Frequently Asked Questions

About the Program

The length of the program is 27 months or 7 semesters. The didactic phase of the program is 4 semesters, where as the clinical phase of the program is 3 semesters.

The programs accept 97 students each year.

MUSC is an academic health science center that gives students an opportunity to work in a collaborative interprofessional environment. It is South Carolina’s only academic health science center and has a large network of hospitals across the state. At the Charleston campus, students have access to cutting-edge technology in simulation labs, research facilities, experts in all areas of medicine, and a variety of student services.

Due to the demanding nature of the program students are highly discouraged from being employed while enrolled in the PAS program.

Clinical Experience

Students will complete eight 5-week clinical rotations over three semesters plus one elective. The elective clinical rotation is only 4 weeks in length. See "What type of clinical rotations will I be required to complete?" below for more information.

No, the program does not guarantee clinical site placements in Charleston. Students may be required to travel outside of the Charleston area and/or out of the state for clinical rotations.

No, the clinical education team assigns all students their clinical rotations with the exception - Students may provide input to select their elective rotation, but that is the only rotation of this nature.

Students are required to complete the following nine clinical rotations: family medicine, emergency medicine, women’s health, surgery, pediatrics, internal medicine, adjunct clinical experience, behavioral medicine and one elective.

Due to COVID-19 all international travel has been suspended.

Students are not required to provide or solicit clinical sites or preceptors.

Applying to the Program

Yes, all applicants must have earned a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts from an accredited college or university prior to entering the Physician Assistant Studies program.

Students must complete 34 credit hours of prerequisite courses. View all course prerequisites.

Yes, the program accepts online classes for any prerequisite course taken at a regionally accredited institution.

No, the program will not accept P/F for prerequisite classes. Prospective students must earn a merit grade.

Decisions of acceptance into the PAS program are made on a competitive basis. Prospective students must have a minimum 3.0 GPA to be considered for acceptance into the program.

No, beginning in the 2022-2023 admission cycle, standardized testing will no longer be required.

You may self report your exam score in the application. However, exam scores will not be considered by the admissions committee.

No, the program does not accept advance placement credits.

No, courses taken greater than 10 years ago will not be accepted. Please note: the program will accept courses less than or equal to 10 years from enrollment, not when a degree was earned.

Yes, you are required to provide 3 references. The references should be from individuals who know you and your abilities. Ideally, the references should come from a healthcare provider, science professor and/or someone who has seen you interact with patients. This might include a physician assistant and/or a medical doctor.

Direct Patient Care and Health-Related Experience

When evaluating applications, the admissions committee focuses on direct patient care experience. Patient care hours are not required for admissions but are recommended. Competitive applicants typically have 1,000 or more hours of direct patient care experience completed before matriculation.

Other health-related experience is an added way to stand out as an applicant. MUSC admissions puts weight in applicants who take the time and effort to regularly shadow PAs for a meaningful period of time.

To help you better understand what qualifies for DPC, think of DPC as actually providing health care to patients. We often think of DPC as ‘hands-on’. However, work that is ‘hands-on’ may not qualify as DPC. The element of providing health care must be present.

Examples of DPC include taking vitals, bathing patients, helping patients transfer from bed to bedpan or toilet, walking patients, drawing blood, performing diagnostics, administering prescribed therapy or treatments, counseling. For applicants who are already health professionals, such as paramedics, respiratory therapists, or nurses, the practice of your profession for the recommended length of time would constitute such clinical experience.

Applicants without previous health care experience are often able to acquire DPC experience working as a medical or nursing assistant, or aide. Patient care experience can be acquired on a paid or volunteer basis, if the recommended amount of time is met in an acceptable health care setting. Applicants often complete nursing assistant certification, gain paramedic training, or learn how to become a scribe to secure paid employment while gaining clinical experience. Scribe work is perhaps the only example of non-professional level clinical experience we consider to be DPC which doesn’t allow for touching patients. It is the integration and application of various aspects of patient care required of a scribe working alongside a physician, PA, or advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) that qualifies scribing as providing Direct Patient Care.

Hospitals and hospital-related clinics offer the greatest opportunities for working alongside and understanding the range of professional responsibilities of multiple members of the healthcare team. In these settings, but also private physician offices, charitable clinics, and therapy businesses, there are opportunities for you to gain exposure to a wide range of patient problems, diagnoses, and treatment management. Whatever it is you are doing now or choose to do to gain clinical exposure prior to PA school, we recommend that you keep a detailed list of tasks performed and procedures in which you assisted.

Examples DPC include:

  • Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA)
  • Chiropractor
  • Clinical Psychologist
  • Corpsman (Navy)
  • Dental Hygienist
  • Dietitian/Nutritionist
  • EEG/EKG Tech
  • EMT/Paramedic
  • ER Tech
  • Exercise Physiologist/Athletic Trainer
  • Home Health Aide
  • Medic (Army)
  • Medical Assistant/Nursing Assistant Nurse (RN, LPN)
  • Occupational Therapist Assistant
  • Patient Care Assistant/Tech (PCA)
  • Physical Therapy Assistant
  • Physician
  • Phlebotomist
  • Respiratory Therapist
  • Scribe (in-person or via telehealth)

An individual applicant’s exposure to the health care field, the patients and the healthcare professionals caring for them, is considered health-related experience (HRE). This type of exposure doesn’t permit the individual to provide health care, or the exposure is outside of the medical setting. Examples of HRE include shadowing, transporting patients, patient education, clinical trial work other than DPC work itself, laboratory bench work, telephoning patients, non-nursing home health care, clerical work, electronic medical records work outside of patient care, office work. Also, without exception, internships and other categories of educational training are considered HRE.

MUSC admissions values the time and effort applicants make to regularly shadow PAs for a meaningful period of time. Regardless of your exposure to physician assistants in your work area, you are encouraged to seek out PAs to shadow on a regular basis and in a variety of settings. Shadowing opportunities will help you to better understand the variety of PA roles in primary care, e.g., family medicine, internal medicine, general pediatrics, and some of the many subspecialties in which PAs serve the medical community.

Examples HRE include:

  • Acupuncturist
  • Behavioral Therapist
  • Chiropractic Assistant
  • Dental Assistant
  • Medical Technologists
  • Massage Therapist
  • Mental Health Counselor/ therapist
  • Observer/Shadower
  • Patient Transporter
  • Pharmacy Cashier/Clerk
  • Pharmacy Tech
  • Research Assistant (health-related)
  • Student Clinical Rotation/Internship

CASPA applications request a listing of responsibilities and total time spent in DPC and HRE. Shadowing experiences are to be listed as HRE on the CASPA application, as discussed above.

You will be asked to list job title, role, name of institution, name and title of supervisor, and to provide a detailed description of tasks, number of hours worked per week, and total number of weeks worked.

Specifically, we ask that you break down jobs/clinical experiences which combine direct and related healthcare exposure, such that DPC and HRE hours are listed under respective DPC and HRE CASPA sections. The same job/clinical experience title and dates worked should be used for each.

Applicants should be careful not to duplicate information and to provide accurate dates/hours in each section of the CASPA application.

*Information about DPC and HRE was adapted from the University of Florida PA program admissions