Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies

Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies

Physician assistants are a critical part of today’s team-based approach to health care. PAs increase access to quality health care for many populations and communities and practice in a wide variety of clinical settings and specialties.

Why Get an MS in Physician Assistant Studies From Clarkson?

Studying to be a physician assistant (PA) is a demanding educational experience that leads to an outstanding career. At Clarkson, you'll develop the professionalism, medical knowledge and clinical skills needed to provide comprehensive care to diverse populations in a variety of clinical settings. The majority of your rotations will be one-on-one clinical experiences in hospitals that are recruiting PAs, with many of them in underserved areas.

Our PA program has a small class size, which allows for more individualized attention and support. Our faculty members have a variety of clinical backgrounds, as do the local healthcare providers we utilize for rotations and as guest speakers. We utilize clinical sites in St. Lawrence and surrounding counties, as well as distant sites.

Our graduating classes of 2021, 2022, and 2023 had a 100-percent pass rate on their board exam. Overall, our program boasts an average five-year first-time average pass rate for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) of 95 percent, above the national average of 93 percent.

And, Clarkson's Class of 2023 had a 100 percent placement rate with starting salaries as high as $140K.

What You'll Learn

The MS in Physician Assistant Studies degree program consists of 82 credit hours divided into three phases that span 28 consecutive months:

  • The didactic phase is the preclinical year and spans 13 months.
  • The clinical phase consists of 14 months of supervised clinical education and coursework.
  • The summative phase consists of one month and consists of evaluation and preparation for the future as a graduated physician assistant.

Supervised clinical practice experiences are distributed among nine clinical field experiences. These experiences form the basis of the clinical and socialization processes for adaptation to the roles and functions of a physician assistant. A separate five-week elective is designed for student research.

Students are not required to provide or solicit clinical sites or preceptors. (Standard A3.03)

Program Sequence and Advanced Standing

Students are expected to complete the designated professional curriculum in the sequence specified. Each semester’s coursework is considered a prerequisite to the next semester.

  1. Students may not enter the program with advanced standing.
  2. Students are required to successfully complete, in sequence, all course work as full-time students.
  3. There is no opportunity to progress into an advanced semester.
  4. There is no opportunity to change the order of pre-clinical course work.
  5. Elective courses are limited to the clinical year.

Students are expected to complete each semester on time as a cohort. Student progression will be a function of successfully passing all required courses in a semester and maintaining a 3.0 GPA. In the didactic phase of the program, any course failure after attempts at remediation will result in dismissal from the program. In the clinical phase, one rotation may be failed, but the student can undergo remediation and repeat that rotation once only. In that instance, the student’s education may continue five more weeks. In the summative phase, the student must pass both the physical assessment exam and the comprehensive written final to pass PA610 and to be recommended for graduation. If after remediation, students cannot successfully pass either or both exams, they will not be recommended for graduation and will be released from the program.

Degree Requirements

Graduation Requirements

To graduate from the PA Studies program and earn the MS in PA Studies degree, candidates must

  • achieve a grade of C or better for all courses in the program
  • achieve a minimum overall GPA of 3.0 or better at program completion
  • successfully pass a multi-station Objective Structured Clinical Examination/history and physical skills assessment with an acceptable score or after remediation
  • successfully pass the comprehensive written final exam with an acceptable score or after remediation
  • be recommended for graduation by the program chair and Clarkson University faculty
  • have paid all debts to the school and be in good standing


Spring I    

PA518 Laboratory and Diagnostics  (1 credit)
PA501 Clinical Medicine I (6 credits)
PA504 Basic Science I (2 credits)
PA507 Pharmacotherapeutics I (3 credits)
PA510 Patient Assessment I (3 credits)
PA513 The Patient and the PA I (1 credit)

Summer I

PA502 Clinical Medicine II (6 credits)
PA505 Basic Science II (2 credits)
PA508 Pharmacotherapeutics II (3 credits)
PA511 Patient Assessment II (3 credits)
PA514 The Patient and the PA II (1 credit)
PA516 Medical Informatics (1 credit)

Fall I

PA503 Clinical Medicine III (6 credits)
PA506 Basic Science III (2 credits)
PA509 Pharmacotherapeutics III (3 credits)
PA512 Patient Assessment III (3 credits)
PA515 The Patient and the PA III (1 credit)

Spring II

PA517 Clinical Procedures (2 credits)
PA600 Supervised Practice - Ambulatory Medicine (3 credits)
PA601 Supervised Practice - Internal Medicine (3 credits)

Summer II

PA602 Supervised Practice - General Surgery (3 credits)
PA603 Supervised Practice - Emergency Medicine (3 credits)
PA604 Supervised Practice – Pediatrics (3 credits)

Fall II

PA605 Supervised Practice - Women’s Health (3 credits)
PA606 Supervised Practice - Behavioral Health (3 credits)
PA607 Supervised Practice - Elective I (3 credits)

Spring III

PA608 Supervised Practice – Elective II (3 credits)
PA609 Clinical Research Elective (3 credits)
PA610 Summative Review (1 credit)
PA611 Master’s Project (2 credits)

  1. Produce highly skilled and compassionate healthcare providers licensed to practice medicine as part of a healthcare team.
  2. Establish student competence in medical and evidence-based research through scholarly activity.
  3. Develop in students the professionalism, medical knowledge and clinical skills needed to provide comprehensive care to diverse populations in a variety of clinical settings.
  4. Instill in students the core values of Clarkson University while fostering a commitment to community service. 

View our programmatic goals and measures

  • Knowledge for Practice (KFP)
  • Interpersonal and Communication Skills (IPCS)
  • Person-centered care (PCC)
  • Interprofessional Collaboration (IPC)
  • Professionalism and Ethics (P&E)
  • Practice-Based Learning and Quality Improvement (PBLQI)
  • Society and Population Health (S&PH)

The mission of the Clarkson University Department of Physician Assistant Studies is to prepare exceptional, highly skilled clinicians who actively demonstrate the University's core values of teamwork, caring, integrity, diversity, service, growth and diligence while compassionately providing for the healthcare needs of their communities. 

Please see below the estimated cost of the Clarkson University Physician Assistant Studies Program. Please note: these costs can vary each year depending on tuition amount and the student.  

Tuition per semester: $13,286

Student facility usage fee per semester: $450

Estimated book cost: $1,000 (the majority of these expenses are in the first semester)

Lab fee: approximately $200

Student academy of the AAPA: $75

Equipment (Stethoscope/Otoscope/Ophthalmoscope): Variable

Travel & living expenses: Variable

Student Perspective

"I chose to attend Clarkson because I like the small class size and the focus on learning and providing medical care to the local community. Without a doubt, I've gained essential experience and insights here that will help me be understanding and compassionate and grow into the kind of provider I want to be."

Kylie Broughal '18, MS in Physician Assistant Studies


Each January, a new class of 30 students is admitted to the Clarkson University Physician Assistant Studies Program. The Admissions Committee selects those candidates who show the most promise of becoming an outstanding Physician Assistant by fulfilling the mission and goals of the Clarkson University PA Program. We enroll intelligent, mature and highly motivated students from diverse educational and cultural backgrounds who have the potential to become leaders in our profession.

We review each application individually on its own merit and admission decisions are based on the evaluation of an applicant's academic record, personal statements, previous healthcare/hands-on patient care experience, letters of reference, CASPer score and a formal interview. Only applicants formally interviewed by the Clarkson University PA Program Admissions Committee will be considered for admission into the program.  

All applicants who wish to apply will need to complete an application via the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) for verification. The application needs to be submitted and verified by CASPA by March 1st, 2024. It is highly recommended that all documents be submitted to CASPA several weeks prior to the deadline date to ensure all items arrive on time. A rolling acceptance policy is being used, so applicants may hear from the program after the January deadline.  

Listed below are the requirements for the Clarkson University Physician Assistant Studies Program:  

  1. Completion of the 18 prerequisites listed below. 
  2. Each prerequisite course taken needs to be at least a B or higher.
  3. A minimum overall, prerequisite and science prerequisite GPA of a 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale. 
  4. Three letters of reference.  One reference needs to be completed by a clinician(MD/DO, NP, PA).  It is recommended (but ot required) to have a reference from a Professor.  
  5. The completion of the GRE is optional.
  6. A minimum of 500 hours of patient care experience must be completed, documented and verifiable at the time of application. A minimum of 1,000 hours of documented and verifiable patient care experience is to be completed by the time of matriculation (must provide evidence of completion for any direct patient care experience in the form of a letter from a supervisor or HR Department on official letterhead.)   Patient care experience is considered by two factors, quality and quantity. A heavy emphasis is placed on the quality of the experience.  The program defines quality as hands on responsibility for the patient. Applicants with compensated hours of direct patient care experience will have an advantage. Shadowing or observation is not accepted as patient care experience or used towards your required hours. 
  7. Applicants who studied extensively outside of North America will require formal evaluation of those transcripts by the World Education Service (WES).  Completion of TOEFL will be required for those for whom English is not the primary language.  This requirement may be waived if the applicant has a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree from a regionally accredited U.S. college/university. All prerequisite coursework must be completed at an accreditation institution within the United States or Canada. 
  8. Ensure the technical standards can be met. Please review the standards prior to applying. 

A bachelor’s degree must be earned from an accredited college or university within the United States or Canada. All the prerequisite courses listed below must be completed at an accredited institution within the United States or Canada as well with a grade of a B or better:

  • General Biology I - 3 credit hours
  • General Biology I - Lab 1 credit hours
  • General Biology II - 3 credit hours
  • General Biology II - Lab 1 credit hour
  • General/Inorganic Chemistry I - 3 credit hours
  • General Chemistry I - Lab 1 credit hour
  • General/Inorganic Chemistry II - 3 credit hours
  • General Chemistry II - Lab -  1 credit hour
  • Biochemistry/ Organic Chemistry - 3 credit hours
  • Anatomy – Human or Vertebrate - 3 credit hours
  • Anatomy - Lab - 1 credit hour
  • Physiology – Human or Vertebrate - 3 credit hours 
  • Physiology- Lab - 1 credit hours
  • Microbiology -  3 credit hours
  • Genetics/ Eukaryotic Genetics - 3 credit hours 
  • General Psychology - 3 credit hours
  • Statistics - 3 credit hours
  • Psychological Statistics/Biostatistics Social Sciences/Humanities - 3  credit hours

Please note: Advanced Placement (AP) credit or a pass/fail course is not accepted for the required prerequisite courses. 
At this time, there is no course expiration for the accepted prerequisites.  
Please note: Simply meeting the prerequisites and submitting an application will not guarantee an interview or acceptance into the program. The Admissions Committee will decide on which applicants will be selected for an interview and selected for acceptance into our program. 

In order to be considered for admission to the Clarkson University Physician Assistant Studies Program, a completed application must be submitted online via the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA). Applications for the Class of 2027 (matriculating January 2025) are available through CASPA beginning April 2023.

CASPA Application Deadline: March 1st, 2024

Admissions Process

After submitting the CASPA application, the applicant will be notified when their application is received by the Physician Assistant Studies Program. The applicant’s application will be reviewed by the Graduate Admissions Coordinator for completeness within 30 days.  

Any applicant who submits their CASPA application, will need to take the CASPer test. Once you have submitted your CASPA application, plan to sign up for a test date. It is required to move forward in the admissions process. Completion of the CASPer test is required; results are valid for one admissions cycle. Plan your test date accordingly. Test dates are limited. Learn more about CASPer below.

Once reviewed by the Graduate Admissions Coordinator, the application will be either closed (and proceed no further) or move forward in the admission process.  

If the application moves forward in the process,  the application will be reviewed by the Admissions Committee.  A 180-point rubric is used to score applicants for an interview invitation. Five bonus points are granted to Clarkson University students, *Military Veterans and students who reside in St. Lawrence, Lewis or Franklin county. Five additional bonus points will be granted to students with no repeated prerequisite courses. The rubric score total is then used to guide the admissions decisions of the faculty, but may not determine the outcome. 

*The program defines veterans as those who have served in the military under honorable conditions.

Depending on the timing of the application and the interview schedule, applicants may be invited for interviews between November and March.

If an applicant is offered an interview, it is required that the applicant spend at least 8 hours shadowing/observing a clinically practicing Physician Assistant. A separate (non-reference) PA observation form will need to be completed by the PA documenting the experience. Please note: The applicant only completes the observation form if offered an interview.  

Following each interview session, the Admissions Committee discusses each candidate in detail, including relevant information from the interview and decides if the applicant will be offered a seat in our program, placed on the waitlist or not selected.

Applicants who are offered a seat in our program will have 30 days to pay a nonrefundable deposit of $1,000 to hold their seat in the program. The deposit is credited toward the first semester tuition. Failure to pay the deposit may result in forfeiture of that acceptance.

Simply meeting the prerequisites and submitting an application will not guarantee an interview or acceptance into the program. The Admissions Committee will decide on which applicants will be selected for an interview and selected for acceptance into our program.

The Clarkson University PA Studies program has an articulation agreement with St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y. and SUNY Plattsburgh in Plattsburgh, N.Y. Similar to the Clarkson University Pre-PA Plan, this agreement allows St. Lawrence and SUNY Plattsburgh undergraduate students who have met specific criteria to compete for two interview seats reserved for them in the interview cycle. The seats are returned to the open applicant pool if not utilized.

The department follows all applicable laws and guidelines to ensure that all prospective students' rights are protected.

The abilities and skills which candidates and students must possess in order to complete the education and training associated with Physician Assistant education are referred to as "Technical Standards." These same abilities and skills are essential for clinical practice as a Physician Assistant. The Technical Standards listed below reflect five categorical areas: observation, communication, critical reasoning (intellectual), motor and sensory, and behavioral/social and represent minimum competence levels. Students must attest that they meet these Technical Standards prior to or at the time of matriculation to the Clarkson University Department of PA Studies. Students found to be in violation of Technical Standards are at risk for dismissal from the program. Each standard is defined below and is followed by examples of indicators of minimum competence in that area. Reasonable accommodation for persons with documented disabilities will be considered on an individual basis, but a candidate must be able to perform in an independent manner.  

Our Five Categorical Areas:  

Observation - Candidates must have sufficient capacity to observe in the lecture hall, the laboratory, the outpatient setting and the patient's bedside.  Sensory skills to perform a physical examination are required. Functional vision, hearing and tactile sensation are required to properly observe a patient's condition and to perform procedures regularly required during a physical examination such as inspection, auscultation and palpation.

Communication - Candidates must be able to communicate effectively in both academic and health care settings. Candidates must show evidence of effective written and verbal communication skills. Candidates must be able to communicate with patients in order to elicit information, describe changes in mood, activity and posture and perceive nonverbal communications. Candidates must be capable of completing, in a thorough and timely manner, appropriate medical records and documents and plans according to protocol.

Motor - The ability to participate in basic diagnostic and therapeutic maneuvers and procedures (e.g., palpation, auscultation) is required. Candidates must have sufficient motor function to execute movements reasonably required to properly care for all patients.  Candidates must be able to move freely about patient care environments and must be able to move between settings such as clinics, classroom buildings, and hospitals. In addition, physical stamina sufficient to complete the rigorous course of didactic and clinical study is required. Long periods of sitting, standing, or moving are required in classroom, laboratory and clinical experiences.

Intellectual - Candidates must be able to measure, calculate, reason, analyze and synthesize. Problem solving, one of the critical skills demanded of physician assistants, requires all of these intellectual abilities. Candidates must be able to read and understand medical literature. In order to complete the Physician Assistant Studies program, candidates must be able to demonstrate mastery of these skills and the ability to use them together in a timely fashion in medical problem-solving and patient care.

Behavioral and Social Attributes - Candidates must possess the emotional health and stability required for full utilization of their intellectual abilities, the exercise of good judgment and the prompt completion of all academic and patient care responsibilities. The development of mature, sensitive and effective relationships with patients and other members of the healthcare team is essential. The ability to function in the face of uncertainties inherent in clinical practice, flexibility, compassion, integrity, motivation, interpersonal skills and concern for others, are all required. Candidates must be able to function effectively under stress and have the ability to accept constructive criticism and handle difficult interpersonal relationships during training.

Candidates will be required to certify that they have read and understand the Technical Standards of the Department of PA Studies at Clarkson University and attest that they have no condition - as noted above - that would interfere, inhibit, compromise or distract from their participation in the program or profession.  

Admissions Assessments of Non-Cognitive Skills

All applicants applying to the Physician Assistant Studies Program at Clarkson University are required to complete an online suite of assessments (Casper), to assist with our selection process for the 2023-2024 Application Cycle.

Casper consists of:

  • Casper: a 60-90 minute online situational judgment test (SJT)

About Casper

The Casper test comprises 12 sections of video and written scenarios. Following each scenario, you will be required to answer a set of probing questions under a time contract. The test typically takes between 75-90 minutes to complete. Each response is graded by a different rater, giving a very robust and reliable view of personal and professional characteristics important to our program. No studying is required for Casper, although you may want to familiarize yourself with the test structure at, and ensure you have a quiet environment to take the test. We strongly urge you to take advantage of the 12-section practice test, which will not only immerse you in the test environment, but will also ensure you meet the technical requirements to access and complete the test.

For a more detailed look at the Casper test, please see this video.

Access to create an account and for more information on important dates and requirements.

You will register for Casper for the US Professional Health Sciences test (CSP-10101).

Please direct any inquiries on Casper to Alternatively, you may use the chat bubble in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen on the website.

Casper test results are valid for one admissions cycle. Applicants who have already taken the test in previous years will therefore be expected to re-take it.

The Clarkson PA Studies professors and faculty are invested in your success in the program. They want to see you not just survive but thrive. They will do everything they can to help you succeed in the classroom as well as in your clinical rotations. The structure of the program also fosters a sense of family within each class. Learning in a community-based hospital system is also a key differentiator for Clarkson’s PA program. There are pros and cons to completing clinical rotations in larger vs smaller hospital systems, but I enjoyed learning in the small community setting because you had a front-row seat and didn’t have to compete with other medical/PA students to see patients. Most of the time you were the only student with the medical provider and that allowed you to get a lot more hands-on experience than you might get at a teaching/academic hospital.

Jeri Reid '17 MS in Physician Assistant Studies

Career Possibilities

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for physician assistants is excellent, with expected growth of the profession at 28 percent by the year 2031. This is much faster than average and due to expanding health services and focus on cost savings.

Because PAs have the opportunity to excel in virtually any specialty area of medicine, physician assistants span a variety of roles, specialties and sub-specialty areas. PAs have the ability to specialize in one or several areas throughout their career. This versatility is a main advantage of the PA role.

Common specialty areas include:

  • Anesthesia
  • Cardiology
  • Dermatology
  • Emergency medicine
  • ENT/Otolaryngology
  • Family medicine
  • General practice
  • Internal medicine
  • Neurology
  • Obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN)
  • Radiology
  • Pediatrics
  • Surgery

Recent Employers

Striving to improve patient care, graduates of Clarkson’s PA program have secured positions in many organizations, including:

  • Bassett Healthcare Network
  • Berman Skin Institute
  • EmergeOrtho, PA
  • Finger Lakes Health
  • Johns Hopkins Healthcare
  • Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • Minimally Invasive Institute of Surgery
  • Rochester Regional Health
  • Saratoga Dermatological and Medical Spa
  • St. Joseph's Health Hospital
  • St. Lawrence Health
  • The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute
  • University of Rochester Medical Center

From Carpenter to Physician Assistant Student at Clarkson

Aaron Cooper is a Physician Assistant Studies student at Clarkson. He had a construction business for 12 years but wanted to do more for his children. So Aaron went back to school at Clarkson to become a physician assistant.

Physician Assistant Studies (Accreditation)


The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) has granted Accreditation-Continued status to the Clarkson University Physician Assistant Program sponsored by Clarkson University. The program's accreditation history can be viewed on the ARC-PA website, here. 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 March 2025. The review date is contingent upon continued compliance with the Accreditation Standards and ARC-PA policy.

PANCE Pass Rates

Contact Us

Department of Physician Assistant Studies
Phone: 518-631-9831

Do you have questions about Clarkson's PA program? Contact the Physician Assistant Studies Program-Admissions Department today.

Find out more in the Lewis School of Health Sciences.

100% Graduate Placement Rate - Program Specific

Enhance Your Clinical Skills

Discover how an MS in Physician Assistant Studies from Clarkson will prepare you academically and professionally for a rewarding career as a physician assistant.