Why This Matters

  • THE U.S. NEEDS 37,000 MORE OF YOU BY 2028

    Overall population growth, an increase in adults 65 and older, and a rise in team-based healthcare provision models are contributing to a 31% increase in demand for PAs in the next decade.

  • MASTER’S REQUIRED FOR PROFESSIONAL ENTRY

    Advanced education is critical for PAs, as they must understand how to diagnose, treat, and prevent a variety of ailments. This is also an opportunity to specialize in a particular medical area.

  • INCREASE YOUR EARNING POTENTIAL BY $36,880

    The median annual salary for PAs is $108,610, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Comparatively, bachelor’s-level registered nurses earn a median annual way of $71,730.

Our Research

This list consists of master’s-level physician assistant programs. The most common physician assistant degrees are a Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) or a Master of Science (MS).

The coursework for these programs is primarily delivered online. Some programs can also be completed on-campus, or through a combination of online and on-campus classes. All PA programs have clinical experience components that require on-site attendance.

All of the programs on our list are offered by regionally accredited institutions, affirming their quality. This list includes many programs that have programmatic accreditation through the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant.

Once we narrowed our list of programs, we evaluated each of them on the basis of course offerings, faculty, reputation, flexibility, and cost. We assigned each school an Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Our top picks for the best online physician assistant programs are highly regarded, affordable, and flexible. (For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.)

  • 81 hours to write this article
  • 193 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 442 education programs we compared

The Top 10 Online Physician Assistant Programs

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What You Should Know About This Degree

Physician assistants work in a team-based setting alongside physicians, nurses, and other healthcare practitioners. Although a PA’s supervising physician does not need to be on-site at all times, PAs should be prepared to work closely and collaboratively with their supervising physician to provide care.

Although PAs perform many of the same duties as physicians, including examining and diagnosing patients and prescribing medications, there are key differences between the two jobs. When considering your career in the healthcare field, it’s important to understand what makes a physician and a physician assistant different, to help you make educational and professional choices that are right for you.

Each state licenses physician assistants individually. In order to become licensed, PAs must attend an ARC-PA-accredited program, and pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE), which is administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). Individuals must complete continuing education credits and take periodical recertification exams to maintain their credentials.

Experiential learning is an important component of PA programs. As many programs are designed for individuals who are already working in healthcare settings, you may be able to complete your clinical requirements at your current job. Be sure to talk to the program and your employer to make sure your current work site is eligible for completing the program’s clinical requirements.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching Online Physician Assistant programs:

  • Does this program have the specialization that I want? Physician assistants work in all areas of medicine, including general practice, surgery, pediatrics, psychiatry, and more. If you are interested in working in a particular area of medicine, seek out a program that offers training in that area through concentrations or electives.
  • Am I eligible for this program? Most PA programs require students to have a bachelor’s degree in a science or healthcare related field, as well as professional experience. Be sure to review the program’s qualifications prior to applying, to make sure that you meet the minimum eligibility requirements for admission.

Review the program’s application requirements, and begin to gather your application materials early. Submitting your application and supporting documents well ahead of the deadline will help ensure a smooth admissions process.

Now is also the time to think about how you will fund your master’s degree. Talk to the school’s financial aid office about applying for loans, scholarships, assistantships, and other forms of aid. If you are currently employed, find out if your job offers tuition assistance benefits.