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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 assistant. Upon graduation, you can expect an average salary of $130,020 annually.

Compared to the earning potential, the educational costs of this program are minimal. According to U.S. News & World Report, students in such a program can expect to pay between $15,000 and $20,000 in total tuition. These programs vary in length, with accelerated programs taking as little as one year 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

This degree is typically offered as a Master of Science, Master of Medical Science, or Master of Physician Assistant Studies. Many 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

You should only apply to institutions that have been approved by a DOE-recognized regional accrediting organization, such as the New England Commission of Higher Education or Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. These organizations evaluate schools to ensure they provide students with a high-quality education. Those who attend a school that isn’t regionally accredited may be unable to access financial aid or transfer credits to another institution if needed.

Ideally, your physician assistant master’s program will also be accredited by a respected industry group like the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). This programmatic accrediting organization has particularly high standards for physician assistant education.

Additionally, 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 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.

To learn more about any schools that you’re interested in, you can visit the school’s website, contact an admissions counselor, follow the school on social media, or attend an in-person or virtual open house.

Prepare for tests and applications

Application requirements vary by school and program. Most online physician assistant master’s programs will require applicants to provide GRE scores. 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 keep this timeline in mind when preparing for application deadlines.

You may also need to submit undergraduate transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. Before submitting an application, always contact an admissions counselor to ensure you have the most accurate information regarding requirements and 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.

Before making your final decision, review your needs and goals again. Do you plan to attend school full-time or part-time? Do you want your program to be as online as possible, or are you fine with a hybrid program that has a fair amount of in-person requirements? Some programs offer asynchronous courses, which can be completed at your own pace, while others only offer synchronous courses, which involve remotely attending lectures and completing assignments at the same time as other students — which of these two online learning formats do you prefer? Your school should accommodate your scheduling needs and learning preferences.

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. Those who already work in the field should see if their employer offers tuition assistance benefits as well.

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.

Our team reviewed each program on the basis of accreditation, cost, coursework, reputation, flexibility, and faculty. We then assigned each program an Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

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, covering public health, healthcare delivery systems, and more. The course also addresses how to assess and diagnose conditions for 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

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 — Help physicians examine, diagnose, and treat patients.
    • Median annual salary: $130,020
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 27%
    • New job openings projected: 12,200 annually
  • Exercise physiologist — Design exercise plans to help patients address cardiovascular health, muscle strength, and other health concerns.
    • Median annual salary: $54,860
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 10%
    • New job openings projected: 1,200 annually
  • Recreational therapist — Design treatment plans that involve recreational activities, such as music and sports, to help patients with injuries, illnesses, and disabilities.
    • Median annual salary: $57,120
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 4%
    • New job openings projected: 1,300 annually

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 same 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 & World Report, an online physician assistant master’s program costs between $15,000 and $20,000 in total tuition. 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.

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, programs with a higher number of required 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 dramatically increases your earning potential. 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 gives students experience with remote environments, preparing them to 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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