Curriculum & Courses

Physician Assistant Studies (MS)

NEW Application Deadline
August 1st

Additional Info

Sample Curriculum

Northeastern’s PA Program is highly integrated. Small group sections are no larger than 4 to 8 students and our general lectures are limited to a maximum of 52 students. This means that your instructors can take the time to answer your questions and go into topics in considerable depth, preparing you for the clinical placements where you will put your knowledge to work. As the role of the PA has expanded over the years, Northeastern has adapted its curriculum. While PA education concentrates largely on generalist medicine, more than one-quarter of PAs now go into surgical subspecialties. Northeastern has been in the forefront of creative utilization of PAs. You will be trained as a generalist provider in the traditional primary care environment and will also be prepared to work in new and emerging aspects of health care.

Successful completion of the entire 2 year program is required to take the national certification exam (PANCE).

Curriculum is subject to change.

Year 1
  • Fall Semester

    • Anatomy and Physiology 1
    • Physical Diagnosis and Patient Evaluation 1
    • Pharmacology 1
    • Professional Issues for Physician Assistants
    • Principles of Medicine 1
    • Principles of Psychiatry
    • Health Care Delivery

  • Spring Semester

    • Anatomy and Physiology 2
    • Physical Diagnosis and Patient Evaluation 2
    • Pharmacology 2
    • Clinical Lab and Diagnostic Methods
    • Principles of Medicine 2
    • Clinical Neurology
    • Principles of Pediatrics

  • Summer Semester

    • Principles of Medicine 3
    • Principles of Obstetrics and Gynecology
    • Principles of Orthopedics
    • Principles of Surgery
    • Aspects of Primary Care
    • Emergency Medicine and Critical Care
    • Aging and Rehabilitation Medicine
    • Research Design

Year 2

Clinical rotations are a critical part of PA training. After successfully completing the didactic portion of the program in the first year, the subsequent 12 months are spent in clinical rotations. Rotations are assigned at a variety of medical settings. Because of Northeastern’s recognized focus on practice-oriented education and the PA Program’s longevity and reputation in the field, we can offer students a wide variety of clinical opportunities at hospitals, clinics, private practitioner’s offices, and multispecialty clinics. All students experience a broad diversity of patient populations and practice sites.


Students do not need to find their own clinical placements. We have long-standing relationships with many sites and supervisors and are able to place students in rotations. Every student receives an individualized rotation schedule and completes a 5-week clinical rotation in each of the following areas of medicine. The sequence varies for each student.

Ambulatory Medicine
Emergency Medicine
Family Practice Medicine
Inpatient Medicine
Mental Health
Obstetrics and Gynecology

Only the elective rotation is chosen by the student and may be done in any medical specialty either in this country or abroad. The Clinical Coordinator must approve all elective rotations to ensure they fulfill learning objectives and provide adequate supervision.

Completion of a scholarly project by the end of the second year is required for graduation.

Curriculum is subject to change

Course Descriptions

Year 1:

Semester 1 (Fall)

PA-6200 Advanced Anatomy and Physiology 1 – 3 SH
Considers the structure of the human body, highlighting features of clinical importance. Covers the musculoskeletal, neurologic, cardiovascular, and respiratory systems. Also includes cadaver laboratory sessions.
Prerequisite: PA students only.

PA-6203 Physical Diagnosis and Patient Evaluation 1 – 3 SH
Presents techniques to elicit accurate medical histories, perform appropriate physical examinations, make case presentations, and document patient information. Covers such issues as confidentiality and use of supervision. Includes cultural issues in dealing with patients and working with terminally ill patients.
Prerequisite: PA students only.

PA-6205 Pharmacology 1 – 2 SH
Covers the classification, mechanisms of action, and uses of a spectrum of therapeutic agents. Emphasizes dose response, side effects, adverse reactions, the meaning of taking medications, and the role of culture. Required for all students.
Prerequisite: PA students only.

PA-6208 Professional Issues for Physician Assistants – 2 SH
Offers students the opportunity to understand their professional environment, scope of practice, legal issues, and ethical situations they may face. Also addresses interprofessional clinical practice in working with physicians and other health care providers.
Prerequisite: PA students only.

PA-6311 Principles of Medicine 1 – 4 SH
Presents a systems approach to the principles of disease processes in people. Includes such topics as physiology, pathophysiology, the natural history of disease, diagnostic procedures, nutritional and therapeutic measures. Covers immunology, rheumatology, pulmonology, and cardiology. Some material is covered in Problem Based Learning sessions.
Prerequisite: PA students only.

PA-6325 Principles of Psychiatry – 2 SH
Provides an opportunity to understand how to work with patients and families exhibiting psychiatric problems. Includes such topics as psychological growth and development, psychiatric diagnoses, the effect of social milieu on behavior, the psychological bases of drug and alcohol abuse, the dynamics of psychosomatic problems, the role of culture in self-concepts, and family attitudes toward mental illness as well as appropriate psychotropic medications.
Prerequisite: PA students only.

PA- 6329 Health Care Delivery – 2 SH
Explores the principal components of the health care delivery system, emphasizing its social, political, and economic evolution and development. Discusses trends and their implications.
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor for non-PA students.

Semester 2 (Spring)

PA-6201 Anatomy & Physiology 2 – 3 SH
Continues PA-6200. Considers the structure of the human body, highlighting features of clinical importance. Covers the musculoskeletal, neurologic, cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, endocrine, and renal systems.
Prerequisite: PA students only

PA-6204 Physical Diagnosis and Patient Evaluation 2 – 3 SH
Continuation of PA-6203. Includes hospital-based and clinic-based sessions with patients.
Prerequisites: PA students only and PA-6203.

PA-6206 Pharmacology 2 – 2 SH
Continues to examine the classification, mechanisms of action, and use of a broad spectrum of therapeutic agents. Focuses on dose response, side effects, adverse reactions, and the role of patient compliance in medication effectiveness. Prerequisites: PA students only and PA-6205.

PA-6207 Clinical Laboratory and Diagnostic Methods – 4 SH
Covers radiology, clinical laboratory tests, and electrocardiography. Includes basic principles of radiology and interpretation of clinical laboratory diagnostic tests, demonstration and practice of various laboratory methods, and EKG theory and interpretation.
Prerequisite: PA students only.

PA-6312 Principles of Medicine 2 – 4 SH
Continues Principles of Medicine I. Covers hematology, infectious disease, endocrinology, nephrology, and oncology.
Prerequisites: PA students only and PA-6311.

PA-6323 Clinical Neurology – 2 SH
Presents the clinical application of neuroanatomy and neurophysiology. Offers the opportunity to develop an understanding of the nervous system’s normal functioning as well as a clinical approach to assessing and managing nervous system disorders and disease states, and their effects on patients and their families.
Prerequisites: PA students only, PA-6200, and PA-6311.

PA-6324 Principles of Pediatrics- 2 SH
Presents the physiological and psychological fundamentals of child development. Focuses on the major common pediatric illnesses, including their signs, symptoms, and treatment regimens; various immunizations and medications used in pediatrics and their indication and dosage in relation to specific disorders; and management of such pediatric emergencies as cardiac arrest, anaphylaxis, convulsions, coma, and high fevers. Covers such issues as child abuse, school phobias, and childhood sexuality.
Prerequisite: PA students only.

Semester 3 (Summer)

PA-6313 Principles of Medicine 3 – 4 SH
Continues Principles of Medicine 2. Covers gastroenterology. Also uses a case-study format to involve students in planning the management of common disease states. Helps students understand the clinical use of common therapeutic agents and how to maximize compliance.
Prerequisites: PA students only, and PA-6312.

PA-6320 Principles of Obstetrics and Gynecology – 2 SH
Presents the anatomy and physiology of the human reproductive system, and the methods, effectiveness, and contraindications of contraception. Emphasizes the causes, signs, and treatments of common gynecological problems, including the significance of early cancer detection. Addresses diagnosing and treating sexually transmitted infections. Presents physiologic and psychological changes, nutrition, prenatal care, and medical and surgical complications during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Also covers the emotional aspects and management of the pre- and postnatal periods.
Prerequisites: PA students only and PA-6200, PA-6203. and PA-6311

PA-6322 Principles of Orthopedics – 2 SH
Discusses common orthopedic problems, including those of the hand, knee, shoulder, and back. Examines special problems of acute trauma and managing uncomplicated orthopedics cases. Also considers such topics as how to complete an adequate patient medical history and perform a physical examination of an orthopedic patient.
Prerequisites: PA students only, PA-6201, and PA-6204.

PA-6321 Principles of Surgery – 2 SH
Studies major and minor surgical conditions, emphasizing indications for surgical intervention and pre- and post- operative management in both ambulatory and inpatient settings.
Prerequisites: PA students only, PA-6200, and PA-6203.

PA-6326 Aspects of Primary Care – 4 SH
Studies approaches to and management of the patient in a primary care setting. Discusses specific diseases and medical conditions common to primary care. Considers psychosocial aspects of disease as well as aspects of prevention.  Includes simulations to provide experience with common outpatient and inpatient procedures.
Prerequisites: PA students only, PA-6204and PA-6312.

PA-6327 Emergency Medicine and Critical Care – 2 SH

Presents the principles of life-support techniques. Focuses on the initial management of acute medical and traumatic conditions in hospital and prehospital situations. Instructs students in basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation techniques including BLS and ACLS. Includes such topics as airway management, hemodynamic monitoring and management, dysrhythmia recognition and treatment, cardiac arrest, hypovolemic states and management, invasive procedures, multiorgan system failure, nutritional support and metabolic management of the ICU patient.
Prerequisites: PA students only and PA-6203, and PA-6312.

PA-6328 Aging and Rehabilitation Medicine – 2 SH
Studies techniques of effective planning and decision-making for patients with significant acute and chronic problems. Discusses the purposes, techniques, and potential of rehabilitation medicine. Also focuses on physiologic changes of aging and appropriate theories of management.
Prerequisites: PA students only, and PA-6312.

PA-6330 Research Design – 2 SH
Considers research methods and designs used in varied professional settings. Emphasizes development of research techniques, including the ability to define research problems, write hypotheses, review and interpret literature, apply research designs, organize, analyze, and present data, and draw relevant conclusions.
Prerequisite: Statistics.

Year 2: 

PA-6400 Applied Study in Medicine – 5 SH
During this inpatient hospital rotation, students take and record medical histories and perform physical examinations. Offers students an opportunity to become familiar with the assessment and management of varied medical problems by attending medical rounds and conferences, performing diagnostic procedures, presenting case write-ups, recording progress notes, and working under the supervision of a physician. Emphasizes the skills of collecting, assessing, and presenting patient data for physician review; ordering appropriate laboratory and diagnostic studies; counseling patients about therapeutic procedures; and helping to coordinate the contributions of other health professionals involved in management of the patient.
Prerequisite: Successful completion of the first year PA curriculum.

PA-6401 Applied Study in Ambulatory Medicine – 5 SH
Exposes students to aspects of ambulatory medical practice, emphasizing the patient as an individual and family member. Students typically encounter such common medical problems as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. Patient education, disease prevention, counseling, and integration of community services, as well as medical diagnosis and management, are major parts of this rotation. Includes experience in geriatrics.
Prerequisite: Successful completion of the first year PA curriculum.

PA-6402 Applied Study in Family Practice – 5 SH
Students in this rotation participate in providing health care to outpatients under the supervision of a primary care physician. Students have the opportunity to become involved in the initial assessment and management of individuals as well as the ongoing assessment and management of patients with established diagnoses. Typically, students are exposed to common primary care problems as well as to upper-respiratory illness, constitutional complaints, and orthopedic injuries. This rotation emphasizes assessing and managing both acute and chronic medical problems.
Prerequisite: Successful completion of the first year PA curriculum.

PA-6403 Applied Study in Emergency Medicine – 5 SH
Familiarizes students with problems encountered in an emergency room. Students are responsible for taking medical histories and performing physical examinations on acute as well as nonemergent patients and presenting these to the medical preceptor. When appropriate, students perform necessary diagnostic and therapeutic measures. Through clinical training and didactic sessions at the clinical site, students may also be exposed to the emergency management and treatment of such conditions as trauma, shock, burns, asthma, allergic reactions, seizures, and respiratory failure.
Prerequisite: Successful completion of the first year PA curriculum.

PA-6404 Applied Study in Obstetrics and Gynecology – 5 SH
Enables students to become involved with obstetrical and gynecological services provided by teaching hospitals. Emphasizes pre- and postnatal care, monitoring labor, assisting in deliveries, and developing the necessary skills to deliver a child in an emergency situation. Provides opportunities to take obstetrical histories and perform obstetrical examinations. During this rotation, students are expected to learn how to assess and manage a variety of common gynecological problems and to counsel patients on family planning.
Prerequisite: Successful completion of the first year PA curriculum.

PA-6405 Applied Study in Pediatrics – 5 SH
Develops students’ familiarity with outpatient pediatric problems, in training clinics and private pediatric offices. Emphasizes caring for a child from birth through adolescence. Provides opportunities to take medical histories and perform pediatric physical examinations. Stresses diagnosing and managing common childhood illnesses and evaluating growth and development. Assists students in developing skills to counsel parents about immunizations, child visits, growth and development parameters, common psychosocial problems, nutrition, and accident and poisoning prevention. Students may also have the chance to learn how to administer immunizations and perform audio and visual screening.
Prerequisite: Successful completion of the first year PA curriculum.

PA-6406 Applied Study in Surgery – 5 SH
Students in this rotation participate in varied surgical patient care responsibilities, under the supervision of a surgical resident or staff surgeon. Emphasizes general surgery, though students may have some exposure to other surgical subspecialties. Students assist in surgical patients’ initial assessment, which includes obtaining accurate medical histories and performing physical examinations. As members of the surgical team, students participate in preoperative management, including patient education and procedures necessary to prepare patients for surgery. Students assist surgeons in the operating room and have an opportunity to become familiar with operating room procedures and equipment. Students are also involved in patients’ postoperative evaluation and management. Students attend surgical grand rounds and other surgically-oriented educational meetings.
Prerequisite: Successful completion of the first year PA curriculum.

PA-6407 Applied Study in Mental Health – 5 SH

Exposes students to varied mental health problems, in such settings as hospitals, clinics, and multiservice centers. Students are expected to perform mental status examinations and cognitive testing. Emphasizes recognizing various types of mental health problems that require referral to a specialist and managing problems that can be handled by the nonspecialist. Assists students in furthering their understanding of effective patient interactions and the mental health components of health, disease, and disability.
Prerequisite: Successful completion of the first year PA curriculum.

PA-6408 Applied Study Elective -5 SH
Provides exposure to an area of clinical medicine in which a student has particular interest. Students may choose additional experience in an area covered in required rotations or select a subspecialty, such as orthopedics, cardiology, or geriatrics. Each elective rotation selection is reviewed and must be approved by the clinical coordinator.
Prerequisite: Successful completion of the first year PA curriculum.

Academic Requirements for Enrolled Students

  • Students are expected to maintain a minimum grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0 (“B”) in all course work.  If the cumulative GPA falls below 3.0, students are placed on academic probation.  Only two courses may be repeated in meeting the GPA of at least 3.0 (“B”) required for the degree.  “Satisfactory” and “Unsatisfactory” grades are not included in the GPA.
  • Students must receive a grade of “C” or better in each individual course.  If a course grade is below “C,” students are placed on academic probation even if the GPA is above 3.0.
  • Students must obtain a GPA of at least 3.0 (“B”) in each semester.  If the GPA for any semester is below 3.0, students are placed on academic probation.
  • Students who receive a grade of “F” or “U” in a course may make up the course based on their advisor’s recommendation and permission of the Program Director. Students are not permitted to repeat a course more than once.  As didactic courses are offered only once each year, students may have to wait at least one year to repeat a failed course or one in which they received a grade of “U.”  In some cases, this could mean that students may not continue in the Program because they have not completed a prerequisite.  Course credits earned in the Program are valid for a maximum of four years unless an extension is granted by the PA Program Director.
  • To be removed from probation, students must clear any deficient grades; maintain a 3.0 GPA in all future semesters without receiving an “I,” “F,” “U,” or “W” grade; meet the requirements listed above; and petition for removal from probationary status.  Students who do not meet these requirements are subject to dismissal.  Readmission to the program is at the discretion of the Program Admissions Committee.
  • An “I” (Incomplete) grade will be changed to a letter grade when the deficiency that led to the “I” is corrected to the satisfaction of and in the manner prescribed by the course instructor.  A grade of “I” must be cleared within one calendar year from the date of its initial recording on a student’s permanent record.  Students must sign an Incomplete Contract with the Program as required by the Registrar’s office and complete the terms specified prior to clearing the “I”.
  • Students are permitted to decelerate in the event of a formal leave of absence. A leave of absence is granted at the discretion of the Bouvé College Dean of Graduate Studies and is limited to one year in duration. The student must petition the Bouvé College Dean of Graduate Studies to return to the Program. The Program itself does not participate in the granting of a leave or in reinstatement. After a return from the leave of absence, the student must repeat in its entirety any course for which a final grade was not entered.
  • A letter grade is given for each clinical rotation (applied study).  The clinical grade includes a review of the student’s clinical performance and professional conduct as determined by the preceptor at each site.  A grade of at least “C” in each clinical rotation is required.  If a student fails a rotation, repeating it is at the discretion of the preceptor and Program Director.  A student may repeat only one rotation during the entire PA Program.
  • Students must have at least a 3.0 GPA to enter their second year (Semester 4).   Students must maintain at least a 3.0 GPA during the clinical year or be placed on academic probation.  In order to graduate, students must pass all end-of-rotation exams as well as a comprehensive exam at the completion of their second year.
  • Students are required to pass a Summative Evaluation within the last four months of the program prior to graduation.  For more information on the Summative Evaluation, you may download  the description here.
  • Students are also required to successfully complete a Scholarly Paper/Capstone Project of publishable quality prior to graduation. A passing grade for the Scholarly Project is 70% or higher.
  • Students must have at least a 3.0 GPA upon completion of the Program to receive the Master’s degree.