Best Type of PhD Programs for Physician Assistants (PA)

Physician assistant (PA) programs prepare students for clinical careers in several healthcare specialties. A PA position can be obtained after completing a bachelor's degree program and an accredited PA program; however, some students may choose to pursue a terminal degree as well. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

PhD Degrees for PAs

Doctor of Behavioral Health Program (DBH)

The DBH degree focuses on developing healthcare leadership skills in students and is an 84-credit hour program that offers credit for those who have completed a master's degree. Admission requirements include a personal statement, official graduate transcripts, letters of recommendation, a resume and a video interview. The coursework includes models of integrated primary care, financial management in healthcare and healthcare information management. Students who complete this program could have career opportunities such as healthcare manager, healthcare consultant and healthcare administrator.

PhD/Master of Medical Science (MMS) Degree

The PhD/MMS degree allows PA students to work toward two degrees concurrently, and these concurrent programs often take about 5-7 years. Students must meet their PA requirements to be eligible for this type of program, and common entrance requirements include letters of reference, degree transcripts, healthcare experience, graduate record exam (GRE) scores, letters of reference and the CASPer - situational judgement test. Curriculum focuses on developing clinical skills and includes clinical and diagnostic skills, patient care and foundations of medicine and surgery. Career opportunities following completion can include PA work in the following specialties: cardiothoracic surgery, emergency medicine, interventional radiology or sleep medicine.

Doctor of Health Sciences (DHSC)

Students pursuing a DHSC typically have about 45-47 credit hours to complete, and the program focuses on clinical and academic leadership. Admissions criteria for the program include grade point average requirements, a personal statement, professional licensure, a writing sample, official transcripts and letters of recommendation. Some career paths for this degree can lead to positions as a PA in a rural or suburban health clinic environment or family medicine, an advanced practitioner hospitalist or a department chair for a clinical academic area.

Doctor of Medical Science (DMSc)

The DMSc degree focuses on developing evidence-based whole person treatment to impact clinical outcomes for patients and the community. The program requires 36 credit hours to complete and includes courses such as community assessment, ethics in healthcare and health promotion and social and behavioral determinants of health. Common entrance requirements include GPA minimums, current employment as a PA, degree transcripts and a resume. Career prospects for individuals with this degree include clinical, industry and educational leadership positions.

Doctor of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (DScPAS)

The DScPAS degree allows students to complete their terminal PA program after completion of 24 credit hours, which takes about 2-4 years to complete. The program requirements include a Master in Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS), proof of state licensure and GPA requirements. Coursework can include critical global health issues, health policy and reform and assessment and evaluation. There are three tracks to choose from, including health system administration, educational leadership and global health, which impact the career track of students pursuing this terminal credential. Career opportunities can include professorial appointments, health system management or non-governmental agency health work.

Degree Program Comparison

Degree ProgramProgram LengthProgram RequirementsRelated Careers
Doctor of Behavioral Health (DBH)5-7 yearsPersonal statement, official graduate transcripts, letters of recommendation, resume and video interviewHealthcare manager, healthcare consultant
PhD/Master of Medical Science (MMS) 5-7 yearsLetters of reference, degree transcripts, healthcare experience, graduate record exam (GRE) scores, letters of reference and the CASPer -situational judgement testPA in cardiothoracic surgery, PA in interventional radiology
Doctor of Health Sciences (DHSC)4-7 yearsGrade point average requirements, personal statement, professional licensure, writing sample, official transcripts and letters of recommendationAdvanced practitioner hospitalist, department chair for a clinical academic area
Doctor of Medical Science (DMSc)3-4 yearsGPA minimums, current employment as a PA, degree transcripts and resumeClinical, industry and educational leadership positions
Doctor of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (DScPAS)2-4 yearsCompletion of Master in Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) program, proof of state licensure and GPA requirementsHealth system manager or professor

PhD programs for PAs include programs that focus on a number of healthcare and scientific specialties. These programs range from 2-7 years in length and give students enhanced career opportunities, including more specialized PA opportunities or healthcare leadership roles.

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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