The Top Online Physician Assistant Master’s Programs
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A physician's assistant master's degree helps prepare graduates for careers in hospitals, outpatient centers, physician's offices, and other medical environments. Physician's assistants may examine patients, administer treatments or medication, and assist in surgeries or other medical procedures.
Earning an online master's degree as a physician's assistant typically requires 30-100 credits, which students can complete in 1-3 years at top online schools. Online program costs are comparable to traditional programs, although students may save on housing and transportation.
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According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average cost of tuition and fees for one year of a graduate degree in 2019-2020 was $12,410 for public institutions and $28,430 at private institutions.
Graduates with a master's degree as a physician's assistant can enter growing fields. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 31% job growth for physician assistants from 2020-2030. The BLS reports that physician assistants earned median salaries of $121,530 in May 2021, much higher than the average for all occupations.
What Can I Expect From an Online Physician Assistant Master's Program?
Aspiring physician's assistants (PAs) can benefit from the ability to handle diverse tasks and communicate clearly to patients, doctors, and colleagues. PAs must remain calm in high-stress environments and situations that require decisions under pressure..
Physician's assistant graduate school programs vary in length. Some online programs only require 30 credits and can be completed in about a year of full-time study. However, other top online programs require 90-100 credits and take most full-time students 2-3 years to complete.
Many online programs require some on-campus coursework and previous medical work experience of at least 500 hours or more. Physician's assistant online master's degrees may also require students to complete clinical practicums in various specialties.
While PAs are not required to specialize, some choose to focus on one type of medicine. Common specialties include family medicine, general surgery, emergency medicine, pediatrics, internal medicine, dermatology, and surgery subspecialties.
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Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
Best Accredited Online Physician Assistant Master's Programs
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New Haven, CT
- 4 years
Yale School of Medicine Physician Assistant (PA) Online Program awards a Master of Medical Science (M.M.Sc.) and prepares graduates to seek licensure as physician assistants. The curriculum blends online classes with in-person learning experiences, with students required to complete 15-months of clinical placements and attend three immersions on Yale’s campus.
Yale School of Medicine’s PA Online curriculum prepares students to become compassionate, well-rounded, patient-focused physician assistants. Students work closely with faculty members and other clinicians to build their skills and become excellent members of health care teams.
The program is designed to be completed in 28 months of full-time study. Learners explore the various organ systems, such as cardiology, hematology, and gastroenterology. Pediatric, emergency, and geriatric medicine are integrated throughout the curriculum.
Applications are only accepted through CASPA (Central Application Service for Physician Assistants), which generally opens in late April of each year. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis, so we recommend that applicants complete the CASPA online application and supplemental application as early as possible.
Applicants must have completed a minimum of 500 patient-care experience hours (paid) and have a cumulative undergraduate science GPA of at least 3.0.
Stony Brook University
Stony Brook, NY
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
Stony Brook began offering its physician assistant post-professional master's degree in 2006 through its School of Health Technology and Management. The program created an online version of the program in 2010. Today, students can complete the program through on-campus evening courses, blended learning, or fully online synchronous and asynchronous courses.
Stony Brook's 30-credit physician assistant master's program requires students to complete all coursework within five years. Core courses include ethics and healthcare, evidence-based medicine, and clinical pharmacology. Students can customize their elective courses to match their career goals, choosing from options like healthcare management and nutrition.
Applicants must be certified by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. Prospective students must also hold an Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant-accredited bachelor's degree earned with a minimum 3.0 GPA
University of Wisconsin-Madison
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
UW offers more than 30 online graduate, undergraduate, and certificate programs. The university's community-based physician assistant program boasts a 96% national certification exam pass rate among graduates.
UW's online physician assistant master's program requires 93 credits and takes three years to complete. The hybrid program combines 80% online coursework with 12-week summer sessions and intermittent 3-4-day sessions held on campus. Students must also complete five eight-week clinical rotations at an approved medical facility. Distance learners complete online courses asynchronously in UW's virtual classrooms.
Applicants must satisfy prerequisites and attend a general information session online. Prospective students may also participate in additional online webinars covering topics like applied biotechnology and clinical and health informatics.
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
Located in Brownsville, UTRGV opened its doors in 2013 as the result of a merger between two state schools. The university now serves nearly 30,000 students through undergraduate and graduate programs. One such offering is the school's online physician assistant master's program.
This physician assistant track styles itself as a "bridge program," helping practicing physician assistants who hold a relevant bachelor's degree earn a master's degree. The program does not have any on-campus requirements, and distance learners can complete clinical requirements in their own communities. The curriculum consists of three clinical tracks — each lasting four weeks — and a research course.
Admission requirements include a bachelor's in physician assistant studies and a 3.0 minimum GPA. Applicants must also hold a physician assistant license, National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants certification, and medical malpractice insurance. Prospective students must also be employed as physician assistants when they apply.
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, ND
- 4 years
- Online + Campus
Based in Grand Forks, UND is the oldest university in the state. Founded in 1883, the school gradually branched out over the years and now offers several degrees through distance learning, including an online physician assistant master's degree.
Requiring 90 credits, UND's physician assistant studies program usually requires two years to complete. The program uses blended learning to deliver coursework — students complete online and on-campus courses. The curriculum combines non-clinical and clinical experiences, with notable courses in diagnostic studies, pharmacology, and human physiology and pathophysiology.
Prospective students must have at least three years of full-time healthcare experience and a minimum of 500 hours of direct patient care. The program prefers applicants who live in North Dakota, Montana, Minnesota, or South Dakota. Applicants from rural communities (communities with less than 25,000 citizens) or underserved areas are also preferred.
What Courses Will I Take in an Online Physician Assistant Master's Program?
This course introduces students to normal clinical anatomy, including systematic and developmental human anatomy. Online programs may include computer-based learning with hologram and imaging techniques. Learners may be required to attend on-campus full anatomy cadaver dissections.
Learners study normal physiology and genetics, plus concepts of disease by organ system. Topics covered include genetic inheritance, genetic abnormalities, bacteriology, mycology, parasitology, virology, and organic and systemic disease.
This course prepares students with the knowledge and skills to obtain a patient's medical history. Learners develop writing and organizational skills for medical record keeping. Topics covered include proper medical techniques, terminology to document findings, and appropriate equipment.
Students learn about human diseases and disorders. For physician assistants, the course emphasizes diseases commonly seen in primary care practices. Topics covered include clinical manifestations, therapeutic management, prevention, laboratory medicine, and prognosis.
This course introduces learners to pharmacological substances pertaining to prescription and nonprescription drugs and therapeutic agents. Learners understand the mechanisms of major therapeutic agents, uses, side effects, and toxicity.
What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Physician Assistant Master's Program?
Admissions requirements for online physician assistant master's programs vary. Most require a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a relevant field. Typically, colleges have similar requirements for online and on-campus programs. Most online programs require students to submit a formal application and official transcripts at a minimum.
Many top programs accept applications from the Central Application Service for Physician's Assistants (CASPA). Online programs may require minimum hours of paid work experience ranging from 500-1,000 and a minimum GPA of 3.0.
Most master's programs require applicants to submit an application with basic information like name, date of birth, address, and high school graduation date. The CASPA application simplifies the application process for PA master's applicants to both online and on-campus programs. Students can submit this application to multiple programs at once.
Many online physician's assistant programs require candidates to submit GRE test scores. Acceptable scores vary based on the program and an applicant's overall strength and experience. As a general reference, many online PA programs look for total GRE scores above 300 or the 50th percentile, while top programs may prefer higher overall scores.
Letters of Recommendation
Applicants for a physician assistant master's degree that requires working hours can benefit from a letter of recommendation from a supervisor or doctor. Letters of recommendation can showcase an applicant's unique accomplishments and ability to work independently. Asking for a letter of recommendation from someone who highlights your skills can help strengthen your application.
Resume and Work Experience
Most online physician's assistant programs require significant work experience before applying. Some top programs ask applicants for up to 1,000 hours of work experience or experience working in a rural area of need. For PA master's degree applicants, a strong resume and work experience are essential to showcase professional experience and preparedness.
Applications offices use personal statements or essays to gauge an applicant's potential for success in a program. Graduate school essays have a similar structure as undergraduate essays. However, they require applicants to demonstrate a greater depth of experience and independent thinking. For PA programs, these personal statements can highlight a student's experience, stress tolerance, and ability to overcome obstacles.
Most online physician's assistant master's degrees ask for official transcripts. Many top programs require a minimum GPA of 3.0 in undergraduate studies. Some also specify a minimum GPA of 3.0 in all science courses. Many online master's programs accept transfer credits from other accredited physician's assistant master's programs.
What Can I Do With an Online Physician Assistant Master's Degree?
The BLS projects physician's assistant jobs to grow 31% between 2020 and 2030, much higher than the average 8% for all jobs. Graduates with a physician's assistant master's degree can also consider careers as clinical advisors, surgical assistants, rural area practitioners, or clinical service managers.
After earning a physician's assistant certification, professionals can pursue other certifications to demonstrate expertise in one or more specialties like anesthesia, cardiology, surgery, orthopedics, pediatrics, dermatology, or emergency medicine. PAs benefit from the flexibility to pursue multiple specialties throughout their career.
According to BLS, physician's assistants earned a median salary of $121,530 in 2021. The lowest 10% of PAs had a median salary of $77,940, which is still higher than the national average for all careers.
Surgical Physician's Assistant
Surgical assistants are specialized PAs that work in the operating room. Responsibilities can include physically examining the patient, handing the surgeon's tools, maintaining a clean operating theater, and closing incisions. These professionals assist patients before and after the surgery, perform examinations, administer treatments, and answer questions.
Median Annual Salary (2021): $121,530
Rural Area Practitioner
Rural area practitioner is a specialty in high demand. These practitioners often perform the same duties as a doctor for rural communities. These professionals provide ongoing medical care to patients with chronic conditions and improve access to general medical care.
Median Annual Salary (2021): $121,530
Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN) Physician's Assistant
OB/GYN physicians assistants provide inpatient and outpatient care for women's health. Responsibilities include performing annual exams, family planning, prenatal care, menopause management, and addressing health complaints. These professionals work in a variety of settings, including private practices, rural clinics, and hospitals.
Median Annual Salary (2021): $121,530
Emergency Medicine Physician's Assistant
Physician's assistants who specialize in emergency medicine work in diverse, fast-paced environments. Responsibilities include taking patient history, patient referral, ordering medication or treatment, and performing emergency care like laceration repair. These professionals work in emergency rooms, emergency ground or air transport, prehospital patient care, triage, or emergency administration.
Median Annual Salary (2021): $121,530
Clinical Service Manager
Clinical service managers lead operations of medical facilities like clinics, hospitals, private practices, and public health organizations. Responsibilities include setting schedules and priorities, implementing policies and procedures, monitoring budgets, and recruiting and training new employees. These professionals often also oversee equipment, supplies, and safety standards.
Median Annual Salary (2021): $101,340
Physician Assistant Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.
Some graduates with a physician's assistant master's degree may pursue a doctoral degree or Ph.D. to work in research or educational settings. However, it is more common for graduates from an online physician's assistants program to earn additional professional certifications or licenses to advance their careers.
Common physician's assistant certifications include:
- Basic life support
- Advanced cardiovascular life support
- Pediatric advanced life support
- Certified orthopedic physician's assistant
- Emergency medicine
- Family medicine
- General surgery
How Do I Choose an Online Physician Assistant Master's Program?
The cost of an online physician's assistant master's degree varies by program from $50,620-$115,050. In-state tuition at public institutions is often less than out-of-state tuition. Public school tuition is also often less than private school tuition.
Prospective students should calculate the true program cost of each college they're considering. Comparing online and on-campus costs, online students can often save on transportation and housing.
Physician's assistant programs vary in format although most have some on-campus requirements. Asynchronous programs allow students to adapt learning to their schedule. Students can often choose between part-time or full-time programs. Some colleges offer accelerated programs to complete the degree faster.
Location may be a deciding factor, even for online students. At public institutions, tuition may be less for in-state students. Many PA master's degree programs also require online students to attend on-campus labs or practicums. Students living nearby can reduce travel time and save on transportation and housing costs.
Accreditation certifies that schools meet national educational standards. It ensures the degree will be recognized by employers or other universities. An accredited college program also provides students with the knowledge and practical experience to earn one or more certifications as a physician's assistant.
Student services can improve graduate students' college experience academically and professionally. Even for online students, student support services can help students access mentorship or tutoring and other college resources. Through student services, graduate students can also access career advice, internship opportunities, alumni networks, and professional resources.
Frequently Asked Questions About Physician Assistant Master's Programs
Is a physician assistant master's worth it?
According to the BLS, the median salary for physician's assistants across specialties was $121,530 as of May 2021. This is significantly more than the average salary for all occupations.
A physician's assistant master's can open up flexible career advancement options. PAs can work in diverse career paths. They can choose to specialize in one or more medical fields and work in various settings from rural clinics to hospitals or private practice.
Accredited online degree programs are held to the same rigorous standards as on-campus programs, providing students a flexible path to becoming a PA. These PA master's degrees use the latest technology and on-campus practicums to build student's skills and confidence.
What can I do with a physician assistant master's?
For anyone interested in working in medicine, becoming a physician's assistant can be a way to enter the field without earning an M.D. Graduates with a master's as a physician's assistant can apply for national certification and a state license to practice medicine under the supervision of a physician.
This is a popular path for nurses, emergency responders, and pre-med students to advance their medical careers. Unlike other medical professions, physician's assistants can continue to earn specialized certifications throughout their career. Common specializations for PAs include:
- General practice
- Internal medicine
Are physician assistant graduates in demand?
According to the BLS, physician's assistants jobs are projected to be some of the fastest-growing occupations from 2020-2030. At 31% projected growth, PA job growth is more than three times the national average. This equates to an additional 40,100 PA positions available between 2020 and 2030.
As of 2021, the BLS reports that the states with the highest employment of physician's assistants are California, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Florida. States with the highest concentration of PA jobs for the population size are Connecticut, Maryland, New York, Alaska, and North Carolina.
How much money can I make with a physician assistant master's?
In 2021, physician's assistants made a median salary of $121,530, more than double the national average, according to the BLS. The physician's assistants earning the lowest 10% made a median salary of $77,940. The top 10% of earners had a median salary of $164,620.
Earning potential will depend on the particular U.S. region, experience level, and workplace setting. According to the BLS, the top-paying industries for physician's assistants in 2021 were: scientific research and development services, nursing care facilities, and outpatient care centers.
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