Skip to main content

Overview of Pitt’s PAS-Hybrid Program Competencies and Learning Outcomes

May 8, 2024

Physician assistants (PAs) are licensed clinicians who handle many of the same responsibilities as medical doctors (MDs): they diagnose and treat patients, prescribe medications and advocate for preventative care. In most states, PAs enjoy significant autonomy and six-figure incomes. 

PAs and MDs work in similar settings, including hospitals, clinics, outpatient centers, educational environments and government agencies. The BLS reports that more than half of all PAs work in physicians’ offices, followed by state, local, and private hospitals (24%). They earn a median annual income of $126,000, with some employers paying significantly higher wages. For example, PAs in outpatient care centers earn a median income of over $134,000.

The PA career path offers a fairly expeditious option to health care professionals seeking advancement; becoming a PA takes about half as long as becoming an MD. Quicker to train and  more affordable to hire than medical doctors, PAs are unsurprisingly in high demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 27 percent growth rate for PA jobs between 2022 and 2032, nine times the rate for physicians and surgeons.

Qualifying to become a PA requires a graduate degree in physician assistant studies. The online and in-person Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies – Hybrid Program (PAS-Hybrid) offered by the University of Pittsburgh prepares graduates for successful careers as PAs with patient-centered knowledge and hands-on practical skills, among other competencies. This article delves deeper into the learning outcomes of the University of Pittsburgh’s Physician Assistant Studies program.

Earn Your Physician Assistant Study Degree in Two Years

Help Mitigate the Physician Shortage Gap
Find Out More

What Is a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies?

The PAS-Hybrid program from Pitt pairs virtual lectures with on-campus immersions and in-person clinical rotations to equip aspiring PAs with the experience and confidence to lead health care forward. Candidates include medical assistants, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, nursing assistants and physical or occupational therapy assistants. Most PAs start their career path by earning a bachelor’s degree in biology, health science or another STEM discipline.

Students complete the program in an average of two years and graduate prepared to sit for and pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE).

PA studies candidates for the PAS-Hybrid program at Pitt must complete these prerequisite courses and meet the following criteria:

  • Completed bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • Minimum overall GPA of 3.0 (on 4.0 scale) in all undergraduate- and college-level coursework
  • Minimum overall science GPA of 3.0 (on 4.0 scale) in the prerequisite science courses
  • Minimum 500 hours of hands-on patient care experience

What Will You Learn in the PAS Program?

Pitt’s two-year PAS-Hybrid program prepares PAs to offer quality care and patient-centered services in a team-based professional environment. Students complete 82 credit hours and eight clinical rotations through interactive online lectures, on-campus immersions and in-person rotations in over 1,500 health care job placement slots across the country. The first year consists of 45 credit hours of didactic coursework; the second year consists of 37 credits in clinical experiences. 

The 45 credit hours in the first year span three terms and cover clinical medicine, pharmacology, working with patients, diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, health policy and surgery. 

The curriculum includes the following courses:

  • Introduction to the PA Profession
  • Human Anatomy
  • Health Policy
  • Interpreting and Evaluating the Medical Literature
  • Introduction to Clinical Medicine
  • Medical Physiology and Pathophysiology
  • Genetic and Molecular Mechanisms of Health and Disease
  • Patient Education & Counseling
  • History Taking and Physical Examination 1 and 2
  • Clinical Medicine 1 and 2
  • Diagnostic & Therapeutic Procedures in Medicine 1 and 2
  • Pharmacology 1 and 2
  • Health Issues Across the Life Span
  • Fundamentals of Surgery

In the second year of Pitt’s PAS-Hybrid program, you’ll participate in clinical rotations in different specialty areas, allowing you to explore various practice areas and find your passion in health care. Specializations include internal medicine, pediatrics, emergency medicine, surgery, and obstetrical and gynecological medicine. Through Pitt’s connections to a world-class network of health care providers, you will build the confidence and competency to treat patients and practice successfully as an advanced medical professional.

What Are the Pitt PAS Program Competencies and Learning Outcomes?

The Pitt PAS-Hybrid program curriculum prepares the next generation of PAs for jobs in health care. The curriculum targets the following learning outcomes, which were adapted from the Core Competencies for New Physician Assistant Graduates established by the Physician Assistant Education Association.

Upon completion of the PAS-Hybrid program, graduates will be able to demonstrate competencies in the following areas:

  • Patient-Centered Practice Knowledge
    • Gather clinical information, formulate differential diagnoses, order and interpret laboratory and imaging, perform necessary core duty procedures, and diagnose, prevent, treat and manage illness among acute, chronic and emerging disease states
    • Integrate into practice appropriate literature to make evidence-based decisions on patient care
  • Society and Population Health
    • Integrate into practice the cultural norms, needs, influences and socioeconomic, environmental, physiological and other population-level determinants affecting the health of the individual and community being served
    • Integrate into practice the interventions that diminish health disparities involving race or ethnicity, sex, sexual identity, age, disability, socioeconomic status and geographic location involving the individual patient and the community being served
    • Integrate into practice basic principles of public health including epidemiology, disease prevention, surveillance, reporting and intervention. Provide appropriate referrals involving the public health system to ensure patient advocacy and the maintenance of population health
  • Health Literacy and Communication
    • Communicate effectively and respectfully with patients, families and other health care professionals
  • Interprofessional Collaborative Practice and Leadership
    • Coordinate care to optimize the health of patients and populations
  • Professional and Legal Aspects of Health Care
    • Provide standard-of-care practice while demonstrating respect for the dignity and privacy of patients
    • Incorporate a personal wellness plan to prevent impairment and burnout
    • Demonstrate professional accountability
  • Health Care Finance and Systems
    • Differentiate the types of health care systems and health insurance coverage, including Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program
    • Practice health care informed by an understanding of the financial implications to patients, organizations and society
    • Recognize personal limitations and incorporate a quality improvement process designed to maximize patient safety, prevention of medical errors and incorporation of risk management

For an overview of the program’s performance and outcomes, review recent results of graduate performance on the Physician Assistant National Certification Exam® (PANCE) and the most current student attrition and graduation rates

Why Earn Your Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies From the University of Pittsburgh?

As primary care practitioners, PAs can have a powerful impact on the lives of patients in need of quality care. If you’re ready to help improve patient care in your community, consider Pitt’s PAS-Hybrid program to ensure you’re prepared to support and lead the next generation of health care. The program embraces new technology, such as point-of-care ultrasound and telemedicine, setting its curriculum apart from other PA programs.

In just two years you can develop competencies in areas such as pharmacology, patient care, diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, health policy, and surgery on your way to earning a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies and pursuing this exciting career path. 

Ready to take the next step toward becoming a PA? Get in touch with an enrollment advisor today by emailing or calling 412-218-0662.

86% of PAs Love Their Job

Be One of Them; Earn Your Degree at Pitt
Apply Now