Several institutions in Massachusetts, including in the Boston area, have physician assistant graduate programs that usually include a didactic (coursework) and clinical phase of the program. Here we discuss some of the specific requirements and stand-out features of a few of the programs in the state.
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Massachusetts Schools with Graduate Programs in Physician Assistant
Tufts University in Medford offers a Physician Assistant (PA) program and a unique, optional dual PA/Master of Public Health (MPH) degree program. The traditional PA program includes hands-on learning experiences through labs and exercises at the school's Anatomy Lab and Clinical Skills and Simulation Center. Students also complete clinical rotations for 48 weeks during their second year of the program that allow them to observe and practice skills in various areas of medicine, such as emergency medicine, surgery and pediatrics. The dual PA/MPH program takes 3 years to complete and requires a capstone project for the PA portion of the program.
Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
The Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences' campus in Boston offers a Master of Physician Assistant Studies that can be completed in 7 semesters. Students participate in clinical rotations for 45 weeks near the end of the program that expose them to various areas, including women's health, internal medicine and psychiatry. The program totals 111 semester hours and includes core courses in topics such as physical examination, research methods and pharmacology. Graduates of the program are eligible to sit for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE).
Boston's Northeastern University has a traditional Master of Science (MS) in Physician Assistant or several dual degree programs, including a PA/MPH and a PA/MS in Health Informatics program. The traditional MS program takes 2 years to complete and prepares students for PANCE. The clinical rotation portion of the program consists of 5-week long rotations in areas like ambulatory medicine, inpatient medicine and obstetrics and gynecology. The dual PA/MPH and dual PA/MS in Health Informatics programs each take 3 years to complete.
Boston University provides an MS in Physician Assistant program that requires a thesis for graduation. The thesis is literature-based and students work closely with a faculty advisor on the project. The program also requires 56 weeks of clinical training, including rotations in areas such as family medicine, neurology and general surgery. Students also choose some elective clerkships in areas of interest and may be able to perform these clinical rotations internationally.
Westfield State University
Westfield State University also offers an MS in Physician Assistant Studies that can be completed in 2 years. The program requires a total of 120 credits and includes a capstone experience. Clinical rotations are required in a range of fields, including addiction medicine, musculoskeletal medicine and geriatrics. As of 2018, the school had Provisional accreditation status from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) and welcomed their first class in January of 2018.
Common Entrance Requirements
Students applying to physician assistant programs in Massachusetts are usually required to have prior coursework in subjects including, but not limited to, biology, statistics, anatomy, physiology, physical sciences, chemistry and/or microbiology. It is also common for these programs to require a minimum GPA and/or a specific number of patient care hours, which could range from 250 to 1000 hours. Some of these programs include an interview process for qualified applicants, which may also allow students to tour facilities, attend a class and/or meet with students and faculty. Most of these programs require applicants to submit letters of recommendation with their application and some may also require a personal statement and/or clinical evaluations.
Colleges in Massachusetts offer several master's level physician assistant programs that provide students with multiple hours of clinical experience. Students in these programs are exposed to various areas of medicine and can generally finish these programs in 2 to 3 years.