Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

Frequently asked questions

1. What are the job prospects for physician associates in Ireland?

Judging from the experience of the UK's NHS, it is predicted that demand for qualified PAs will quickly grow as clinicians and the public appreciate the unique and vital contributions PAs make to patient care. The first RCSI-trained PAs recently celebrated their graduation at a conferring ceremony on 30th May 2018. The graduates have been employed across Beaumont Hospital, the Mater Private and the Galway Clinic in both medical and surgical specialties. More details can be found here.

2. If I want to practice medicine, why not train as a doctor?

Working as a qualified physician associates can offer great variety and job satisfaction. PAs practice medicine as part of a consultant-led multidisciplinary healthcare team. PAs provide focused care to patients by supporting doctors in the diagnosis and management of patients in a wide range of healthcare settings. The role of the PA includes taking medical histories, performing examinations, making diagnoses and analysing test results. As PAs mature in their role, their level of autonomy in medical decision-making will increase.

Read here what qualified PA Daniel Meehan says about his role and why he chose to become a PA.

3. I’m a qualified doctor, can I apply?

The physician associate is a complementary role in the medical team, with PAs working under the supervision of doctors and surgeons. From the experiences of other programmes, it is recognised that the change in working relationship is challenging to those who have already worked as doctors. We are following the example set by programmes internationally and are therefore not accepting applications from qualified doctors at this time.

4. Do physician associates take jobs away from doctors or nurses?

Physician Associates are intended to complement the healthcare team. They do not replace doctors or nurses.

5. Can PAs prescribe?

As regulation is not yet in place, PAs the UK do not currently have prescribing rights. However, pharmacology is a key component of the PA curriculum as well as in the delivery of medical care.

6. How is the PA course taught?

The PA programme is an intensive, demanding and fast-paced two-year course with a balance of theory and practice. Teaching is delivered by experienced international PA educators and RCSI Medical School faculty.

The teaching/learning approach includes:

  • Problem-based case studies
  • Lectures
  • Workshops
  • Simulation
  • Online learning
  • Projects

Quality clinical placements will be completed in community medicine, general hospital medicine, emergency medicine, mental health, general surgery, obstetrics and gynecology and paediatrics. There will be a range of assessments including OSCEs, MCQs, Short Answer questions, essays and presentations. Year 2 will include a dissertation.

Click here for more information. To visit the PA programme at RCSI and meet with tutors and students, contact or call +353 1 402 2282.

7. What qualifications do I need to apply?

If you are a graduate of the health sciences or your career is already in healthcare, the PA programme is an exciting new opportunity. Applications are invited from Level 8 health science or science related degree candidates with a minimum classification of 2.2 award or equivalent qualification. 

8. What if my degree isn't science or health-related?

To be eligible to apply for the MSc in Physician Associate Studies, you must hold a Level 8 health science or science-related degree, with a minimum classification of 2.2 award or equivalent qualification. 

9. Is deferred entry an option?

As we do not hold applications from one year to the next, you will need to reapply if you wish to defer your application.

10. Will I be able to work while studying?

As this is an intense programme of study at postgraduate level, it is highly recommended that you do not work. In order to succeed you will need to commit fully to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to be a competent PA. The course is time intensive, with an equal amount of time spent outside of the classroom for every hour in the classroom.

11. Will this qualification allow me to practice as a PA in the USA once I have qualified?

As the USA has strict rules for all PAs educated outside of the country, it is not possible to practice as a PA with a qualification awarded outside the USA.

12. Are scholarships available?

Scholarships are available to successful applicants for the MSc in Physician Associate Studies, commencing January 2018. Blackrock Clinic and the Galway Clinic will each fully sponsor one candidate's fees for the duration of the two-year programme. Bon Secours Health System, will part-fund two candidates for the duration of the course.

To be eligible, applicants must first apply to and be accepted by RCSI to the programme. Successful candidates are then eligible to apply directly to the sponsor for all or any of the scholarship options available. Terms and conditions, as defined by the sponsor, apply to each of the scholarships. On graduation, successful applicants must be willing to work as a physician associate in any of the clinical locations operated by the scholarship sponsors.

For more information, contact