Best Physician Assistant Programs

Interested in a healthcare career? Learn about the best physician assistant programs. Physician assistants are trained to diagnose and treat patients.

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by Mackenzie Maxwell

Published on July 28, 2022 · Updated on July 29, 2022

Reviewed by Brandy Gleason, MSN, MHA, BC-NC

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Physician assistants are medical providers who work under the supervision of doctors. These professionals diagnose, advise, and treat patients in a variety of healthcare settings.

Physician assistant candidates must earn a bachelor's and master's degree. They then must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) to be certified. Earning a bachelor's from a physician assistant program does not allow a learner to qualify for this exam, but it can prepare students for graduate programs.

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Some schools offer combined bachelor of science (BS) and master of science (MS) programs. These physician assistant BS/MS programs allow graduates to sit for the PANCE. Candidates spend 3-6 years in these programs, which typically cost more than $100,000 in tuition.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that physician assistants earn a median annual wage of $121,530, as of May 2021. Furthermore, the BLS projects that jobs for these professionals will increase by 31% between 2020 and 2030. This is nearly four times the average projected job growth rate for all jobs (8%).

What Is a Dual-Degree Physician Assistant Program?

A dual-degree physician assistant program allows a learner to earn both the bachelor's and master's degree they need to pursue their future career. A bachelor's degree alone does not allow a graduate to practice medicine. Physician assistants must earn graduate degrees before they can practice medicine.

Physician assistant BS/MS programs offer advantages. The combined path sometimes takes less time to complete than earning a bachelor's and a master's degree separately.

Also, students in dual-degree programs go through an admissions process just once. Graduates from bachelor's-only programs must apply to competitive master's programs and face the possibility of not getting into a physician assistant school at all.

Our Top Pick

Duquesne University — Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Why It's #1: Duquesne earns the top spot on our list of the best physician assistant programs thanks to several metrics. This degree combines bachelor's and master's programs for a five-year degree. And 100% of its students receive financial aid. Of all the learners who enroll, 81% graduate, which is significantly higher than most physician assistant programs. Duquesne boasts a 74% admissions rate and a student-to-teacher ratio of 13-to-1.

Read Our Rankings Methodology

Best Accredited Dual-Degree Physician Assistant Programs

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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#1

Duquesne University

School Information
Location Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Admission Rate 74%
Graduation Rate 81%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 21% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost for Total Program  
In State | $298,324
Out of State | $298,324

Credits to Graduate
180

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. 

Duquesne offers a degree it says is the first of its kind. This five-year, entry-level program allows students to earn both a bachelor's in health sciences and a master's degree in physician assistant studies. In the fifth year, students complete clinical externships. 

Applicants must hold a GPA of at least 3.0. However, most admitted students have a much higher average. Candidates should also demonstrate leadership and extracurricular involvement from high school. The school does not admit transfer students with more than 12 credits. 

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#2

Springfield College

School Information
Location Springfield, Massachusetts
Admission Rate 68%
Graduation Rate 74%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Program
Undergraduate Portion | $166,780
Graduate Portion | $118,320 

Credits to Graduate
120 through Year 4
112 in professional phase

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc.

Springfield's physician assistant BS/MS program takes six years to complete. The final year of the program includes about 40 hours per week of clinical rotations. The school admits 35 students for each cohort. Applicants must apply as early decision candidates. 

Springfield does not require SAT or ACT scores for this program. Applicants must submit documentation of at least 15-20 patient contact hours, which can be through volunteering or work. Successful applicants have an average GPA of 3.5. 

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#3

Wagner College

School Information
Location Staten Island, New York
Admission Rate 71%
Graduation Rate 71%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 0% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Year
Undergraduate Students | $56,180
Graduate Students | $56,180

Credits to Graduate
108

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. 

This three-year physician assistant degree program combines the final two years of a bachelor's program with a master's program. Candidates gain hands-on experience, including patient interviews in the first year. Students complete clerkships in their areas of interest and must complete thesis projects. 

Before they apply, students must finish all of the program's prerequisite courses. Applicants should hold a GPA of at least 3.2, with 3.0 or better in all science courses. 

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#4

D'Youville College

School Information
Location Buffalo, New York
Admission Rate 88%
Graduation Rate 63%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 43% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Total Program
In State | $115,382
Out of State | $115,382 

Credits to Graduate
175

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc.

In this physician assistant BS/MS program at DYU, students complete clinical rotations, graduate seminars, and final projects. Applicants must submit transcripts showing an average grade of at least 85. 

Candidates must also submit three letters of recommendation, an admissions essay, and documentation showing they completed at least 80 hours of direct patient contact before year three. DYU selects a few applicants to complete interviews as a final step in the application process.

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#5

King's College

School Information
Location Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
Admission Rate 81%
Graduation Rate 64%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 3% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Year
For first three years | $39,522 per year
For final two years | $47,175 per year

Credits to Graduate
202

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc.

The physician assistant BS/MS program at King's takes five years to complete. The first three years include pre-professional and general education courses. In the final two years, students learn medical practice, complete clinical rounds, and take a capstone course. The capstone class includes a project, a practical test, and a computer-based exam. 

Candidates may apply as first-year, transfer, or graduate students. SAT and ACT scores are optional for undergraduate applications. 

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Popular Online Physician Assistant Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

How We Rank Schools

Each year, the BestColleges Ranking Team evaluates hundreds of programs to produce our annual Best Physician Assistant ranking. In 2022, the team sourced the most recent data available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Navigator, both of which are hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics. We identified 31 schools that qualify for our ranking list based on the following criteria.

To ensure the accuracy and quality of our final ranked list, the ranking team reviewed each qualifying school to ensure it met the criteria for our ranking, and then applied our proprietary ranking methodology to identify the best schools offering this program in the nation. Each school is ranked based on a formula measuring academic factors (60%) and affordability (40%).

The BestColleges Ranking Team is made up of contributors from our data science and product management teams. These contributors operate independently from the editorial team. All BestColleges school rankings are produced by the ranking team and are free of editorial influence. Read our Editorial Policy and Standards to learn more.

BestColleges' Ranking Factors

Frequently Asked Questions About Physician Assistant Programs

Is a physician assistant bachelor's degree worth it?

A physician assistant bachelor's degree is worth the cost if the graduate goes on to get a master's degree and pass the PANCE.

The BLS projects that jobs for physician assistants will increase by 31% between 2020 and 2030. It also reports that physician assistants earn a median annual salary of $121,530, as of May 2021. This is more than double the median annual wage of $45,760 for all workers.

However, graduates with physician assistant bachelor's degrees and no further education in this discipline may have a hard time finding the job they had initially hoped to pursue.

Dual-degree programs can be options for learners who know they want to become a physician assistant, allowing them to earn their bachelor's and master's degrees.

What can I do with a physician assistant bachelor's degree?

Many graduates with physician assistant bachelor's degrees go on to graduate-level programs, which train them to work as physician assistants. Some of these candidates apply to separate master's programs. Others continue in their dual-degree programs.

Those who do not want to earn a master's degree can pursue work in support roles in the medical field, such as pharmaceutical representative, patient advocate, or medical technologist. Graduates can also choose continuing education in different areas, such as science teaching, nursing, or dentistry.

What continuing education is available for physician assistant graduates?

Continuing education is an important part of becoming a physician assistant. Graduates with a physician assistant bachelor's degree can go on to earn their master's degree in the discipline.

Or they may decide to attend other types of graduate programs, such as medical school.

Licensed physician assistants also continue their education to keep their licenses up to date. These credits may also help them specialize in a specific type of medicine, learn a new skill, or understand new research. Continuing education can include postgraduate programs, professional certifications, and medical conference seminars.

How much money can I make with a physician assistant bachelor's degree?

Graduates who go on to earn their master's degree and become a licensed physician assistant earn a median salary of $121,530 annually.

Professionals with physician assistant bachelor's degrees who do not go on to earn a graduate degree are likely to learn less, but they have many career options. Below are some career options for these graduates and their average annual salaries, according to Payscale:

What are the highest-paying jobs with a physician assistant bachelor's degree?

For those who want to earn higher salaries, the best option may be to earn a master's degree and work as a physician assistant. Data from Payscale shows that physician assistants may be able to boost their salaries if they have skills in:

For graduates who do not want to earn a master's degree, higher-paying career options include pathology assistant and pharmacology sales representative.

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