A physician assistant plays a crucial role in a healthcare team in many clinical practices and hospitals. As its name suggests, a physician assistant (PA) assists a doctor and practices medicine under the direct supervision of a licensed physician.
PAs work interdependently with doctors. They are qualified to provide therapeutic and diagnostic patient care in practically all medical settings and specialties. They record patient histories, order diagnostic and laboratory studies, perform physical examinations, develop treatment plans for patients, and even prescribe medications.
Today, physician assistants continue to be one of the most in-demand roles in the healthcare industry. The country’s National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants said more than 77% of physician assistants hold a master’s degree.
Suffice it to say, getting a master’s degree in physician assistant is indeed the clearest path to success.
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The American Medical Colleges (AAMC) said that by 2030, the US could possibly face a shortage of more than 100,000 physicians partly because of the continuous demand of the country’s aging population.
In the next ten years, the demand is said to grow by 11%, knowing there are still so many underserved populations across the US. With this massive shortage, the demand for roles supporting physicians is also growing.
One such position is the physician assistant. From obtaining patient histories to ordering and reading lab tests to doing physical exams and assisting in surgical procedures, a physician assistant indeed plays a crucial role in the health care system.
The most skilled Physician Assistants are sought-after in the medical and health care industry. These professionals are expected to have undergone rigorous training and exhibit a passion for the practice, as well as an impressive resilience to the challenges of the field.
With an online Master of Physician Assistant Studies degree, students become qualified for PA careers in a variety of settings. It is extremely important to find the most suitable online graduate program to truly gain the competence for this strenuous and demanding healthcare work.
Our list consists of the country’s best-known graduate schools that are known for their outstanding delivery of Master of Physician Assistant Studies programs online, as evidenced by these program features:
- Delivered in 100% online or blended/hybrid and asynchronous or synchronous format that is ideal for professionals seeking to earn a graduate degree,
- A comprehensive Master of Physician Assistant Studies coursework emphasizing primary care training and clinical experience that enable students to take their careers to greater heights,
- Online faculty or instructors consisting of experts with an extensive Master of Physician Assistant Studies background OR who work as Physician Assistants,
- Features a high-quality Learning Management System offering students virtual learning resources and tools,
- Accreditation from academic agencies that set the standard for online graduate program instruction and with a specific focus on Physician Assistant Studies,
- Affiliation with organizations promoting Physician Assistant Studies as a discipline and a profession,
- Favorable feedback from current and former students who speak of an excellent learning experience.
To learn more, see our Methodology page.
Best Online Master of Physician Assistant Studies Graduate Schools
If you wish to secure a physician assistant job, getting a Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) is the best way, although you can still become one even if you have other title specifics like the Master of Clinical Health Services (MCHS). What’s important is that you choose a PA program that is duly accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission for the Physician-Assistant (ARC-PA).
Students should also complete supervised clinical training in areas like emergency medicine or pediatrics. They should also pass the PANCE (Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination) Exam from NCCPA (National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants). Once these are completed, they can be called Physician-Assistant-Certified (PA-C).
Today, many schools and universities are offering online physician assistant programs to help minimize the burden on students. Here are ten of the best online physician assistant master’s degree graduate schools to choose from.
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
This online physician assistant program allows a practicing physician assistant holding a bachelor’s degree to earn a master’s degree in physician assistant studies. This way, the PA can still work and complete the program at the same time.
- The MPAS programs start three times every year: in spring, summer, and fall.
- To qualify, you must have a bachelor’s degree in physician studies from an accredited college.
- You should also have an active license as a physician assistant, and an NCCPA certification.
- This is a 12-week program with three clinical courses (4 weeks each course), and one research experience course.
- The program focuses on updating and improving your current clinical skills; while the research course trains you on how to use clinical and evidence-based decision-making.
Standout Features of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley- Online Physician Assistant Program
Most graduate schools do not offer scholarship programs. But with this university, anybody can qualify to earn a scholarship and other financial aid opportunities as long as you enroll at least two months prior to the starting date of the program.
The school is also known for its accomplished faculty members who work individually with the students to guarantee the best outcome of the program.
Did you know?
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley consistently tops educational rankings for Online Physician Assistant Programs. The school was also number four in intelligent.com’s ranking of the same category.
The University of Nebraska Medical Center
The University of Nebraska Medical Center recognizes how impractical is it for students holding a graduate degree to go to their college campus to finish their masters, thus, they are offering the Degree Advancement Option (DAO) program.
Especially for working physician assistants, this online program allows working physician assistants to step up from their bachelor’s degree to their master’s degree without having to go to school physically.
- After you complete 16 credits of the program, you have the option to complete your remaining credits either in educational or clinical courses.
- The master’s degree is five semesters long (36 credits). The didactic coursework is composed of courses in healthcare management, healthcare ethics, and a capstone.
- Students can complete the clinical track on a concentration of their choice. The track is designed to help students improve community health and requires students to complete 800 supervised hours of clinical experience.
- The educational track is more inclined toward students who wish to have a career in the academic field. Students need to complete 320 hours of supervised teaching practice in a local community college or higher education.
Standout Features of the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Master of Physician Assistants Studies
The major concentration of the program’s clinical track includes internal medicine, family medicine, psychiatry, pediatrics, and surgery. These concentrations have different sub-concentrations as well, making it easy for students to master the clinical track in their personal field of interest.
Did you know?
The school is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and approved by the Regents of the University of Nebraska and the Nebraska State Department of Education. It also offers military tuition assistance, as well as other VA education benefits.
Yale University has addressed the increasing shortage of physician assistants with a master’s degree, so they offer one of the most in-demand online programs today, the Master of Medical Science.
This program is designed for practicing physician assistants who want to become advanced patient-focused clinicians. Since the program is online, those PAs and other medical professionals who are busy with their jobs can still complete the coursework anytime.
- While the program is delivered online, students should be ready to go to Yale University for on-campus immersion sessions (3 sessions).
- To be qualified for this online PA program, you should have a bachelor’s degree, and your GPA should be at least 2.80.
- This physician assistant degree program has 118 credit hours and takes about 28 months to complete.
- The PA online program teaches PA students and other healthcare professionals a lot of practical and theoretical knowledge to treat and diagnose diseases, effectively communicate with patients, and use the latest procedures in a clinical setting to get a positive health outcome.
Standout Features of the Yale University’s Online Master’s Degree Program in Medical Science
This accredited PA program is divided into four components. The first twelve months are didactic classes. This bridge program requires students to complete 120 clock hours of clinical rotations in a clinical setting as well.
The remaining 16 months are more on practical learning. Medical professionals and students alike will understand more about clinical medicine and should complete clinical rotations at a clinical site.
Did You Know?
Yale University’s online classes are very small and close-knit so students will get the most out of the online programs, and they can interact with their faculty and peers easily. This online learning, however, is only available to permanent citizens and residents of the US.
University of North Dakota
This is one of the many online programs the University of North Dakota offers. The online PA program will gear you towards becoming a qualified physician assistant and working harmoniously with physicians, emphasizing care in rural or underserved communities.
- This online PA program integrates clinical knowledge and skills using different techniques to deliver the best learning.
- The main goal of this bridge program is to prepare prospective students and other healthcare professionals as primary care providers in different settings, using a problem-oriented method that involves sound judgment and logical thinking.
- Through high-fidelity simulation and advanced learning, students will demonstrate competencies in the management and assessment of patients, develop primary health care teams, get involved in critical analysis of literature relative to medical practice experiences, and serve other healthcare professionals and advocates for future PA students.
Standout Features of the University of Dakota- Online Master’s of Physician Assistants Studies
The online physician assistant master’s program is recognized by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant. This national commission accreditation has also granted Accreditation-Continued status to the PA program by the University of North Dakota.
Did you Know?
The average class size for all the online PA programs of the University of North Dakota is only 35 students to allow for more personalized attention to the online students. The school also offers a hybrid program option for those who prefer an alternating online and on-campus experience.
Reasons To Get Online Physician Assistant Master’s Programs
Physician assistants need further training and education, and most importantly, hands-on training to be effective in their field. This is why some students who wish to pursue physician assistant studies online are hesitant, fearing that they might not learn the needed skills expected from them.
However, this is not the case for physician assistants. Online physician assistant programs have didactic portions that are done online. These physician assistant programs are highly effective in giving students the theoretical concepts (e.g. medical histories) of physician assistants they need and putting these theories into hands-on training (medical training, clinical experience).
There are several reasons why online physician assistant master’s programs are good options, especially for prospective students who are still not convinced about distance learning.
A PA Online Program Offers More Flexibility
An online physician program gives students the freedom they need as opposed to their on-campus counterparts. With an online physician assistant master’s, you can work on your own time, or watch lectures when you’re vacant. That way, you won’t have to juggle your time between work and classes. It becomes easier for you to balance your education and other responsibilities.
An Online Physician Assistant Program is Not That Expensive
Depending on the PA program, online physician assistant students are charged by credit hour. This means you won’t have to worry about paying other unnecessary fees. Some schools also offer financial aid and scholarships.
Online Assistant Programs Give You More Personal Space
Not only will you have the freedom to study your lectures, but you can also achieve better flexibility with your coursework and assignments in online assistant programs. Meaning, that you are not required to complete specific tasks on a set schedule. This gives you more time to work on your materials at your own pace.
Master of Physician Assistant Studies: Why You Should Earn One
A master’s in physician assistant program is a highly valued credential that guarantees you a stable and lucrative career in medical care. Aside from that, there are other several reasons why earning a master’s in this field is a wise move.
Career Advancement. As a physician assistant with a master’s degree, you may be qualified to obtain additional specialty education like in psychiatry or emergency medicine. This helps you gain bigger responsibilities, which equate to higher pay and even secure bigger roles like a healthcare administrator or staff supervisor.
Working with Doctors. It is not through coincidence that a physician assistant can closely work with the best physicians on a regular basis. State licensure laws, in fact, require a physician assistant to have a formal professional partnership with a supervising doctor. This partnership includes daily teamwork that helps the PA hone their patient care skills, and even teach them new things about the industry.
PAs can Specialize. The clinical training in PA programs includes different fields of medicine. If you closely look at a physician assistant career outlook, it’s easy to target a specialty that you think will give you the best career in the industry; whether it’s family medicine or emergency medicine, internal medicine, geriatric medicine, or even pediatrics.
Job Stability. A physician assistant is one of the most in-demand career tracks today, and there is no shortage of employment. This demand is partly because of the rapid increase in healthcare in the US. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the healthcare industry is expected to increase by 13 percent by 2031, more than double the rate of an average US occupation.
Comfortable Earnings. A physician assistant master’s program allows you to earn more than the average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says PA jobs are the seventeenth fastest-growing careers in the US. PAs can earn a median annual pay of $121,530.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can you do with a Physician Assistant Master’s Degree?
Earning a master’s degree in PA studies allows you to secure a lot of career opportunities across different health care settings. Aside from being a physician assistant, you can also have these careers below once you complete your master’s degree in physician assistant.
- Clinical Advisors: They work with physicians in a private clinic or in family practice. They provide long-term medical care and can also manage chronic or acute conditions in patients.
- Surgical Assistants: They assist doctors in performing surgical procedures. When not in surgery, they check patients, make rounds, or attend post-op needs of patients. This field requires a number of years of intensive clinical or surgical experience.
- Rural Area Practitioners: In rural communities, there is a huge shortage of doctors and healthcare professionals. Physician assistants can fill in these roles and serve as primary care providers to patients.
- Clinical Service Managers: Professionals holding a master’s in PA studies can go into management roles in healthcare organizations. They serve in private practice settings, handling business management duties and determining clinical priorities for physicians, nurses, and other healthcare workers.
What are the usual admission requirements for the online Physician Assistant Master’s Programs?
Students should already hold a bachelor’s degree prior to applying to the physician assistant programs. Depending on the school, enrollees may be required to undergo several diagnostic tests or must meet the school’s cumulative undergraduate science GPA. Most programs require personal essays and recommendation letters as well.
Where can physician assistants practice?
Students holding online physician assistant programs can work in different specialties, ranging from Primary Care to Surgery. Some additional specialties include:
- Traditional Practices: Internal Medicine, Primary Care, Family Medicine
- Hospital-Based: Residency Support, Hospitalist, Rapid Response Teams
- Subspecialties: Surgery, Pediatrics, Women’s Health, Emergency Medicine
- Non-Traditional Practices: Plastic Surgery, Transplant, Neurosurgery, Critical Care Medicine
How long does it take to complete a Physician Assistant’s Master’s degree program?
Online programs for a master’s in physician assistant require 36 to 44 credits and may be completed in just 2 1/2 years. For those who already have an undergraduate bachelor’s in physician assistant, they can follow a short format so they can complete the coursework in just a year.
How much should you prepare for a master’s in physician assistant program?
The cost will depend on many factors. Your state residency is a crucial consideration because most universities and colleges charge higher fees for out-of-state students.
But there are also schools that charge a flat tuition rate for their online programs, regardless of the student’s residency. Another factor is the technology fees. Since the programs are offered online, technology fees are required– something that you cannot see in a traditional brick-and-mortar setting.
- An online Master’s program for a Physician Assistant offers students the flexibility they need, especially if they are working professionals. And even if it’s an online class, it still follows the same curriculum as the on-campus option.
- If you are presently working as a Physician Assistant, and you feel like there is still more room for growth and improvement, a Master’s in Physician Studies is a great pathway.