties required of a physician assistant as a health care professional.


    Compliance with the following is required for progression in the MPAS program:

    • Technical Standards
    • Progressions Standards (Undergraduate, Didactic Year and Clinical Year)
    • Professionalism requirements as outlined in the SFU PA program policy manual 

    Relevant Links:

    Didactic and clinical year progression standards

    2024-25 Departmental Policy Manual, Progression Standards and Technical Standards




  • Eligible students holding an earned baccalaureate degree (by program start date), with the necessary prerequisite coursework (see #6 below) may be admitted to the Master of Physician Assistant Science program based on space availability.  Selection for a seat in the 2-year graduate program is very competitive. 


    To be considered for admission to the next academic year, an applicant must complete the Centralized Application Process through CASPA between April 25, 2024 and no later than August 1, 2024. Applying early is highly encouraged.


    Questions about 2-year Graduate PA admissions may be directed to:

    Stephanie Eckenrode


    Admissions Requirements

    Applicants for Graduate Admission are required to submit all of the following directly to CASPA in order to be considered for admission:

    1. A completed Application Form (via CASPA) by August 1.
    2. Evidence of either a completed bachelor's degree or ability to obtain one prior to matriculation from a fully accredited institution.
    3. Official transcripts from each college/university attended indicating an overall minimum QPA of 3.2 (including international and professional coursework). Foreign graduates must provide credit evaluation(s) from an international credential evaluation agency (i.e., SpanTran of a NACES member-institution).
    4. Evidence of 100 hours of non-paid health care experience, at least 40 hours of which must be shadowing a physician assistant in clinical practice.  Demonstrated health care experience must be outside of earned academic credit.
    5. Three letters of recommendation.
    6. *Please note that it is beneficial to have a majority (at least five of the eight) of collateral courses completed prior to applying.  Requirements include: 
      • Chemistry - 2 courses with labs 
      • Human Anatomy & Physiology - 2 courses with labs
      • Microbiology - 1 course with lab
      • Psychology - 1 course
      • Medical Terminology - 1 course
      • Statistics or Upper-Level Math - 1 course
    7. Regardless of citizenship, international applicants – as well as immigrants to the U.S. and U.S. permanent residents – whose native language is not English, are required to submit current TOEFL scores. Please note however that students who have received a baccalaureate degree in the United States are exempt from this requirement. Applicants required to take a language proficiency exam must have a minimum of one of the following:
      • IELTS score of 7.0
      • TOEFL scores of 102 on iBT or 607 on PBT

    *Further details on prerequisite coursework may be found in the FAQ section below.  


    Admissions Process

    Saint Francis University will invite the most competitive candidates to interview on campus based on:


    • their demonstrated academic performance
      • applicants with a GPA calculation of 3.0 or higher for the following will be given preference:
        • Anatomy and Physiology with labs - 8 credits
        • Chemistry with labs - 8 credits
        • Microbiology with labs - 4 credits
        • Medical terminology - 1-3 credits
      • Additionally, applicants with a GPA of 2.67 or higher for the 8 credits of Anatomy and Physiology with labs will be given preference.
    • the quality of their completed application
    • their answers to program-specific questions
    • accrual of health care experience with preference given to the following:
      • direct patient contact
      • 12-months or more of full-time experience
      • level of patient care

    The interview allows applicants to further expand on their credentials.  Interviewers look for candidates to demonstrate maturity, personal initiative, understanding of the role of a PA and excellent communication skills.  Following on-campus interviews, some applicants will be notified of acceptance within weeks.    


    Relevant Links:


The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) has granted Accreditation-Continued status to the Saint Francis University Physician Assistant Program sponsored by Saint Francis University. Accreditation-Continued is an accreditation status granted when a currently accredited program is in compliance with the ARC-PA Standards.


Accreditation remains in effect until the program closes or withdraws from the accreditation process or until accreditation is withdrawn for failure to comply with the Standards. The approximate date for the next validation review of the program by the ARC-PA will be September 2026. The review date is contingent upon continued compliance with the Accreditation Standards and ARC-PA policy.  Information on the accreditation history of the program can be viewed at the following link:


Graduate Performance:

The physician assistant program's first-time taker pass-rate on the Physician Assistant National Certification Exam (PANCE) for the past five years is 97% (compared to the national average of 94%). 


Academic Year# Graduates First Time Takers Pass Rate

NCCPA National First Time Takers Pass Rate 

202348100%available early 2024


MPAS Attrition and Graduation rates may be found here.  

portion of academic seal

Experienced PA faculty who love to teach

Our Physician Assistant faculty have expertise in both clinical practice and teaching.  A true dedication to teaching future front-line workers is a passion among all our faculty.  Our faculty have extensive backgrounds in family medicine, emergency medicine, orthopedics, pediatrics and psychiatry.  


Interim Department Chair: Dr. Melissa Kagarise, DHSc, MMS, PA-C,, 814.472.3135

Career Outlook in Physician Assistant Sciences

Clinical experiences in the professional phase occur in multiple settings and are designed to help students become well-rounded practitioners and find the career path they are most passionate about pursuing.  Once you pass the national certification exam, you can practice in any specialty area you choose. 


Physician assistants are in demand across most settings and commonly choose placements in family practice, general internal medicine, emergency medicine and surgical subspeciality areas such as orthopedic surgery, cardiothoracic surgery and plastic surgery.


 Salary Potential: The median annual wages are above $100,000 depending on chosen career path.


Growth Industry: The employment of physician assistants is projected to grow 31% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations. About 12,000 openings for physician assistants are projected each year, on average, over the decade according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  


View the current Physician Assistant Job Opportunities 



Frequently Asked Questions About Physician Assistant Science and Saint Francis University

FAQs About Undergraduate Programs

  • How much does it cost to pursue the Physician Assistant degree?

    Students enrolling in the Undergraduate (3+2) pathway can reference our tuition and fees related to program costs.


    Financial aid is available to students in both degree paths, however students in the graduate PA path primarily use loans to cover program expenses.  Our Office of Financial Aid (814-472-3010) is available to assist students in researching financial aid options.  

  • What is the typical timetable of the undergraduate application process for the physician assistant program?

    The direct-entry, 3+2 accelerated program for undergraduates enables students to apply after their junior year of high school. Applications and required materials are due in late Fall (usually November or December). Meeting the minimum criteria leads to acceptance in December, but acceptance alone doesn't secure a seat. Once accepted, securing seats depends on submitting tuition deposits in the order received. The program accepts a maximum of around 60 deposits, filling the program. Unsuccessful applicants, including new ones meeting requirements, move to a waitlist. As seats open, waitlisted students are invited to secure them through a monitored process.


    Students not meeting direct-entry criteria could be accepted into the Interdisciplinary Health Care Studies program with a Pre-Physician Assistant Science concentration. This program readies students for a Physician Assistance Sciences master's program. It has its own admission criteria. Those not meeting them might still join the Interdisciplinary Health Care Studies program without the Pre-Physician Assistant Science concentration or another qualified allied health program like Nursing, Occupational Therapy, or Public Health.

  • What makes the SFU program stand out from other PA programs in Pennsylvania?
    • Early exposure to medicine with Medical Terminology and Introduction to Medicine courses completed in your first three years of study. An arrangement of these introductory PA courses allows for role concept and knowledge base development, while providing a bridge to the physician assistant training curriculum in the last two years.
    • Guaranteed progression in the major for all students meeting requirements.
    • Completion of a strong liberal arts foundation.
    • The SFU PA students work together, supporting each other along the way.
    • Clinical experiences are built into the didactic year of physician assistant curriculum.
    • We offer an integrated body system approach to medicine.
    • We offer dedicated faculty and staff that go the extra mile to assist you in being successful.
    • Many of our faculty continue to practice clinically.

FAQs About the Graduate Program

  • How much does it cost to pursue the Physician Assistant degree?

    Students enrolling in the graduate (2 yr) pathway can reference the following detailed expense sheets related to program costs.

    Financial aid is available to students in both degree paths; however, students in the graduate PA path primarily use loans to cover program expenses.  Our Office of Financial Aid (814-472-3010)  is available to assist students in researching financial aid options.  

  • Does the PA program accept advanced placement credits for the graduate phase of the PA program?

    The Physician Assistant Department may grant advanced placement into the program in specialized cases for students who have matriculated into an accredited PA program in the United States, but who are unable to continue in the program due to forfeiture of accreditation by the sponsoring institution. In such cases, students must meet all graduate admissions requirements, other program-specific requirements and be in good academic standing.


    Other than in the very rare situation described above, the program does not grant any type of advanced placement for didactic or clinical courses.

  • What steps do international students need to complete to apply for admission through CASPA?

    International students must complete the following steps in addition to all of the regular requirements necessary to apply for admission:

    • Secondary/high school transcripts and bachelor's degree transcripts must be evaluated by an international credential evaluating agency (SpanTran or a NACES member institutions).  All transcripts must be from an accredited institution.  
    • Foreign transcript evaluation(s) must be submitted with your application.  
    • International students whose native language is not English MUST submit proof of English language proficiency. TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), IELTs or iTEP exam score must be submitted.
    • Please note that students who have received a baccalaureate degree in the United States are exempt from this requirement. Applicants required to take a language proficiency exam must have a minimum of one of the following:
      • IELTS score of 7.0
      • TOEFL scores of 102 on iBT or 607 on PBT
  • What are the prerequisite courses required to apply as a graduate student via CASPA?

    It is beneficial to have completed at least five of the seven prerequisite courses prior to applying.  Any prerequisite course not completed prior to the interview must be completed prior to the beginning of the didactic year with a grade of "B" or better for students accepted into the program.  All courses must have been completed at a regionally accredited college/university.

    • Chemistry- 2 courses (must have labs)
    • Anatomy & Physiology- 2 courses (must have labs)
    • Microbiology- 1 course (must have lab)
    • Medical Terminology- 1 course
    • Psychology - 1 course
    • Statistics or upper-level Math - 1 course
  • Are there any preferences given to specific groups of applicants?

    No preferences are given. All applicants are evaluated based on their academic history and healthcare experience.

  • What is the difference between Healthcare Experience and Patientcare Experience?

    Patientcare as defined as, "Experiences in which you are directly responsible for a patient's care.  For example, prescribing medication, performing procedures, directing a course of treatment, designing a treatment regimen, actively working on a patient as a nurse, paramedic, EMT, military medic, hospital corpsman and/or foreign medially-trained physician."


    Healthcare experience is defined as "Both paid and unpaid work in a health or health-related field where you are not directly responsible for a patient's care, but may still have patient interaction; for example, filling prescriptions, performing clerical work, delivering patient food, cleaning patients and or their rooms, administering food or medication, taking vitals or other record keeping information, working as a scribe, CNA, medical assistant, physical therapist, pharmacy tech and /or dental hygienist."

  • Do you accept virtual (online) labs?

    Yes.   Virtual (online) labs taken after March 1, 2020 will be accepted.

  • When will the academic year begin if I am accepted as a graduate student?

    May 2023

  • What is required to apply for admission into the PA program?

    Applicants must have (at minimum):

    • Bachelor’s degree or the ability to obtain one prior to matriculation from a regionally accredited college/university
      • Applicants who have completed a degree or coursework at a foreign institution must have a foreign credential evaluation completed on their transcript
    • Prerequisite courses.* It is beneficial to have completed at least five of the seven prerequisite courses prior to applying. Any prerequisite course not completed prior to the interview, must be completed prior to the beginning of the didactic year with a grade of “B” or better. All courses must have been completed at a regionally accredited college/university.
      • Chemistry – 2 courses (must have labs)
      • Anatomy & Physiology – 2 courses (must have labs)
      • Microbiology – 1 course (must have lab)
      • Medical Terminology – 1 course
      • Psychology – 1 course
      • Statistics or upper level Math – 1 course
    • Overall Cumulative GPA of 3.0 and a Prerequisite GPA of 3.2. *Please note that competitive applicants have a GPA of 3.4 or better in both
    • Three letters of recommendation
    • 100 non-paid hours of health care experience
      • At least 40 of the required hours must be spent shadowing a physician assistant
        • Of the remaining 60 hours:
      • There is no limit to the number spent shadowing a PA, MD/DO, Nurse Practitioner or Nurse Midwife
      • There is no limit to the number spent working as an EMT, paramedic or military medic/hospital corpsman
      • A maximum of 20 hours may be spent working as a Certified Nursing Assistant, shadowing an athletic trainer, physical therapist, occupational therapist or EMS professional
      • A maximum of 10 hours may be spent shadowing a registered nurse (RN), working as a scribe or working at a camp for a special needs population
  • Is the GRE required for admittance?

    It is not currently required.

  • What happens after I submit my application through CASPA?

    Once all the supporting documentation is received and verified through CASPA, the PA Department with Saint Francis University will begin to evaluate and invite those selected for a face-to-face interview. Interviews are typically held in October, November and December. We admit students on a rolling basis, so it is very beneficial to apply early in the cycle and schedule for one of the earlier interview dates.

  • What type of housing is available near Saint Francis University?

    Saint Francis University is located in Loretto, PA. The cost of living in Loretto is lower than the national average and the average rent is approximately $500.00 per month for a 1-bedroom apartment. Many students decrease their living expenses by sharing an apartment with a classmate. Altoona, Hollidaysburg, Cresson and Ebensburg are also cities in close proximity to Saint Francis University.

  • Do I have to enroll in the Saint Francis University Health Insurance plan if I have private health insurance?

    Saint Francis University values the health and wellbeing of its students. All full-time graduate students enrolled in the Physician Assistant program must have health insurance coverage. A Student Health Insurance Plan is available for those students who do not have current insurance coverage. All full-time students must participate in this insurance plan unless proof can be furnished that other similar insurance is carried by the student while they are attending Saint Francis University.


    For more info:

  • What makes the PA program at SFU distinctive?
    • The SFU PA students are like one big family. They work together, supporting each other along the way.
    • Clinical experiences are built into the didactic year of physician assistant curriculum.
    • We offer an integrated body system approach to medicine.
    • We offer dedicated faculty and staff that go the extra mile to assist you in being successful.
    • Many of our faculty continue to practice clinically.