The Master of Physician Assistant Studies curriculum is designed to give you the knowledge, skill, and confidence to care for a wide range of patients in varied settings. Your studies begin with four semesters of high-intensity lecture and bedside demonstration focused on science, concepts of health care and disease, and medical history and physical examination skills.

PA student Jodi Ferraro
PA student Jodi Ferraro (Class of 2010) practicing suture technique with pig feet during practical lab.

In the first semester, you’ll concentrate on basic sciences and professional practice issues. In the fall semester, the emphasis shifts to patient evaluation skills balanced with disease process identification, pharmacology, and pathology. In the following spring and summer semesters, you’ll continue these studies and add clinical prevention, population health, evidence-based medicine, clinical skills, and psychiatry.

After successfully completing your course work, you’ll participate in four semesters of clinical rotations that will expose you to the entire range of medical practice. This comprehensive clinical curriculum includes rotations in emergency medicine, family medicine, infectious disease, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, psychiatry, and surgery.

Beginning May 2017 (Class of 2019), curriculum changes will be implemented. Clinical courses Obstetrics/Gynecology and Pediatrics will be 4 weeks each (formerly 6-week rotations). A new clinical course, Primary Care Preceptorship (8 weeks), will be added to the curriculum. Clinical Selective (4 weeks) will no longer be offered. The total hours for degree completion remains unchanged (112 hours).

We’ve sequenced the curriculum to create an effective and efficient path for learning. All of the courses in a given semester are prerequisites for the courses that follow in the next semester. View our catalog.

Learning casting techniques
Physician Assistant students learn casting techniques for fractures.

Degree Plan


Total Program Hours

Summer | 13 Credit Hours 
Fall | 14 Credit Hours 
Spring | 14 Credit Hours 
Summer | 12 Credit Hours 
Current Clinical Rotations | 59 Credit Hours 
Clinical Curriculum Change (Effective May 2017) | 59 Credit Hours 

Special Requirements

Throughout the program, students:

  • Are expected to maintain high academic performance and display professional and ethical behavior during all phases of their education
  • Must maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.75 or better in all first-year courses in order to participate in clinical rotations. Clinical knowledge, judgment, and professional behavior are factors determining satisfactory performance. All academic and professional behavior policies are detailed in the Physician Assistant’s Student Guidelines.

Graduation Requirements

A candidate for the degree of Master of Physician Assistant Studies in Southwestern School of Health Professions must meet all of the following requirements:

  • The student must demonstrate a high order of scholarly achievement in the Department of Physician Assistant Studies, including appropriate professional competencies. The Program’s Student Progress Committee determines whether adequate mastery has been acquired.
  • The student must complete satisfactorily a minimum of 112 semester hours at Southwestern School of Health Professions.
  • The student must discharge all financial obligations to the medical center. In the event of nonpayment, one or more actions may be taken by the Dean: a) readmission may be denied; b) a student’s grades and official transcript may be withheld; and c) the degree to which the student would otherwise be entitled may be withheld.
  • The student must maintain at least a 2.75 cumulative grade point average, have no academic deficiencies, and have no incompletes. An F (or failure to pass) in any required subject must be removed prior to graduation.
  • The student must complete the academic requirements listed on his/her degree plan, including completion of any academic deficiencies in prerequisite courses, by the times stated in the student’s official letter of acceptance. The student is responsible for submitting official documentation of successful completion of the prerequisites to the Office of the Registrar.
  • Pay a graduation fee designated to partially offset the costs associated with diploma and diploma cover production, regalia, and the commencement ceremony. All students completing a degree or certification must pay the fee without regard to whether they attend the commencement ceremony or not.
  • The student must complete all required courses in the degree plan. For courses with letter grades, a grade of “C” or higher must be maintained in every letter grade course, with the exception of MPA 5509, MPA 5510, and MPA 5511, in which minimum grades of “B” must be maintained. A cumulative grade point average of 2.75 must be maintained. For courses graded Pass/Fail, a grade of pass must be achieved. The student must successfully complete all clinical rotations. Clinical evaluations must reflect an acceptable level of performance and professional conduct.
  • The student must complete and submit a Physician Assistant Clinical Knowledge Rating and Assessment Test (PACKRAT) examination following completion of didactic curriculum and again after completion of the majority of clinical rotations.
  • The student must successfully complete all required summative assessments at the end of the clinical curriculum.
  • The student must successfully complete a graduate project as approved by Program faculty.