Physician Assistant Programs in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has a long list of Institutions offering physician assistant (PA) programs on their campuses – over 20 in fact! From Drexel University in Philadelphia to the University of Pittsburgh, there are options all over the state.  In addition to these many options, Pennsylvania residents may also apply to a variety of online physician assistant programs. Online options may be appealing to students who have a busy schedule or who simply learn better online. Having so many options can be overwhelming. This guide was designed to help you sift through these choices so that you can apply to the programs that are the best fit for you. 

Online PA Programs vs On-Campus PA Programs in Pennsylvania

One of the easiest ways to start narrowing down your options for physician assistant programs may be to consider which programs do not fit into your lifestyle and schedule. For example, if you are working during the day, you may not be able to attend a program that doesn’t allow you to take classes at night or on your own time. If you are working different hours every week, you may not be able to attend a program that requires you to report to class at set times. By thinking about what fits into your schedule, you can quickly get rid of the options that simply aren’t possible for you.  Transportation is another one of these considerations. If you can’t easily get to class, an on campus program may not be the right choice for you.

After you eliminate what won’t work, you can start thinking about what might best suit your learning style. Is there a learning environment where you learn best? Some students find it easier to focus in a classroom free of distractions, while others find the comfort of their own home more conducive to learning.Going back to scheduling, while it might be possible for you to commute, will it severely interrupt your day? Added flexibility offered by online programs may ease some of  the stress of getting a degree and free up more of your valuable time.

Last Updated: 9/20/21

On Campus PA Programs in Pennsylvania

As mentioned before, there are a variety of on campus PA programs offered in the state of Pennsylvania. If you are interested in completing a PA program soon, you’ve probably already earned a bachelor’s degree, and you likely did so on a campus. Therefore, you may be familiar with the on campus experience where you report to class weekly to attend lectures. What you may be less familiar with are clinical experience requirements. Becoming a physician assistant requires a certain level of real-world preparation. Therefore, accredited physician assistant programs require you to complete clinical experiences at clinical placement sites. Typically, these will be completed local to campus, if you are enrolled in an on-campus program. 

Those looking for a more flexible or non-traditional experience may want to consider an online program.

Online PA Programs

The virtual nature of an online program allows students to be “anywhere” when they attend class – within reason and as long as there is Wi-Fi. Some may find this to be an added convenience bonus, while other students may truly need this level of flexibility in order to complete a degree. Online programs may offer varying levels of flexibility. Some may mimic the structure of an on campus program but remove commute time by allowing you to report to class through your webcam. Other online PA programs may allow you to complete class on your own time, trading collaboration and class discussion for an added level of convenience.

Even with online PA programs, you will still need to report to clinical experiences in person. This is because you need real world experience in order to prepare to become a physician assistant. One thing you will want to make sure of is that the programs you are interested in offer the amount of support you need in locating local placement sites. Ask if you will be allowed to complete placements locally to where you live. Also ask if the school what help they will offer in finding and securing such sites.

Hybrid PA Programs in Pennsylvania

A hybrid program splits coursework requirements between campus and online. This kind of program is not currently being offered on any Pennsylvania campuses.

Physician Assistant Program Online Learning Formats

Online PA programs are delivered in one of two ways, asynchronously or synchronously. In an asynchronous program, you will complete your work on your own time. While you will not have the benefit of collaborating with professors and peers during class, this will grant you added flexibility. In a synchronous program, you’ll report to class in real time – perhaps through your webcam. With this format, you may retain many of the social and collaborative benefits that are offered by on campus programs while also being able to earn your degree from the comfort of home. You may find that the programs you are interested in use both forms of delivery throughout the course of the program!

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

A master’s in physician assistant studies (MPAS) programs could take as little as two years to complete, or up to four years (PA programs are approximately 27 months, according to American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA)). The unaccredited bridge programs that PAs who entered the field before a master’s was required are interested in will take less time to complete.

Online Physician Assistant Programs Available to Pennsylvania Students

The following online physician assistant programs may be available to students in Pennsylvania. 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

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 Pennsylvania

The following physician assistant programs can be found on Pennsylvania campuses.

Program City Time to Complete GPA Requirement
Chatham University Pittsburgh 24 months 3.25
DeSales University Center Valley 24 months 3.0
Drexel University Philadelphia 24 months 3.0
Duquesne University Pittsburgh 5 year combined undergraduate and graduate 3.0
Gannon University Erie 5 year combined undergraduate and graduate 3.0
King’s College Wilkes-Barre 24 months 3.2
Lock Haven University Lock Haven 24 months 3.0
Marywood University Scranton 24 months 3.0
Mercyhurst University Erie 24 months 3.2
Misericordia University Dallas 25 months 3.2
Penn State University State College 24 months 3.0
Pennsylvania College of Technology Williamsport 5 year combined undergraduate and graduate N/A
Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine Philadelphia 26 months 3.0
Saint Francis University Loretto 24 months 3.0
Salus University Elkins Park 25 months 3.0
Seton Hill University Greensburg 27 months 3.2
Slippery Rock University Slippery Rock 24 months 3.25
Temple University Philadelphia 26 months 3.0
Thomas Jefferson University Philadelphia 27 months 3.25
University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh 24 months 3.0
University of the Sciences Philadelphia 24 months 3.0

General Tips on How to Become a Physician Assistant in Pennsylvania

To become a physician assistant in Pennsylvania, here are some common steps. Be sure to check with the state licensing agency for specific state requirements:

  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 Pennsylvania Board of Medicine 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 Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania’s state board for exact requirements.