Jul 20, 2024  
2021-2022 Graduate Catalog 
2021-2022 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Physician Assistant Studies, M.P.A.S.

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Phone: (540) 568-2395

Website: https://healthprof.chbs.jmu.edu/pa/                                                                                Email: paprogram@jmu.edu

Academic Unit Head
Dr. Kirk Armstrong

Graduate Program Director
Dr. Gerald Weniger

Medical Director
Dr. Abby Massey

Admission Requirements

For consideration of admission to the physician assistant program, candidates must successfully complete the requirements of The Graduate School and of the PA program.

  • A bachelor or higher degree from a regionally accredited college or university.
  • Overall grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher is preferred.
  • Satisfactory test scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). (The code is 5392)
  • Official transcripts from all colleges or universities attended.


These program prerequisites must be accomplished prior to beginning the PA curriculum in August, but are not required prior to applying for admission to the program. Applications for admission are due by August 1. There are two separate applications for the admission process: one to the JMU graduate school and one to the PA program through CASPA. Candidates must complete both applications to be considered.

All prerequisite course work must have been completed within the past seven years:

  • Successfully complete the following prerequisite courses work at the “B”, 3.0 level or better:
    • Human or mammalian physiology – a one semester course
    • Human or mammalian anatomy – a one semester course
    • Anatomy must include laboratory work either as a component of the anatomy course or as a separate laboratory course.
  • Successfully complete the following prerequisite course work at the “C”, 2.0 level or better:
    • Biochemistry – a one semester course (Organic chemistry and courses combining general or organic chemistry with biochemistry in a single course do not meet this requirement.)
    • Genetics – a one semester course
    • Microbiology – a one semester course.
  • Successfully complete the following prerequisite course within any number of years:
    • Medical Terminology

Completion of course work within the last seven years assures some degree of current information in these fields. By their very nature, some working positions require people to maintain an adequate degree of current information in these basic sciences. Candidates employed in such positions should apply and include an explanation to assure the admissions committee how they have maintained a degree of current information in these fields. The committee will decide whether or not to accept the explanation as sufficient to meet the prerequisites.

A minimum of 1,000 hours of direct patient contact health care experience is required. These hours may come from one experience or a combination of experiences and may be voluntary or paid work. Experiences having higher levels of training and responsibility are more desirable. Examples of health care professions that require direct patient contact include nurse, EMT or paramedic, corpsman, patient care technician, nurse’s aide, surgical assistant, clinic/medical assistant, respiratory technologist, radiology technologist, medical technologist, mental health worker and clinical research assistant. Other professions and experiences not listed may also qualify as direct patient care.

Healthcare related professions that generally do not include hands-on patient contact include transporter, CPR or ACLS instructor, lifeguard, non-clinical research assistant, candy striper, unit clerk and others. Although desirable for other reasons, PA shadowing and student/intern experience do not count toward the required 1,000 hours of patient care experience. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding your healthcare experience.

Many communications between students and the program are carried out through email. Course assignments and testing are frequently done via computer systems. Students are expected to possess basic computer skills – word processing, emailing, utilizing the internet. Students will need the computer hardware to access the internet and email during the clinical year. During the classroom component of the program they may use either their own computer or a university computer laboratory.

Candidates may meet the anatomy and physiology prerequisites by taking a semester course in each topic or by taking the entire sequence of combined anatomy & physiology courses at a single college. The combined courses must cover all of the body systems and regions and must include a laboratory component in anatomy.

Candidates whose prior education is through international schools should consult the “International Student Applications” section of the Graduate Catalog for additional features of the application process

Application Deadlines

One cohort of 30 students is admitted each year. Classes begin in the fall semester. For deadlines for application to The Graduate School, see Admission to The Graduate School. The deadline for application to the physician assistant program through CASPA is August 1.

Application Evaluation Criteria

Candidates are evaluated through review of their written application. Superior candidates are invited to on-campus interviews. The following characteristics, skills and accomplishments are assessed.

Academic Preparation

  • Academic preparation is evaluated in terms of overall grade point average (GPA), science GPA, recent course work and performance in the prerequisite courses. Prior academic work is also evaluated for the candidate’s ability to successfully carry a full-time, science-based academic workload. Patterns of repeating and withdrawing from courses as well as consistency in achievement are considered.

Communication Skills

  • A high degree of proficiency in speaking, reading and writing in English is required. Proficiency in additional languages, though not required, is favorably considered.


  • Candidates must demonstrate professional characteristics such as judgment, motivation, ethical behavior, maturity of insight, problem solving, self-awareness, self-confidence and team skills essential to PA practice and a realistic understanding and approach to the rigors of the PA curriculum.

Health Care Experience

  • Direct patient-contact healthcare experience is evaluated in terms of both quantity and quality.  The total amount of experience, the level of responsibility held by the candidate and how it may relate to work as a future PA are all considered.

Fit with the Program Mission & Goals – Serving Society

  • Evaluation includes determining that the candidate’s concepts of the PA profession are realistic and contribute to the program meeting its mission and goals. In keeping with the program mission, candidates are evaluated for potential to serve in a wide variety of medical settings. Factors considered include the settings of prior healthcare and professional accomplishments, experience in urban, rural and other underserved areas, or in working with vulnerable populations.

Waitlist Review

  • Once all applicant interviews are complete, the admissions committee will review the applicants who had been previously placed on the waitlist.  When all of the above five selection factors are equal, the admissions committee may then choose to admit these final few waitlist applicants so as to maintain an approximate ratio of 2/3 Virginia residents and 1/3 out-of-state residents.


The Master of Physician Assistant Studies program prepares students for clinical positions as primary care physician assistants. The course of study requires 28 consecutive months of work for students who have met the prerequisite requirements and been admitted to the program. Admission is limited and competitive. Students must be admitted to The Graduate School and to the PA master’s degree program via separate application processes.

Physician assistants are highly skilled medical professionals who have for over 45 years functioned as members of a team delivering quality healthcare. Working with physicians, PAs provide medical services traditionally performed by physicians. These services include taking medical histories, performing physical examinations, ordering and interpreting tests, diagnosing and treating medical conditions, educating and counseling patients, performing minor medical/surgical procedures, and, in most states, prescribing medications. The PA’s duties are determined by physician supervision as defined by law.

PAs practice in the same settings as physicians, i.e., outpatient facilities, private and public clinics, managed care and other systems, and in rural and urban areas. The focus of the JMU program is primary care medicine.


The PA program is accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. Accreditation provides graduates eligibility to take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). Successful completion of the PANCE is required for graduates to be licensed to practice.

Program Policies

Academic standards: The PA Program defines satisfactory academic progress as achieving at least a “B,” or 3.0, grade in each course. The PA Academic Review Committee reviews all performance that falls below this standard. In accord with each circumstance, the committee recommends a course of action to the department head. Students do not progress to clinical rotations until the committee is satisfied that they have achieved minimal mastery of the didactic course work of the first year. The policies of The Graduate School regarding unsatisfactory progress also apply.

Advanced standing: Students are required to take all the courses in the curriculum at JMU. No advanced standing is given for experience, transfer credit or credit by exam.

Scheduling: The PA program is a full-time curriculum. Students are required to take courses in the sequence and during the semesters they are scheduled. There is no part-time or extended time option.

Clinical rotations: Rotations during the clinical year are done at sites distant from the university. Students must have transportation and must pay for secondary housing and transportation costs. The program assigns students to multiple clinical sites during the clinical year. Students do not choose the sites of their clinical rotations.

The physician assistant program requires a criminal background check as well as drug screening testing. The expenses of these will be an incurred expense by the enrolled student.


All courses are required and must be taken in sequence. Students must be full-time and must take the curriculum in a consecutive 28-month period. Exceptions are rare and are granted only by the program director. The classroom or didactic component of the curriculum is 16-months or four semesters long. The clinical year is 12-months in length.

Total: 20 Credit Hours

Total: 18 Credit Hours

Summer Session Year One (12 weeks)

Total: 17 Credit Hours

Total: 19 Credit Hours

Spring Semester Year Two

Total: 11 Credit Hours

Summer Session Year Two

Total: 9 Credit Hours

Fall Semester Year Three

Total: 9 Credit Hours

Total: 103 Credit Hours

Rotating Courses

These courses rotate during the eleven Clinical Rotation Periods. The sequencing of these courses will vary with each student.

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