School of Health Sciences & Education

Physician Assistant Science, Masters Degree

Introduction

Improve the health of others with your PA 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 education 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

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

over the past 5 years, SFU graduates have achieved a first-time pass rate well above (98%) the national PANCE pass rate

a fully accredited program by ARC-PA

The SFU LEARNING EXPERIENCE

Physician Assistant Science the Saint Francis Way

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

The PA Student Experience 

Our accelerated 5-year program format will reduce your time from enrollment to employment without sacrificing a critical academic foundation and 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 a PA student at Saint Francis, you will also:  

  • Study under highly regarded faculty who have created an atmosphere focused on student success. 

  • Apply your academic knowledge in our own state-of-the-art Experiential Learning Commons that includes varied simulation labs and high-functioning manikins. 

  • Work with peers in cross-discipline programs, enhancing your clinical skills, and evidence-based medicine 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.   

CURRICULUM & COURSES

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 is 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 Path Description Course Catalog  Plan of Study

     

    Accelerated 

    B.S. in Health Science

    leading to MPAS (3+2)

     

    Direct-entry MPAS

    with max 55 students admitted per cohort

    Course Catalog

    Plan of Study

     

    Pre-PA Concentration

    Health Care Studies, B.S.

     

    An alternative path to prepare for later grad school application

    Course Catalog

    Plan of Study

     

    Graduate PA Path: 

    Degree Path Description Course Catalog Plan of Study

    Master of Physician Assistant Science
    (2 years)

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

    Course Catalog

    Plan of Study
  • Graduates of the SFU PA program  will be able to perform 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.

     

    Professionalism:

    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, providing service to people and communities in need, as expressed through the Franciscan tradition.

  • Medical Knowledge Outcomes

    • All graduates of the MPAS class of 2020 passed the PANCE on their first attempt
    • The 2019 class average on the PANCE was at or above the national average in 8 of 14 organ systems and 4 of 8 task areas
    • Students in the 2020 cohort participated in at least 56 hours of critical thinking and simulation sessions throughout the didactic year

    Clinical Competence Outcomes

    • 100% of the 2020 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, to include interpretation of imaging, lab findings, rhythm strips and EKG's; 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 during the 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
    • 82% of 2020 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 December 1st

     

    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 degree in Health Science after successful completion of the fourth year, and a Master of Physician Assistant Science 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
    814-472-3100
    admissions@francis.edu

     

    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 be prepared to demonstrate academic excellence through factors such as SAT/ACT scores, high school cumulative/core GPA, and rigor of curriculum completed.  The accelerated format of the program requires students to demonstrate maturity, academic honesty, and a proven dedication to a career in health care.   

    Applicants must also be able to meet the Department's Student Technical Standards.

     

    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 MPA program:

     

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

    Relevant Links:

    Student Technical Standards

    Progression standards for freshman through junior years

    Didactic and clinical year progression standards

    Departmental policy manual

     

     

     

  • The Saint Francis University PA Program is excited to announce that we currently have 12 seats open for this application cycle!! 

    APPLICATION DEADLINE HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO 8/31/2022. ALL APPLICATIONS MUST BE VERIFIED THROUGH CASPA BY THAT 8/31/22.

     

    Interview Dates are :

    • October 10, 2022,
    • November 11, 2022
    • December 12, 2022.

    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 no later than August 31.   Applying early is highly encouraged.

     

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

    Amanda Milne
    Graduate Admissions Coordinator
    814-472-3130
    PA@francis.edu

     

    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 31.

    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 seven) of collateral courses completed prior to applying.  Requirements include: 

      • Chemistry - 2 courses with labs (no virtual labs)

      • Human Anatomy & Physiology - 2 courses with labs (no virtual labs)

      • Microbiology - 1 course with lab (no virtual 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 US and US 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 those candidates best suited to interview on-campus based on:

    • academic performance
    • quality of completed application
    • complete application portfolio with CASPA including prerequisite coursework
    • evidence of health care experience with patient contact in the last two years that includes more than 12 months of full-time experience

    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:

    Didactic and clinical year progression standards

    Departmental policy manual

Accreditation

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: http://www.arc-pa.org/accreditation-history-saint-francis-university/

 

Graduate Performance:

The Program's first-time taker pass-rate on the Physician Assistant National Certification Exam (PANCE) for the past five years is 98% compared to the national average of 96%. 

 

Academic Year

# Graduates 

First Time Takers Pass Rate

NCCPA National First Time Takers Pass Rate 

2022 51 100% Available 1/1/2023
2021 53 91% 93%

2020

51

100%

95%

2019

49

94%

93%

2018

47

100%

98%

2017

51

100%

97%

2016

49

96%

96%

 

MPAS Attrition and Graduation rates may be found here.  

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.  

 

Department Chair: Dr. Carrie Beebout, PsyD, MPAS, PA-C, cbeebout@francis.edu,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 $100,00 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.  

 

FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions About Physician Assistant Science and Saint Francis University

FAQ About Undergraduate

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

    Students enrolling in the Undergraduate (3+2) 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.  

  • What is the typical timetable of the undergraduate application process for the PA Program?

    The undergraduate path  allows students to apply over the summer following their junior year in high school and applications will begin to be processed in mid-August.  Once processing begins in August, students who meet the program's minimum criteria can expect to be admitted within about 5-7 business days. Once admitted, students who pay their tuition deposit first will secure their seats in the program.  Without the deposit the seats remain open until the program reaches its capacity of about 60 students.  Once the program has been filled, admitted students will be moved to a waitlist -- this includes any new applicants who meet the program's requirements.  As individual seats become available, waitlisted students will be individually invited to secure their seats following a carefully monitored selection process.

  • What makes the PA program at SFU distinctive?
    • 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 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.

FAQ About Graduate

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

    Students enrolling in either 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 an international student 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 degree transcripts must be evaluated by an international credential evaluating agency (SpanTran or the 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?

    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 is defined as, "Experiences in which you are directly responsible fo 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?

    Virtual (online) labs are not typically accepted, but an exception has been made due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Virtual labs taken between March 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021 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 Admissions into the PA Program?

    Applicants must have (at minimum):

    • Bachelor’s Degree or 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
    • Three letters of recommendation
    • 100 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 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, PA is lower than the national average. 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: https://my.francis.edu/apps/sfu_policies/policy_detail.asp?policiy_id=586

  • 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.