Online Physician Assistant Master's Degree Programs

While physician assistants treat patients and collaborate with doctors, their education and training requirements differ from that of physicians. Read on to learn about Master of Physician Assistant Studies programs. See what courses you might take, and get career information, too. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Can I Earn a Master's Degree in Physician Assistant Studies Online?

Accredited master's degree programs in this field are available online. They often restrict admission to those already holding a Bachelor of Science in Physician Assistant Studies or a related degree and working as physician assistants. Online programs may utilize Internet technology such as discussion boards, video chat, recorded lectures and e-mail. Some programs do not require on-campus visits.

Online Availability Online programs are available using recorded lectures, video chat, e-mail and discussion boards
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree in physician assistant studies or related field, letters of recommendation, college transcripts
Common Courses Pharmacology, physical diagnosis, therapeutics, internal medicine, patient assessment
Licensure Physician assistants must pass a national certifying exam and become licensed by the state
Job Outlook 30% increase between 2014-2024 (for physician assistants)*
Mean Annual Wage (2014) $97,280 (for physician assistants)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Educational Prerequisites Will I Need?

You'll need at least a bachelor's degree in physician assistant studies or a related field. Programs may prefer applicants with experience caring for patients. For this reason, you should expect to submit a resume in addition to college transcripts. Most admissions committees also require letters of recommendation.

What Will I Learn?

You'll learn specific medical techniques in areas like diagnostics, preventative healthcare and therapeutic services. Clinical skills reinforced through your current employment might include examining patients, performing basic treatments, taking patients' medical histories and interpreting test results. You'll also learn casting and suturing to treat small injuries. Other areas of study might include medical informatics and evidence-based medicine. Further instruction may be offered in medical genetics, alternative medicine, pain management and complimentary medicine.

These programs typically combine online courses with hands-on experience gained through your current physician assistant job. Programs may also be available in online-only formats. Some courses may be dictated by your chosen area of specialization, like leadership or clinical medicine. Here are a few classes you might find in the curriculum:

  • Anatomy
  • Surgery
  • Physical diagnosis
  • Pharmacology
  • Therapeutics
  • Evidence-based medicine
  • Internal medicine
  • Behavioral aspects of medicine
  • Patient assessment
  • Primary care

Do I Need Certification or a License?

As a physician assistant, you'll need to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination, if you haven't already before starting the master's degree program. The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) administers the test (www.nccpa.net). You'll also need to complete a minimum number of continuing medical education hours every two years and take another exam every six years to maintain your Physician Assistant - Certified credentials.

A state license is required before you can take a job as a physician assistant. While all states mandate that physician assistants be licensed, they may vary in their education and experience requirements. In some states, national certification is a prerequisite for licensure. If you enter a master's degree program as a working physician assistant, you will likely have already earned your license.

Will I Be Able to Find a Job?

In 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that physician assistants could expect higher than average employment growth of 30% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported this employment increase would be due in part to a growing medical industry also interested in reducing costs and freeing up physicians' time from some typical tasks, making physician assistants cost-effective employees for many institutions. According to a May 2014 BLS report, the mean annual salary for physician assistants was $97,280 and most were employed in physicians' offices, although you might also work in a hospital or outpatient clinic.

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:

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