Physician Assistant Programs in South Dakota

South Dakota is home to a single on campus physician assistant (PA) program, at the University of South Dakota. Fortunately, those who are looking for more options and are residing in the state also may apply to online physician assistant programs. With the different kinds of options available, it can be difficult to decide which kind of program is right for you. This guide was designed to help you sift through the choices so that you can start making that decision.

Online PA Programs vs On-Campus PA Programs in South Dakota

The list of physician assistant programs you apply to is naturally influenced by your schedule. If you are busy during business hours, you aren’t going to be able to attend a program that  requires you to attend class during the day. If your commitments change from week to week, you may not be able to complete a program that requires you to attend class at any set time at all. Knowing what isn’t possible for you can help you narrow down some options pretty quickly.  One should also consider that just because they can complete a certain kind of program doesn’t mean it is the easiest program for them to complete. For example, if you live far away from campus, while you could commute, it may be easier for you to attend a program that doesn’t require you to spend all of those hours driving.

After considering your schedule, you can start thinking about other factors such as your learning style. Whether you learn best in a classroom or at home may influence your choice. The goings-on at your home may make it more or less distracting to complete a degree online, however some may find this setting better for their learning. It is important to consider that some of the benefits traditionally associated with an on-campus program can now be replicated online. For example, some online programs facilitate great discussion between professors and students through live online streaming of classes via webcam. You no longer have to be in the classroom to get to know the people you are in class with!

Last Updated: 9/30/21

On Campus PA Programs in South Dakota

The University of South Dakota boasts the only on campus PA program in the state. As with any on campus program, students report to campus on a regular basis to go to class. As required by any accredited PA program, students also report to clinical placement sites to complete clinical experience requirements. These requirements help the students gain the real world experience they need as they prepare to become certified in the field. With on campus programs, placement sites are typically located in the general area surrounding the university.

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

Online PA Programs

If you are looking for a program that allows you to go to class from your personal office or kitchen table, an online PA degree is for you. This flexibility allows you to get rid of any commute to class. Additionally, online programs may offer more flexibility whether it be through more schedule friendly class times or in some cases, the ability to go to class at whatever time is best for you (through asynchronous learning).

If you are worried about losing some of the benefits that come with learning in person, know that some online programs are incredibly engaging and collaborative. Depending on the platform used by your program, you may be attending all of your classes via webcam so that you can get into discussions just like you would in the classroom.

With online programs, clinical experiences will still be in person, though you may be able to complete them in your own local community, saving you the need to uproot in order to get that real world experience. Ask the online PA programs that you are interested in about what they do in terms of assigning clinical placements and if and how they can secure a placement that is conveniently located for you.

Hybrid PA Programs in South Dakota

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

Physician Assistant Program Online Learning Formats

Online physician assistant programs are offered in one of two formats, or a mix of both:

  • Synchronous learning occurs at a set time, in sync with the group. Everyone logs on to attend class or learn together
  • Asynchronous learning is done on your own time. Pre recorded lectures and other kinds of media allow for this kind of learning.

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

Master’s in physician assistant studies (MPAS) could take between two to four years, and may vary by program (PA programs are approximately 27 months, according to American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA)). Bridge programs for PAs who entered the field before a master’s was needed, may take less time. These sorts of programs are not accredited by the AAPA.

Online Physician Assistant Programs Available to South Dakota Students

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

The following physician assistant programs can be found on South Dakota campuses.

Program City Time to Complete GPA Requirement
University of South Dakota Vermillion 24 months 3.0

General Tips on How to Become a Physician Assistant in South Dakota

To become a physician assistant in South Dakota, 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 may 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 South Dakota Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners 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 South Dakota 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 South Dakota’s state board for exact requirements.