Physician Assistant Program—MS

The Boston University Master of Science (MS) degree will be conferred upon those students who successfully complete the 28-month Physician Assistant (PA) Program. This professional degree program, housed in Graduate Medical Sciences, is the first educational program for master’s-prepared medical providers at the BU School of Medicine. The academic program is divided into didactic and clinical phases. The first 12 months of didactic training, comprised largely of traditional lectures, seminar sessions, and laboratories, provides the basic and clinical sciences foundation requisite for medical practice as a physician assistant. Principles of clinical research are taught in the first semester and reinforced with journal clubs throughout the first and second year. Important clinical skills such as history-taking, physical examination and basic surgical skills are introduced and practiced during the first year. The second phase of the program is comprised of both clinical clerkships and the thesis proposal/research project. The clerkships engage students in clinical practice in inpatient (hospital), outpatient (clinics and community health centers), operating room, and emergent medical settings. The thesis project requires students to develop a comprehensive research proposal related to clinical practice, health policy, or workforce.

The PA Program is designed as an intensive, full-time program; students who need additional time to complete the program may be accommodated under very limited circumstances. All of the curriculum elements listed below are required for successful completion of the program. While we have many elective clerkships from which to choose, all students must complete five electives in order to graduate from the program. Consistent with physician assistant programs in the United States accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education of the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA), students who successfully complete the program are eligible to sit for the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) national licensing examination.

Program Requirements

The First Year

During the first three semesters, the PA student learns basic science foundations, pathophysiology, and therapy in a systems-based approach similar to and integrated with the medical school. Assessment of PA students’ medical knowledge and development of clinical reasoning is made using multiple choice examinations, journal club assignments, objective structured clinical examinations (OSCE), and preceptor evaluations. Clinical skills such as history-taking, physical examination, oral presentation, and medical record-writing is taught and assessed using preceptor and faculty observation. The curriculum of the first year has been developed so that each topic builds on a previous concept.

  • GMS PS 700 Anatomy (5 cr)
  • GMS PS 701 Basic Medical Sciences (3 cr)
  • GMS PS 702 Physiology (4 cr)
  • GMS PS 703 Introduction to Research (2 cr)
  • GMS PS 704 Introduction to Clinical Medicine (2 cr)
  • GMS PS 720 Disease and Therapy I (4 cr)
  • GMS PS 721 Disease and Therapy II (4 cr)
  • GMS PS 722 Disease and Therapy III (4 cr)
  • GMS PS 742 Clinical Practicum I (2 cr)
  • GMS PS 744 Preventive Medicine (1 cr)
  • GMS PS 723 Disease and Therapy IV (4 cr)
  • GMS PS 724 Disease and Therapy V (4 cr)
  • GMS PS 725 Disease and Therapy VI (4 cr)
  • GMS PS 743 Clinical Practicum II (2 cr)

Clinical Training

The goal of the PA clinical education is to provide direct experience related to clinical practice as a physician assistant. Completion of 54 weeks in the clinical setting is required of all PA students. Mandatory clerkships, each one month in duration, include Internal Medicine I and II, Pediatrics, OB-GYN, Psychiatry, General Surgery, Primary Care, Neurology, and Emergency Medicine. In addition to the mandatory clerkships, each student is required to complete five elective rotations in specialty areas (both medicine and surgery) or in sub-internships in Primary Care, Internal Medicine, or Emergency Medicine. The student rotates within a range of clinical settings (inpatient, outpatient, emergency department, and operating room) with a variety of health care teams and providers. Evaluation of the student’s clinical acumen is made by clinical site preceptors and by an end-of-rotation, knowledge-based examination. Preparedness for clinical practice is objectively established by a seven-station clinical skills examination and at the site visit that occurs within three months of graduation.

Variable Schedule (four semesters)
  • GMS PS 800 Internal Medicine I (4 cr)
  • GMS PS 801 Advanced Clinical Medicine (4 cr)
  • GMS PS 802 Internal Medicine II (4 cr)
  • GMS PS 803 Primary Care (4 cr)
  • GMS PS 805 Emergency Medicine (4 cr)
  • GMS PS 806 Pediatrics (4 cr)
  • GMS PS 807 Psychiatry (4 cr)
  • GMS PS 808 Obstetrics and Gynecology (4 cr)
  • GMS PS 809 Surgery (4 cr)
  • GMS PS 923 Neurology (4 cr)
  • GMS PS 870 PA Professional Practice (2 cr)
  • GMS PS 901 Elective I (4 cr)*
  • GMS PS 902 Elective II (4 cr)*
  • GMS PS 903 Elective III (4 cr)*
  • GMS PS 904 Elective IV (4 cr)*
  • GMS PS 905 Elective V (4 cr)*

*Elective rotation course numbers listed above are examples and vary for each student based on the electives they choose.


Students in the PA Program are required to complete a research thesis proposal that demonstrates the student’s ability to interpret the medical literature, develop a hypothesis-driven project, and analyze the significance of the project. They are mentored by an advisor from the School of Medicine or Public Health to develop their project related to clinical medicine, PA education, or health workforce. Each student is provided two dedicated months during their clinical phase to complete the thesis project. Once the final draft is signed by the thesis advisor, the manuscript will be graded by two members of the Thesis Committee. There is no oral defense.

At its September 2018 meeting, the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA) placed the Boston University School of Medicine Physician Assistant program sponsored by Boston University School of Medicine on Accreditation-Probation status until its next review in September 2020.

Probation is a temporary status of accreditation conferred when a program does not meet the Standards and when the capability of the program to provide an acceptable educational experience for its students is threatened.

Once placed on probation, programs that still fail to comply with accreditation requirements in a timely manner, as specified by the ARC-PA, may be scheduled for a focused site visit and/or risk having their accreditation withdrawn.

Specific questions regarding the Program and its plans should be directed to the Program Director and/or the appropriate institutional official(s).