Duke University’s Physicians’ Assistant Program – How to Get In

Duke University’s Physician Assistant program is one of the most competitive in the country., With over 4000 applicants for only 90 spots, you’ll need to work hard to stand out with your application for this no.1 ranking PA program (US News & World Report).

This article provides a concise overview of Duke’s admissions procedure, explaining how to apply and providing tips on how to increase your acceptance chances.

Ready to get started? Let’s go.

Interested in learning about the PA Programs of other schools and colleges, finding useful admissions tips, etc? Check out our PA Programs articles here – we cover all major schools!

Duke’s PA Program: Official Application Process

Since Duke is one of the 95% of PA programs that use the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants (CASPA), which permits prospective candidates to apply to numerous schools at once, the application period for the program begins on April 28.

All CASPA applicants need to submit the following:

  • Personal Information
  • At least 1000 hours of Health-Related Training or Volunteer Experience
  • Academic History
  • Official Test Scores Required for the course
  • A list of institutions attended, and coursework completed
  • At least 3 references, including one from a health care professional with whom the applicant has worked, employers, and professors.

After completing the CASPA application, Duke will email the student a supplemental application, which is due by September 15. Applications are only reviewed after both the CASPA and the supplemental applications are submitted, and a $60, non-refundable supplemental application processing fee is paid.

Since applications are reviewed in the order they are received, Duke recommends submitting your application well in advance of the official submission deadline of September 1.

Duke PA Program: Acceptance Rate

As stated in the intro, Duke’s PA program is super competitive, with an approx 2.3% acceptance rate.

Only 250 of all applicants receive an invitation for a personal interview with either faculty, PA alumni, or other Duke health professionals.

Candidates get the admissions committees’ decisions no later than March 1. Candidates who receive admission offers must submit a $1,125 registration and deposit fee while those who did not receive an acceptance letter despite passing the interview are added to a ranked waiting list.

Duke’s PA Program: How to Get In

Any successful applicant can tell you the secrets and tips required to make the admissions list, but this article covers a handful of them.


While Duke states it has no official minimum requirements for the course, a quick look at the profile of admitted students tells a different story. The average student in the class of 2021 has the following qualifications:

  • Overall GPA: 3.53
  • Natural science GPA: 3.42
  • Total natural science hours: 65
  • GRE General Test scores:
    • Verbal: 152
    • Quantitative: 153
    • Analytical Writing: 4
  • Hours of patient care experience: 2908

Furthermore, Duke requires all students to have an undergraduate degree, which includes the eight prerequisite courses listed below:

  1. 3 semester hours of anatomy
  2. 3 semester hours of physiology
  3. 3 semester hours of microbiology
  4. 3 semester hours of another biology course 
  5. 3 semester hours of second, other biology course
  6. 4 semester hours of chemistry course with lab work
  7. 4 semester hours of second chemistry course with lab work
  8. 2 semester hours of statistics

The supplemental application is where applicants distinguish themselves. It consists of a form and 3 essays about yourself. The form helps you determine if you meet Duke’s prerequisites by using information from you and your CAPSA application. The essays let you detail your growth as a student and a person.

According to the program director, applicants have used the essays to showcase their life experiences and their struggles in education and employment.

Related: Medical School Diversity Essay Examples (Ranked Best To Worst!)

If you meet all the requirements, submit your application before the deadline, and impress the admissions team with your story, you could be one of the 250 applicants chosen for an interview.


Successful applicants receive an invitation to an interview day that consists of two one-on-one interviews and a team exercise. Interviewers observe the teams of 5 candidates as they discuss how they would respond to a hypothetical ethical situation.

Prepping for this stage is essential. Here are a few questions you might be asked at the interview:

  1. What do you think is the biggest problem facing PAs?
  2. What is evidence-based healthcare?
  3. A patient is sent home at the end of a long day, but you gave him a medication he is allergic to. Your supervising physician says not to worry and that he’ll be fine. What do you do?
  4. What is the difference between a PA and MD?
  5. Do you think everyone should have access to healthcare, regardless if they can pay?

We recommend asking in various Reddit/PA program communities closer to your interview date to see what Duke’s admissions team is asking/thinking about when it comes to interviewing candidates.

The questions above can provide a good starting base, however.

Duke’s PA Program: Helpful Tips and Tricks from Successful Applicants

Successful candidates can have a wealth of advice to share with anyone considering applying for this course. Here is a summary of some of the top tips for prospective PAs, discovered through interviews and talks with successful candidates:


Remember your deadlines! Duke requires you to submit a lot of courses and test scores before they will even consider your application. You have a better chance of getting an interview at Duke if you apply earlier because of the rolling admissions policy.


Wherever possible, an alumni mentor could be an excellent resource to draw on. Every student admits to feeling overwhelmed during the application process, so seeking advice from a mentor who has completed the program can be beneficial.

For this reason, we really suggest spending time on the r/prephysicianassistant and r/physicianassistant subreddits and reading and starting threads.

Essay/Statement Planning

Write down all of your patient experience stories and brainstorm different ways you can use them. Both interviews and essays will ask you for your experience with patient care, so keeping a detailed account to refer back to is always a good idea.

How long did it take to write my personal statement? I would say I wrote mine over the course of 6 months. I started by brainstorming and compiling ideas/experiences really early which helped me narrow down what I wanted to talk about when the time came to start writing a rough draft. Then I wrote like 5 different rough drafts and ended up pulling the best parts from each to piece together the final copy with help from my friends, family, coworkers, etc…I would say my diversity of experiences and personal mission and values helped me get into Duke.

– u/futurepa1

Familiarize yourself with Duke’s Mission Statement

Mission. The Duke Physician Assistant Program’s mission is to educate caring, competent primary care physician assistants who practice evidence-based medicine, are leaders in the profession, dedicated to their communities, culturally sensitive, and devoted to positive transformation of the health care system.


Knowing Duke’s statement and ethos, then tailoring your essays to match it, can really help an application stand out.

Duke is very big on getting interesting, diverse people with good positive attitudes. There were people with GPAs in the low 3s in my class who had cool lives and positive attitudes

– u/ChickenWizardMeat

Really show how you align to their goal, mission, and values and be very enthusiastic and personable.

– u/futurepa1

Remember that while this process may be difficult, a successful application is doable!

Duke’s PA Program: Important Data

Duke PA Program Tuition

Duke’s PA program is priced differently per semester (fall, spring, summer) and year (1&2).

The direct tuition cost of attendance for Year 1 (10 mos) is $46,843. For Year 2 (12 mos) it’s slightly less at $45,259.

Estimated financial packages to cover the full cost of training work out to be $82,609 in Year 1 and $82,144 in Year 2.

You can find the full breakdown of costs on Duke’s website here.

How long is Duke’s PA Program?

The PA program runs across six semesters and takes two years of full-time study to complete.

Duke PA Program History

Duke’s PA program began in 1965 as a two-year curriculum founded by Dr. Eugene A. Stead with the intention to increase public access to health services by producing mid-level practitioners.

A response to a shortage of medical personnel in the late 1950s, Duke’s program became the first formal physician assistant program in the US and started out with four former Nacy corpsmen as their first enrolled student intake, graduating in 1967.

The next year, Prentiss Harrison became the first African-American graduate of Duke’s PA Program and the first African-American PA in the country.

More on Duke’s PA Program

The video below provides more insight into Duke’s PA program and what you can expect if you’re lucky enough to enroll…