Best Online Physician Assistant Programs

Physician assistants enjoy a rewarding career, and many report considerable job satisfaction. If you are interested in becoming a physician assistant, pursuing a graduate degree in physician assistant studies can increase your chances of getting hired faster; if you’re already currently employed in the role, a master’s can open doors to higher salaries and new specializations.

Students in physician assistant programs receive hands-on clinical training in medicine and behavioral health that can be applied to a range of careers. They are introduced to bedside assessment and communication techniques and primary healthcare diagnostics. As part of their curriculum, they also learn how to communicate diagnoses orally and in written form, analyze lab data, provide therapy, and prescribe medications. Many students also enjoy the flexible, asynchronous format of master’s in physician assistant online programs.

Below, you’ll find our ranking of the country’s best online physician assistant master’s programs. Each of the schools listed offers focused coursework and professional training in physician assisting, and we’ve identified their relative academic strengths, highlighting their learning goals and innovative courses.

2016 Online Education Trends Report: Learn how online programs are changing the face of higher education.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description    
1

University of Wisconsin – Madison

 3/583.68%Madison, WI

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The online physician assistant master’s degree completion program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is an intensive track designed specifically for students who have previously received a degree from the school’s undergraduate Physician Assistant (PA) program. The program lasts 12 months and is only available online. Coursework is divided into three semesters: fall, spring, and summer, with most instruction taking the form of video lectures and related handouts. Students are also required to complete readings and exams, as well as participate in online discussions. Students conclude their studies with a capstone project, wherein they use medical literature to analyze and discuss a specific clinical question.

Entry into this online physician assistant master’s program is afforded only to graduates of UW-Madison’s Physician Assistant baccalaureate program. Application preference is granted to students who can best demonstrate strong ties to the PA Program, such as prior lecturing or teaching experience. In their application, students should include a personal statement explaining their reasons for entering the program, their past (or current) associations with Wisconsin’s PA program, and potential areas of interest for the capstone project. Students should also elaborate upon their expertise in computer technology (e.g., email, word processing, etc.).

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2

A.T. Still University of Health Sciences

 4/5N/AKirksville, MO

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A.T. Still University’s Advanced Physician Assistant (APA) program is tailored to meet the needs of working professionals and is available only for licensed physician assistants. The program offers concentrations in either Education/Leadership or Clinical Medicine, and provides a direct path for students seeking APA credentials. Students specializing in Clinical Medicine accumulate 20 credits hours through courses in healthcare delivery systems and PA professional practices, while students who choose the Education/Leadership concentration earn 40 credit hours in classes that focus on administrative issues and educational concepts. All students, regardless of concentration, must take 24 credit hours of clinical practice and medicine courses.

The online physician assistant master’s program is open to students who have earned a bachelor’s degree in physician assistant studies from an accredited college or university. Applicants must have a GPA of at least 2.50 for both their overall and PA programs. A.T. Still University is unique in that it also features a non-bachelor equivalency option. This option is designed for students with an associate’s degree or certificate in physician assistant studies and allows them to be considered for acceptance into the program despite their lack of a 4-year degree.

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3

Drexel University

 5/567.36%Philadelphia, PA

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Students can receive a Master of Health Science (MHS) degree from Drexel University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions. The Physician Assistant Post-Professional Master's program aims to improve upon basic physician assistant skills acquired in prior PA courses and to broaden students’ analytical thinking skills. Special attention is given to the areas of leadership, health policy, and practice, and graduates of this program will leave with enhanced clinical practice and research skills. The program consists of 45 credit hours, divided among a block of required core courses, a concentrated study track (students may choose between clinical practice or health promotion), and a capstone project, which is completed with close supervision from an assigned advisor. The program is available on a part-time basis for working professionals.

Applicants to Drexel’s online physician assistant master’s program must adhere to the program’s rigorous entry requirements. To be considered for admission, applicants must have previously graduated from a PA program, and they also need a bachelor's degree with an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0. Also required are two professional letters of recommendation and a personal essay, and students must cooperate with Drexel’s compliance process, which includes a background check and drug test.

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4

University of Nebraska Medical Center

 2/5N/AOmaha, NE

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University of Nebraska Medical Center offers an online master’s degree in Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS), which permits students with an undergraduate education to complete the additional coursework needed to obtain an advanced degree. The program lasts five semesters, with students taking one core (referred to as “didactic”) course each semester. These didactic courses account for 16 of the program’s 36 total credits, with course topics including clinical inquiry & writing, health care policy, and health care ethics. The school offers two concentration tracks, Clinical and Education, and courses from these tracks are used to supplement instruction from the didactic courses. The program concludes with a master’s project, which students complete in the final semester.

The online physician assistant master’s program at University of Nebraska is open to students with a bachelor’s degree from a PA program and current certification from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). Applicants must have earned a GPA of at least 2.0 in their PA program, and prior to joining the program, they must name an acceptable supervisor who has agreed to mentor the student for the duration of the program.

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5

Touro College

 3/541.14%New York, NY

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The Advanced Placement Physician Assistant Master's Completion Track is an excellent option for students and professionals with a desire to expand their clinical knowledge and academic status without interrupting their work schedules. The 17-credit curriculum can be completed in one year and is split into two semesters. Semester One details subjects such as research methods and medical ethics, and Semester Two examines delivery systems and evidence-based medicine. Throughout both semesters, students consistently work on a final master project, which accounts for three of the program’s courses and about one-fifth of the total credit hours. Members of this program must have access to Blackboard and will also need to purchase required textbooks.

This online physician assistant master’s program is a part of the BS/MS Physician Assistant Program bridge program offered by Touro College, although applicants do not need a degree from the school in order to be accepted. Prospective students will need to have graduated from both a 4-year university and an accredited Physician Assistant program. Students and professionals who apply to this program will also need to submit transcripts along with two letters of recommendation. Upon completion of this program, graduates will be awarded a Master of Science (MS) degree.

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As some of the first people you encounter in a medical facility, qualified physician assistants play an integral role in providing effective healthcare. Graduates from an online master’s in physician assistant studies are prepared to work in a variety of medical facilities and professional settings. Given the universal need for reliable medical care, the field remains stable, and qualified professionals will always be in demand. Candidates who enroll in master’s in physician assistant online programs are ideal for established positions in major medical facilities, assisting primary care providers and behavioral care specialists. Common positions in the field include:

Physician Assistant: Physician assistants provide health care under the supervision of resident physicians or surgeons. They examine patients, diagnose and recommend treatment for illnesses and injuries, and help educate patients and their families. They may also order diagnostic evaluations and lab tests, record and track patients’ medical histories, and lead community outreach events regarding health and wellness.

Health Educator or Community Health Worker: A health educator position is ideal for students who are trained in physician assisting but are looking to lead education initiatives in the community through outreach and social work. Professionals often focus their knowledge of medicine and healthcare in a particular area, working within schools, community centers, or public health facilities.

Occupational Therapist: Occupational therapists treat patients with injuries, illnesses, and disabilities, helping them recover while teaching them therapeutic techniques and exercises they can perform on their own. Most therapists work in hospitals and medical facilities, though many also pursue employment in clinics and schools, providing physical and occupational speech therapy services.

PositionMedian Annual SalaryProjected Growth Rate
Physician Assistant$90,93038%
Health Educator$41,83021%
Occupational Therapist$78,81027%

Though most academic courses can be taken online, online physician assistant master’s programs typically require students to complete an in-person clinical component. The residency requirement is one of the most important parts of the curriculum, and it’s important for students to work in settings conducive to their schedule and educational interests.

As you apply to schools, be sure to check the residency requirements at each prospective college. Most programs allow students to complete any in-person work locally, though some may prefer for students to commute to a particular facility near campus. Regardless of which online physician assistant studies program you choose from this list, you’ll be sure to find a school with a robust curriculum and a convenient residential requirement.