Residents of Illinois can currently apply to one of six in state institutions offering accredited physician assistant master’s degree programs – Dominican University, Midwestern University, Northwestern University, Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine, Rush University, or Southern Illinois University. There are also several online programs you can attend without leaving the state!

Online PA Programs vs On-Campus Programs in Illinois

The advantages of attending an online versus an on campus physician assistant program differ person by person. Some of it comes down to how an individual learns best; for instance, while some students perform better in an on campus learning environment, others thrive with the flexibility of online learning. Necessity also dictates what’s most effective for an individual – if you are juggling a lot in your schedule you may need the flexibility that some online programs offer in order to consider earning a degree at all.

Last Updated: 2/18/21

On Campus PA Programs in Illinois

Looking to feel like a part of a campus and learn in the classroom setting? Then the traditional on campus program may be for you. These programs will require several trips to campus per week to attend class, and then lots of time spent at clinical placement sites during certain parts of your program. Clinical requirements are typically completed at sites in the same community as the campus. On campus programs provide structure and also allow you to learn alongside your peers in real life.

Not interested in on campus learning? You could consider an online program:


Online PA Programs

Online programs are conducted virtually, through lectures and assignments accessed by your computer. Like on campus programs, clinical requirements are completed in person at a clinical site, but the site is often able to be secured in your own community, depending on the program and where you live. Online programs vary in the degree of formats they are delivered in and in the flexibility they offer – they can range from structured schedules where students attend simultaneously through video streaming to pre recorded lectures combined with deliverables completed on your own time. Note that an online program may still require the occasional trip to campus.


Hybrid PA Programs in Illinois

Hybrid programs simply combine online and on campus learning. They may be a best of both worlds situation for some students, while others will prefer purely on campus or online learning.


Physician Assistant Program Online Learning Formats

There are two types of online programs:

  • Synchronous – students sign on for class at a specific time and interact with each other and their professor. This may be conducted through video streaming and web cams, but could be done through other mediums such as live chat.
  • Asynchronous – students complete their work on their own time with no live components.


How Long do Physician Assistant Programs in Illinois Typically Take to Complete?

A Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) degree usually takes two and a half to four years to complete. For context, PA programs are approximately 27 months, according to the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA)). For those who have an undergraduate degree and are already practicing as physician assistants, a bridge program will take less time.


Online Physician Assistant Programs Available to Illinois Students

The following online physician assistant programs are available to students in Illinois. Please note, however, that students should be sure to check each program to make sure the program is able to operate in Illinois. In addition, note that some of these options are bridge programs for current PAs:

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

On Campus PA Programs in Illinois

The following physician assistant programs can be found on Illinois campuses. There are campuses all over the state. 


Program City Time to Complete GPA Requirement*
Dominican University River Forest 24 months 3.0
Midwestern University Downers Grove 27 months 3.0
Northwestern University Evanston 24 months 2.8
Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine Chicago 24 months 2.75
Rush University Chicago 30 months 3.0
Southern Illinois University Carbondale 26 months 3.2

*Note: The source of the GPA requirement data is the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA)’s directory.


General Tips on How to Become a Physician Assistant in Illinois

To become a physician assistant in Illinois, 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.
  3. Get Licensed – Check with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation 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 Illinois requires graduation from an accredited physician assistant program and passage of the PANCE exam. Current certification by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) is not required. This is a high-level overview, make sure to check out Illinois’s state board for exact requirements.