Physician Assistant Programs in Tennessee

Tennessee is home to a variety of on campus physician assistant (PA) programs. From the University of Tennessee Health Science Center to Lipscomb University, there are several options to choose from. In addition to these campus auctions, they’re also online programs that Tennesseans can enroll in. This guide is designed to help you sift through your options so that you can decide which of these programs are best for you.

Online PA Programs vs On-Campus PA Programs in Tennessee

The list of physician assistant programs you apply to may be naturally limited by your schedule. You will want to pick programs to apply to that don’t hold many of their classes during times for your typically busy. If your availability often changes due to variable commitments, you may be curious about options that allow you to attend pre-recorded classes on your own time. You should also think about which of Tennessee’s campuses are the closest to where you live. If the programs you are most interested in are difficult for you to commute to, online programs may be a more realistic choice for you. 

Your schedule isn’t the only factor that you should consider when picking the right PA programs. Think about what your learning style is and how you can best set yourself up for success. If you learn best in the comfort of home, an online program may be for you. If home is a distracting environment, an on campus program may be best for you. It is important to consider that in recent years, online programs have become more and more capable of replicating some of the best parts of the classroom experience. Through user-friendly virtual classrooms and webcams, some online classes have become collaborative environments full of discussion between professors and peers. Class delivery will differ by program however, so you should ask the programs you’re interested in about what the online experience is like.

Last Updated: 9/30/21

On Campus PA Programs in Tennessee

As noted before, there are several on-campus programs in the state of Tennessee. If you’ve earned a degree on a campus before, you are already familiar with the process of attending class in the classroom. The on campus PA program experience will be very similar. In addition to classroom requirements, physician assistant degrees require you to complete clinical experience requirements at placement sites. These experiences expose you to the field and better prepare you to become a physician assistant. Often with on campus programs, these experiences are completed at sites in the general area of the university.

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

Online PA Programs

Online physician assistant programs allow you to go to class from kitchen table, your personal office, or anywhere else of your choosing (within reason). This kind of setup allows you to save your commute time. Depending on the kind of online program you enroll in, you may have additional levels of flexibility, potentially including being able to attend class on your own time. While this comes at the expense of being able to have discussions during class, this level of flexibility is sometimes needed for the busiest of students. If this is not what you need or want, you may be interested in synchronous programs, where learning may happen via webcam and discussions between students and professors are part of the learning experience.

Even with online programs, placements will occur at physical clinical placement sites. However, programs may be able to place you at locations local to you. Always ask the programs you are interested in if they will place you locally and what sport they will offer you and securing these placements.

Hybrid PA Programs in Tennessee

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

Physician Assistant Program Online Learning Formats

Online physician assistant programs are offered in either a synchronous or asynchronous format. Some programs will utilize both formats:

  • Synchronous learning is in real time, students login to attend live class
  • Asynchronous learning is completed on one’s own time, perhaps through pre recorded lectures

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

While each program will vary, master’s in physician assistant studies (MPAS) may take two to four years (PA programs are approximately 27 months, according to American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA)). If you are a current PA interested in a bridge program (you know who you are!) that may take less time to complete.

Online Physician Assistant Programs Available to Tennessee Students

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

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

Program City Time to Complete GPA Requirement
Bethel University McKenzie 27 months 3.4
Christian Brothers University Memphis 29 months 3.0
Lincoln Memorial University Harrogate 27 months 2.8
Lipscomb University Nashville 27 months 3.0
Milligan University Milligan 28 months 3.0
South College Knoxville 27 months 2.0
Trevecca Nazarene University Nashville 27 months 3.25
University of Tennessee Health Science Center Memphis 24 months 3.0

General Tips on How to Become a Physician Assistant in Tennessee

To become a physician assistant in Tennessee, 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 Tennessee Board of Physician Assistants 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 Tennessee 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 Tennessee’s state board for exact requirements.