Board Approves Master’s Degree Program in Physician Assistant

Published 10.06.2016

Nursing & Health Sciences
Physician Assistant
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Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Board of Directors has approved a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies – the first graduate degree program ever to be offered at the institution, a special mission affiliate of Penn State.

Penn College plans to begin offering courses leading to the master’s degree in the fall of 2017, with conferring of degrees to begin in 2022.

Conferring a master’s degree in physician assistant studies will fulfill requirements specified by the Accreditation Review Committee on Education for the Physician Assistant. ARC-PA is requiring programs accredited prior to 2013 that do not currently offer a graduate degree to transition to conferring a graduate degree for students who matriculate into the program after 2020. Penn College currently offers a Bachelor of Science in Physician Assistant.

To practice, students in physician assistant programs must graduate from a program accredited by ARC-PA. By offering a combined Bachelor/Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies, Penn College ensures continued ARC-PA compliance. Graduates will also remain eligible to sit for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) to attain licensure.

“In 1989, when we became Pennsylvania College of Technology, we celebrated our growth and maturity as a college of technology by moving into the awarding of baccalaureate degrees. That was a historic moment for us as a college,” said President Davie Jane Gilmour. “Today marks the next historic day in our institutional evolution – the granting of a graduate degree. Our forefathers would be proud of our growth, our commitment to quality and our staying true to our mission.”

“We are very pleased the board has approved our historic move into graduate education for the physician assistant program,” said Paul L. Starkey, vice president for academic affairs/provost. “This is one of the strongest and most popular programs at the college. In offering the physician assistant program as a Master of Science degree, we assure the long-term health of the program and continue to educate highly qualified health care professionals to serve our region.”

The Bachelor of Science in Physician Assistant at Penn College was established in 1996, graduating its first class in 1998. It accepts an average of 30 students annually.

The program faculty and staff combined have more than 38 years of instructional experience and over 60 years of clinical experience. The interdisciplinary team consists of three certified physician assistants, one physician and one doctorally prepared biologist/ethicist.

The program has hundreds of affiliation agreements with clinical sites such as Susquehanna Health and Geisinger Health System locally and out-of-state including sites in Delaware, Florida and Hawaii.

“We, as a program, thank the Board of Directors for approving Penn College’s first graduate degree,” said Lynn Eckrote, director of the physician assistant program. “Not only does it signal a steadfast commitment to the future of physician assistant studies at the college, but it occurs on Oct.  6 – a day set aside to honor and celebrate the physician assistant profession and its contributions to our nation’s health. It also confirms that Penn College graduates will remain a powerful force in improving the health of patients across the country for generations to come.”

The United States continues to face a shortage of health care professionals, and physician assistants – a cost-effective alternative to general internists – can help fill the void. PAs often fill the gaps in medical coverage in rural or inner-city locations, where there are shortages of qualified physicians.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that physician assistants earn a median annual salary of $98,180. The bureau projects a 30-percent growth in employment of PAs through 2024 – nearly three times faster than the average growth projected for all other occupations.

For more about the college, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.