Department Benefits

Clarkson Professor working with a patient

Our faculty has a variety of clinical backgrounds as do the local health care providers we utilize for rotations and guest speaking. We utilize clinical sites in St. Lawrence and surrounding counties as well as distant sites. Our small class sizes mean you receive personal instruction from our faculty.

The PA profession continues to be an important part of the coordination required in improving healthcare in the U.S. The U.S. government and multiple other publications continually produce articles and reports that demonstrate the value
of PAs and the continuing need for more physician assistants in the future. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Physician Assistants are in the top 5 fastest growing occupations. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Physician Assistants,

Our Programs

Undergraduate Programs
Graduate Programs

What is a Physician Assistant?

Physician assistants (PAs) are health professionals licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. PAs perform a comprehensive range of medical duties, from basic primary care to high-technology specialty procedures. PAs often act as first or second assistants in major surgery and provide pre- and postoperative care.

In some rural areas where physicians are in short supply, PAs serve as the primary providers of health care, conferring with their supervising physicians and other medical professionals as needed and as required by law. PAs can be found in virtually every medical and surgical specialty.

The PA's responsibilities depend on the type of practice, his or her experience, the working relationship with physicians and other health care providers, and state laws. There are approximately 83,600 practicing PAs in the United States. The average salary exceeds $90,000.

"It was never a question of what I wanted to do. I've always wanted to be in the medical field. Being a PA combines everything I'm interested in! There's a lot of face time with patients, and you work as a team in different specialties at hospitals and clinics. This is a growing career field with a lot of opportunity. It fits with everything I want in my life."

Kylie Broughal '18, MS Physician Assistant Studies

Kylie Broughal

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are some things I need to know about the program?

There are many programs in the US to train PAs and other health professionals and there are a number of successful ways to approach that education. Our goal will be to give our students the tools to become the best PAs possible, both as practitioners and as individuals. We will use lectures, problem based learning, simulation, and other methods that will allow you to absorb the vast amount of information needed in a PAs education. Understand that you, as the learner, will be responsible for your education.  Think of it like a personal trainer. They can teach you everything you need to develop a desired level of fitness, but you have to do the work.  Also, we will constantly remind you that your purpose will always be to serve your patients.  The patient is the center of all we seek to do as PAs.  You need to have an appreciation that patients are not room numbers or cases, but human beings who are seeking your care at what may be a vulnerable time in their lives. We want that thought to be with you at all times

What are you looking for in an application to the program?

Applicants often ask what the admissions committee is looking for in a candidate for PA training. The short answer is balance. A strong academic background of rigorous courses and a good GPA that meets and exceeds the minimum requirements are a good start. Experience in patient care is important, too. There are many people that see healthcare as their future, but soon realize that it does not suit them. PA training is not the place to discover you don't like sick patients or seeing blood; previous experience answers that question. Compensated experience shows commitment to healthcare as a career and greatly strengthens an application. The admissions committee also reads the reference letters and your personal statements with great interest. So choose your reference sources wisely and construct your personal statement with care. The interview is your final chance to shine and provides you another chance to show that you are not only educated and experienced, but have the attitude and demeanor to be a high quality health professional and representative of Clarkson University and our program. The balance between these components is what makes the ideal candidate.

What sort of medical experience do I need?

Compensated patient care experience that involves formal training and direct patient contact is best. Common positions for PA students are EMT/paramedics, nurses and nursing assistants, physical therapy assistants, X- Ray technicians, athletic trainers, medical technologists, emergency department techs and scribes, etc. Active volunteering will be considered experience, but not heavily weighted unless as an EMT. Shadowing or observation is a very weak form of experience and is not accepted as patient care experience.

Will every applicant be granted an interview?

No, they will not. The admission committee will review every application completely.  If an application is missing information or does not meet the prerequisite academic and experience criteria, it will be rejected. The committee will then review the remaining applications and decide which applicants will be granted interviews based on the review of all materials.

Where will classes be held?

Our program is located in Clarkson Hall in downtown Potsdam. We are in the same building as Clarkson's Doctor of Physical Therapy and the Masters of Science Occupational Therapy programs.The address is 59 Main Street.

What is the program's accreditation status?

The program has been granted accreditation-continued. 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 for the program by the ARC-PA will be March 2022.The review date is contingent upon continued compliance with the Accreditation policy.

Do you use CASPA, the centralized application service?

Yes, applications for the cohort beginning in January of 2020 are now available in CASPA. A supplemental application is also required.

How do I apply?

Applications must be submitted through the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) Those applications are reviewed and either rejected or the applicant will be notified and sent the Clarkson PA program supplemental application.The supplemental application is then completed and sent back to the program with an application fee of $50.At that point, the entire application is reviewed and invitations for interviews are extended and those that are not offered an interview are notified.For more information please visit the Admissions section of our website.

When are interviews held?

Interviews are held on a rolling basis from February through June.Those that apply sooner in the year are more likely to have an earlier interview (if invited).

What happens after the interview?

Following the interview, the admissions committee meets and applicants are a) accepted, b) placed on an “active” list for future consideration, or c) notified that they were not selected.Those that are offered a position in the program have 30 days to submit a $1,000 deposit to hold their seat.That deposit is then credited toward the first semester tuition. A “waiting” list is established after the final day of interviews.

How long is the program?

The Clarkson PA program is 28 consecutive months in length. Graduates will be awarded a Master of Science (MS) in Physician Assistant Studies degree. A new cohort will begin every January and graduate in May 2 ½ years later.

Can I transfer credits into the program or receive credit for my experience?

No credit is transferable to the PA program. Students who may have been in a previous health science program will take all courses in the usual sequence. There will be no experiential credit granted.

What will my education consist of?

PAs are trained using the medical model, similar to physicians. The first part of the training is didactic. We will use lectures, labs, problem-based learning and simulation in the first year. This is to prepare you for your clinical experience, mostly in the second year. You will rotate through a number of medical disciplines that are a requirement of your training. These clinical rotations will be 5 weeks in length. Toward the end of your training you will receive education on preparation for your national boards and job seeking along with 2 tests that you must pass to graduate.

Where will my clinical sites be located?

We have sites throughout the region as well as sites located throughout NYS and other parts of the country. We currently have affiliation agreements with many area hospital systems. Primarily these will be in St. Lawrence, Jefferson, and Franklin counties. We also have rotations that are considered ‘away’ meaning that you may have to drive some distance, so a reliable vehicle is suggested.

What kinds of practices will I rotate through?

The required rotations for PA students are: Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Women's Health, Emergency Department, General Surgery, and Behavioral Health. There will be 2 electives as well. There will also be an elective to conduct research for the Master’s Project.

I took some of my prerequisite courses many years ago.  Will you still count those?

We will. However, evidence of prerequisite courses taken in the last 5 years will carry greater weight.

Do you require the GRE?

We do. There is no minimum score required. It is used as another evaluation tool in your application.

Can I work while attending the program?

Your PA studies will consume most of your waking hours (and possibly your sleep hours, too). In all likelihood, you will have neither the time nor the energy to work. We recommend that you do not work during the program. See the Work Policy section for further explanation.

I need to take some prerequisite courses. Where can I take them?

You may fulfill your prerequisites at any regionally accredited college or university, including 2-year colleges in the United States or Canada. There are also a number of accredited online courses. It is wise to contact us if you are unclear on whether a course meets the prerequisites.

When is the deadline for applications?

The cutoff date for the cohort beginning January 2020 is March 1, 2019.  Completed applications will be reviewed in a timely manner once they have arrived.  We are using a rolling acceptance format which will allow the applicant a reasonably prompt answer on their application status.

What will the class size be?

The class size will be approximately 30 students.

Will I need a laptop computer?

Yes. Most of what is done will be online. You will be required to have your own laptop and have skills in internet searches and Microsoft Word/Powerpoint/Excel.  A Windows based operating system is highly recommended.

Is there on-campus housing available?

There is no Clarkson housing available for graduate students.  You will need to procure housing on your own.

What are the benefits of a small, rural program?

The faculty to student ratio in our program is very favorable.  The small class size encourages participation and interaction with fellow students and the faculty.  The majority of your rotations will be one-on-one clinical experiences with the headache of competing with students from other fields (i.e. medical students, nurse practitioner students).  You will be doing your clinical rotations in hospitals that are recruiting PAs, with many of them in underserved areas.   Upon graduation and accepting a position in an underserved area, you may be eligible for government programs that can help pay off your student loans.

Are PA programs as difficult as everyone says?

They are more difficult. If possible, talk with a PA or PA student about the education demands. It will be virtually all you do for months on end. Your loved ones, your dogs and cats, everyone in your life will get less attention and that can cause great stress.  Can you do it? Absolutely, but we want you to understand that it will be a challenge on many fronts. If you are selected for an interview, our students will be here to answer your questions and reflect on life as a Clarkson PA student.

Mission & Goals


The mission of the Clarkson University Department of Physician Assistant Studies is to educate Physician Assistants to become highly skilled and compassionate health care providers. The program will encourage an interdisciplinary approach with an emphasis on patient-centered care.

Graduates will become leaders in the health care community, continuously striving for excellence in their professional endeavors while compassionately providing for the health care needs of those they serve.

 The goals of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies are to:

  1. Identify for admission those individuals with the academic ability, clinical experience, interpersonal skills, and maturity necessary to become outstanding Physician Assistants.
  2. Provide a coordinated, comprehensive didactic and clinical curriculum that will allow graduates to deliver the highest quality of health care services.
  3. Promote a didactic and clinical educational environment that embraces the concepts of continuous communication, cooperation, and compassion.
  4. Promote an atmosphere of "learner-centered" education that empowers students to become self-directed learners.
  5. Instill in students the core values of Clarkson University and the importance of staying in the Clarkson region to practice after graduation.
  6. Provide students with the medical knowledge, clinical skills, and caring attitude needed to practice as a Physician Assistant anywhere and within any type of clinical practice.
  7. Contribute knowledge to the medical community by performing research or other forms of academic activity through the students' Master's Project, which may be utilized as a community resource or published in a professional journal.
  8. Continually promote a comprehensive approach to health and disease by emphasizing health maintenance, disease prevention, and life-long learning.
  9. Develop in students an appreciation of the dignity of the individual and each individual's right to a quality life with consideration for the culture and diversity of each patient.
  10. Promote continued professional growth through life-long learning.
  11. Highlight the importance of community service by incorporating service learning into the curriculum while fostering a commitment to future volunteerism in our students.
  12. Encourage graduates to strive for excellence in clinical practice while employing professional ethics as a member of the health care team focused on service to others.

The Department of Physician Assistant Studies will prepare individuals to become valued members of the health care team licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision.

Success in Achieving Program Mission and Goals

In its short time in existence, the Department of PA studies can point to a number of areas within our mission and goals where success has been achieved.

We have a well-honed selection process for our applicants. We only invite for interview those candidates we feel have an excellent chance of success as future PAs. This process has led to a small attrition rate with excellent students and graduates.

Our program environment and curriculum has resulted in students that are well received in the medical community in their clinical phase, as well as graduates that our local health care systems are eager to employ.

The learner-centered atmosphere contributes to our students recognizing that education is a life-long endeavor that is just beginning with their PA education.

The Clarkson University values are the essence of our department values. What those values mean to an applicant are part of our supplemental application packet. We post those values prominently in our department and strive to live those values in all we do.

Guided by the PA core competencies and accreditation standards, we have prepared our graduates to work in any type of practice available to PAs.

Our students' research has provided impetus for change in our community and has involved clinicians and Clarkson faculty members.

Service has been an integral part of our student's experience. Our students have volunteered for our local Hospice, Food Bank, Christmas Fund, Office of the Aging, blood pressure screenings, Relay for Life, and a Red Cross blood drive. Many students went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic with plans in place to continue yearly missions. The students also initiated the inaugural Teddy Bear Toss that resulted in over 500 stuffed animals donated for children at area hospitals and clinics.

Department motto: a posse ad esse - from possibility to reality