Best Physician Assistant Master’s Degree Programs 2021

Best Physician Assistant Master's Degree Programs badge

Pursue a Physician Assistant Degree

Physician assistants (PAs) practice medicine as part of a healthcare team in various clinical settings. Medical practices increasingly rely on PAs to perform some physician duties, including ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests and prescribing medicine. Eighty percent of PAs practice in a hospital or private practice. 

Students need a bachelor’s degree for admission to most PA programs. Many physician assistant programs require applicants to demonstrate some healthcare experience with patients. In addition to a physician assistant degree, all PAs need a license to practice.

Advertisement is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Accredited Online College Programs

Explore our featured online programs and find the right match for you today.

PAs enter a robust job market that offers a $112,260 median annual pay, far greater than the national average for all occupations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for PAs to grow 31% between 2019-2029. 

This guide ranks the best physician assistant master’s degrees. It also covers other important information for prospective students, such as scholarship opportunities for PA students.

See Our Rankings Methodology

Top 10 Physician Assistant Master’s Degree Programs


  • What degree do physicians assistants need?

    Physician assistants need at least a bachelor’s degree to meet state licensure requirements. However, most PAs hold a master’s degree from an accredited PA program.

  • Is PA school 2 or 4 years?

    PA master’s programs typically require 2-3 years of full-time enrollment to complete.

  • Do physician assistants have master's degrees?

    Most PAs hold a master’s degree, but about 19.3% hold only a bachelor’s degree.

  • Can a PA become an MD?

    PAs can make the transition to MD by completing additional education and licensure requirements. PA experience may give medical school applicants some advantages over applicants without relevant experience.

Best Physician Assistant Master’s Degree Programs 2021

What Are the Goals of a Physician Assistant Degree?

Most physician assistant programs award a master of health science, master of clinical science, master of physician assistant, or master of science. Most master’s in physician assistant degrees take two years of full-time study to complete. 

Enrollees typically complete about 100-130 credits divided into preclinical and clinical coursework. Learners study topics such as physiology, pharmacology, diagnostic methods, and evidence-based practice. Students can also explore specialties, such as women’s health, pediatrics, and emergency medicine. Additionally, PA students complete at least 2,000 hours of clinical rotations that emphasize primary care in physician offices, ambulatory clinics, and acute and long-term care facilities. 

Quality physician assistant degrees equip students with the knowledge and training necessary to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE), administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). Students must pass this exam to obtain state licensure for clinical practice. 

Learners should ensure the program they plan to attend holds accreditation, an eligibility requirement to sit for the PANCE. The Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) accredits PA programs in the United States. Students should also factor in a program’s pass rate on the PANCE as they consider physician assistant programs.

Why Get a Physician Assistant Degree?

Graduates with a physician assistant master’s degree enjoy many benefits, several of which we outline below.

Career Flexibility
PAs can specialize their practice in one of several clinical areas. While family medicine/general practice remains the top PA practice area, PAs can also pursue specializations like emergency medicine, dermatology, and surgery.
Competitive Salary
While wages vary by factors like location, PAs can expect to earn a comfortable income. These professionals earn a median annual salary of $112,260.
Strong Job Market
The BLS projects jobs for physician assistants to grow 31% between 2019-2029, offering plenty of job opportunities for graduates from physician assistant programs.
Degree-Completion Timeframe
Most PA programs take two years of full-time study to complete, which is significantly less time than it takes to complete medical school.
An Integral Part of the Community
PAs serve as primary medical care providers at many community healthcare facilities, making it a rewarding career that makes a positive impact on the community.

What Are the Requirements for a Physician Assistant Degree?

Admission to a physician assistant program requires a bachelor’s degree and a strong science background. Most programs require prerequisite courses such as anatomy, pathophysiology, microbiology, and pharmacology. Some schools require a minimum undergraduate GPA. Applicants may also need to submit letters of recommendations, essays, and/or a resume.

Once enrolled, students complete pre-clinical and clinical courses that explore subjects such as the physical diagnosis, medical ethics, and specialized care. PA students also acquire hands-on experience providing direct patient care in clinical settings.

Some programs allow students to complete coursework online using synchronous or asynchronous learning. However, many programs require in-person attendance for the entire program.

Online Guide to Accredited Colleges and Universities

Professional Organizations for Physician Assistant Students

Professional organizations advocate for the interests of PA students and professionals. Many organizations give members access to conferences, publications, and continuing education opportunities. They may also provide community-building opportunities through online and in-person events.

  • American Academy of PAs The leading national professional society for PAs, AAPA hosts 140,000 members nationwide. Members gain access to the JAAPA clinical journal, school survival guides, mentorship opportunities, and a pro webinar series.

  • Pi Alpha Honor Society Students enrolled in a PA program with a minimum 3.5 GPA can join this honor society. Members gain access to networking and professional development activities through local Pi Alpha chapters. Members can also access fellowship opportunities, certification study tools, and an online community.

  • Association of Physician Assistants in Oncology APAO is the only national organization for PAs specializing in oncology. Students receive free membership and gain access to a newsletter, job postings, networking opportunities, and an annual scholarship program.

Scholarships for Physician Assistant Students

Scholarships provide physician assistant degree-seekers with funding for tuition and other expenses. Unlike loans, scholarships do not require repayment, making them ideal forms of financial aid. The following list outlines three scholarship opportunities for students pursuing a physician assistant master’s degree.

  • National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program

    Who Can Apply: Students training for primary care health professions qualify for this opportunity, including students attending ARC-PA-accredited PA programs with an emphasis in primary care. Applicants must submit transcripts, proof of U.S. citizenship, and a 500-word essay.
    Amount: Varies


  • Physician Assistants in Orthopaedic Surgery - Susan Lindahl Memorial Scholarship

    Who Can Apply: PAOS awards this scholarship to PA students considering a career in orthopaedics. Eligibility requires PAOS membership and enrollment in an approved PA program. Applicants must submit references from their PA program director and faculty, a cover letter, and a publishable orthopaedic case study.
    Amount: $5,000


  • American Association of Surgical Physician Assistants

    Who Can Apply: AASPA awards scholarships to PA students interested in specializing in surgery. Students in either the didactic or clinical year can apply. Applicants must demonstrate financial need, good academic standing, and AASPA membership.
    Amount: $1,000


Latest Posts

See All Posts
Connection Between Wealth and Health

Connection Between Wealth and Health

April 29, 2021   |   Tessa Cooper

Does wealth affect health? Science suggests that it does. Financial stress, just like any stress, impacts both mental and physical health. While personal choices certainly impact financial wellness, generational and...

Common Student Financial Misconceptions

Common Student Financial Misconceptions

April 6, 2021   |   Genevieve Carlton

Student loans, budgeting, and paying off debt can leave students, recent graduates, and their parents feeling lost. Can you appeal for more financial aid? Should you open a credit card?...

Advertisement is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Search for Online Colleges by Subject

Discover schools with the programs and courses you’re interested in, and start learning today.