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North Carolina is home to more than a few universities offering physician assistant (PA) programs, all of which are offered at the master's level. Such graduate programs require that applicants hold a baccalaureate degree, preferably in a health related field. Curriculum usually takes 15 months to two years to complete, with an additional year spent in clinical training and practicum. Some PA programs can be competitive in regards to admission.
Located in Buies Creek, Campbell University offers a Master of Physician Assistant Practice program. Admission requirements include a bachelor's degree, GRE scores, prerequisite coursework, letters of recommendation, and at least 1,000 hours of hands-on clinical experience. This 7-semester program covers topics like pharmacotherapeutics, psychiatry, orthopedics, and radiology. Students typically complete all didactic and clinical requirements in 28 months. This program is currently accredited by ARC-PA, as of 2016, and it's scheduled for another accreditation visit in 2021.
The Duke University School of Medicine in Durham has a master's program that typically admits 88 students each year. Applicants must meet admission requirements, which include a bachelor's degree and GRE scores, as well as completion of prerequisite classes and at least 1,000 hours of hands-on patient care experience.
The program typically takes 2 years of full-time study to complete. First-year coursework covers topics such as anatomy, surgery, patient evaluations, diagnostic procedures, and pharmacology. The second year is dedicated to 10 clinical rotations in various types of medicine, such as pediatrics, primary care, general surgery, and internal medicine. Students choose 2 elective rotations. While completing the program, physician assistant students have access to all the resources of the Duke University Medical Center.
East Carolina University
Eastern Carolina University's physician assistant master's degree program is located on the university's medical campus in Greenville near Pitt County Memorial Hospital and the Brody School of Medicine. To qualify for admission, individuals must complete specific undergraduate courses, a bachelor's program, the GRE, and at least 1,000 hours of clinical experience.
The program requires students to complete 15 months of coursework, followed by 1 year of clinical training. The coursework can cover gross anatomy, clinical medicine, the physician assistant's role, and diagnostic procedures. In the clinical phase, students receive roughly 1,900 hours of patient contact by completing 8 clinical rotations. Rotations can focus on women's health, behavioral medicine, family medicine, emergency medicine, and geriatrics.
Students can pursue a master's degree in physician assistant studies at Elon University, located in the midsized suburb of Elon. To be admitted, applicants must have completed a bachelor's degree, prerequisite coursework, and at least 250 hours of healthcare work experience. Students also need to submit GRE scores and 3 letters of recommendation.
This 27-month program includes classes in neurology, geriatrics, and surgical care, among others. Students complete 7 clinical rotations and 2 electives in the clinical portion of the curriculum. In 2016, this program was provisionally accredited. The next accreditation visit is scheduled for 2021.
The physician assistant master's program at Methodist University in Fayetteville requires applicants to have bachelor's degrees - any major is acceptable. Prerequisite undergraduate coursework includes specific science, math, statistics, and medical vocabulary classes. Additionally, applicants must submit GRE scores and have completed 500 patient contact hours.
Once admitted, students begin in the Fall and attend classes full-time for 7 semesters. Coursework makes up the first 3.5 semesters; classes can include pharmacology, patient evaluations, emergency medicine, healthcare ethics, and healthcare promotion. Clinical training occupies the remaining 3.5 semesters, and students gain experience in psychiatry, orthopedics, surgery, women's health, family medicine, and internal medicine. In 2014, 94% of graduates of this program passed the PANCE and in 2015 97% of graduates passed the exam.
Wake Forest University
Located in Winston Salem, Wake Forest University offers a physician assistant program that leads to a Master of Medical Science. This program accepts up to 64 students annually, and classes begin each June. Acceptance into the program requires a bachelor's degree, prerequisite coursework, reference letters, and GRE scores. The school expects most students to have at least 1,000 hours of clinical experience or 6 months of professional healthcare experience.
The curriculum encourages students to practice independence through its problem-based learning model. Students participate in clinical problem-solving groups that simulate real-world problems, and the faculty provides guidance and educational resources. During the clinical year of the program, students complete a graduate project. Additionally, the curriculum includes a mix of core and elective clinical rotations in various areas of medicine, such as surgery, pediatrics, internal medicine, and emergency medicine.
Wingate University offers a master's degree program in physician assistant studies at campuses in Wingate and Hendersonville. A bachelor's degree, 9 prerequisite classes, GRE scores, and at least 500 hours of patient care experience are among the admission requirements for the program. The 2-year program is split into didactic and clinical portions. Courses in the didactic portion include patient evaluations, pharmacology, emergency medicine, and pathophysiology. During the clinical portion, students complete several 5-week rotations in emergency medicine, surgery, women's health, pediatrics, psychiatry, and other areas. Additionally, students complete capstone projects.
In order to work as a physician assistant (PA) in North Carolina, individuals must acquire licensure from the North Carolina Medical Board. Aspiring PAs must first graduate from a physician assistant program that's accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). Licensure then requires gaining certification from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). To earn this certification, individuals must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE).
School Comparison: At a Glance
|School Name||School Type & Setting||Physician Assistant Programs Offered||Total Program Tuition|
|Campbell University||4-year, private not-for-profit; fringe town||Master of Physician Assistant Practice||$73,200 (as of 2016-2017)*|
|Duke University||4-year, private not-for-profit; midsize city||Master of Health Sciences - Physician Assistant Program||$79,268 (for students entering fall 2016)*|
|East Carolina University||4-year, public; small city||Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies||$41,354.50 in-state; $85,461.50 out-of-state (as of 2016-2017)*|
|Elon University||4-year, private not-for-profit; midsize suburb||Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies||$83,082 (as of 2017-2019)*|
|Methodist University||4-year, private not-for-profit; midsize city||Master of Medical Science in Physician Assistant Studies||$85,976 (as of 2016-2017)*|
|Wake Forest University||4-year, private not-for-profit; midsize city||Master of Medical Science - Physician Assistant Program||$83,390 (as of 2016-2017)*|
|Wingate University||4-year, private not-for-profit; large suburb||Master of Physician Assistant Studies||$73,000 (for the class of 2018)*|
Source: *Schools' Websites.