The rise in the accelerated online Master’s in Health Sciences – Physician Assistant programs point to the industry’s understanding that working professionals need access to graduate education in a way that makes sense for their schedules. Because more and more physician assistant positions require a graduate degree, some professionals are finding themselves locked out of promotions because they only hold an undergraduate degree. Now that schools are creating online programs, more students are taking the next step and applying for graduate programs.
Physician assistants work long hours; this is for good reason as their expertise is required in healthcare settings at all hours of the day. Having access to an online science degree that can be pursued when a student has time makes it easier for them to commit to their graduate education. Along with many programs offering an accelerated program formats for professionals with a substantial amount of work experience, it is possible for online students to complete the science degree in three years or less. With more programs becoming available, it was necessary to create an updated ranking for interested students to browse; this is the ranking that can be found below.
Time to Completion
- Less Than 30 Months: 1 point
- Less Than 2 Years: 2 points
- Less Than 18 Months: 3 points
- Less Than 1 Year: 4 points
- Less Than $30,000: 1 point
- Less Than $20,000: 2 points
- Less Than $15,000: 3 points
- Less Than $10,000: 4 points
Accreditation (School-Wide and Program-Specific) – 1 point per item
Presence of an Online Student Support Network– 1 point
Ranking Low-Cost Accelerated Master’s in Health Sciences – Physician Assistant
The initial pool for this ranking of accelerated online master’s degree programs in health sciences-physician assistant studies was created based on a simple web search. After identifying the specific colleges and universities nationwide that offer such a program, our editors applied the methodology above using information from College Navigator as well as each program’s website. In the case of a tie, the more affordable medical science degree program received a higher ranking.
The online accelerated master’s physician assistant studies program from Yale School of Medicine is an accelerated, yet comprehensive option designed to be pursued on a full-time basis. Following the program’s carefully prescribed curriculum, students will fulfill the required 118 credit hours of coursework and clinical experiences within just 28 months. Sample course titles include:
- Patient Assessment
- Diagnostic Studies
- Behavioral and Preventative Medicine
Yale University holds its institutional accreditation from the New England Commission on Higher Education. U.S. News & World Report has ranked Yale’s accelerated program of physician assistant studies online program among the top 30 in the country.
Graduate Tuition: $43,300
#9—University of Detroit-Mercy
The University of Detroit-Mercy offers an accelerated online physician assistant master’s completion program from its College of Health Professions and the McAuley School of Nursing. The program is versatile in terms of both scheduling and content. Three different course scheduling options are available, and students can elect an Administrative Leadership track. The 30-credit hour curriculum for the program includes core courses such as:
- Health Care Delivery and Policy Issues
- Research Methods
- Health Promotion and Risk Reduction
Students enrolled in the Administrative Leadership track will take additional classes like:
- Health Economic
- Information Systems for Health Services Administrators
- Theory and Practice of Management
The Higher Learning Commission has accredited the University of Detroit-Mercy to confer this master’s degree in physician assistant studies online. U.S. News & World Report has ranked the program among the best of its kind nationwide.
Graduate Tuition: $29,268
The accelerated online physician’s assistant program from Pace University is a one-year degree completion program designed for graduates of bachelor’s degree programs. Courses required for the degree include:
- Leadership and Theory in Healthcare
- Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
- Epidemiology and Evidence-Based Practice
A scholarly research paper is also required prior to graduation. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education has accredited Pace University to award this physician assistant master’s online program. U.S. News & World Report has ranked the program among the top 65 of its kind nationwide.
Graduate Tuition: $31,320
#7—University of Maryland- Baltimore
The University of Maryland- Baltimore’s accelerated physicians assistant online program is offered through a partnership with Anne Arundel Community College (AACC). The 116-credit hour program is designed to be completed within just 25 months and includes course titles such as:
- Applied Medical Sciences
- Foundations of PA Practice
- Clinical Medicine
- Legal/Ethical Issues for Health, Human Services, and Clinical Professionals
The Middle States Commission on Higher Education has accredited UMDB to confer this online graduate degree in physician assistant studies.
Graduate Tuition: $15,132
#6—Saint Francis University
The accelerated online physician assistant studies program from Saint Francis University is a 33-credit hour Master of Medical Science (MMS) offering. Designed to be completed during the clinical year of a student’s undergraduate PA program or shortly thereafter, the program features courses such as:
- Clinical Applications in Primary Care
- Advanced Pharmacology
- Research Methodology
The Middle States Commission on Higher Education has accredited Saint Francis University to offer the online MMS degree. The program has been ranked among the top 40 graduate physician assistant programs in the nation.
Graduate Tuition: $25,000
#5—University of North Dakota
The accelerated physician assistant master’s online program from the University of North Dakota is offered through UND’s School of Medicine & Health Sciences. Technically a hybrid option, the program does require some visits to campus but allows distance education students to complete their clinical experiences in their local area. Sample course titles associated with the program’s curriculum include:
- Human Physiology and Pathophysiology
- Diagnostic Studies
- Medical Human Anatomy and Radiology
The Higher Learning Commission has accredited UND to confer the online graduate degree in physician assistant studies. U.S. News & World Report has ranked the program among the top 40 of its kind nationwide.
Graduate Tuition: $10,534
#4—University of Nebraska Medical Center
The online accelerated master of physician assistant studies program from the University of Nebraska Medical Center is offered through the school’s College of Allied Health Professions. Designed for working physician assistants who desire a graduate degree in the field, this degree advancement option allows students to earn this credential within five semesters of study. The program’s curriculum features didactic courses such as:
- Management in Health Care
- Health Care Ethics and Critical Thinking
- Health Care Policy
An optional Education track is also available, which requires classes like:
- Instructional Design in Higher Learning
- Education Theory in Medicine
- Leadership in Clinical Education
The University of Nebraska Medical Center is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission to offer the accelerated physician assistant master’s online. It’s one of the 15 best schools for a graduate degree in the field, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Graduate Tuition: $8,964
Touro College offers a self-paced accelerated online master’s in physician assistant studies program from its School of Health Sciences. Students who choose a full-time track can earn their degree in just one year. The curriculum for this 30-credit hour master’s completion program include:
- Medical Ethics and Healthcare Policy
- Healthcare Delivery Systems
- Health Science Epidemiology and Biostatistics
- Medical Research Methods and Literature Review
A culminating master’s project is also required for successful program completion. Touro College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education to award this master’s in physician assistant studies online. U.S. News & World Report has ranked the program among the best in the nation for this sub-field of health sciences.
Graduate Tuition: $12,240
#2—University of South Florida
The accelerated master of physician assistant studies online program from the University of South Florida is offered through USF Health’s Division of Graduate & Postdoctoral Affairs. The program is available fully online and is interdisciplinary in nature. Courses required for the degree include:
- Basic Medical Microbiology & Immunology
- Health Sciences Ethics
- Human Structure and Function
- Basic Medical Pathology
USF is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award the graduate degree in health sciences online. U.S. News & World Report has named it one of the best medical schools in the country for both research and clinical practice.
Graduate Tuition: $8,350
#1—University of Texas- Rio Grande Valley
The highly accelerated online master of physician assistant studies offering from the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley is a bridge program that can be completed in just three months. Offered through the university’s College of Health Professions and the Department of Physician Assistant Studies, the program is designed for working healthcare professionals who already hold a bachelor’s degree in the field. The curriculum for the program consists of three-month-long clinical tracks and a culminating research experience course. UTRGV is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award the master of physician assistant studies online program. U.S. News & World Report has ranked it among the 75 best such programs nationwide.
Graduate Tuition: $5,959
About the Field of Physician Assistant Studies
Physician assistant studies is a popular and growing field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for these advanced healthcare professionals is currently rising exponentially; job opportunities are projected to increase by over 30% between 2018 and 2028. This is a much steeper growth trajectory compared to the average occupation.
The burgeoning demand for physician assistants can be attributed in large part to the aging baby boomer population who will need more healthcare services as they grow older. There’s more to the growth of the physician assistant sector, though. Because these healthcare professionals perform many of the same functions as doctors and require less training, many hospitals, doctor’s offices, and outpatient care centers are relying on physician assistants to fill the gap as demand for healthcare services grows.
About Master of Health Sciences Physician Assistant Programs
In order to become a physician assistant, you’ll need a master’s degree in health sciences. Many of these programs offer concentrations or areas of emphasis directly related to a career path in physician assistant studies. The most credible master’s of health sciences degree programs for physician assistants are accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). Traditional physician assistant master’s degree programs usually require two to three years to complete.
About Online Accelerated Master of Health Sciences Physician Assistant Options
Accelerated online master’s in health sciences programs for physician assistants have made it easier and more convenient for healthcare professionals to earn their PA credentials. These programs enable students to complete their coursework from home and eliminate the time spent driving to campus. In some cases, enrolled students can continue working in the healthcare field while pursuing their physician assistant master’s degree online. These accelerated online offerings also reduce the time commitment necessary for a master’s in PA studies significantly, making it possible to earn the graduate health sciences credential in as few as 3 months.
Types of Accelerated Online Master of Physician Assistant Studies Programs
While accelerated online master’s in health sciences for physician assistant studies programs share some things in common—namely a shortened degree plan and distance education options—they’re not all identical. In fact, they can vary significantly from one school to the next. Some of the major distinctions that characterize these graduate offerings include course delivery and format.
100% Online Versus Hybrid Physician Assistant Studies Master’s Programs
The majority of accelerated online physician assistant master’s programs in our ranking are fully online options. That means that all coursework required for these programs can be completed entirely online. For these programs, there are no mandatory visits to campus. Some accelerated master of health sciences in physician assistant studies do require on-campus meetings, though. These options may be classified as online programs, but they are technically hybrid offerings, meaning they blend online and on-campus classes. Some hybrid programs are more flexible than others, but they all require some visits to campus.
While hybrid PA master’s programs may be less convenient than 100% online programs, some students prefer them because they offer more structure and engagement. If you require some degree of oversight in order to be productive or learn best in a traditional classroom setting, a hybrid program may be your best bet.
Asynchronous Versus Synchronous Online Accelerated Master Physician Assistant Studies
Another element of an accelerated online master of health sciences-physician assistant studies degree option that may vary from program to program is course delivery. Generally speaking, there are two types of course delivery methods: asynchronous and synchronous delivery. In an asynchronous program, students are granted the maximum amount of flexibility when scheduling their coursework. These programs are self-paced and allow students to log into their virtual classrooms at their convenience, even in the middle of the night. Once logged in, students can view prerecorded lectures and post to discussion forums.
Synchronous online physician assistant master’s programs are more structured in terms of scheduling. These options require students to log in to classes at specified times of the day and week and are characterized by live lectures and class discussions. While less flexible, synchronous programs provide more interaction and structure than their asynchronous counterparts.
Admissions Criteria for Online Accelerated Master’s in Health Sciences: Physician Assistant Programs
The admissions requirements for an accelerated online master of health sciences- physician assistant studies program may vary somewhat depending on which school and program you are applying to. Still, the criteria will be similar. Typically, these graduate programs in the health sciences require successful completion of a bachelor’s degree program in health sciences or a closely related field as well as direct experience in a patient care setting. This latter requirement can be fulfilled through professional employment in the healthcare field as a nurse, paramedic, physician assistant profession, or medical assistant, for example, or through an internship or student researcher role. Some programs also require a graduate entrance examination such as the GRE or MCAT.
As you’re considering which colleges and universities you should apply to, keep in mind that some programs are more competitive than others. Detailed admissions requirements may include specific GPA criteria or test scores as well as certain prerequisite course titles. The college or university you’re applying to might make additional requests as well, including letters of reference, community service, or interviews.
Curriculum for Accelerated Online Master of Health Sciences: Physician Assistant Studies Degree Programs
Just as admissions requirements for online accelerated health sciences master’s in physician assistant studies may vary from school to school, so too will the curricula for these programs. Generally speaking, though, the degree plans for these academic offerings will be comprised of two main components: didactic coursework and clinical experiences.
Didactic coursework represents the traditional teaching phase of the program. During this phase, students will be introduced to advanced topics in the health sciences such as pathology, disease, pharmacology, and prevention, for example. Some sample course titles are listed below for your reference; these are taken from actual curriculum plans for master of health sciences- physician assistant degree programs:
Sample Didactic Course Titles
- Introduction to Pathology
- Evidence Based Medicine
- Foundations of Clinical Medicine
- Clinical Anatomy
- Physical Diagnosis
- Patient Interviewing
- Clinical Laboratory Medicine
- Surgical Techniques
The clinical component of an accelerated online master’s in health sciences- physical assistant degree plan is the experiential component of an accelerated pa program. This component serves two purposes. Firstly, clinical rotations enable students to demonstrate what they’ve learned during the didactic phase of their master’s degree program. Secondly, the experience gives students the opportunity to get their feet wet in the field and learn precisely what it’s like to work as a real physician assistant.
Students are usually required to complete a certain number of clinical hours in a healthcare setting prior to graduation from the master’s program, and this number can vary by school. For online master’s in physician assistant studies, students are usually allowed to complete their clinical hours close to home, sometimes at their current place of employment.
Frequently-Asked Questions for Accelerated Master of Health Sciences-Physician Assistant Studies Online Programs
Even accelerated online master’s in physician assistant studies programs require a significant time investment, and then there is the financial investment to consider as well. Thus, it’s natural for a prospective student to have numerous questions prior to embarking on this type of academic pursuit in the field of healthcare. Below, our editors have addressed a few of the most commonly posed questions about accelerated master’s degree in health sciences for physician assistants. When perusing the information presented, keep in mind that it’s meant to provide general direction, but is not intended to replace information or advice from official school representatives such as admissions counselors.
Q: How quickly can I earn my master’s in health sciences-physician assistant online credential?
A: Completion times for accelerated health science master’s online programs for physician assistants will vary. In this very ranking, for example, times to completion range from three to thirty months.
Q: What does an accelerated online master of physician assistant studies program cost?
A: Your tuition will depend on the program and school you select. In our ranking, for example, costs vary from just over $5,000 a year to over $40,000 a year. When considering these educational expenses, though, keep in mind that financial aid is often available.
Q: What is the best online accelerated master’s in health sciences-physician assistant program?
A: Despite our ranking, there is no definitive choice for the best accelerated online master of physician assistant studies. However, it is possible to discover the ideal program for you by considering your goals and budget and weighing them against certain programmatic features like tuition, curriculum, and scheduling options, for instance.
Q: Are online physician assistant master’s degrees credible?
A: The majority of them are, yes. If you have questions about a specific program’s legitimacy, it’s best to check into the school’s institutional accreditation as well as programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistance (ARC-PA).
Career Questions for Online Accelerated Physician Assistant Master’s Programs
Q: What will I make with a physician’s assistant master’s degree online?
A: Your exact salary will vary depending on your specific employment terms. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the median annual wage for physician assistants in 2019 to be over $112,000.
Q: Is there a demand for trained physician assistants?
A: Yes! Employment opportunities for these healthcare professionals are growing much faster than average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Q: Do I need a professional license to work as a physician assistant?
A: Yes. In addition to a master’s degree in health sciences, you will also need to become licensed by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). This process requires that you take and pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE).
Q: What professional organizations exist in physician assistant studies?
A: There are several professional organizations and associations affiliated with the field of physician assistant studies. Some of these include:
- The American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA)
- Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA)
- National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA)