Become a versatile, in-demand professional: MS in Physician Assistant

Carlow University offers a new and innovative cohort-based physician assistant program. The program is designed for adult learners seeking a holistic and supportive academic environment that provides transformational, clinical educational opportunities that stretch beyond the Pittsburgh region. It consists of a three-phase curriculum, grounded in Carlow’s mercy values, taught in a multidisciplinary environment alongside other healthcare professionals. This environment equips students with integral skills including ethical leadership, compassionate care and interprofessional collaborative competencies.

Upon graduation, students are prepared to take the Physician Assistant National Certification Examination (PANCE) and pursue a versatile and in-demand career as a physician assistant.

Admission requirements and application process

View or download our admissions policy [pdf] for admission requirements and application process.

Apply by

March 31, 2022

Credits required:

102 credits

Cost per credit:


Time to degree:

6 semesters


On campus

Physician Assistant academic curriculum

Students progress through the physician assistant curriculum as members of a cohort in three phases: didactic, clinical experience and transition to practice. Interprofessional collaboration, a founding concept of the physician assistant profession, is at the core of each phase; providing students the opportunity to learn collectively with multiple healthcare disciplines. This collaborative education experience encourages meaningful alliances and ultimately prepares students to practice high-quality clinical care as a member of a healthcare team. 

Learn in our simulated hospital environment

The Celtic Simulation Center for Innovative Learning (CSCIL) is a simulated hospital environment designed for student experiential learning. Primarily during the didactic phase, physician assistant students, alongside other healthcare disciplines, experience predetermined scenarios to practice clinical decision-making, diagnosis, procedures, and patient communication and interaction in a safe and realistic environment.

Quick facts

  • Phase 1: Didactic: An intense period of instruction meant to impart clinical knowledge, skills and attitudes in preparation for clinical practice
  • Phase 2: Clinical experience: An experiential phase of education whose purpose is to apply the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed for patient care in a supervised environment, includes:
    • 8 clinical rotations in areas including family medicine, internal medicine, emergency medicine, surgery, behavioral medicine, women’s health, pediatrics and elective of choice
    • 5 weeks, full-time (average of 40 hours per week)
    • Sites are practices and healthcare systems located in southwestern Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh, as well as across the country
  • Phase 3: Transition to practice: The final period of the formal education program intended to prepare graduates for successful entrance into the profession and clinical practice
Woman in lab coat and gloves in Carlow's simulation lab at a table.
Destiny Ray, a family nurse practitioner graduate student, demonstrates suturing during a lab class in Curran Hall, Wednesday, November 17, 2021. (Rebecca Droke/Carlow University)

What is a Physician Assistant?

“Physician assistants (PAs) are medical professionals who diagnose illness, develop and manage treatment plans, prescribe medications and often serve as the patient’s principal healthcare provider. With thousands of hours of medical training, PAs are versatile and collaborative. PAs practice in every state and in every medical setting and specialty, improving health care access and quality.” American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA)

Additional resources can be found on the AAPA website including the history of the profession, scope of practice and ethical conduct.

PA jobs are projected to rise 30% through 2028. A career as a Physician Assistant provides one of the most versatile and flexible opportunities in healthcare, with the ability to work in any medical or surgical specialty or sub-specialty. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, PA jobs are projected to rise 30% through 2028 with a median pay of $112,260.

A number of state and national organizations provide PAs with advocacy, education, and support including:

Sitting at a table, a hand is holding a pen over accreditation papers.


Carlow University has applied for Accreditation – Provisional from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). The Carlow University Physician Assistant Program anticipates matriculating its first class in August 2022, pending achieving Accreditation – Provisional status at the March 2022 ARC-PA meeting. Accreditation – Provisional is an accreditation status granted when the plans and resource allocation, if fully implemented as planned, of a proposed program that has not yet enrolled students appear to demonstrate the program’s ability to meet the ARC-PA Standards or when a program holding accreditation-provisional status appears to demonstrate continued progress in complying with the Standards as it prepares for the graduation of the first class (cohort) of students. The program will not commence in the event that provisional accreditation is not received.

Students who graduate from a program with provisional accreditation or continuing accreditation status are eligible for certification and licensure after successfully passing the PANCE. All programs, regardless of accreditation status, pose a potential risk of losing accreditation. All programs, including provisional accreditation programs, must go through a rigorous process to keep and maintain their accreditation status. Accreditation remains in effect until a program closes or withdraws from the accreditation process or until accreditation is withdrawn for failure to comply with the ARC-PA Standards. If a program loses its status while students are enrolled, they are unable to take the PANCE and are no longer eligible for certification upon graduation.

Mark Freeman
Olivia Miller, ’21, biology major and runner on the track & field/cross country team.

Program Director Mark Freeman

“As you explore potential career opportunities, I encourage you to consider a career as a physician assistant. The PA profession offers a variety of experiences in the field of medicine, working in various medical and surgical specialties in service to patients, their families and communities. The Carlow University PA Program offers a perfect environment in which to begin your journey to ultimately reach your career goal. Our PA Program is uniquely designed as a learner-centered, supportive academic environment, providing a transformational educational program for a diverse and determined community of adult learners. Put your passion for creating a better world into action today by becoming a physician assistant.”

– Mark Freeman, MBA, MEd, PA-C, Founding Program Director

Physician Assistant faculty

Program information, outcomes & policies

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Required program policies for applicants:

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Contact Admissions

If you are interested in this graduate program, our Admissions team is available to assist you with the next steps, including scheduling an on-campus visit.

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