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Requirements for the Doctoral Degree, Medical Science, DMSc

Type: Definitions
Effective Date: 8/28/2023

Policy Summary

The policy provides guidance on the following aspects of the Medical Science Doctoral Degree, including definitions related to:

  • General Degree Requirements;
  • Requirements for a student to obtain a DMSc at NAU;
    • Academic requirements;
    • Professional development requirements;
    • Application and admission/designation requirements;
    • Time parameters to complete the degree.

Reason for This Policy

The policy guides students, faculty, staff, and administrators in the development and provision of doctoral degrees at the university.

Entities Affected by This Policy

  • Curriculum and Assessment Office
  • Graduate Advisors
  • Graduate College
  • Graduate Deans
  • Faculty
  • IRA
  • Office of the Registrar

Who Should Know This Policy

  • Curriculum and Assessment Office
  • Graduate Advisors
  • Graduate College
  • Graduate Deans
  • Faculty
  • IRA
  • Office of the Registrar
  • Students


ABOR Policy


Clinical practice: actual clock hours that a student spends providing patient care under the supervision of a licensed individual.


The following general requirements pertain to all students pursuing the Doctor of Medical Science degree. Additional program and discipline-specific requirements not addressed by this policy may be found in the program/department/school graduate handbook as well as the Academic Catalog.

1. General Degree Requirements - Doctor of Medical Science (DMSc)

Doctoral degrees at NAU require the successful completion of a minimum of 60 units of combined Master’s and Doctoral work in a course of study, and many degrees require more units for completion of the degree. In addition to coursework, all doctoral degrees require their graduate students to engage in extensive and rigorous research, scholarship, practicum, and/or clinical experiences and to prove a high level of competency in their field. In the case of the Doctor of Medical Science degree (DMSc) for Physician Assistants (PAs), all students complete their clinical experiences through their Master of Physician Assistant Studies (over 100 units of study).  The doctoral program provides a 24-unit post-professional doctorate degree designed to provide certified PAs with the knowledge and competencies to be critical members of a healthcare team.

2. The following requirements must be fulfilled for a student to graduate with a DMSc degree:

2.a. Academic Requirements

Students must complete all courses in an approved Program of Study (POS) totaling the number of units specified for the program and meet all academic requirements and standards set by the academic unit for the doctoral program. The POS must be approved by the student’s major advisor and other appropriate academic unit administrators designated by the program.

All graduate students must adhere to the academic requirements and criteria outlined by their program, the Graduate College, and NAU. See NAU Policy 100319: Academic Continuation, Probation, Dismissal, and Readmission - Graduate for more detailed information.

Graduate students must, at a minimum, meet the “Academic Requirements for Continuation in a Graduate Program” found in NAU Policy 100319: Academic Continuation, Probation, Dismissal, and Readmission - Graduate, in order to graduate. To begin the graduation process, please see NAU Policy 100334: Applying for Graduation, Graduate Students.

2.b. Professional Development Requirement

NAU’s professional development requirement provides doctoral students the benefit and opportunity to engage in and contribute to the full spectrum of educational and professional opportunities provided by faculty and other students within their program and across the university. The Graduate College and the University Graduate Committee concur that the doctoral professional development requirement at NAU may be met in a variety of ways, some of which fit the ethos of a particular discipline or type of cohort engaged in a particular program.

When considering appropriate standards for professional development, graduate program faculty are expected to encourage, design, provide, and monitor the professional development activities in which their doctoral students acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values appropriate to their discipline. These activities extend beyond the required coursework and may include but are not limited to: attending and presenting at professional conferences; participation and active engagement in presentations of scholarly work, seminars, and events; assisting and engaging in various funding efforts to support research, scholarship, and creative work; and active participation in professional development opportunities offered by programs and the Graduate College.

The Doctor of Medical Science fulfills the minimum of 5 hours of professional development activities through its Culminating Project.  As with all requirements, this is listed on the program of study and verified prior to submission of the final program of study.

2.c. Application and Admission/Designation

Admission requirements over and above admission to NAU are required.

Individual program admission requirements include:

  • Degree from an ARC-PA accredited PA program
  • Official transcripts from bachelor and master-level degree-granting institutions (must hold a master's degree for consideration)
  • Minimum overall graduate cumulative GPA of 3.0
  • Current resume or curriculum vitae

Application for and Admissions to Candidacy

There is no discrete candidacy stage associated with this degree.

2.d. Length of Degree

The DMSc doctoral degree requires a minimum of one full-time academic year of graduate study (or equivalent thereof). Most students are expected to complete the program within two years of matriculation.

2.e. Time Parameters to Complete Degree

Students who are admitted to the DMSc program have seven years to complete all requirements for the doctoral degree. The seven-year period starts with the first semester of doctoral study at Northern Arizona University. If students do not complete the degree in seven years, they may petition the Graduate College for one extension of this time limit.


Academic Requirements

Program faculty are responsible for creating and updating graduate programs, courses, and requirements in line with discipline-specific standards and university policy; for approving updates to Programs of Study; and for approving completion of degree requirements.

The Graduate College is responsible for updating and maintaining Programs of Study, confirming academic requirements and criteria and adherence to continuous enrollment, confirming completion of degree requirements, and conferring degrees.

Office of Curriculum and Assessment is responsible for supporting program faculty in articulating and defining program and course curricula and student learning outcomes and in accurately publishing curricular requirements in the academic catalog.

Professional Development Requirement

Program faculty are responsible for identifying and approving how the specific professional development requirement for their program will be met, in consultation with the dean of the Graduate College.

Related policies:

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