Overview

Physician assistants (PAs) are medical providers who are licensed to diagnose and treat patients. They provide invaluable support to doctors, surgeons, and other healthcare providers—especially in underserved communities where doctors aren’t readily available. From analyzing lab work to prescribing medication, physician assistants ensure patients receive essential care.

With such responsibility PAs must receive a rigorous education. The coursework is so advanced that by 2020 PA programs will be required to offer a master’s degree upon completion. Not surprising when you consider students undergo intense training in complex subjects such as anatomy, the effects of medication, and medical ethics. What’s more, students can also specialize to become experts in specific fields including pediatric care and health education. The result? Degree holders become effective and integral members of the medical teams they join.

Physician assistant programs are specifically designed to train future physician assistants. With a degree, students can take the certification exam and obtain a license to begin their careers.

Yes. Many schools offer online programs. Students simply need to ensure the program is accredited and matches their scheduling needs.

Most employers and schools recognize and accept online degrees. Performance during the program and on the certification exam is more important.

The exact requirements vary depending on the program, but most require a minimum GPA, letters of recommendation, clinical hours, and an acceptable GRE or MCAT score. The best solution is to look up the requirements of the programs you are interested in.

Completing a program is necessary for those who want to be physician assistants. In addition, programs offer stable careers and the ability to enter a highly respected medical field.

After program completion, students must also pass the Physician Assistant National Certification Exam (PANCE) and obtain a license to practice. Fortunately, programs offer guidance for both and provide the tools and support students need to succeed. In other words, students can feel confident they are on the path to rewarding careers of helping those in need.

Best Online Physician Assistant Programs

We took a deep-dive and analyzed every online Physician Assistant program in the nation. Below are the results of our analysis and a list of the 10 best online Physician Assistant programs.

Read about our methodology here.

Graduation Rate
39%
School Type
Private
Tuition
$825 per credit
Most Accelerated

Pace University offers the physician assistant program in an accelerated format for students who want to earn their degrees quickly. This program takes 12 months to complete and provides all the skills that are needed for graduates to succeed in their careers.


Program OverviewDepartment Name: College of Health Professions
Program Name: Master's in Physician Assistant Completion Program
Accrediting Body: NCCPA

DeliveryFormat: Online

Program requirementsPrerequisites: Completed an Accreditation Review Committee for Physician Assistants
Credit Requirements: 30 credits

Program LengthProgram Options: Full-time, part-time
Program Length: 12 months
Program start dates: Rolling

Admission RequirementsApplication deadline: December 15, 2018
GPA: 3.0

Contact:

Justin McManus

Admissions Contact

Address:

One Pace Plaza

New York, NY 10038

914-773-3649

School Type
Private
Tuition
$826 per credit
Best Hybrid Program

Yale University's physician assistant online program is a blended program, with students participating in streaming small-group discussions and conducting online coursework during their didactic year, and then spending 16 months experiencing in-person clinical rotations in their home communities. Students also visit the Yale campus in New Haven, Connecticut during the program, for three separate one-week immersions.


Program OverviewDepartment Name: Yale School of Medicine
Program Name: Physician Assistant Online
Accrediting Body: ARC-PA

DeliveryFormat: Blended

Program LengthProgram Length: 28 months

Admission RequirementsApplication deadline: April 15; July 1; September 1
GPA: 3.0

Address:

New Haven, CT 6520

844-433-9253

School Type
Private
Tuition
$445 per credit
Best for APA Credentials

A.T. Still University's (ATSU) Advanced Physician Assistant (APA) program offers the most direct path to APA credentials for licensed or certified physician assistants. Practicing PAs can begin immediately to pursue this Master of Science in Advanced Physician Assistant Studies degree from ATSU's Arizona School of Health Sciences. ATSU's APA program offers concentrations in either clinical Medicine or Education/Leadership, with flexibility for working professionals.


Program OverviewDepartment Name: Arizona School of Health Sciences
Program Name: Master of Science in Advanced Physician Assistant Studies
Accrediting Body: Higher Learning Commission

DeliveryFormat: Online

Program requirementsPrerequisites: Graduation from an ARC - PA accredited PA program
Credit Requirements: 40 credits

Program LengthProgram Length: 1 or 2 years
Program start dates: Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer

Admission RequirementsGPA: 2.5

Address:

800 W Jefferson St

Kirksville, MO 63501

877-469-2878

Most Hands-On Experience

The University of Nebraska Medical Center trains the next generation of physician assistants via supervised practices. With more than 800 hours of supervised practice required in the program's clinical track, students receive abundant hands-on experience that they can use to advance their own careers after college.


Program OverviewProgram Name: Master of Physician Assistant Studies
Available Concentrations: Clinical, Educational
Accrediting Body: National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA)

DeliveryFormat: Online

Program requirementsPrerequisites: Bachelor's degree from an approved institution of higher learning
Credit Requirements: 36 semester credit hours

Program LengthProgram Length: Five semesters
Program start dates: Fall, Spring, Summer

Admission RequirementsApplication deadline: September 1, 2018
GPA: 2.0
Work Experience: Must be employed (full-time or part-time) in a clinical or educational role

Address:

S 42nd St & Emile St

Omaha, NE 68198

402-559-6532

Graduation Rate
67%
School Type
Private
Tuition
$763 per credit
Most Established

Drexel University has experience providing distance education to online students, having started its online courses more than two decades ago. Students looking for an established online physician assistant program should consider Drexel as it not only offers full faculty support and online learning materials but also up to a 30 percent discount on tuition for alumni.


Program OverviewDepartment Name: College of Nursing and Health Professions
Program Name: Master of Health Science - Physician Assistant
Accrediting Body: Middle States Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools

DeliveryFormat: Online

Program requirementsPrerequisites: Bachelor's Degree
Credit Requirements: 117 credit hours

Program LengthProgram Options: Full-Time, Part-time

Admission RequirementsApplication deadline: November 1
GPA: 3.0

Contact:

Patrick C. Auth, PhD, PA-C

Admissions Contact

Address:

3141 Chestnut St

Philadelphia, PA 19104

267-359-5757

Most Flexible

Stony Brook University offers a flexible online physician assistant program for working professionals who may not have the time to dedicate to a 15-month curriculum. Students can adjust the coursework to fit their schedule and take up to five years to complete the program through part-time study.


Program OverviewDepartment Name: School of Medicine
Program Name: Post-Professional Masters in Physician Assistant
Accrediting Body: Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME)

DeliveryFormat: Online
Instruction Style: Synchronous, Asynchronous

Program requirementsPrerequisites: Baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university
Credit Requirements: 30 credit hours

Program LengthProgram Options: Full-time, part-time
Program Length: 5 years
Program start dates: Fall 2018: August 8; Spring 2019: January 2

Admission RequirementsApplication deadline: Spring: December 1; Summer: April 1; Fall: June 1
GPA: 3.0

Contact:

Diana Jones

Admissions Contact

Address:

100 Nicolls Road

Stony Brook, NY 11794

631-444-2029

Graduation Rate
84%
School Type
Public
Tuition
In-state: $515 per credit; Out-of-state: $1,047 per credit
Best Job Placement

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has an excellent job placement percentage for students who graduate from the online physician assistant program. More than 70 percent of graduates work in the field, a number that has risen and continues to rise each year.


Program OverviewDepartment Name: School of Medicine and Public Health
Program Name: Master of Physician Assistant Studies
Accrediting Body: NCACS/THLC

DeliveryFormat: Online

Program requirementsPrerequisites: Bachelor's degree
Credit Requirements: 93 credits

Program LengthProgram Length: 3 years

Admission RequirementsApplication deadline: Rolling
GPA: 3.2

Address:

Madison, WI 53706

608-263-5620

Graduation Rate
55%
School Type
Public
Tuition
$6349 per semester
Best Virtual Campus

The University of North Dakota provides the best virtual campus for students in the online physician assistant program. Students are able to complete all of the coursework online and have access to everything from live video to live chat with faculty, including other benefits such as discussion boards, learning resources, networking opportunities and more.


Program OverviewDepartment Name: Department of Physician Assistant Studies
Program Name: Master of Physician Assistant Studies
Accrediting Body: Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA)

DeliveryFormat: Online, Hybrid

Program requirementsCredit Requirements: 90 credits

Program LengthProgram Length: 24 months
Program start dates: May

Admission RequirementsApplication deadline: September 1
GPA: 3.0
Work Experience: At least three years of experience

Address:

Grand Forks, ND 58202

701-777-2344

Best Faculty Support

Touro College's faculty members work directly with students in the online physician assistant program to ensure successful completion of the degree. The faculty not only provides support for lessons and technical issues with the online classroom but also support during the final research project, working alongside the student to create and present a paper that's suited for academic publications.


Program OverviewDepartment Name: School of Health Sciences
Program Name: Physician Assistant Master's Completion Program
Accrediting Body: National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA)

DeliveryFormat: Online

Program requirementsPrerequisites: Graduated from an ARC-PA accredited Physician Assistant program
Credit Requirements: 37 credit hours
Field Education Requirements: Two-semester master's project as program capstone

Program LengthProgram Length: 1 year
Program start dates: Spring 2019: January 2; Summer 2019: March 4

Admission Requirements

Contact:

Shazad Zeb PA-C, MPAS

Admissions Contact

Address:

1700 Union Boulevard

Bay Shore, NY 11706

866-868-7648

Graduation Rate
43%
School Type
Public
Tuition
In-state: $953 per credit; Out-of-state: $1315 per credit
Best Bridge Program

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley offers an assistant studies bridge program to allow students to complete the entire physician assistant program online. Students must have their bachelor's degree to qualify for the bridge program and to complete their physician assistant training via online instruction.


Program OverviewProgram Name: Master in Physician Assistant Studies Bridge Program (MPAS)
Accrediting Body: AOTA/ACOTE

DeliveryFormat: Online, Hybrid

Program requirementsPrerequisites: Bachelor's degree
Credit Requirements: 16 credits

Program LengthProgram Length: 12 Months
Program start dates: Fall, Spring and Summer I

Admission RequirementsApplication deadline: Rolling
GPA: 3.0

Contact:

Frank Ambriz

Admissions Contact

Address:

1201 West University Dr

Edinburg, TX 78539

956-665-7049

What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s Physician Assistant Program?

Physician assistants (PAs) are an important part of the health care system and require extensive training to provide the supportive services physicians need. An online master’s program for physician assistants will offer the same educational quality students find in on-campus classrooms but with a schedule that can be tailored to fit your unique needs and often at a more affordable price. Online programs to earn your physician assistant master’s degree can vary greatly, so it’s important to do your research to find the program that is the best fit for your needs and expectations.

When enrolling in an online master’s in education administration program, students can expect to receive the same high-quality instruction as they would receive while taking on-campus classes. Students who are already working as teachers and looking to advance their careers into administrative roles can take classes during the summer or after school. When choosing an online master’s in education administration program, it’s important to find the right program that aligns with your personal and career goals.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Physician Assistant

CONCENTRATIONDESCRIPTIONCAREERS THIS CONCENTRATION PREPARES FOR
Community HealthAssess the health of community residents and provides the educational foundation needed to address the health inequities often found in diverse populations. Students will learn how to engage the community and encourage actions to improve the overall health of residents in the area.Physician assistant in a community clinic, mobile health care facility or local health care initiatives and programs
Health Services and Policy ResearchPrepares students to use statistics and probability to assess, change and improve the landscape of current health services and policies.Physician assistant for hospitals and health-related government agencies
Medical EducationShapes students for leadership in a classroom setting, giving them tools to work in a variety of learning environments and the ability to develop effective curriculum.Special education director, central office administrator for special education
Pediatric CareA pediatric care focus for a MSPAS prepares physician assistants to address the health care needs of infants and children, offering a more in-depth look into child growth and development and teaching students the unique skills needed for child health care assessment.Physician assistant in a hospital pediatric department or pediatric private practice
Clinical ResearchAn online master’s in physician assistant studies program with a clinical research focus prepares students to offer meaningful contributions to the world’s medical knowledge by leading clinical research studies. Protocol design, principles of Good Clinical Practice (GCP), study conduction and result interpretation are areas often covered.Clinical researcher in a laboratory setting, often on a college or university campus

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Physician Assistant

When considering multiple online master’s in physician assistant studies programs, the curriculum offered should be an important factor. The curriculum between programs can vary significantly, so you want to make sure you choose a school that offers the courses you need to reach your goals. The medium used to deliver your curriculum should be considered as well. Even online MSPAS degree programs require on-campus courses to cover certain medical procedures, internships and clinical residencies, so you want to be sure you can meet these commitments.

The specific courses you take will depend on the program you choose and any concentration you decide to pursue. A few core classes that are found in many MSPAS programs, though sometimes under different titles, include:

COURSESDESCRIPTION
Medical EthicsEthical issues PAs may encounter in clinical practice and provide the tools to analyze and reflect on these situations so they can navigate them with integrity.
Medical InterviewingDevelop patient interview skills to prepare them for clinical work, particularly in regards to obtaining a complete medical history.
Integrated Anatomy and PhysiologySystems-based approach to view physiological and anatomical aspects of the human body.
Applied Clinical ResearchAnalyze and select research results using scientific theory, clinical knowledge and other secondary resources.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in Physician Assistant?

On average, an online MSPAS degree program will take between one and two years to complete for students who are dedicated to maintaining a full-time course schedule. Completing courses on a part-time basis can significantly increase program completion time, depending on the number of courses taken at once and the amount of time between them.

Accelerated programs are available but rarely fall below the one-year completion rate due to required clinical hours and internship commitments. Students may be able to reduce the time needed to complete online classes in programs that allow self-paced scheduling, but those that are designed to advance student groups together will prohibit moving ahead without classmates. For self-paced programs, it’s important to note when required courses are offered, as those offered all year can be taken any time but any that are offered sporadically may affect program completion times.

Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in Physician Assistant Prepares For

CERTIFICATIONDESCRIPTION
Licensed Physician AssistantAll physician assistants are required to be licensed in their state, and each maintains its own set of standards. An online master’s in physician assistant program gives you the education you need to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE), administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) and required for all state licensing.
Pediatric Physician AssistantAlthough not required, the NCCPA offers a Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) in pediatric care. Passing the exam to earn this certification shows commitment to the pediatric specialty and an understanding of the specific knowledge it requires.
Emergency Medicine Physician AssistantThis CAQ offered by the NCCPA demonstrates a focus on emergency medicine, showing the specialized leadership and decision-making skills required to work in emergency medicine.
Hospital Medicine Physician AssistantThe NCCPA’s hospital medicine CAQ exam covers the many health-related topics and conditions commonly found in a hospital setting. Completion of this certification proves physician assistants have the broad knowledge base needed to ensure success in a hospital position.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Physician Assistant Degrees

Accreditation is one of the most important things to look for when deciding on the best online master’s in physician assistant studies program for you to earn your degree. Accreditation from a reputable agency gives future employers confidence that you’ve received a quality education to prepare you for their open positions and ensures any credits earned count toward future higher education pursuits. Accreditation is given to educational institutes and programs to demonstrate the curriculum offered meets the standards for that particular field. Although there are many accrediting agencies, any program you consider should hold accreditation from at least one respected organization.

The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) is an industry-specific accrediting agency, but other reputable agencies can be found by searching the U.S. Department of Education approved list of accrediting organizations.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Physician Assistant Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

If you’re pursuing a career as a physician assistant, many states require at least a master’s degree to qualify for licensure. In fact, bachelor’s degrees for physician assistants are generally tied to a science-based major, such as biology, with physician assistant studies added as a concentration. To work as a physician assistant, obtaining a master’s degree will provide you with the knowledge you need to pass the PANCE and earn your state license. Only then will you be qualified to hold an official physician assistant position.

Expected Salary

Along with opening the door to job opportunities, completion of an online master’s in physician assistant studies can have a positive impact on your salary potential. The numbers below show the high salary ranges that accompany the many professional positions a physician assistant can fill.

Job TitleSalary Range
Physician Assistant$74,437-$119,929
Emergency Physician Assistant$73,984-$126,666
Surgical Physician Assistant$80,464-$127,851
Pediatric Physician Assistant$71,077-$108,046
Cardiology Physician Assistant$78,648-$122,315
Orthopedic Physician Assistant$79,679-$124,376

Source: PayScale.com

The type of facility you work in can also affect your salary potential. With a MSPAS degree, you have more power to choose where you’d like to work and are eligible for positions at better-paying facilities. The chart below shows the salary difference between different employers.

Top Industries and Average Salary for a PA

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Opportunities

There are a significant number of career paths a physician assistant can take, limited only by the specialties open to doctors. An MSPAS opens the door to these positions, with specialty certification providing a competitive edge in that particular field.

JOB TITLEJOB DESCRIPTIONMEDIAN SALARYPROJECTED GROWTH RATE
Physician AssistantPhysician assistants are licensed to examine and diagnose patients and to treat any conditions they may have. They often work under the supervision of doctors but perform many of the same functions. The tasks delegated to a physician assistant largely depend on the state laws regarding the duties they can legally perform.$104,860 per year37%
Community Health WorkerCommunity health workers are responsible for teaching communities about health initiatives and helping reduce the health care inequity often present in diverse populations. They often focus on the health of the overall community rather than just the individual and develop programs and services to help improve the health of the group.$53,940 per year18%

Professional Organizations

Professional organizations offer a variety of benefits to physician assistants, including networking opportunities, training tools and continuing education courses. PAs who join a professional organization will stay up-to-date on the latest in industry news and may have access to relevant job postings. Here are a few organizations you will qualify for with an MSPAS degree.

American Academy of Physician Assistants: The largest PA organization in the country with perks that include continuing education credits, publication subscriptions, free webinars and professional discounts.

National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants: The NCCPA is the organization that offers PANCE and CAQ testing to potential physician assistants. It offers several resources relevant to licensing, including information about state licensing boards and the latest in relevant industry news.

American Association of Surgical Physician Assistants: The AASPA was created for surgical PAs and offers tools for professional development along with supportive services, such as a resource library, calendar of industry events and employment statistics.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Physician Assistant Degree

Despite the lower average cost for online courses when compared to on-campus studies, students enrolled in an online master’s in physician assistant studies program may find themselves in need of help paying for their education. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid should always be your first step when seeking financial assistance to give you access to government-funded grants and loans. There are also a number of scholarship programs that can help bring down you out-of-pocket expenses.

Resources

Scholarships

Scholarships

Details

Susan and Tom Lusty Memorial Scholarship

Award: $1,000

Deadline: July 1

Eligibility: Enrolled in an ARC-PA accredited program, in clinical year, demonstrate financial need, be a good-standing student member of the AASPA and demonstrate an interest in surgical specialties.

Association of Physician Assistants in Oncology

Award: $2,500

Deadline: Varies

Eligibility: AAPA-member student enrolled in an ARC-PA accredited program, in clinical year with a GPA of 3.0 or above and show an interest in pursuing a career in oncology.

Society of Emergency Medicine Physician Assistants

Award: $3,000

Deadline: January 15

Eligibility: Be a SEMPA member, enrolled in an ARC-PA accredited school in the final year of training.