Choose the Best Online Physician Assistant (PA) Programs for You in 2022

Physician assistants (PAs) perform a range of medical services in various health care settings, including hospitals, clinics, health centers and medical offices. Depending on the setting, PAs may conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, develop treatment plans or provide counsel on preventative care. No matter where they work, PAs play an integral role in supporting the health and well-being of patients.

There are a number of schools that offer graduate physician assistant programs. Whether in a hybrid or fully remote format, an online master’s PA program may provide the flexibility to further your education and advance your career as a medical professional, without putting your life on hold.  

 The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc (ARC-PA) accredits programs that confer a graduate level PA degree after program completion. And to qualify for certification from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, you’ll need to complete an accredited program. Those that offer online options are listed below.

Some of the online master’s programs below only admit students who have already completed a bachelor’s level degree in physician assistant studies. Be sure to check with your preferred university for more information.

Touro College

The School of Health Sciences of Touro College

Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies

Central Islip, New York

Name of Degree: Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies

Enrollment Type: Full-Time

Length of Program: 1 year

Credits: 17

Concentrations: N/A

Admission Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree from an ARC-PA accredited physician assistant program
  • Certification by the National Commission on Certification for Physician Assistants (NCCPA)
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Official transcripts
  • Documented 2,600 hours of post-baccalaureate clinical experience
Learn more about the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies from Touro College

University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

College of Health Professions

Master in Physician Assistant Studies Bridge Program

Edinburg, Texas

Name of Degree: Master in Physician Assistant Studies Bridge Program

Enrollment Type: N/A

Length of Program: N/A

Credits: 16

Concentrations: N/A

Admission Requirements:

  • Bachelor degree in physician assistant students from a regionally accredited institution
  • Undergraduate GPA of 3.0
  • Official transcripts
  •  Current license as a physician assistant
  • Current NCCPA certification
  • Be employed as a physician assistant
  • Have medical malpractice insurance
  • Letter of reference from supervising physician
  • Cleared criminal background check
Learn more about the Master in Physician Assistant Studies Bridge Program from University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Choosing an Online School for Your Master’s Physician Assistant (PA) Program

From accreditation to admission requirements to course structure, there are a number of factors that may make a PA master’s program better suited for you. Below are a few things to consider to help you choose a program that fits your lifestyle needs, learning style and professional goals. 

Your Goals

Do you hope to complete your PA master’s degree as quickly as possible? Or do you want to continue to work and complete your degree at a slower pace? These are questions you may ask yourself to help you find a program that aligns with your goals in becoming a physician assistant. Additionally, while some students prefer the autonomy to complete coursework on their own time, others enjoy the experience of a virtual classroom setting. Consider who you are as a learner to decide whether a hybrid model or fully remote model is best for you, and what type of setting would best support your goals.

Program Accreditation 

Accreditation is a method of quality assurance to determine whether a school meets the established standards for their educational programs. All programs listed on this page are accredited by the ARC-PA, the independent accrediting body for PA programs. Accreditation benefits both schools and prospective students—encouraging schools to continuously evaluate and improve their methods, while allowing students to identify programs that meet nationally accepted standards. To pursue certification by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), future PAs must have completed an ARC-PA accredited graduate program. Certain employers may require a degree from an ARC-PA accredited school, so be sure to check the school of your choice’s status before making your decision. 


While specific requirements differ from school to school, online PA master’s programs may require a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college—candidates will usually have earned one already or will be in the process of pursuing one. Some may have a preference for candidates with a degree in science and health studies. Some may also require a minimum GPA, submission of transcripts and letters of recommendation. Schools that offer post-professional programs also typically require NCCPA certification as a physician assistant and a minimum number of patient-care hours. However, master’s PA programs may have different requirements, so be sure to thoroughly review all admissions requirements before applying.

Curriculum & Course Structure 

Generally speaking, online PA master’s programs begin with one to two years of didactic learning, either in synchronous or asynchronous lessons. In this phase, students take courses in basic medical sciences, behavioral sciences, and behavioral ethics, sometimes accompanied by a research or master’s project component, though this will be determined by the program. During the program, students can expect to complete supervised clinical  practice experiences and/or on-campus immersion is typically required for hands-on experience. Students can expect to develop skills that will help them in the field, such as life support, patient care or assisting with surgeries.

Potential Salary and Career Opportunities

Due to an aging and growing population, physician assistants are in high demand across the country. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of physician assistants is expected to increase 31 percent from 2020 to 2030, at a rate much higher than the national average. While salary can depend on level of experience, employer and work setting, BLS data shows that physician assistants earned a median salary of $115,390 in 2020. 

Physician assistants have the ability to specialize in one or several areas throughout their career, allowing them to work with patients of different ages in both specialty and primary care areas (much like family nurse practitioners). Depending on the population PAs want to work with, they can work in a variety of roles in hospitals, medical offices, community health centers, nursing homes, educational facilities and correctional institutions. 

No matter the setting, physician assistants may expect to work alongside other qualified health care professionals such as nurses, nurse practitioners, and nurse-midwives. Learn more on how to become a nurse.

Certifications and Licensing

In order to become a licensed physician assistant, you must receive certification from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, the only certifying organization for PAs in the United States. 

Getting certified requires that you complete a PA master’s program accredited by the ARC-PA and pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). The certification process ensures all PAs meet the established standards of clinical knowledge and are qualified to provide patient services. Additionally, PA certification may permit for clinical flexibility or the ability to change specialties within the PA profession. For instance, if you want to transition from emergency medicine to family medicine, PA certification may allow you to do so.

Financing Your Online Master’s Physician Assistant (PA) Degree

The costs associated with a degree program may be a challenge for some aspiring physician assistants. However, there are a number of scholarships and financial resources that might help to make your path to a master’s degree more attainable. Additionally, you may consult the financial aid office of the school you choose for more opportunities. Below are just a few resources that may help you finance your education. 

  • Stafford Loans, offered through the U.S. Department of Education, are available to students enrolled in a postsecondary educational program leading to a postsecondary degree or certificate. Loan recipients can receive up to $20,500 per academic year, depending on their grade level, independent or dependent status, and total cost of tuition. 
  • The National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program offers scholarships to students pursuing a career in primary health care professions that commit to providing medical services to communities in need. The program pays for a year of tuition in exchange for a two-year commitment to work in a Health Professional Shortage Area. A maximum of four years of tuition is eligible to be covered.
  • The PA Foundation offers a number of scholarships to eligible students. Requirements include attending an ARC-PA accredited PA program, being a student member of American Academy of Physician Assistants, and successfully completing at least one term of PA studies in good academic standing.

Resources for Aspiring Physician Assistants (PAs) 

From learning about the scope of practice to joining a membership organization, there are a number of resources online for aspiring physician assistants. We’ve compiled just a few for you to look into as you embark on your journey to become a PA:

Other Types of Physician Assistant (PA) Programs

Physician assistants have the opportunity to advance their knowledge in multiple areas or specialties throughout their career. This versatility allows PAs to work in a variety of roles and settings. Below are other types of education for physician assistants or aspiring PAs:

  • Post-Graduate Programs: Practicing PAs can obtain additional knowledge and expertise through post-graduate specialty programs, certificate programs, and residencies or fellowships. These programs offer students the opportunity to gain specialized experience in a short period of time and may help to increase their potential for career advancement.  
  • Doctorate PA Programs: These programs are generally designed to advance the knowledge of post-professional students in medicine, by giving them a comprehensive, in-depth understanding of theories and research—equipping them to provide quality care in different areas of the field.

Other Health Care Programs

If you have a desire to work in health care but aren’t sure if a career as a physician assistant is right for you, you may consider these related programs available at the graduate level:

  • Health Care Certificate Programs: Health care certificate programs and courses can offer additional training and allow you to deepen your knowledge in a particular area, without the cost or commitment of a full degree program.
  • Master’s in Health Care AdministrationHealth care organizations need people at the operational level to oversee budgeting and staffing and coordinate medical services. If this interests you, then you may choose to pursue a master’s in healthcare administration.
  • Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs: A Master of Science in Nursing is a graduate degree that can be obtained after a BSN or through a RN-MSN bridge program. Typically, MSN applicants are RNs seeking advancement to more specialized nursing roles, such as a nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist or nurse-midwife.
  • Online Nurse Practitioner (NP) Programs: An online nurse practitioner program allows licensed nurses to supplement their education and advance their career without having to relocate or interrupt their current job.
  • Online Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Programs. FNP programs train nurses to treat patients of all ages, with the ability to specialize in care of specific populations or settings. 


Below are answers to some commonly asked questions about pursuing a PA master’s degree. 

What is the best online PA school?

Every online program is unique and offers its own advantages. However, across the board, online PA schools may provide more flexibility than traditional on-campus programs, with the ability to advance your degree without having to relocate or interrupt your career. When choosing a program, think about which features are most important to you.

What is ARC-PA accreditation?

ARC-PA stands for the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant and it is the accrediting agency responsible for defining the standards of PA education and evaluating schools’ adherence to those standards. Accreditation is a means to ensure that schools equip students with the necessary clinical skills and training to provide quality patient care.

How long does it take to obtain a physician assistant (PA) master’s degree? 

The length of time it takes can depend on whether you pursue a full-time or part-time course of study, and whether or not clinical experience is included as part of the program. Some programs can be completed in three years, while others allow students up to five years to complete their degree. 

Is an online PA master’s program worth it?

Online PA master’s programs may be an effective option to pursue a degree with minimal disruption to your career or personal life. With a number of programs that offer flexible ways to complete clinical experience and hands-on training, an online PA master’s program can provide the same pathway to certification and licensure as a traditional on-campus program. 

Last updated January 2022.