Physician Assistant Degree Programs and Courses

Physician assistants are primary care providers who examine, diagnose and treat patients under the supervision of physicians and surgeons. Learn about the education options for a physician assistant as well as the employment outlook and average salary. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

Licensed physicians assistants provide patients with diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive healthcare. In order to become licensed to work as a physician assistant, you'll have to complete a program accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA).

Degrees Bachelor of Science in Physician Assistant, Master of Physician Assistant Studies, Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies
Courses Pharmacology, microbiology, immunology, internal medicine, physical diagnosis, surgery, interviewing and counseling, psychosocial dynamics, emergency medicine
Licensing All states mandate that physicians assistant be licensed to practice

What Bachelor's Programs Are Available?

Physician assistant degree programs are offered at both the bachelor's and master's degree levels. A bachelor's degree program will take four years to complete. The last year of study in a bachelor's degree program might consist of clinical rotations, where you will work in different specialties of healthcare, typically in a setting such as a hospital or a clinic. A Bachelor of Science in Physician Assistant might be offered. These courses could be included in a program:

  • General chemistry
  • Organic chemistry
  • Technical and professional communication
  • General psychology
  • Principles of biology
  • Microbiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical medicine

What About Master's Programs?

For students who are interested in enrolling in a master's degree, programs can take up to three years to finish. A master's degree program may include clinical rotations, in which you would work under the supervision of medical doctors. The coursework in undergraduate and graduate degree programs in physician assisting is similar. However, master's degree courses are more rigorous. Courses you may study include anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, clinical medicine, clinical diagnosis and professional behavior. A Master of Physician Assistant Studies could be available, along with a Master of Science degree program.

Why Should I Earn a Degree in Physician Assisting?

Clinics, particularly in the inner city and in rural areas, have a high number of job openings for physician assistants. Employment growth is attributed in part to a large number of employees reaching retirement age. There were an estimated 106,200 physician assistants employed in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and the number of physician assistants is expected to grow by 37% between 2016 and 2026 (www.bls.gov). The estimated median salary for physician assistants is $104,860 as of May 2017.

What Are the Admissions Requirements?

Physician assisting programs are highly competitive, so you should have a high GPA and high school coursework in anatomy, physiology, chemistry, organic chemistry, microbiology, psychology and algebra. If you're applying to a master's degree program, you may need to take the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). Some graduate schools may require that you hold a bachelor's degree related to physician assisting, but others may offer programs to applicants who hold unrelated majors. Additionally, because you'll be in direct contact with patients, you'll need to pass a health screening and have current immunizations.

How Do I Become Licensed?

Completion of a program accredited by the National Commission on Certification Physician Assistants (NCCPA will make you eligible to take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). If you pass the exam and meet all your state's requirements, you will obtain licensure and can use the Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C) designation.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
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