Skip to main content
The Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing

The Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing



Master of Health Services — Physician Assistant Studies Degree Program

The Master of Health Services — Physician Assistant Studies Degree Program prepares graduates to deliver care as physician assistants. In alignment with the school's vision to advance health, a primary goal of the physician assistant program is to improve the availability of culturally relevant primary care to underserved populations and educate clinicians to deliver care as a member of a health care team.

Wa Vue, Physician Assistant Student, Class of 2015

Preparing primary-care providers

 Physician assistants are health care professionals licensed to practice medicine with physician supervision. As part of their comprehensive responsibilities, physician assistants conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive health care, assist in surgery and write prescriptions. Within the physician-physician assistant relationship, the physician assistant exercises autonomy in medical decision making and provides a broad range of diagnostic and therapeutic services. A physician assistant’s practice may also include education, research and administrative services.

The physician assistant program prepares clinicians with the knowledge and skills needed to serve in those capacities and meet the needs of a constantly changing health care system. Rooted in a growing body of research and nurtured by visionary faculty who seek to transform health care, the curricula embrace integrative case-based learning, technology and systems-wide perspectives. Instruction is also designed to be “more inspiring…and create an atmosphere of a community of learners,” as identified in a 2012 report by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

As a result of health care reforms and an increasingly aging population with advanced chronic illnesses, millions more people require primary-care services, exceeding the number of providers currently available. The physician assistant program at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing provides a partial solution to this growing problem by educating and preparing primary-care providers versed in preventive measures, who advance health through health promotion and disease prevention, practice in ambulatory and community-based settings and enhance the existing workforce. A key to that preparation is learning in a collaborative environment, rather than in the absence of other health professions.

Dale Risenhoover, Physician Assistant Student, Class of 2015

The National Academy of Sciences recognizes the changing landscape of health professions and how the education of those professionals must evolve in order to improve care and decrease costs. Researchers note, “When contributions from each specialty field are well coordinated, the individual person benefits from improved communication among providers, resulting in improved health.” Leaders of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation expand upon that premise, recognizing that health educators and professionals must break out of their silos and “work in tandem with others to transform what it means to be a healthy nation.” They also recognize the bigger picture of health care, looks at a culture of health from both from a bird’s-eye view and by taking into effect how health extends to family and community life.

The physician assistant and nurse practitioner programs at the School of Nursing are the only ones in the country where students in these different disciplines learn alongside each other. Together, they discover how to interpret different perspectives, collaborate and lead as members of health care teams. The experience fosters awareness and appreciation of other cultures, promotes qualities that transcend the classroom and shapes how students provide care once in practice. With a focus on primary-care serving rural, diverse and aging populations, the UC Davis programs enable students to experience underserved populations during clinical rotations and prepare clinicians to fill the gap of providers that continues to grow.

Graduates are prepared to work as leaders of health care teams and learn methods to continually critique and improve care, provide care that is evidence-based and establish systems of care to address population health.

Growing a community of learners

The Master of Health Services — Physician Assistant Studies Degree Program is led by the Nursing Science and Health-Care Leadership Graduate Group, an interprofessional team of more than 50 faculty from disciplines such as nursing, medicine, health informatics, nutrition, biostatistics, pharmacy, sociology and public health.

The master's-degree program is a full-time, professional degree program that includes academic courses, clinical skills courses and supervised clinical practice. Students are encouraged to limit outside employment while enrolled in this full-time program of study.

All students must complete core academic courses and a scholarly project as well as 1,530 hours of supervised clinical practice. Academic courses provide a broad education that includes advanced skills in understanding complex problems and generating solutions, how health systems and health care work, how to improve quality, as well as how to lead teams and manage business aspects of care, including informatics and reimbursement.

This is a 27-month, year-round program. Core courses are offered summer, fall, winter and spring quarters.

A mandatory Leadership Immersion Experience serves as an orientation for students. This full-time, three-day experience runs the week prior to the first summer quarter. Throughout this time together, students interact with School of Nursing leadership, participate in team building and develop one-on-one faculty relationships. The week serves as the foundation for the Nursing Science and Health-Care Leadership Graduate program curriculum.

How to apply

Applications for the Master of Health Services — Physician Assistant Studies program for enrollment in summer 2016 are now closed. Applications are expected to open around April 2016 for summer 2017 enrollment. Students applying for the physician assistant program must complete a Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) application and meet selection criteria for an invitation to apply through the UC Davis Graduate Studies. Click here to learn how to apply.

Click here to link to the CASPA site with additional application information. The FAQ page below provides essential information needed to complete the application process. Follow the detailed instructions and note the helpful tips.


Maribel Manriquez, Physician Assistant Student, Class of 2015


Admission requirements

All admission requirements must be completed and submitted to CASPA by the application deadline of July 15.

  • A bachelor’s degree
  • A minimum bachelor's-degree G.P.A. of 3.0
  • A minimum 2.7 G.P.A. in all science prerequisite coursework  is required
  • A minimum of 1,000 hours of paid or volunteer experience in a clinical environment with direct patient exposure
  • Statement of purpose, personal history and research professional history
  • The application process may require an interview
  • The G.R.E. is not required
  • TOEFL (international applicants only)
  • Three letters of recommendation; refer to CASPA website for more information
  • Official transcripts from each institution attended (submitted on-line through CASPA website)

Admission is competitive. Students applying for the physician assistant program must complete a Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) application and meet selection criteria. Following that process, a select pool of qualified applicants will receive an invitation to apply for UC Davis graduate admissions. All invited applicants must meet UC Davis graduate admissions requirements.  Click here for more on the application process.

Physician assistant studies prerequisites

All prerequisites are required at the college level from an accredited school and must be included on the submitted transcript as part of the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA) application process. Each prerequisite is expected to be one full course, either a quarter or a semester, and a minimum of three units, depending on the location where it was completed. Completion of prerequisite course work online is acceptable; however, prerequisite course work with a lab component must be completed at an accredited academic institution. No online lab work is acceptable. Advanced Placement Scores awarded in high school do NOT fulfill prerequisites. All prerequisite courses must be completed with a grade of C or better:

  • One course in human anatomy with lab
  • One course in human physiology with lab
  • Or human anatomy and physiology series: Part I and Part II with lab
    (NOTE: Nurse practitioner and physician assistant programs applicants may complete a combined human anatomy and human physiology series course. Series courses are offered in two parts and are completed over the course of two quarters or two semesters. Series courses must be completed in full, and must include an in-person lab component. If applicant only completes one part of the series course, he or she must additionally complete a course in either human anatomy or human physiology to fulfill the requirement. Mammalian or animal anatomy will not fulfill this requirement.)
  • One course in general chemistry with lab
    (NOTE: Seminar courses will not fulfill this requirement.)
  • One course in microbiology or bacteriology with lab
  • One course in algebra, calculus or statistics (basic or advanced)
  • One course in English composition
  • Two courses in social sciences. Ideal courses provide exposure to human or organizational behavior — such as psychology, sociology, ethnic studies, women’s studies or cultural anthropology.
    (NOTE: Social science courses may be completed in two different subject areas or within the same subject area.)

* It is desired that the human anatomy and human physiology prerequisite courses be completed within the past five years of when you plan to apply. Competitive applicants should self-assess their strengths. If it has been a number of years since courses were completed, applicants may want to consider retaking them.

Visit the FAQ page for additional details about the Nurse Practitioner program requirements and prerequisites. 

To view sample prerequisites, click here

Degree program requirements

  • Full-time enrollment (12 units per quarter) is required
  • Required courses for the master’s-degree program include a combination of core courses and electives.
  • A master’s thesis is required
  • Physician assistant students are expected to complete the program in 27 months


The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) has granted Accreditation – Continued status to the UC Davis Master of Health Services —Physician Assistant Studies Degree Program sponsored by University of California - Davis. Accreditation-Continued is an accreditation status granted when a currently accredited program complies 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 March 2017. The review date is contingent upon continued compliance with the Accreditation Standards and ARC-PA policy.

Click here to view accreditation information for all School of Nursing programs.

Additional links

Contact us

Still have questions? The fastest way to get answers about School of Nursing programs, admission requirements and the application process is to direct all questions to BettyIreneMooreSON@ucdmc.ucdavis.edu.