MSc Physician Associate Studies

Physician associates are increasingly important in the health care workforce, supporting doctors and medical teams to diagnose and manage a wide range of common and complex diseases. This stimulating master’s course offers you the clinical skills and knowledge required to provide high quality care under the direct supervision of a doctor.


MSc Physician Associate Studies

Course details

The physician associate (PA) is one of the newest allied medical professions and presents a unique and exciting route to clinical care for graduates. Physician associates play a key role working as part of a multi-disciplinary team alongside doctors, nurses and the wider health care team to deliver care to patients of all ages. As a physician associate you’ll take medical histories, perform clinical examinations, order and interpret test results, take part in clinical reasoning and diagnosis, and develop evidence-based patient management plans.

Working in partnership with local NHS Trusts, our experienced and dedicated academic staff will support you to achieve clinical learning and skills development. We’ll guide you as you gain the theoretical knowledge that underpins the physician associate role, and integrate this knowledge into your practice during your clinical placements.

Initially, you’ll focus on developing a thorough understanding of the academic knowledge that underpins the physician associate role. We’ll also support you to gain core clinical skills, developing your confidence and practical knowledge in the safe confines of our state-of-the-art Clinical Simulation Suites, before you’re exposed to primary and secondary care environments and practice through short placements.

In the second year, you’ll have longer clinical placements in these areas, as well as gain experience in emergency care, paediatrics, mental health, and obstetrics. As a graduate, you’ll have competence in the core clinical skills of the physician associate, and possess practical experience of health care procedures ready for a career in this demanding and rewarding profession.

  • Start date: 10/09/2018
  • Location: The University of Bolton
  • Award: MSc
  • Duration: 2 years

Course highlights:

  • This course offers the high-level of clinical knowledge and skills needed to achieve certification as a physician associate (PA) in the UK. To qualify to practice you’ll need to pass the National Certification Examination run by the Faculty of Physician Associates at the Royal College of Physicians (FPARCP) and enrol on the Physician Associate Managed Voluntary Register (PAMVR).
  • Developed in response to employer-led demand for the physician associate role in the Greater Manchester area, this course offers you the opportunity of qualify to work in medicine as part of a multi-professional team in just two years.
  • You don’t need prior experience in health care or health and social care qualifications to join this course – we also welcome applications from graduates in areas such as biology, chemistry, engineering, psychology and other social sciences so long as you have some prior higher education knowledge of human biology, and areas such as infectious disease, public health, molecular science or cell biology.
  • You’ll have access to facilities in the flagship £31 million Bolton One building, including our state-of-the-art Clinical Simulation Suites where you’ll be able to practice skills and develop knowledge using clinical equipment and simulators.

Key features:

  • Our teaching team includes expert clinicians who are working in current practice in addition to supporting and teaching students on the course. This ensures your clinical learning is at the cutting edge of practice.
  • As well as in-class learning, simulated clinical experience and real-life clinical practice, this course includes time dedicated to supporting and preparing you for your first National Certification Examination.
  • Your highly-structured academic studies will be complemented by personalised work-based learning offered through placements in various clinical areas in primary and secondary care facilities.
  • Your Clinical Tutor will act as an advocate during your work-based placements, supporting you, your mentor and your assessors to agree on appropriate workplace activities that support your learning goals.
  • You’ll gain first hand clinical experience and have the opportunity to develop an invaluable network of professional contacts during your extensive time on clinical practice placements in Greater Manchester and Lancashire.

Entry requirements

  • Start date: 10/09/2018
  • Location: The University of Bolton
  • Award: MSc
  • Duration: 2 years

You should have at least a Lower Second Class Honours degree (2.2) in a life or health science subject.

Alternatively, you should have at least an Upper Second Class Honours degree (2.1) in a science, engineering or social science subject, along with higher education credits (for instance, Open University modules) in human biology, and either infectious disease and public health or molecular and cell biology, with an overall mark of at least 60%.

Health care professionals (for instance, operating department practitioners, paramedics and adult nurses) with a Diploma of Higher Education with at least 50% overall, and a minimum of two years’ experience in a professional role are invited to apply.

You must also have GCSEs at grade C or above or grade 4 to 9 (or equivalent) in English and Mathematics.

If you don’t meet these requirements but have a Level HE5 qualification in a relevant area, and recent Honours-level or postgraduate credits linked to your profession (or a relevant professional qualification), and a minimum of two years’ experience in a professional healthcare role, and a portfolio of supporting evidence, we’ll consider your application.

You’ll be invited for an interview to ensure that you understand the requirements and level of this course, and ensure it’s the correct course for you. We may also ask you to submit a portfolio of evidence in support of your application, or undertake an assessment so that we can gauge your current academic ability.

The interview process will involve face-to-face interviews with academic and practice staff. You’ll also be assessed on your values, behaviours, communication and problem solving skills. We’re seeking students who can demonstrate commitment to a career as a physician associate, who have excellent communication skills and who are caring, compassionate and courageous.

If you’re successful at the interview stage, you’ll be asked to undergo occupational health screening and a DBS check.

You’ll need to demonstrate that you’re of good health and good character and satisfactorily pass occupational health screening.

This course involves working unsupervised with vulnerable adults and you must gain an Enhanced Disclosure certificate from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) before starting your studies. Charges are payable to cover the cost of the DBS Enhanced Disclosure application and annual registration with the online Update Service.

If English isn’t your first language you’ll also normally need IELTS 7.0 (or equivalent).

Career opportunities

Physician associates are highly sought-after clinical professionals in the health care sector. This generalist role works under medical supervision, assisting doctors in a variety of health care settings. The physician associate profession is supported by the Department of Health, the Royal Colleges of Physicians and of General Practitioners, and particularly by the Faculty of Physician Associates at the Royal College of Physicians (FPARCP).

The UK’s population is increasing and aging, and the demand for physician associates who are able to support GPs, hospital doctors and medical teams in acute and primary care is rapidly expanding. The role was developed in the United States in the 1960s, and is now a well-established health care profession. Introduced to the UK in 1993, the role has proved so valuable that the UK government has set targets to increase the number of physician associates working in the NHS.

Promising opportunities for employment can be found in many parts of the UK, and some physician associates also work in the private sector.

Please note: the British Physician Associate programme does not qualify you to work in the USA.

What can I do with this qualification?

A graduate of our MSc Physician Associate Studies degree who is registered on the Physician Associate Managed Voluntary Register (PAMVR) can apply to NHS Trusts and Practices for physician associate roles (which are often advertised at NHS Agenda for Change Band 7 or higher). Physician associates may work in a wide range of specialisms, such as acute or emergency medicine, cardiology, trauma and orthopaedics, mental health, paediatrics, and General Practice.

Alternatively, you might consider teaching and research posts, or further study towards a PhD.

Alternative career options

  • Public health
  • Management
  • FE and HE teaching
  • Clinical research
  • Health promotion
  • Overseas aid and development
  • Universities
  • Voluntary organisations

Professional recognition

Physician associate courses in the UK are not currently subject to formal accreditation; however, this is likely to change in the very near future. In anticipation of this change the course will meet the Royal College of Physicians Faculty of Physician Associates draft accreditation standards.

All students will be registered with the Faculty of Physician Associates at the Royal College of Physicians (FPARCP).

On completion of the programme and passing of the National Certification Examination, you’ll be required to register on the Physician Associate Managed Voluntary Register (PAMVR) held by the FPARCP. This will incur an additional cost.

Fees & funding

Home/EU fees

  Year of study Total
Entry year 2017/182018/192019/20
2017/18 £9,000£9,000-£18,000
2018/19 -£9,000£9,000£18,000

International fees

  Year of study Total
Entry year 2017/182018/192019/20

How to apply

You may apply directly to the University using the University's online application form. Please select your chosen start date from the list below:

Before you commence the online application please read the Application Guidance Notes.

You should also ensure you have to hand:

  • Details of the educational establishments you attended and dates

  • Your certificates for the qualifications you are using to gain entry to the course – you will need to enter the completion date and upload copies

  • Details of any employment history including name, address, dates and role

  • Personal statement – this can be either input into the relevant field or uploaded separately

  • Details including e-mail addresses of two referees, at least one of which should be someone who can provide an academic reference

Please make sure any documents you wish to upload in support of your application are in pdf or jpeg format. Personal statements may be word documents.

Please ensure your data is correct at each stage of the application before you proceed to the next page. If you use the back button at any time during the application, you should check the validity of the data you have already input.

If you experience difficulties during the application process, contact the Admissions Team on 01204 903394 or ku.ca1519544949.notl1519544949ob@sn1519544949oissi1519544949mda1519544949

The University welcomes applications from international students from all over the world. We try to make the application process as simple and as fast as possible for our international applicants.

How you apply is determined by your current location and what you are choosing to study:

  1. Apply direct to the University. Links for the next available intakes of this course are shown below. Please click the link which will direct you to the online application form. Please read the user guidance before completing this.
  2. Apply via one of our approved in-country referral partners. A list of our partners may be found on the International pages of this website.
  3. Apply via UCAS for courses starting in September only – visit

Should you have any queries please contact the International Team on +44 (0) 1204 903110 or email ku.ca1519544949.notl1519544949ob@la1519544949noita1519544949nretn1519544949i1519544949

Teaching & assessment


Modules listed below are a mixture of compulsory and optional. You may not have the opportunity to study all the modules as part of the course.

  • Foundations of Professional Clinical Practice and Core Procedures
  • Anatomy, Physiology and Pathophysiology
  • Assessment, Diagnostics and Treatment Planning for Physician Associates
  • Advancing Skills of the Physician Associate, Health Education and Core Procedures
  • Impact of the Physician Associate in Practice (Project)

Teaching, learning and assessment

This full-time course is two years in duration involving at least 106 weeks learning (92 weeks of this is structured learning). This includes time dedicated to supporting and preparing you for your first National Certification Examination. This is a highly demanding course so please be aware that you’ll be expected to complete at least 50 hours of learning per week.

We use a wide variety of teaching and learning methods. You can expect lectures, seminars, clinical simulation, service user simulations, work-based learning, seminars and group discussion, tutorials, guided study, and using virtual learning environments (VLE) and e-learning packages. Problem-based learning is an essential element of the course and allows you to identify your individual learning needs and develop critical thinking. You’ll also need to undertake a significant amount of personal study, including general background reading, preparing for seminar activities, working on assignments and revising for examinations.

Your studies will start by developing your underpinning knowledge of core medical science and the professional standards of a physician associate. You’ll learn clinical skills in our state-of-the-art Clinical Simulation Suites at the University – these are simulated clinical environments complete with simulated patients that allow us to mimic emergency clinical scenarios in a safe and supportive environment. This allows you to learn how to manage such situations and gain experience of the procedures and personnel involved before you further develop these skills in genuine clinical environments under supervision during your work-based practice placements. You’ll also begin to build a portfolio to demonstrate your development of competence in these clinical skills.

Your studies will involve a significant proportion of work-based learning at practice placements with our partner NHS Trusts (please note – travelling to a variety of locations will be required). These will be woven into each learning block and you’ll begin to apply your developing knowledge, skills and behaviours from your earliest weeks of the course. Your clinical placements will start in your first learning block and your exposure to the clinical setting and differing specialisms will grow to reflect your increasing knowledge and skills. Most placements will be in Greater Manchester. However, please be aware that some may be in the Lancashire area, and it will be your responsibility to arrange travel to placement locations.

Once you have developed the key underpinning medical science knowledge, you’ll learn how to make safe clinical decisions and interpret the investigations and imaging you have ordered to further a patient’s diagnosis and care – this will prepare you for your role as physician associate. Throughout the programme, you’ll be closely supported in both the University and clinical settings and our focus will be on helping you to achieve your individual learning needs.

In addition to learning how to diagnose and care for adults in hospital and other care settings, you’ll also learn to practice in different clinical specialisms, including paediatrics, General Practice, mental health, and emergency medicine. Other placement opportunities based on local health needs, your interests or learning needs may also be available.

A range of assessment methods will be used, including essays, reports, presentations, portfolios, set exercises via multiple choice questions, Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCE), traditional examinations and assessment of practice within the practice setting. As well as completing the assessments set by the University of Bolton, you’ll develop a clinical portfolio and sit the Physician Associate National Certification Examination at the end of the course – the National Certification Examination is run by the Faculty of Physician Associates at the Royal College of Physicians (FPARCP) and incurs an additional cost. All students who qualify from UK physician associate programmes are required to pass the National Certification Examination before they can be declared fit to practice in the UK, and must then undergo recertification every six years.

Assessment methods

Level Assessment method
Level One Written exams (42%), Practical exams (25%), Coursework (33%)

Learning activities

Level Learning activity
Level One Scheduled learning and teaching activities (25%), Guided independent study (29%), Placement/study abroad (46%)

Enquire about this course

Key facts

  • Course type:
  • Start date:
  • Location:
    The University of Bolton
  • Intake year:
  • Award:
  • Duration:
    2 years