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2023-2024 Undergraduate & Graduate Catalog

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Physician Assistant Studies

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


Degree Offered

Master of Physician Assistant Studies

Physician assistants (PAs) are valued members of the healthcare team. PAs are certified and licensed in the United States by delegation or regulatory authority. 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 collaboration with doctors of allopathic medicine and osteopathic medicine. In all 50 states and the District of Columbia and Guam, laws are in place that authorize PAs to prescribe medications or transmit orders for dispensing medication, including controlled substances. PAs are educated in the medical model and have close working relationships with physicians and other healthcare team members. PAs see many of the same types of patients and perform many of the same tasks as physicians. PA responsibilities and scope of practice depend on state laws and regulations, years of experience and training, and the practice setting.

Physician Assistant Studies at Grand Valley

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 after students complete a 28-month (seven semesters) professional studies curriculum.

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 a CASPA application, prerequisite courses, minimum health care experience hours, GRE, Altus Assessments (Casper), and submit recommendation rubrics (see application procedures Students begin the professional curriculum after they have been admitted to the program. During the PAS didactic phase, students take coursework in human anatomy, medical physiology, clinical applications, clinical medicine, pathophysiology, practical therapeutics, PA professional issues, hospital community experiences, clinical problem-solving, and evidence-based medicine. The curriculum combines traditional classroom sessions with Web-based instruction, case studies, laboratory, and problem-based learning. Students spend the final three semesters completing rotations in various clinical specialties in clinics, emergency departments, and hospitals throughout Michigan, out-of-state communities, and potentially international communities. This curriculum provides students with the knowledge base and clinical acumen to sit for their national certification examination and practice medicine competently upon graduation.


The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA) has granted Accreditation-Continued status to the Grand Valley State University physician assistant program sponsored by Grand Valley State University. Accreditation-Continued is an accreditation status granted when a currently accredited program is in compliance with the ARC-PA Standards.

Accreditation remains in effect until the program closes or withdraws from the accreditation process or until accreditation is withdrawn for failure to comply with the standards. The approximate date for the next validation review of the program by the ARC-PA will be September 2024. The review date is contingent upon continued compliance with the Accreditation Standards and ARC-PA policy.

Application Procedures

Admission to the PAS program is competitive. Please see the detailed application requirements at Applicants may contact the PAS program at (616) 331-5700 or visit to address additional questions. The PAS program utilizes the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) for processing applications.

Selected prerequisite courses, health care experience hours, GRE, Altus Assessments (Casper and Snapshot), and recommendation rubrics 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 first 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), although students may elect to choose a different major. Academic advisors in the College of Health Professions Student Services can assist students with the selection of a major.

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

The application deadline is September 1 during the calendar year preceding the year the student wishes to begin the program. CASPA applications must be complete by September 1 of the year of application. An application is considered complete when the online application and all supporting documents have been received by CASPA. The GVSU PAS Admissions Committee will review completed applications and choose candidates for interviews by mid-October. After interviews are complete, the GVSU PAS Admissions Committee will offer positions to qualified applicants.

Admission to the Master of Physician Assistant Studies Program

  • University Requirements:
    • Baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution of higher education (must be completed by the month of May before program matriculation).
    • Completion of GVSU supplemental application form.
      • Once the CASPA application has been verified and sent to GVSU, applicants will receive an email with instructions to complete the GVSU supplemental application. If you experience any issues with this process, please contact GVSU Admissions ([email protected] or 616-331-2025).
    • $30 application fee payable to GVSU. Applicants who have previously applied to GVSU and paid this fee are exempt.
  • Program Requirements:
    • CASPA application:
    • Transcripts: Applicants must submit official transcripts directly to CASPA for all higher education institutions previously attended, including GVSU.
  • Academic achievement: Applicants must demonstrate a minimum 3.0 overall GPA, prerequisite course GPA, and last 60 hours of coursework GPA to be considered for admission. Please see for a description of how each GPA is calculated.
  • Prerequisite coursework: A minimum grade of C must be attained in each prerequisite course. Please see for a complete list of prerequisite courses.
    • 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 the start of the PAS program.
    • 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: Test scores are valid for five years. See the GRE website for additional details The GRE code for GVSU on CASPA is 252.
  • Acuity Insights Comprehensive Admissions Assessments:
    • All applicants to the GVSU PAS program must complete Altus Suite as part of their application. To complete the assessments, visit Acuity Insights Assessments to create an account and register to complete the following assessments:
      • Casper: 100-120 minute online, open-response situational judgment test.
      • Note: GVSU does NOT require Duet.
    • Applicants must select GVSU for score distribution when taking the Altus Assessments. Scores will be released directly from Altus Assessments to GVSU. Students do NOT need to send score reports to CASPA.
    • Please note that only a select number of Casper testing dates are available each year.
    • Please note that Altus Assessments must be completed each year. You must retake the Altus Assessment if you completed it during a prior application cycle.
  • Recommendations: A minimum of two recommendation rubrics must be submitted. These rubrics will be emailed by CASPA to evaluators when the application is submitted. At least one recommendation rubric must be completed by a healthcare professional. The other recommendation rubric may be completed by either a second healthcare professional or a professor. Separate letters of reference are not acceptable substitutes for the recommendation rubrics.
  • Healthcare experience: Applicants must show evidence of 500 hours of significant volunteer, work, and/or observational experience in a healthcare environment. Hands-on patient care activities are highly encouraged. Healthcare experiences are documented on the CASPA application. Further information about health care experience requirements can be found at the PAS website under Admissions.
  • International students: Students whose first language is not English should be able to speak and write in English fluently and submit the following materials.
    • Official test scores from TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), IELTS (International English Language Testing System), MELAB (Michigan English Language Assessment Battery), or PTE Academic (Pearson Tests of English Academic).
    • The minimum TOEFL score is 80 Internet-based, the minimum IELTS score is 6.5, the minimum MELAB score is 77, and the minimum PTE Academic score is 53.
    • Only original score reports will be accepted.
  • Students who completed higher education studies outside the U.S. must also submit the following:
    • 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: Students who think they have highly unusual circumstances that impact their ability to meet the previously listed criteria 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.

All qualified applicants will be ranked objectively using academic criteria, including grade point average (overall GPA, last 60 credit hour GPA, and PAS program prerequisite GPA) and GRE official test score. Additional factors used to select applicants for interview include Altus Assessments (including Casper scores and Snapshot videos), recommendation rubrics, health care experience hours, service hours, and leadership hours. Criteria for acceptance include all factors considered for the interview combined with interview day assessments and scholarly activity. In addition to general admission requirements, admission to the Traverse City campus will include the following considerations: previous/current residence in Northern Michigan and current/previous connections to or experiences in Northern Michigan. Additional information regarding interview and acceptance selection criteria can be found at the PAS website under admissions. Applicants must meet health and technical standards that demonstrate their capacity to function as physician assistants. Copies of these standards may be obtained from the PAS program office or the PAS website: 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 and competency in the PAS Program Competencies and Learning Outcomes are required for the student to be granted the M.P.A.S. degree. General graduate academic policies and regulations can be found 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 grade B is required 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, remediated, or dismissed from the PAS program.

Professional Conduct

Medical knowledge and competence in patient care, professionalism, collaborative practice, and lifelong learning are crucial for success in the PA profession. These skills are tracked during the program; advancement in proficiency and behavior is expected. A complete copy of these skills is available from the program and may also be viewed on the program website under Mission, Goals, and Core Competencies at GVSU PAS Mission, Goals and Competencies with Outcomes - Physician Assistant Studies - Grand Valley State University

All students in the program are expected to comply with the ethical principles that embody the practice of medicine and the PA profession. A complete copy of the PA profession's (AAPA) code of ethics is available from the program and may also be viewed under the PA Resources tab at

Criminal background checks and drug screens are required prior to admission into the PA studies program. After enrollment, certain clinical placements or state licensing requirements may require additional background checks and drug screens. Positive findings may negatively impact the educational process at GVSU or future licensure as a physician assistant. The cost of these evaluations is the responsibility of the applicant or student.

Clinical Placement

During the program's professional (clinical) phase, students may be required to travel long distances for rotations. Students should expect to complete two to four rotations that will require travel.

Program Requirements

The following program is available:

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