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Columbia Campus    
2018-2019 Graduate Studies Bulletin 
  Feb 25, 2024
2018-2019 Graduate Studies Bulletin [Archived Catalog]

Physician Assistant Studies, MSPAS

Learning Outcomes Application Information
Program Goals Curriculum
Admission Standards Core Courses

The University of South Carolina School of Medicine (USCSOM)-Columbia is the academic home of the Master’s degree program for Physician Assistant (PA) education. Students will earn a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies, and graduates are prepared to become practicing Physician Assistants, once they successfully graduate and pass the national board certification exam (PANCE). Physician Assistants (PAs) are needed to address the growing needs for primary care in South Carolina and throughout the nation, especially in rural and underserved areas. In addition, PAs are able to assist with medical and surgical procedures in a cost-effective manner. The role of PAs is expanding as the population ages, and there is an increased need for additional healthcare providers. PA Programs are accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). 

The Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program is a collaboration with USCSOM’s clinical partners at Palmetto Health (PH) and the Dorn VA Medical Center (Dorn VAMC) in addition to numerous other healthcare organizations throughout the state. These clinical partners will be providing training in both eight core medical disciplines as well as providing several elective clinical rotation options in medical subspecialties. 

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will be able to demonstrate a mastery of both scientific and clinical knowledge; including the competencies for the physician assistant. 
  • Students will demonstrate the communication skills necessary for clinical practice. 
  • Students will be able to articulate the ideals of and demonstrate superior personal and professional development. 

Program Goals

  1. Enroll diverse and highly qualified students who reflect the dynamic population of South Carolina and the nation.

  2. Encourage life-long professional involvement, scholarly activity, leadership and service.

  3. Maintain a level of PANCE pass rates that meets or exceeds the national average.

  4. Maintain an overall 95% or better graduation rate for entering University of South Carolina Physician Assistant students.

Admission Standards

An applicant must have a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited college or university located within the United States.  Undergraduate coursework should include:

Prerequisite Courses

Minimum Semester
Credit Hours

Human Anatomy and Physiology - Lecture


Human Anatomy and Physiology - Lab 




General Chemistry  - Lecture


General Chemistry  - Lab


Organic Chemistry - Lecture and Lab






Introductory Psychology or higher




Medical Terminology




Admission is determined by the PA Program Admissions Committee which consists of the PA Program Director, Medical Director and program faculty.  Criteria examined include an appraisal of courses taken, grades achieved, letters of recommendation, research experience, scores on the GRE and the applicant’s personal narrative.  Preference in admittance is given to SC residents, USC alumni and US veterans.

An overall GPA average and an overall science GPA of 3.00 or better is required for consideration of admittance.  GRE scores of 300 or higher are considered competitive for program admittance.

Application Information

Inquiries concerning admission and requests for printed program information should be directed to the University of South Carolina School of Medicine - Columbia Physician Assistant Program, Columbia, SC  29208, telephone: 803-216-3950, email:


The Masters Degree Program for Physician Assistants is a 27-month medical model curricular plan (7 semesters) with 112 total credit hours. The 27-month curricular plan includes a strong basic science foundation in physiology, human gross anatomy and genetics with a systems-based instructional approach to clinical medicine which includes instruction in the pathophysiology of diseases, ordering and interpretation and of diagnostic studies, as well as pharmacological and nonpharmacological treatment options. The final 12 months of the program consists of clinical training under experienced preceptors. The required practicums are derived from those used for training medical students in these venues, with a strong focus on primary care training. There are also many elements associated with professional development for PAs and interprofessional interactions, as well as understanding population health, quality care, and using evidenced-based practices. Some of the foundational content will be taught with other health professional (graduate or medical) students to forge interprofessional team concepts. Many of the courses involve hands-on preparation for clinical practice, including clinical skills training and training in new technologies using the USCSOM Simulation Center and Ultrasound Institute.