Physician Assistant Programs in Rhode Island

If you are living in Rhode Island and are looking for a campus in-state where you can complete a physician assistant (PA) program, you have two options – Bryant University and Johnson & Wales University. In addition to both of these options, there are also online programs that Rhode Islanders can complete from the comfort of home. Given that the options vary greatly, it can be tough to decide which kind of program is right for you. This guide will help you figure out how to start narrowing down your list of potential schools. 

Online PA Programs vs On-Campus PA Programs in Rhode Island

The constraints of your own schedule can be a great place to start, when determining which physician assistant programs  you should apply to. If you work a nine-to-five job, you simply won’t be able to enroll in a program that requires you to take classes during business hours. Or, if your schedule is erratic, you may need more flexibility in terms of when you go to class on any given week. By thinking about your needs and what is possible, you can quickly eliminate programs that would not fit into your life. Don’t stop at considering what is not possible, also think about what might be unnecessarily difficult for you. For example, if the nearest campus is significantly far away from you, commute time may be a burden on your schedule that you could take on though it would eat up some of your valuable time.

If your list of potential options is still too long after ruling out programs that conflict with your schedule, start thinking about your learning style. What kind of learning environment will best set you up to succeed? If home is distracting, you may want to consider an on-campus program where you can learn in a classroom. If it is easier for you to focus in a familiar place, an online program may be for you. 

Last Updated: 9/21/21

On Campus PA Programs in Rhode Island

There are two on campus PA programs offered in the state of Rhode Island – Bryant University and Johnson and Wales. If you earned your bachelor’s degree on campus, you are already familiar with the on-campus learning experience. Like any on campus program, PA program students report to class regularly at the institution. Like many other kinds of graduate Healthcare degrees, physician assistant programs require you to complete clinical experiences in addition to going to class. These requirements get students the real-world experience that they need in order to prepare to become PAs and are typically completed at placement sites local to the university.

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

Online PA Programs

Students in online physician assistant programs can attend class from anywhere where there is Wi-Fi, because going to class is done by logging into their computers. While this is merely a convenience for some, other students require this level of flexibility in order to fit a PA program into their schedule. Online programs may differ in how much flexibility they offer – some will simply get rid of the commute, while others will allow you to attend class whenever is best for you, as long as you adhere to due dates. Some online programs largely mimic the setup of a campus program in terms of scheduling, the only difference being that you attend class through your webcam. These sorts of programs retain some of the benefits of learning in person, such as the ability to have discussions during class with peers and professors.

The most flexible of online PA programs will still require you to go to clinical placement sites in order to get that real-world experience – it is simply required in order to become licensed as a physician assistant. What schools may be able to do for you is assist you in securing placement sites. Make sure to ask the programs you are interested in about if they will help you secure a local placement site and what they can do to help.

Hybrid PA Programs in Rhode Island

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

Physician Assistant Program Online Learning Formats

Online PA programs are either delivered synchronously or asynchronously. Synchronous delivery simply refers to anything that is delivered in real time, for example a live lecture delivered via webcam. Asynchronous delivery is completed on one’s own time. This would include, for example, a pre-recorded lecture. Some programs will use both synchronous and asynchronous delivery. 

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

A master’s in physician assistant studies (MPAS) programs could take about two to four years to complete (PA programs are approximately 27 months, according to American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA)). Bridge programs, which are not AAPA accredited and are meant for PAs with no master’s who are already in the field, may take less time.

Online Physician Assistant Programs Available to Rhode Island Students

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

The following physician assistant programs can be found on Rhode Island campuses.

Program City Time to Complete GPA Requirement
Bryant University Smithfield 27 months 3.0
Johnson & Wales University Providence 24 months 3.0

General Tips on How to Become a Physician Assistant in Rhode Island

To become a physician assistant in Rhode Island, 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 Rhode Island Department of Health 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 Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island’s state board for exact requirements.