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Enrolling in an online physician assistant master’s program will help students further their medicine and patient care knowledge. Whether you wish to break into the field or further your career, this graduate degree can land you a higher-paying job as a physician’s assistant. Upon graduation, you can expect an average salary of $121,000 annually.

Compared to the earning potential, the educational costs of this program are minimal. According to U.S. News, students in such a program can expect to pay between $15,000 and $20,000, similar to the average cost of undergraduate programs at public universities (around $14,700). Such programs vary in length, with some taking as little as one year to complete for accelerated programs and more extensive programs taking up to three years, even for full-time students.

How to Choose an Online Physician Assistant Master’s Program

Choose your area of study

Many online physician assistant master’s programs offer various concentrations students can choose from to prepare for a specific career path. For example, you may be able to choose from concentrations such as pediatrics, general surgery, and orthopedics.

These concentrations help prepare students to assist pediatric physicians, general surgeons, and orthopedic surgeons. In some cases, these future assistant roles are very different, so it’s important to decide what you want to do with your career before selecting your specific area of study.

Research schools and programs

When first researching schools, check that the programs are properly accredited. Additionally, the cost is a significant factor: while physician assistant jobs can be lucrative, it’s still best to avoid unnecessarily taking on excess debt. Due to the intensive nature of a physician’s assistant career, verifying that the online coursework is as rigorous as what you would receive in an in-person class is essential. Most online programs will still have a short in-person residency requirement.

Beyond these factors, look up the job placement rate and networking opportunities of any schools that look particularly interesting. A properly accredited school should offer all of these things, and the accreditation is required for students to receive federal financial aid, earn necessary medical certifications, and, most importantly, find a good job after graduation.

Prepare for tests and applications

Most online physician assistant master’s programs will require applicants to provide GRE scores. While each school’s requirements may vary, successful applicants generally need a score above 300, including a minimum of 155 on both the verbal and quantitative reasoning sections. Programs also typically require a minimum analytical writing score of 4.0. It can take up to three months to study for the GRE and up to 15 days to receive results, so factor in this timeline so you don’t miss any application deadlines.

Select your program

While the previous criteria can help you narrow down to a few online physician assistant master’s programs, applying additional criteria will help you select the program that best suits your educational and career needs.

For example, research may help you discover that some programs offer special scholarships, grants, or assistantships that others don’t. Some schools may offer more robust student communication from professors and student support services. Finding schools with existing social media networks of students in the same program is also helpful, as this can help you quickly establish an educational cohort.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

To help pay for graduate school, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) every year. Doing so enables you to qualify for federal loans that help pay for your tuition and textbooks. While obtaining them at the graduate level is harder, completing the FAFSA may also help you qualify for grants and scholarships that you might not otherwise qualify for. It’s always advisable to contact the Financial Aid offices of different schools you are interested in to learn about additional aid available through the school or the state.

Best 50 Accredited Online Physician Assistant Master’s Programs

Best Online Physician Assistant Master’s Programs Badge

Yale University

University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

University of Nebraska Medical Center

School of Health Sciences of Touro College

University of North Dakota

A.T. Still University

Pace University

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How We Rank Schools

Becoming a physician assistant requires a master’s degree. They are medically trained professionals, like doctors, but can complete their education and get to work in a shorter period of time.

While many programs out there claim to be the best, not all of them are properly accredited. The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) standards ensure that physician assistants are appropriately educated and trained. Offices and hospitals will generally only consider those from an ARC-PA program, so verifying the school’s credentials is important.

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

The entire goal of an online physician assistant master’s program is to provide students with the skills and training they will need to help future physicians with established medical issues and sudden surprises. As such, the coursework emphasizes problem-solving and communication skills as much as it builds upon existing medical knowledge. Unlike many online graduate programs, physician assistant graduate programs require students to complete some work on campus to simulate future working conditions.

This program is very rigorous regarding medical instruction, and most students enroll in the program with a prior history of medical work experience. One common requirement is that applicants must have 500 hours of such experience, so those relatively new to the medical field may have to wait before applying. Depending on the number of required credit hours, it may take between one and three years to graduate.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online physician assistant master’s degree program

  • Applied Anatomy. Through case studies and 3D models, students learn more about the human body’s anatomical structures and how these structures affect various clinical applications. This course will likely have an on-campus component to give students ample practice working with cadavers.
  • Physician Assistant Medical Practice I. This course provides students with instruction on the history and practice of physician assistants throughout the years, creating a foundation of public health, healthcare delivery systems, and more. The course also emphasizes diversity in assessing and diagnosing conditions from patients from different countries and cultures.
  • Clinical Medicine I. This course uses students’ understanding of human organs as a springboard to teach students more about epidemiology and etiology. Students will also master differential diagnoses, clinical presentations, disease prevention, and more.
  • Introduction to Surgery. This course teaches students how to diagnose and help with various surgical diseases patients may suffer from. Students learn about distinguishing surgical and non-surgical conditions and using high-tech lab equipment to assist with everything from creating sterile fields to helping perform biopsies.

What Can You Do With an Online Physician Assistant Master’s Degree?

Career outlook

The healthcare industry continues to grow rapidly. This means there’s an increased need for medical professionals, with a projected 1.8 million job openings each year. Physician assistants are in high demand — the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects there to be a 27% increase in open PA positions through 2032. The average salary for a physician assistant is $126,010, with the highest-paying jobs available in outpatient care centers and hospitals.

Career paths

Most students who pursue an online physician assistant master’s degree plan on becoming practicing physician assistants. They may choose a specialty, such as oncology or obstetrics, and can work in a variety of environments, from small private clinics to multi-building health systems. Government positions are also an option in some cases.

However, there are other potential roles for those who don’t wish to practice bedside medicine. Here are some of the career options available for graduates with a master’s degree in physician assistant studies:

  • Physician assistant — provide primary medical care to patients, including evaluating symptoms, making a diagnosis, and prescribing medications
  • Medical liaison — foster communication and collaboration between researchers and medical professionals
  • College instructor — instruct aspiring PA students, covering clinical skills, how to communicate with patients, and potential career paths
  • Healthcare administrator — ensure healthcare facilities operate smoothly and efficiently for the highest levels of patient satisfaction and care

Physician Assistant

Earning Potential: $83,820-$168,120 annually
Education Required: Master’s degree in physician assistant studies

Physician assistants provide medical care to patients. They practice under the supervision of a medical doctor, but they often examine, diagnose, and treat patients directly, with the physician providing support on an as-needed basis. Physician assistants can provide routine medical care, such as yearly physicals and immunizations, or they may work in emergent care, setting broken bones and running diagnostic tests. They are responsible for educating patients and their families on medical care and treatment, such as how to manage diabetes or asthma, and can write prescriptions.

College Instructor

Earning Potential: $47,370-$173,730 annually
Education Required: Master’s degree in physician assistant studies, nursing, or related fields

College instructors with a physician assistant master’s degree provide education and training to aspiring medical professionals. They prepare lectures and teaching materials, grade tests, and teach students how to practice medicine through both traditional learning and clinical training. A college instructor in a PA program may also mentor and advise students on which career path or specialty would best suit them. They often assist with curriculum development and course creation and may be involved in ongoing research in their field.

Healthcare Administrator

Earning Potential: $43,470-$221,270 annually
Education Required: Master’s degree in physician assistant studies, healthcare administration, or related fields

Healthcare administrators with a master’s degree in physician assistant studies use their medical background to improve operational efficiency, staff morale, and patient satisfaction in various medical settings. Depending on the size of the organization, they may oversee a specific department or an entire facility. Their duties include reviewing, modifying, and creating policies and procedures as well as negotiating contracts with outside vendors. Healthcare administrators report to C-suite executives and board members and are accountable for ensuring budgeting and staffing needs are met.

Online Physician’s Assistant Master’s Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online physician’s assistant master’s degree program?

To apply to an online physician assistant master’s program, you must complete the online application available through the school. That application will specify other materials you may need to include, such as undergraduate transcripts, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and a resume showcasing previous medical career experience.

Not every school will have the exact requirements, so it’s important to review application details closely for each school. It is equally important to contact the admissions counselors for schools you are interested in — they can verify requirements and answer questions about the school, the program, or the curriculum.

How much does an online physician’s assistant master’s degree cost?

According to U.S. News, an online physician assistant master’s program costs between $15,000 and $20,000. The exact cost will depend on certain factors, including whether you attend a public or private school and how many credit hours are required before graduation.

Additionally, since many of these programs have requirements for on-campus participation, there may be additional fees you will have to pay in addition to the tuition and books. However, the overall cost will be lower than what you’d pay to take this course on campus because you won’t have to relocate to a new town and pay for various ongoing campus costs, such as parking passes.

How long does it take to earn an online physician’s assistant master’s degree?

Depending on the online physician assistant master’s program you enroll in, it may take between one and three years to complete your coursework.

On the lower end, you can find accelerated programs that help you complete everything in one year, while on the upper end, courses with a higher amount of credit hours may take three years to complete. On average, though, most programs are designed to be completed within two years by full-time students. Fortunately, most are also flexible enough to accommodate part-time learners who still want to further their careers with graduate education.

Is an online physician assistant master’s degree worth it?

Graduating with a physician assistant master’s degree provides several benefits, including pursuing a career that is focused on helping people in need. Students can choose to stay in general medicine or pursue a specialty, such as orthopedics or general surgery.

A master’s degree in physician assistant studies also dramatically increases your earning potential. The average salary for a PA is $126,010, which is more than $40,000 more than what a registered nurse could expect to make. Graduates with this degree may also be eligible for certain bridge programs to allow them to go on to become medical doctors, further increasing their job opportunities and potential salaries.

Obtaining an online physician assistant master’s degree also provides the skills and experience you need with remote environments to pursue work in telemedicine. This field is rapidly growing and can offer the benefits of working in medicine while having more freedom with scheduling and work-life balance.

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