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Grand Valley State University    
2017-2018 Undergraduate & Graduate Catalog 
  Jul 22, 2019
2017-2018 Undergraduate & Graduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Physician Assistant Studies - Program Description

For additional information about opportunities your college offers, please refer to the College of Health Professions  section in this catalog.


Degree Offered: Master’s in physician assistant studies

Physician assistants (PAs) are valued members of the health care team. PAs are currently certified and licensed in the United States by delegation or regulatory authority. Working in collaboration with doctors of allopathic medicine and/or doctors of osteopathic medicine, PAs obtain medical histories, perform physical examinations, establish diagnoses, treat illnesses, provide patient education, counsel patients, assist in surgery, dictate proper treatment orders, and interpret laboratory/diagnostic studies. In all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia and Guam, laws are in place which authorize PAs to prescribe medications or transmit orders for dispensing medication, including controlled substances. Educated in the medical model, PAs have close working relationships with physicians and the other members of the health care team. PAs see many of the same types of patients and perform many of the same tasks as physicians. The responsibilities of PAs depend upon a number of factors, including state laws and regulations, years of experience and training, and the setting in which the PA practices. These factors all comprise a PA’s scope of practice. 

Grand Valley Physician Assistant Studies

Grand Valley State University established its physician assistant studies (PAS) program in the 1990s, accepting its first class for entry in 1995 and graduating the inaugural class into the profession in 1998. The program awards a Master of Physician Assistant Studies degree following completion of a 28-month (seven semesters) curriculum of professional studies.

Applicants to the PAS program must possess or be in the process of completing a baccalaureate degree from either GVSU or another institution of higher learning. All applicants must complete prerequisite courses, minimum health care experience hours, GRE, and submit letters of recommendation. Please see as follows for details. 

Students begin the professional curriculum after they have been admitted to the program (see Application Procedures). During the PAS didactic curriculum, students take coursework in human anatomy, medical physiology, clinical applications, clinical medicine, pathophysiology, practical therapeutics, PA professional issues, and evidence based medicine. The curriculum combines traditional classroom sessions with Web-based instruction, case studies, laboratory, and problem-based learning (PBL) to provide students with the knowledge and clinical acumen to sit for their national certification examination and practice medicine competently upon graduation. Students spend the final three semesters completing rotations in various clinical specialties, by working in clinics, emergency departments, and hospitals throughout Michigan, out-of-state communities, and potentially international communities. 

Accreditation Statement

The PAS program is accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). In September 2016, the ARC-PA placed the GVSU PAS program on Accreditation-Probation status until its next validation review in September 2018. Probation is a temporary status of accreditation conferred when a program does not meet Accreditation 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 accreditation withdrawn.

Specific questions regarding accreditation should be directed to the program director and/or the appropriate institutional official(s).

Application Procedures

Admission to the PAS program is competitive. Please visit the website at for detailed application requirements and to apply. Applicants can contact the PAS program at (616) 331-5700 for additional questions. 

Selected prerequisite courses, all health care experience hours, GRE, and letters of recommendation must be completed by the application deadline unless a rare extension has been granted by appeal to the PAS Admissions Committee (see as follows for details). All application criteria and completion of undergraduate degree requirements must be completed by the month of May before starting the professional program.

High school seniors interested in a PAS degree must complete an undergraduate application to GVSU. During their freshman year students will begin their preprofessional studies and declare a major. The most common majors for students admitted to the program from GVSU are biomedical sciences (BMS) and allied health sciences (AHS).

Transfer students (from community or four-year colleges) must complete an undergraduate application to Grand Valley State University. We strongly encourage students to transfer to GVSU by the beginning of their junior year to ensure completion of their undergraduate degree and preprofessional requirements. Transfer students are encouraged to consult with an advisor from the Grand Valley College of Health Professions before entering Grand Valley or very soon thereafter, in addition to their assigned undergraduate faculty/advisor based upon the major declared.

The application deadline is September 15 for the admission cycle of the calendar year preceding the year the student wishes to begin the professional curriculum. All application forms and supplementary materials must be received and dated on or before September 15 for the application to be considered. The PAS Admissions Committee will then review completed applications and grant interviews after mid-October. Once interviews are complete, the PAS Admissions Committee will offer positions in the program to the most qualified applicants.

Admission to the Master of Physician Assistant Studies Program

  • Transcripts. Applicants must submit official transcripts for all colleges and/or university attended directly to the GVSU Admission Office. Note: We do not require official transcripts from GVSU.
  • Academic achievement. Applicants must demonstrate a minimum 3.0 GPA in overall GPA prerequisite coursework, and in the last 60 hours of coursework to be considered for admission.
  • Prerequisite coursework: Please see for a complete list of prerequisite coursework. A minimum grade of C must be attained in all prerequisite coursework. 
  • Human anatomy, human physiology, organic chemistry, biochemistry, and microbiology must be completed prior to application. All prerequisite coursework and a bachelor’s degree must be completed by the month of May prior to fall semester before beginning the process.
  • The following prerequisite courses must be completed within five calendar years preceding and including the year of application: human anatomy, human physiology, microbiology and biochemistry.
  • GRE must be completed within five years of application.  GVSU school code is 1258.
  • Two recommendations from health professionals must be submitted. Recommendation forms will be emailed to references at the time of application submission. At least one recommendation form must be completed by a health care professional. The other recommendation form may be completed by either a second health care professional or a professor. Separate letters of references are not acceptable substitutes for the recommendation form. Only two references are required.
  • Health care experience. Applicants must show evidence of 500 hours of significant volunteer, work, and/or observational experience in a health care environment. This experience must be hands-on patient care activities. This information must be documented on the graduate application. 
  • Students whose first language is not English should be able to speak and write in fluent English and submit the following materials:
    • Official TOEFL, IELTS, or MELAB score reports.  The minimum TOEFL score is 80 Internet-based, the minimum IELTS score is 6.5, and the minimum MELAB score is 77. Only original score reports will be accepted.
    • Original or certified original transcripts.
    • Official transcript credential information (e.g. WES, ECE).
    • Transcripts demonstrating 30 hours of higher education coursework taken at an established and accredited U.S. institution.
  • Note: If students think they have highly unusual circumstances that impact their ability to meet the above criteria, they may appeal in writing to the PAS Admissions Committee by submitting an Academic Request Form (ARF). An ARF only needs to be filled out if a student does NOT meet all application requirements and has extenuating circumstances that have either mitigated the necessary requirements (as in a five-year course waiver) or prevented the completion of a course (as in a course extension). An ARF expires after the completion of the cycle in which the student applies. All ARFs are due on or before July 15 in the year of application. No late ARF forms will be accepted.

Selection Factors

Grand Valley State University is an affirmative action/equal opportunity institution. It encourages diversity and provides equal opportunity in education, employment, all of its programs, and the use of its facilities. Applicants are considered without regard to age, color, disability, familial status, height, marital status, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sex/gender, sexual orientation, veteran status, or weight.

Factors used to select applicants for interview may include any or all of the following: GPA, GRE, recommendation forms, and health care experience hours. Motivational factors, life experiences, patient care experience, maturity, and personal characteristics are evaluated during the personal interviews. Applicants must meet health and technical standards that demonstrate their capacity to function as a physician assistant. Copies of these standards may be obtained from the PAS program office or from the PAS website:

Degree Requirements

Demonstration of completion of the 103 credits in the professional curriculum is required for the student to be granted the M.P.A.S. degree. General graduate academic policies and regulations can be found elsewhere in this catalog or in the GVSU graduate bulletin.

In addition, each PAS course or discrete unit of instruction within the professional curriculum, has a minimum proficiency level established. A minimum of a grade B is required for passing all PAS courses. Additionally, the student’s overall GPA must not fall below 3.0 in any semester or the student may be placed on academic probation or dismissed from the PAS program.

Professional Conduct

Interpersonal skills, communication skills, responsibility, and professionalism, among others, are identified as being crucial for success in the profession. Advancement in skill and behavior applicable to such abilities is expected during the professional curriculum. A complete copy of these abilities is available from the program and may also be viewed on the program website under core competencies:

All students in the program are expected to comply with the ethical principles that embody the practice of medicine and the physician assistant profession. A complete copy of the PA profession’s code of ethics are available from the program and may also be viewed under the PA profession tab:

Criminal background checks and/or drug screens are required prior to admission into the PA studies program. After enrollment, certain clinical placements during the clinical phase of the program, or state licensing requirements after graduation now require criminal background checks and drug screens. Positive findings for either the criminal background check and/or drug screen may negatively impact the educational process at GVSU or future licensure as a physician assistant. The costs of these evaluations or any other required clinical placement evaluations are the responsibility of the applicant or student.

The following program is available:

Master of Physician Assistant Studies