Online Physician Assistant Programs

With our aging population, a critical shortage of doctors and changing trends in healthcare services in the United States, physician assistants have become a vital part of the nation’s access to primary care. They typically work under the supervision of a doctor and in many states are qualified to perform physical exams, order medical tests, diagnose and treat patients, write prescriptions and assist in surgery.

Last Updated: 10/06/20

Online PA Programs

If your preference is to study online, you can find accredited online PA programs to fit your needs. Some are completely online; others are hybrid programs (a combination of online and on-campus study). All require you to have a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field (pre-med or biology) at an accredited institution before you begin.

Fully online PA programs

If you wish to become a PA, here are eight physician assistant programs that are completely online. Some require you to be online at scheduled times for certain classes, discussions or exams; others do not. Some also require you to be NCCPA certified in order to apply.

School Degree level Live classes On-campus requirements Length of program Accreditation
Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

 

Doctor of science in physician- assistant studies (DScPAS) No None 3 years, but accelerated program is two years ARC-PA accreditation
Pace University

 

MPAS for already- certified PAs No None 12 months N/A (program for already certified PAs)
Stony Brook/SUNY

 

MPAS Some None 24 months ARC-PA accreditation
Touro College

 

MPAS for already- certified PAs No None 12 months N/A (program for already certified PAs)
University of Nebraska – Medical Center

 

MPAS for already-certified PAs, or MPAS/MPH dual No None Five semesters N/A (program for already certified PAs)
University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley

 

MPAS for already- certified PAs No None 28 months N/A (program for already certified PAs)
University of Wisconsin – Madison

 

MPAS Some First summer semester / 12 weeks 36 months ARC-PA accreditation

1ARC-PA probation is a temporary accreditation status for programs that are making substantial progress toward all accreditation standards but need more time to become compliant.

2ARC-PA provisional means that a program has the plans and resources needed to meet all accreditation standards but has not yet enrolled students; or that a program is demonstrating progress toward the standards as it prepares for its first graduating class.

Hybrid physician assistant programs

Here are three hybrid physician assistant programs, all of which require a combination of online and on-campus work. 

School Degree level Live classes On-campus requirements Length of program Accreditation
Miami Dade College

 

MDC-PA, M.H.Sc. Some All clinicals are in Florida 27 months ARC-PA accreditation
University of North Dakota MPAS Some 15 weeks 24 months ARC-PA accreditation

 

Why Choose an Online Physician Assistant Program?


Any commitment to earning a graduate degree is significant. Doing so deserves careful consideration of time involvement, cost, job outlook, return on investment and how it fits your lifestyle. 

PAs are in high demand

Between 2010 and 2017, the number of PAs grew nearly 54%, according to the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants’ (NCCPA) Statistical Profile of Certified Physicians Assistants that year. The 2018 report noted that in the previous five years, the number of PAs per 100,000 population had risen from 31 to 40, a 25% increase. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 31% growth in the position between 2019 and 2029, which it terms “much faster than average” when compared with all occupations.

Salary

The 2019 median pay for a physician assistant was $112,260 annually, according to the BLS. The lowest 10% earned $72,720 or less, and the highest 10% earned $157,120 or more.

Salaries differ based on workplace. The lowest median pay was in educational services ($109,080); the next highest was in physicians’ offices ($110,670); then employment services ($114,220), hospitals ($115,190) and outpatient care centers ($119,090).

Location can also affect salary. The five top-paying states were California (average of $127,520), Alaska (average of $128,530), New Jersey (average of $129,440), Washington (average of $129,520), and Connecticut (average of $137,060).

Flexibility

Online PA programs can offer students flexibility in how they complete their degree. By being able to complete all or most of the program online, students can do their coursework and attend class from the comfort of home or anywhere else. For those who are not on a steady schedule, many online programs are taught asynchronously, so students can complete requirements at the most convenient time for them. Need more accountability than that? Synchronous options are also available that allow students to attend live online classes and engage with their professor and peers.

Accreditation for Online PA Programs

The Accreditation Review Committee on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) is the agency that defines the standards for PA education in the United States. A school that is accredited by the ARC-PA ensures that graduates will meet certain education standards upon entering the workforce. To achieve accreditation, a college or university undergoes a comprehensive review of its educational environment, including:

  • Curriculum
  • Program leadership
  • Degrees offered
  • Compliance with federal, state and local regulations
  • Administrative policies
  • Financial resources
  • Faculty qualifications
  • Principal administrators’ qualifications
  • Admissions policies
  • Ongoing self-assessment practices

A list of currently accredited institutions can be found here, in alphabetical order by state.

Online Physician Assistant Program Information

Here is some greater detail about the schools in the above tables (but be sure to check the school’s website for more information as details listed for each school’s PA program below are likely to change:

Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences: MCPHS offers only a doctoral degree online; their master’s and accelerated master’s physician assistant degrees are in-person. Minimum GPA requirement is not specified for the doctorate program. The program is 24 credits in length.

Pace University: Program is 12 months long. Admission requires prior completion of an accredited PA program that includes 32 classroom credits and 40 weeks of supervised clinical work, NCCPA certification, and 3,600 documented hours of post-bachelor’s clinical work.

Stony Brook/SUNY: Program is 24 months long. GPA requirement is 3.0 or above. Before an admissions interview, 1,000 hours of patient care or health-related experience is required. 

Touro College: Program is 12 months long. Admission requires prior completion of an accredited PA bachelor’s degree, NCCPA certification, and 2,600 documented hours of post-bachelor’s clinical work. The online program is asynchronous.

University of Nebraska – Medical Center:  Program is five semesters long; participants have five years in which to complete it. Admission requirements include prior completion of an accredited PA bachelor’s degree, NCCPA certification, and a professional PA program GPA of at least 2.0. Online courses make the use of email, discussion forums and chat groups.

University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley: Program takes 28 months to complete. Admission requirements include prior completion of an accredited PA bachelor’s degree, current NCCPA certification (if applying to the bridge program), and a professional PA program GPA of at least 3.0. The program is delivered in an asynchronous format.

University of Wisconsin – Madison: Program is 36 months long. Wisconsin residents are given preference; applications from California cannot be accepted. Admission requirements include minimum cumulative GPA and science GPA of 3.2. Structure: Students get the same material as campus students; instruction includes individual assignments, group projects, online discussions, and web-based exams.

Miami Dade College: Program is 27 months long. Admissions requirements include a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above, a GPA of 3.0 or above for natural sciences prerequisites, and a minimum of 50 hours shadowing an MD, doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO), physician assistant or advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP). Structure: First-year course work focuses on basic and applied sciences (both lecture and laboratory); second-year work focuses on clinicals. Locations for clinicals are throughout the state of Florida.

University of North Dakota: Program is 24 months long. Admissions requirements include an overall GPA of 3.0. North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Minnesota residents are given preference, as are applicants from rural or underserved communities. Structure: An on-campus orientation is followed by two online semesters, including live discussions and exams. In the year following, online classroom work and on-campus work alternate.

Evaluating Hybrid and Online Physician Assistant Programs


What other factors could you take into consideration when researching online physician assistant programs?

Live vs not-live physician assistant classes

Some online classes can be accessed at the student’s convenience. Others are available only when the teacher is actually teaching the class — in the case of a hybrid program, that means that online students and on-campus students are attending that class at the same time. 

The convenience of a class that a student takes in accordance with his or her schedule may be of immense help to those who are earning their degrees while continuing to work and/or juggling work, school and family. 

On the other hand, live classes give you access to the professor and classroom discussions in real time, participating by voice, video and text. In some cases, class times are up to you, but discussions and/or exams must be taken live.

On-campus requirements for online physician assistant programs

While some programs are entirely online, others do have some on-campus requirements. This can range from an orientation session to several weeks. Take this into consideration if you’re applying to schools outside the region where you live.

Online PA program clinical experiences

A clinical rotation is the period of time when students work in actual hospital settings, in a variety of departments, learning how to work in real-life situations with patients. In some degree programs, this is the focus of the entire second half of the program.

If you are in an accelerated or bridge master’s program that requires you to already be a working physician assistant, your clinical time can generally be performed at your own facility. But for other students, clinicals are typically done at medical sites affiliated with the university. It’s entirely possible that you can attend an online university halfway across the country and do your clinical rotations at a hospital close to where you live, but it’s important to research this before you apply to a school.