What is a Physician Assistant?

A physician assistant is a state-licensed or federally-credentialed health care professional who practices medicine with physician supervision. In clinical practice, PAs perform an extensive range of medical services in virtually every medical and surgical specialty and health care setting. Offering many of the health services traditionally provided by physicians for the past four decades, more than 100,000 NCCPA-certified PAs play a major role in US health care delivery. It is estimated that a physician assistant performs about 80% of duties traditionally limited to physicians.  As part of their many roles in the clinical setting, physician assistants:

  • take patient histories and perform physical exams
  • order diagnostic evaluations and formulate differential diagnoses,
  • diagnose illness and develop treatment plans including prescribe medications
  • counsel and educate patients
  • in specialized settings, perform medical procedures such as assist in surgery

More information can be found at the American Academy of Physician Assistants web site, http://www.aapa.org/

Why become a Physician Assistant?

Even before the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics projected greater than a 20% increase in the number of PA jobs between 2008 and 2018, making it by their research, the seventh fastest-growing profession in the country in 2011. The impending addition of more than 45 million patients who do not have current medical insurance to our healthcare system is projected to further increase the need for physician assistants.  According to CNN Money the profession is expected to have a 52% increase in employment opportunities over the next few years,

Physician assistants have been identified as a potential solution to the impending primary care workforce shortages in rural and underserved communities. In New Mexico, there are access barriers to primary care and specialty services and providers in the majority of the state.  Many counties are designated as Medically Underserved Areas.  The low income populations of these same counties, with regard to primary care, are also designated Health Professional Shortage Areas.  Our Mission is to educate highly qualified PAs preparing them to become competent, compassionate and comprehensive healthcare providers for practice in medically underserved areas.


University of St. Francis PA program

1. Location

The Physician Assistant program is located at 1500 N. Renaissance NE, Suite C, in beautiful Albuquerque, New Mexico.

2. When do interviews occur?

Interviews take place on campus July through October of each year.

3. When do classes begin?

Students are admitted once a year, with classes beginning in January.

4. Who can provide me with individual admissions counseling?

You may contact Rhonda Vigil either by email at rvigil@stfrancis.edu or by phone at (505)266-5565.  If you are unsure as to whether a course satisfies a requirement, please email the following information 1) the course name and number, 2) College or University of attendance, 3) course description from catalog or syllabus.



1. What are my application requirements?

Applicants must have a baccalaureate degree from a nationally accredited college or university with a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA and minimum 3.0 GPA in prerequisite classes on 4.0 scale.

Applicants must have taken the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) within the last 5 years and have a minimum of 500 hours of formal, hands-on clinical experience in a medical setting.

2. When is the deadline for application to the USF PA program?

All applications must be submitted to and verified by CASPA prior to our October 1st deadline.

3. Is there a supplemental application?



Prerequisite Coursework

1. Can you tell me more about the prerequisites for admission?

We have chosen a slate of prerequisite courses that we have found to be foundational to matriculating PA students.   We do not mandate that prerequisites be taken solely at a 4-year college or university.

2. Can prerequisites course be “In Progress” at the time of application to the PA program?

All prerequisites should be completed prior to application. However, applications submitted prior to completion of prerequisite coursework will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

3. Do you accept science prerequisites taken online instead of in class?

No. All science courses listed on our academic prerequisite requirement page must be completed in traditional classroom and laboratory settings.  Given the complexity and nature of PA education, we want to ensure that all applicants accepted to the program have sufficient academic preparation for success. We believe this is best achieved by taking your science class prerequisites in a classroom setting.

4. Is there a time limit for prerequisite courses?

ALL prerequisite coursework must be current within five (5) years of admission to the PA program.  Upper level coursework may be substituted for expired prerequisite courses at the discretion of the Admissions Director.

5. I already have an advanced degree. Do I still need to complete all prerequisite courses?

All prerequisite courses are required of all applicants to be considered, regardless of your previous academic work.


Degree Requirements

1. Do I need to have a Bachelor’s degree prior to applying?

No, however all applicants must have completed their bachelor’s degree prior to matriculation into the program. If you have completed the prerequisites and are in the process of finishing your bachelor’s degree you may be eligible for conditional acceptance. Proof of your degree will be required prior for matriculation.

2. Is a Bachelor’s degree in a science related major required?

No. There is no preference.  We do recommend if you are just starting to take classes that you consider a medical/health or science related degree.

3. Will you accept transfer credits?

The PA program does not offer advanced placement for similar academic work or previous health care experience and/or transfer of credit from other programs.


GPA and GRE Requirements

1. What is the GPA requirement for admission?

We require a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA and minimum 3.0 prerequisite GPA on 4.0 scale to be considered for admission.

2. What is an acceptable Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score?

Competitive applicants score a minimum of 1000 combined (OLD version) or 300 combined (NEW version) on verbal and quantitative portions and a minimum of 4.0 on the analytical writing portion.

3. Who must submit GRE scores?

All applicants must submit official GRE scores, regardless of degree. Applicants must have taken the GRE within the last 5 years.

To schedule the GRE exam visit the GRE web site at www.gre.org. The University of St. Francis has arranged for Educational Testing Service (ETS) to transmit official GRE scores electronically to the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA). Please use DI Code 0523 when indicating our program as a score recipient.

If submitting directly to USF, please use the following school code 1130 and dept code 0699.

4. Can I use MCAT scores instead of GRE scores?

No. The program requires GRE scores from all applicants.

5. What if I have foreign transcripts?

You must provide foreign transcript evaluations from an approved evaluation service for any college or university you have attended outside of the U.S.

Submit official foreign transcripts to an approved foreign transcript evaluation service for a course-by-course U.S. equivalency report. Arrange for foreign transcript reports to be sent directly to our program.

6. What if English is my second language?

Foreign students, for whom English is a second language, must submit a minimum TOEFL score of 550 (paper exam) or 85 (web-based exam).

7. How do I submit my TOEFL scores?

Please report your TOEFL scores directly to CASPA by sending them to code #3709.


Letters of Recommendation

1. Can I send additional letters of recommendation to your office?

The Admissions Committee will only review the first three letters of recommendation uploaded to the CASPA website.

2. Who is an appropriate reference?

A supervisor, co-worker or academic advisor – anyone who can evaluate your professional skills. Do not submit a reference from someone you have shadowed for a short time (<100 hours), a family member or friend. The program would prefer a reference from a PA or physician who is familiar with PA practice but only if they can provide a professional reference.


Healthcare Experience

1. What is the minimum health care requirement for the USF PA program?

A minimum of 500 hours of direct patient care experience demonstrating personal maturity and knowledge of healthcare systems. The applicant should show leadership or increasing levels of responsibility. The work may be paid or volunteer, full or part time. At minimum it should be service and health system related.


Admissions Policies

1. Does the USF PA program endorse any groups or engage in affirmative action policies?

The USF PA program does not have any admission or enrollment practices that favor specified individuals or groups. We however seek to draw students from all backgrounds and cultures in an effort to create a diverse program.

2. Does the USF PA Program have rolling admissions?

The USF PA program practices a rolling admissions policy. Applicant materials are processed and reviewed as they are received. Students are interviewed and then notified of their admission on a continual basis.