Physician Assistant Programs in California

Californians have some choices when it comes to completing a physician assistant (PA) program in their home state. From Chapman University in LA to University of California Davis, there are many campuses across the state offering master of physician assistant degrees. Additionally, online options offered by universities outside the state of California allow students to complete a program from an out of state institution without moving from their home. To help you select from these options, we have created a guide to choosing the California physician assistant program that is right for you!

Last Updated: 12/21/20

California Physician Assistant Programs – Online vs On Campus

When deciding between an online or on campus physician assistant program, you should think about your scheduling and learning needs. Are you in need of a program that keeps you at a set schedule, or one that offers more flexibility in completing deliverables?  Do you learn better when you are required to interact with peers and professors or when you can quietly digest the material by yourself?

In terms of flexibility – online PA programs may offer various levels of additional flexibility depending on the type of program (options are described below). In terms of interaction – you do not have to sacrifice communication and live discussion just because you aren’t sitting in a classroom on campus.

Fully Online PA Programs vs Hybrid PA Programs

Aspiring physician assistants can apply to various types of online programs:

Online PA Programs

A truly online physician assistant program offers all coursework online. Other elements of the program, such as clinical experience requirements, of course cannot be completed online but can often be completed in your own community. An online program will not require you to journey to campus often, but may still have a few on campus requirements so that you can complete some hands on learning or meet your classmates and professors in real life.

Hybrid PA Programs

A hybrid program will offer some of its coursework online but will also require some in person coursework or require a more frequent number of trips to campus for other learning purposes. While there isn’t the same degree of ability to complete all your coursework right at home, any opportunity to complete any degree requirements from home will always be an improvement in flexibility. To complete a hybrid program, you must live close enough to campus to attend as frequently as required.

California Physician Assistant Program Online Learning Formats

When choosing between online programs you will want to consider the delivery format of the coursework. Some classes are conducted in real time where all students are online simultaneously. This is called synchronous learning. There are also asynchronous programs, where there is no set lecture time. This format allows students to choose when they want to view lectures and complete deliverables. While synchronous learning tends to offer a more engaging experience, asynchronous learning can add more flexibility – which is more important to you?

How Long do Physician Assistant Programs Take to Complete?

A physician assistant degree can typically be completed in between two and a half and four years if you are not already a physician assistant. This time frame includes the clinical components of the degree.

Typical Online Physician Assistant Programs Available to California Students

The following online physician assistant programs are available to students in California. Note that these are masters program options for students who are not already physician assistants:

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)
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

On Campus PA Programs in California

The following physician assistant programs can be found on California campuses. There are campuses all over the state – from Monterey to Los Angeles

Program City Time to Complete GPA Requirement
California Baptist University Riverside 14 months 3.2
California State University Monterey Bay Seaside 28 months 3.0
Chapman University Orange 24 months 3.2
Charles R. Drew University Los Angeles 27 months No Minimum
Dominican University of California San Rafael 28 months 3.0
Loma Linda University Loma Linda 24 months 3.0
Marshall B Ketchum University Fullerton 27 months No Minimum
Samuel Merritt University Oakland 27 months 3.0
Southern California University of Health Sciences Whittier 28 months 3.0
Stanford University Stanford 30 months No Minimum
Touro University California Vallejo 32 months combines PA and Master of Public Health (MPH) 3.0
University of California – Davis Davis 27 months 3.0
University of La Verne La Verne 27 months 3.0
University of Southern California (LA) Los Angeles 33 months 3.0
University of the Pacific Stockton 27 months 3.0
Western University of Health Sciences Pomona 24 months 3.0

General Tips on How to Become a Physician Assistant in California

To become a physician assistant in California here are some common steps:

  1. Earn your Physician Assistant Degree – This will take you about two to three and a half years. Look for physician assistant programs accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) to ensure you meet certification requirements in the future.
  2. Pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) – You can learn more about the PANCE on our guide to becoming a physician assistant.

Get Licensed – Check with the California Physician Assistant Board as early as possible to make sure you are on track to meet all current requirements for licensure. According to the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA), licensure in California requires graduation from an accredited bachelor and physician assistant program and passage of the PANCE exam. It does not require current certification by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). This is a high-level overview, but make sure to check out California’s state board for exact requirements.