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School of Medicine Columbia

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Physician Assistant

Our faculty is dedicated to helping you succeed in an increasingly vital health care role. During your course of study, you'll have clinical experience, extensive training in the classroom and access to state-of-the-art technologies. This will teach you how to work as part of an interprofessional health care team. 

The Role of a Physician Assistant

Our graduates play an important role in our state's health care.

Physician assistants are licensed to practice under physician supervision and can: 

  • conduct physical exams.
  • diagnose and treat illnesses.
  • order and interpret tests.
  • counsel on preventive health.
  • assist in surgery.
  • write prescriptions.

Extensive Curriculum

Our extensive curriculum will give you the foundation you need to make sound medical decisions. You'll gain experience through simulations, hands-on training and cadaver-based anatomy instruction. You will also learn the latest ultrasound techniques. During your clinicals, you'll have many options to choose from with a wide variety of specialties at sites that are close to our campus. Through it all, you'll get personalized attention thanks to our small student-to-faculty ratio.

Career Outlook

As our health care system changes, PAs are seen as key components. The profession as a whole is projected to grow 30 percent by 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We offer a Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) review course immediately prior to your graduation, which can help you get certified and ready to work as soon as possible. 

Our Path Forward

The UofSC School of Medicine–Columbia Masters in Science in Physician Assistant Studies Program strives to produce highly competent, compassionate physician assistants who are committed to lifelong learning and advancing the PA profession. The program is dedicated to producing physician assistants who deliver high-quality, patient-centered care and excel as members of an interprofessional health care team, while making significant contributions to the health care needs of South Carolina and the nation.

We prepare Physician Assistant graduates to improve access to primary medical care for the citizens of rural and medically-underserved areas of South Carolina, and the nation.

  1. Enroll diverse and highly-qualified students who reflect the dynamic population of South Carolina and the nation.
  2. Encourage life-long professional involvement, scholarly activity, leadership and service.
  3. Maintain a level of first-time PANCE pass rates that meets or exceeds the national average.
  4. Maintain an overall graduation rate of 94 percent (current Physician Assistant Education Association national average) or better for entering University of South Carolina Physician Assistant students.
  5. Maintain an accredited program with an innovative curriculum that prepares entry-level graduates for the contemporary practice of medicine.

View and download the full version of the Physician Assistant Program Goals and Outcomes [pdf].

The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA) has granted Accreditation-Continued status to the University of South Carolina School of Medicine-Columbia Physician Assistant Program sponsored by University of South Carolina School of Medicine-Columbia.  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 June 2031. The review date is contingent upon continued compliance with the Accreditation Standards and ARC-PA policy. 

The program’s accreditation history can be viewed on the ARC-PA website at

We are extremely proud to announce our first-time PANCE pass rate for the Class of 2021 was 100%. This followed a 95% pass rate by the Class of 2019 and 96% by the Class of 2020. All classes have been above the national average for their respective years and above the five-year national first-time average. Strong work!

UofSC PANCE Pass Rate Summary Report - July 2021 [PDF]

 pa attrition table 2021

UofSC PA Program Competency List


1. Possess medical knowledge to evaluate and manage medical and surgical conditions of patients of all ages.

2. Possess pharmacology knowledge to prescribe medications appropriately bearing in mind patient safety, cost, and potential for abuse.

Interpersonal Skills

1. Elicit an accurate and appropriate problem-focused or comprehensive medical history using appropriate patient-centered interpersonal communication (verbal and non-verbal).

2. Utilizing the clinical presentation and diagnostic testing results, provide clear, concise oral presentations to other healthcare professionals and document accurate patient notes and orders.

3. Professionally exhibit interprofessional teamwork to improve patient care.

4. Provide relevant education to patients and families including treatment, compliance, available resources, and activity/lifestyle modification.

Clinical and Technical Skills

1. Perform a problem-focused or comprehensive physical exam directly related to the medical history and be able to recognize normal and abnormal health states.

2. Practice strategies to improve patient safety and decrease medical errors in patient care.

3. Demonstrate entry-level proficiency for technical skills and clinical procedures common to primary care practice.

Professional Behaviors

1. Reflect cultural awareness through exposure to diverse patient populations.

2. Develop life-long learning skills by using evidence-based medicine strategies and staying current with clinical practice guidelines.

3. Demonstrate the attributes of professional and ethical behavior to include resiliency, flexibility, adaptability, altruism, and ability to overcome adversity when evaluating and managing patients.

Clinical Reasoning and Problem Solving

1. Order and interpret appropriate, cost-effective laboratory or diagnostic studies to determine the differential diagnosis.

2. Demonstrate clinical reasoning, critical thinking, and problem-solving to develop differential diagnoses and select the most likely diagnosis.


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Important Information About Programs Leading to Licensure

Each state has its own individual licensing boards along with their own Physician Assistant licensure requirements.  The master’s degree program in Physician Assistant Studies at the University of South Carolina is provisionally accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA), and by virtue of that accreditation, its graduates are eligible to sit for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). As of July 2020, all 50 states require graduation from an ARC-PA accredited program and National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) certification following the successful completion of the PANCE as conditions for initial PA licensure. Besides initial PANCE certification, we cannot confirm that the program meets any additional requirements for professional licensure in states other than South Carolina. Students seeking licensure outside of South Carolina should click here for information regarding state licensure specific to individual states throughout the U.S.

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