Physician Assistant

The Degree

The goal of the Physician Assistant Studies program at East Carolina University is to provide a primary care-oriented, rural-based training program for entry-level health-care professionals. Physician assistants (PAs) are highly-qualified professionals prepared through a demanding academic and clinical curriculum to practice medicine supervised by licensed physicians. As members of the health-care team, PAs assume a broadly defined range of medical diagnostic and patient management functions that have traditionally been performed by physicians in both office practice settings and health-care institutions.

A commitment to cost-effective, quality and compassionate patient care is the foundation of the PA profession. By assuming some of the duties traditionally performed by a physician, the PA enables the supervising physician to spend more time with patients who have serious illnesses or complicated medical problems. Physician assistants are educated to take medical histories, perform physical examinations, order and interpret tests, make diagnoses, establish and carry out treatment plans, suture wounds, assist in surgery, and provide preventive health counseling. In most states, North Carolina being included, PAs have the authority to write prescriptions.

Work Settings

The PA profession is one of the fastest growing health careers in both North Carolina and the United States. The majority of PAs work in family medicine and other primary care specialties, but the utilization of PAs has increased to include every field and subspecialty in medicine. Physician assistants have proven their effectiveness and ability to provide quality care in many settings – remote rural areas, major urban medical centers, physicians’ private practices, hospitals, public health clinics, managed care organizations, the uniformed services, and other federal agencies. Employers in non-clinical fields, such as research and administration, are also utilizing the talents of PAs.

Contact for questions regarding PA Studies.

Application Process

Application to most Physician Assistant programs is a two-phase process. East Carolina University’s PA program participates in the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA). The application opens mid-April each year.

Prospective students must submit their application via CASPA by September 1. ECU also requires that students apply to the ECU Graduate School. This deadline is also September 1, however students are strongly encouraged to have applications submitted as early as possible.

ECU conducts interviews as part of the admission process. Interviews take place between August and January.

Documents required for completed application:

  • Transcripts for all attended colleges and university
  • Three letters of reference (sent to CAPSA) from Physicians, PAs, or Nurse Practitioners, Professors, or supervisor during healthcare hours (paid or volunteer)
  • 1000 hours of documented patient contact hours completed by September 1st for early interview
  • ECU’s PA program does not currently require a standardized test for admission. However, applicants with PA-CAT scores are given preference.

ECU PA program only accepts NC residents and residents from the bordering states (SC, VA, TN, GA, and Washington, DC).

Admission / Prerequisites

Admission requires a minimum overall 3.0 gpa and minimum grade of “C” in all prerequisite courses. No more than two Cs will be accepted. Grades of B or higher are recommended in each prerequisite. It is preferred that all courses must be taken within five years of applying to the program. Meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission.

Applications are accepted between May 1st and September 1st for the following fall semester. All prerequisite courses must be complete at the time of application submission.

Students wishing to apply for the MS in Physician Assistant Studies must have an undergraduate degree (in any field) and the following prerequisites:

  • Principles of Human Anatomy & Physiology –
    Biol 2140/2141 & Biol 2150/2151 (students must have TWO semesters of Human Anatomy & Physiology)
  • Principles of Microbiology with lab – Biol 2110/2111 or 3220/3221
  • Statistics – Bios 1500, Math 2228, Math 2283, or Psyc 2101
  • General Chemistry I & II with lab – Chem 1150/1151 & 1160/1161
  • Intro to Psychology – Psyc 1000
  • Genetics – Biol 2300
  • * Biochemistry – Chem 3770 is recommended, but not required (Chem 2760/2763 – Org Chem II with lab is a prereq for Chem 3770 at ECU)

* ECU does not require Biochemistry as a prerequisite. However, preference is given to applicants who earned a B or better in Biochemistry at a four-year institution.

AP Credit is only accepted for Psychology and Statistics

Pre-COVID 1000 hours of clinical experience was required for application. This requirement is currently waived. However, competitive applicants general have at least 1000 hours of patient contact at the time of application submission.

Experiences are to be hands on and involve direct patient care to qualify for patient contact hours.  Positions that are in medical settings and involve professional experience with a provider with prescribing privileges are preferred. High quality patient care experiences include medical scribe, EMT, paramedic, medical assistant, and surgical tech. Shadowing of a medical provider (MD, DO, PA, NP) is also acceptable. Positions that are not accepted include dental assistant, dental hygienist, optometry tech, chiropractor tech, and positions involving purely administrative or transport duties.  If you have a question regarding your patient care experience, please email


Contact with questions regarding PA Studies.