A&T Earns Approval to Launch Master's in Physician Assistant Studies

By Todd Simmons / 10/20/2022 Academic Affairs, College of Health and Human Sciences, The Graduate College

Student takes part in a human anatomy class at A&T's Union Square campus.

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Oct. 20, 2022) – North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University’s John R. and Kathy R. Hairston College of Health and Human Sciences will soon be home to a new physician assistant studies master’s degree program. The UNC System Board of Governors approved the PA program Oct. 19 following a rigorous review by the university and the UNC System.

PAs (physician associates/physician assistants) are licensed clinicians who practice medicine in every specialty and setting, such as hospitals, outpatient care centers, and physicians’ offices. PAs are dedicated to expanding access to care and transforming health and wellness through patient-centered, team-based medical practice. They perform many physician-level duties, such as examinations, diagnoses and treating patients.

A&T will now work through the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant's accreditation process and begin recruiting students once that process is complete. The commission is the accrediting agency that protects the interests of the public and the PA profession by defining standards for PA education and evaluating PA educational programs within the territorial United States to ensure compliance with those standards.

“We have put significant time, effort and resources into the development of this important medical program, and I am delighted that the work has earned full approval of the Board of Governors,” said Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr. “This program represents a major opportunity for our Hairston College – already the largest of our colleges – to make significant impact on the health care profession in the Piedmont Triad and across North Carolina.”

In North Carolina, the average PA salary is $102,261, according to the employment and compensation site Indeed. A North Carolina PA with experience of 10 years or more could expect to earn $128,385, on average. Nationally, the average base salary is $115,336, while more experienced PAs earn, on average, $144,800, reports Indeed.

Market demand is significant: Employment for PAs is projected to grow by 28% from 2021 to 2031, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which also projects about 12,800 PA openings each year over the same span.

PA programs, however, are less diverse than national and North Carolina populations. In the past 30 years, there has been little change in diversity/representation within the PA workforce. Nationally, about 71% of PAs are white, versus 60% of the population overall; 11.5% are Latino (18.5% of the population), and 7.4% are African American (12.2% of the population). In North Carolina, 4.5 % PAs identify as Black (versus 22.2% of the population), 3.6% identify as Hispanic, and 0.6% identify as American Indian.

The percentages have remained relatively stable over the past five years, despite the continuous rise in the diverse composition of the state. The new PA program at the nation’s largest public HBCU will significantly contribute to PA workforce diversity, commensurate with the changing demographics of the patient populations in the nation and this state.

The two-year A&T program is a professional master’s degree. In the sciences, professional master’s degrees (which came about in the 1980s) are intended for students who do not plan to pursue careers as scientists, academics or professionals. 

“The Triad area has had no public physician assistant program until now. In North Carolina, the only public PA programs available to interested students were at (UNC) Chapel Hill and East Carolina,” said Hairston College Dean Elimelda Moige Ongeri, Ph.D. “We strongly believe this degree is an appropriate response to a major market need.

“Our college already educates future nurses, kinesiologists, health services managers, social workers and psychologists. The new PA program will add substantially to our growing health sciences degree offerings.”

Media Contact Information: Todd Simmons

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