Physician Assistant Schools

Physician Assistant graduate programs could help you prepare to examine, diagnose, and treat patients as part of a team in many areas of medicine. Physician assistant schools combine coursework and clinical experiences to provide a strong foundation of medical knowledge. Classes may cover core topics in science, pathology, human anatomy, clinical medicine, pharmacology and medical ethics. Then students participate in supervised clinic hours in several areas to gain hands on experience and prepare for the diverse challenges they may face in the field.i

Most physician assistant graduate programs are masters programs. However advanced masters programs, for licensed PAs, may also be available. Check with your preferred physician assistant schools to see which program might best serve you – you might even consider a PA program that accepts a low GPA.


A Physician Assistant is one of the top 5 fastest growing careers with a graduate degree in 2016. Learn more about PA salary and employment outlook.iii

What Is a Physician’s Assistant?

A physician’s assistant is a healthcare professional who is licensed to practice medicine as part of a team. These qualified individuals are concerned with preventing and treating human injury and illness by providing a variety of health care services under guidance of a surgeon or physician.

PAs work in all areas of medicine, including primary care and family medicine, emergency medicine, surgery, and psychiatry. Their specific responsibilities and activities depend on their specialty or the type of medical practice where they work.ii Therefore, it’s important to consider your interests when selecting physician assistant graduate programs.

Physician assistants typically need a masters degree from an accredited program and state licensure to practice. To become licensed, candidates must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). A physician assistant who passes the exam may then use the credential “Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C).” i Licensure requirements could vary by state, so contact your local licensing board for details.

Types of Physician Assistant Graduate Programs

Physician assistant graduate programs may be available for experienced physicians assistants, as well as those new to the field. While every physican assistant school may structure their programs differently, most provide one of two types. These are physician assistant masters programs and advanced masters PA programs.

Physician Assistant Masters Programs

Most physican assistant schools offer physician assistant masters programs. These programs are often designed to prepare students for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) and licensure. While every program and student is different, most earn their PA masters degree with appoximately two years of full time study.

Applicants to physician assistant masters programs may need a bachelor’s degree and some healthcare-related work experience. Although admissions requirements vary, most require 2 to 4 years of undergraduate coursework with a focus in science. Additionally, many applicants already have experience in healthcare and may be registered nurses or as EMTs and paramedics.i However, this is not always the case, so check with your prefered PA masters programs to learn more.

Advanced Masters Physician Assistant Graduate Programs

Physician assistant schools might also offer programs to help current PAs specialize their knowledge in areas such as clinical medicine, education and leadership, and psychiatry. These programs are typically called advanced masters programs. Depending on enrollment, these PA graduate programs may require 1.5 to 2 years to complete.

Coursework could be heavily influenced by the chosen specialty area, as well as vary by school. Therefore it’s important to review each PA programs course list to see if it might meet your needs.

Applicants to advanced masters physician assistant programs may need to hold a current PA license and have some previous experience. However, this varies, so contact individual schools to learn more about requirements, specialties and coursework.i

Accredited PA Graduate Programs

When searching for physician assistant graduate programs, it may be important to consider accreditation. Accreditation is a process of external peer review that recognizes institutions and programs that meet set qualifications and educational standards. Physician assistant schools may be accredited at two levels. First, there is institutional accreditation, which speaks to the school as a whole. This may not only help you assess the school, but be important should you seek federal financial aid.

Additionally, some PA graduate programs earn accreditation at the program level. The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) is the accrediting agency that protects the interests of the public and physician assistant profession by defining the standards for physician assistant education and evaluating PA programs within the US to ensure compliance. About 200 programs were accredited by ARC-PA in 2014. Almost all of these accredited programs were physician assistant masters programs.i To learn more about this type of accreditation, and whether certain physician assistant graduate programs qualify, visit the ARC-PA website and talk with schools directly.

Physicians Assistant Schools: Narrow Your Search

Look into great PA graduate programs for you by starting your search right here. Review the list on this page, or customize your search using the menu bar. You could look for a Master in Physician Assistant program using the degree type filter. Or search for physician assistant schools in a specific state. You might also consider online PA programs. However keep in mind, these are more common for advanced masters physican assistant graduate programs.

Whichever physician assistant graduate program you choose, it’s important to contact the school directly. Then they can answer questions about applications, costs, curriculum and more. All you have to do is fill out the simple on page form by clicking the PA school’s link. Then you could be one step closer to earning your graduate PA degree!

Sources: [i] | [ii] | [iii]

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