Diploma Physician Associate Studies


Program Description

Physician Associate (formerly known as Physician Assistant) is a rapidly growing healthcare role in the UK, working alongside doctors in hospitals and in GP surgeries. Physician Associates support doctors in the diagnosis and management of patients. They are trained to perform a number of roles including taking medical histories, performing examinations, analysing test results, and diagnosing illnesses under the direct supervision of a doctor. We are currently taking applications for January 2017 entry. January 2014 saw the re-opening of the Physician Associate Studies programme (formerly Physician Assistant) at the University of Birmingham in partnership with the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust) and other hospitals and practices in the Midlands. We are delighted to offer this opportunity to graduates to make a valuable contribution to the nation’s health. The development of the profession has been led by the Department of Health and has involved the Royal Colleges of Physicians and of General Practitioners as well as the profession itself through the former UK Association of Physician Associates (UKAPA) which is now the Faculty of Physician Associates at the Royal College of Physicians. University of Birmingham staff has taken a key role in the development of the programme at a national, as well as a regional, level in response to the need, identified by local healthcare providers. Successful completion of the programme will qualify you to practise as Physician Associates (PAs) in the UK (NB: the UK PA training programme does not qualify you to work in the USA). This course is two, full time, calendar years in duration, each lasting approximately 48 weeks, plus an additional month. You can expect to be studying 50+ hours per week.

Course content

The course leaders regard integration of theory and practice as fundamental to clinical learning. Theory is learned mostly through problem-based learning and you will experience medicine in both hospital and community attachments. The rich ethnic and socio-economic diversity of the 5.5 million strong West Midlands population offers unrivalled opportunities for clinical learning, and placements seek to optimise this. From the first semester, you will have contact with patients as you are attached for 5 days of clinical experience to a General Practice in the West Midlands. The second year continues the problem-based learning approach and integrates mental health in community medicine, Reproductive and Child Health, Surgery, GP, Emergency Medicine A&E and Acute Admissions. Throughout the course, you will receive teaching in a variety of forms; lectures, seminars, tutorials, laboratory work, and bedside demonstrations. Simulation is fundamental to this course, using simulated patients (who will teach you communication and examination skills, including gynaecological and urological examination) and, when appropriate, high tech simulation methodologies such as Harvey and SimMan. Simulation aims both to prepare you for the clinical world and to train you in a safe, non-threatening environment. You will sit a national exam at the end of the second year, including a Multiple Choice Question (MCQ) paper and an Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE).


Some health professions are registered with a dedicated professional body (e.g. GMC and NMC) or with the Health and Care Professions Council. Many others exist for many years before registered status is achieved, being employed by the NHS and others and providing a valuable healthcare service. This is not yet a regulated profession and whilst national moves towards protected registration are underway and much progress is being made with the support of Trusts and Royal Colleges, the University cannot guarantee their successful completion. For the time being graduates join a Managed Voluntary Register.


We welcome applications from people with disabilities. However, the requirements of the Physician Associate role and of the training mean that candidates must be able to demonstrate certain capacities. It is not possible to omit any part of the curriculum and all students must, therefore, have adequate vision, hearing, mobility and manual dexterity, and dyslexia must not impair the rapid and accurate reading required in clinical practice. The requirements are explained in more detail in the Code of Conduct.

Health Requirements

The UK Government Health Authorities require that students working in the clinical area must be screened to ensure that they are not carriers of the Hepatitis B virus. All applicant who accept an offer will need to:

  • Undertake a screening blood test for Hepatitis B
  • If negative, start a course of immunisation
  • Thereafter provide certified evidence of immunity

Prospective students are strongly advised to take the blood test in good time. Applicants who are Hepatitis B positive or refuse to have the blood test may be refused admission.

Please note: in response to guidelines published by the Department of Health, students on the University of Birmingham Physician Associate programme will not be expected to undertake, or be involved in, exposure prone procedures (EPPs).

Why study this course

  • Make a real difference to patient care and the NHS while typically earning a salary of £30,764 rising to £40,558 (with possible progression in exceptional cases to £47,088)… All UoB's graduates are currently being paid at least £30,000 p.a. Many Trusts offer a formal internship training year which would typically start on approximately £25,500
  • Be part of this new and rapidly growing UK profession and follow a career path which has already had proven success in the US (there are over 86,000 Physician Associates practising there)
  • Pursue a profession that is supported by the NHS and the Department of Health: over 30 hospitals employ PAs across the UK and the numbers are growing fast
  • 95% of our past graduates are now working as Physician Associates in almost every clinical area from specialist mental health to paediatric surgery to oncology to general practice.

Entry requirements

2:1 in a Life Sciences Degree (eg. Anatomy, Biology, Biochemistry, Biomedical Science, Medical Science, Nursing, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy, Zoology) or equivalent qualification If you do not have a life science degree we will consider your A-levels and GCSE results and require:

  • A Level Chemistry Grade C or equivalent
  • GCSE Maths and English Grade B or above

Please note: extensive experience in the health service may contribute to your application if the above requirements are not fully met.

International students

If English is not your first language, you will also need an English Language qualification such as IELTS – 7.5 cumulative, with no less than 7.0 in any band. If you have a UK degree or have lived in the UK for some years we can require you to take IELTS to demonstrate you can achieve this standard. The International Student Advisory Service offers help and advice to international students.

Last updated Jan 2020

About the School

The College of Medical and Dental Sciences at the University of Birmingham is a major international centre for research and education in medicine, medical sciences, dentistry, nursing and physiotherap ... Read More

The College of Medical and Dental Sciences at the University of Birmingham is a major international centre for research and education in medicine, medical sciences, dentistry, nursing and physiotherapy. Read less