Best Master’s In Counseling Assistant Programs

A ranking of the best master's in physician assistant degrees. Programs ranked by affordability, flexibility, and academic quality.

Updated September 23, 2022

Reviewed by ACO Rankings Team
Best Master’s In Counseling Assistant Programs

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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.

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.

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Physician Assistant Student Questions and Answers


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.

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.

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.

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. 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. 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

Best Physician Assistant Master's Degree Programs 2022

#1

University of Florida

School Information
Location Gainesville, Florida
Admission Rate 37%
Graduation Rate 88%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 46% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Gainesville-based University of Florida educates graduate degree-seekers online and on campus. The public institution delivers an online master of physician assistant studies. The affordable, accessible program prepares working professionals to pursue leadership positions.

Master's students and faculty advisors discuss and analyze complex issues related to the physician assisting field and students' professional futures. Enrollees complete a rigorous curriculum that fosters field-specific knowledge and transferable skills. Master's students hone analytical and leadership skills while completing program coursework.

Online learners benefit from affordable tuition rates and can apply for institutional funding to further reduce their financial burden. The institution's dedicated financial aid counselors work with degree-seekers as they locate and apply for educational funding.

University of Florida Fast Facts:

Online Master's Programs: 126

Total Online Programs: 68

Number of Online Students: 24,310

Average Tuition Per Credit: Not Known

Graduate Tuition In-State: $10,770

Graduate Tuition Out-of-State: $27,335

Permits Transfer Credits: No

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#2

University of Washington-Seattle Campus

School Information
Location Seattle, Washington
Admission Rate 52%
Graduation Rate 84%
Accreditation Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Percent Online Enrollment 8% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The graduate programs at University of Washington-Seattle Campus help professionals move into new careers or advance in their current field. This institution offers online and on-campus master's degrees, including a physician assistant master's degree. The school may request some applicants’ test scores. Online learners can talk to advisors, IT support professionals, and other support staff for assistance. The online programs maintain a high academic standard by connecting students and faculty in virtual learning environments.

The school reports an average per-credit fee of $896 across all programs. Students qualify for grants and scholarships to pay for school. The admissions department requires school transcripts.

University of Washington-Seattle Campus at a Glance:

Number of Online Students: 3,931

Total Online Master's Programs: 10

Graduate Tuition Rate: $18,198 in-state; $32,439 out-of-state

Amount of Aid Awarded Per Learner: $15,354

Average Price With Financial Aid: $10,692

The school is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

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#3

University of Wisconsin-Madison

School Information
Location Madison, Wisconsin
Admission Rate 54%
Graduation Rate 88%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 18% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Learners attending University of Wisconsin-Madison can enroll in the physician assistant program. The public institution enrolls 8,064 online students. Working professionals who enroll in online programs can complete academic requirements around their schedule.

Degree-seekers develop transferable skills and gain field-specific knowledge. Students can customize the program through experiential learning opportunities and electives. The online program prioritizes flexible scheduling and career-specific training. Graduates of the physician assistant program often secure high-level positions in the field. The institution offers career services to help students and alumni succeed in the workforce.

Student support services, including financial aid counseling, help learners succeed academically and professionally. The school charges online degree candidates affordable tuition rates. Scholarships and fellowships can also help learners fund their master's studies. The institution's cost per credit is unknown.

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#4

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

School Information
Location Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Admission Rate 23%
Graduation Rate 91%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 12% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers undergraduate and graduate programs. Learners pursuing a graduate degree from the school can choose from online and in-person formats. The institution's physician assistant studies program benefits distance students seeking career advancement in physician assisting.

Rigorous coursework, along with faculty and career advising, prepares enrollees for physician assisting careers. The online physician assisting program features flexible enrollment options, which are ideal for busy learners. Degree-seekers enrolled full time typically need 1-2 years to graduate.

The institution holds accreditation, which means students can qualify for federal financial aid programs. To fund their education, 25% of enrollees take out loans. Learners can also pay for school using various forms of financial aid, which 65% of the institution's learners obtain.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at a Glance:

Total Programs: 232

Number of Online Programs: 25

Online Master's Programs: 84

Number of Online Students: 3,721

Average Fee Per Credit: $1,767

Religious Affiliation: Non-Affiliated

Transfer Credits Accepted: No

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#5

Stony Brook University

School Information
Location Stony Brook, New York
Admission Rate 44%
Graduation Rate 76%
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 22% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

A great option for distance learners, Stony Brook University offers an physician assistant master's program. The New York school reports that 4,325 students take online classes. The accredited program offers a rigorous course of study valued by employers. The program emphasizes advanced knowledge and skills for physician assisting careers. The school reports a student-to-faculty ratio of 19-to-1, giving degree candidates one-on-one time with faculty.

Prospective students can learn more about online support services at the program's website. The college offers affordable tuition rates and financial aid opportunities. This makes the program an affordable option for graduate students on a budget. Degree-seekers can expect a graduation rate of 76% at the school.

Stony Brook University Numbers:

Total Online Enrollment: 5,769

Number of Online Master’s Programs: 13

Graduate Tuition: $11,310 per year in-state, $23,100 per year out-of-state

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $9,540

Average Net Price: $15,605

Stony Brook University has received accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

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#6

Florida International University

School Information
Location Miami, Florida
Admission Rate 58%
Graduation Rate 63%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 68% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Florida International University educates online graduate degree-seekers from its campus in Miami. Learners located anywhere in the country can enroll in an online master's in physician assistant studies from the public institution. Master's graduates often qualify for promotions or raises.

Graduate students can work with faculty advisors to explore complex issues in the physician assisting field. The program's rigorous curriculum features core and specialized classes that foster field-specific and transferable skills. In addition to covering foundational physician assisting knowledge, the curriculum emphasizes career-specific analytical and leadership skills.

Online enrollees benefit from the school's affordable tuition rates and can apply for institutional funding. Financial aid counselors help degree-seekers explore funding options. 

Florida International University Facts:

Online Master's Programs: 96

Total Online Programs: 67

Number of Online Students: 39,863

Average Per-Credit Cost: Unavailable

Graduate Tuition In-State: $8,912

Graduate Tuition Out-of-State: $21,393

Transfer Credits Toward Degree: No

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#7

University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

School Information
Location La Crosse, Wisconsin
Admission Rate 73%
Graduation Rate 69%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 29% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

University of Wisconsin-La Crosse offers undergraduate and graduate programs. The public institution delivers online master's programs that are ideal for busy learners. The school's graduate-level offerings include a flexible physician assistant studies program for students interested in physician assisting.

Degree candidates complete core physician assisting coursework to develop foundational knowledge. The curriculum also features upper-level coursework exploring advanced physician assisting topics. To prepare to enter the workforce after graduation, master's students can take advantage of faculty mentorship and experiential learning opportunities.

After finishing the physician assisting program, master's degree-holders often qualify for raises and promotions. Graduate students and alumni can receive professional assistance and resources from the institution's career counselors.

The school's average cost per credit is unknown. Degree-seekers with financial need can apply for federal aid, including grants and loans. Distance learners can apply for scholarships and fellowships to reduce the cost of earning a master's degree. At the school, 78% of students receive financial aid to fund their graduate education.

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#8

Rutgers University-New Brunswick

School Information
Location New Brunswick, New Jersey
Admission Rate 61%
Graduation Rate 84%
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 24% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

A top-ranked school located in New Jersey, Rutgers University-New Brunswick offers master's programs on its campus and online. Learners located anywhere in the country can enroll in an online master's in physician assistant program from the public institution. Program graduates often qualify for advanced positions with high-level responsibilities and increased earning potential.

Graduate students can work with faculty advisors to explore complex issues in the physician assisting field. Enrollees complete a rigorous curriculum and gain field-specific training. While completing program coursework, master's students hone analytical and leadership skills they can apply to physician assisting careers.

The school charges online learners affordable tuition rates. The institution's dedicated financial aid counselors work with degree-seekers as they locate and apply for educational funding. The school supports online learners through affordable tuition rates and institutional funding.

Rutgers University-New Brunswick Fast Facts:

Online Master's Programs: 125

Total Online Programs: 33

Number of Online Students: 11,925

Average Per-Credit Cost: Not Known

Graduate Tuition In-State: $17,736

Graduate Tuition Out-of-State: $30,144

Transfer Credits Toward Degree: No

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#9

CUNY City College

School Information
Location New York, New York
Admission Rate 46%
Graduation Rate 56%
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 1% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Learners can earn accessible, affordable online graduate degrees from CUNY City College. The institution offers an online master of science in physician assistant studies. Degree candidates balancing academics with personal or professional obligations can take advantage of the online program's flexible scheduling options.

The curriculum comprises core coursework and advanced physician assisting classes. Students who plan to pursue specialized careers can complete practical learning experiences aligning with their professional goals. While most master's degree-seekers graduate in 1-2 years, part-time enrollment may extend degree-completion time. For specific application details, including requirements and deadlines, prospective learners can review information on the institution's website.

Online learners at the school pay affordable tuition rates. New York residents pay discounted tuition rates averaging $11,090 for graduate studies. Out-of-state graduate students pay an average of $20,520. Enrollees with financial need can submit the FAFSA to apply for federal grants, loans, and work-study programs. Of the school's students, 87% receive financial aid.

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#10

University of Utah

School Information
Location Salt Lake City, Utah
Admission Rate 62%
Graduation Rate 70%
Accreditation Yes Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Percent Online Enrollment 34% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Degree-seekers can enroll in online and in-person programs from University of Utah. Online learners can earn a graduate degree through the school's distance education programs. The institution delivers an online master of physician assistant studies that appeals to busy students interested in advancing their physician assisting skills.

The rigorous graduate-level curriculum prepares enrollees to succeed in physician assisting careers. Learners balancing academics with personal or professional obligations can take advantage of the online program's flexible scheduling options. While most master's programs require 1-2 years, part-time degree-seekers may take longer to graduate.

Students at the accredited institution can qualify for federal grants and loans. To fund their education, 29% of the school's enrollees take out loans, which they must repay after graduation. Additionally, 85% of learners receive financial aid.

University of Utah Facts:

Total Programs: 384

Number of Online Programs: 16

Online Master's Programs: 123

Number of Online Students: 11,058

Per-Credit Cost: Unavailable

Religious Affiliation: Non-Affiliated

Transfer Credits Allowed: No

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#11

Duke University

School Information
Location Durham, North Carolina
Admission Rate 8%
Graduation Rate 95%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The master's programs at Duke University prepare graduates for new job opportunities and career advancement. The accredited physician assistant program uses a rigorous curriculum taught by experts. Degree-seekers can use college admissions tests to strengthen their application. The school's advisors, IT support professionals, and other support staff help distance learners complete a master's degree. In online graduate classes, students interact with faculty and peers in a virtual learning environment.

The cost per credit is unknown. Since the school is accredited, it can issue federal financial aid. The admission rate is 8% for incoming learners across all programs.

Duke University Fast Facts:

Enrolled Online Students: 997

Online Master's Degrees: 2

Grad School Tuition: $55,680 

Average Price After Aid: Not Known

The school has been accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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#12

Emory University

School Information
Location Atlanta, Georgia
Admission Rate 16%
Graduation Rate 90%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Emory University, located in Georgia, reports that 1,259 students take online classes. Graduate students can earn their master's in physician assistant online at the school. The accredited program provides a rigorous course of study valued by employers. The degree strengthens knowledge and skills for careers in physician assisting. Degree-seekers benefit from a student-to-faculty ratio of 9-to-1, giving learners one-on-one attention from faculty.

Prospective applicants can learn more about online support services at the college's website. The school charges affordable tuition rates and offers financial aid. This helps enrollees complete a master's degree with less debt. The institution reports a 90% graduation rate for its programs.

Emory University at a Glance:

Total Online Enrollment: 1,426

Graduate Tuition: $42,800 per year 

The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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#13

Ohio University-Main Campus

School Information
Location Athens, Ohio
Admission Rate 82%
Graduation Rate 65%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 48% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Learners attending Ohio University-Main Campus can enroll in a physician assistant practice program. While many of the institution's students pursue their degree on campus in Athens, 13,063 students attend online classes. Online programs' scheduling flexibility is ideal for learners balancing academics with personal and professional obligations.

The program features a rigorous curriculum, helping degree-seekers develop foundational knowledge in the field. Faculty mentors help graduate students select courses that will support their career aspirations. Graduates often land competitive roles in their field. Current and former students can work closely with career services to transition from the program into the workforce.

Master's-level learners can access support services such as career advising and financial aid counseling. The school's affordable tuition rates make graduate studies more accessible. Learners often apply for scholarships and fellowships to reduce out-of-pocket expenses. The school's average cost per credit is $820 for online master's programs.

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#14

University of Kentucky

School Information
Location Lexington, Kentucky
Admission Rate 96%
Graduation Rate 66%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 27% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Based in Lexington, University of Kentucky offers undergraduate and graduate programs. Learners throughout the country can enroll in a physician assistant studies program at the public institution. The program offers a flexible format for students seeking an affordable physician assisting degree.

The online program features core classes that help students develop foundational knowledge in the field. Degree-seekers can choose electives to customize the program to their interests and career goals. To prepare to enter the workforce after graduation, master's students can take advantage of faculty mentorship and experiential learning opportunities.

Graduates often qualify for higher salaries than master's degree-holders in the field. Graduate students and alumni can explore their professional options with the help of faculty advisors and career counselors.

Graduate learners at the school pay a tuition rate averaging $693 per credit . The institution holds accreditation, which means degree-seekers can receive federal grants and loans. Scholarships, fellowships, and employer-sponsored tuition reimbursement programs can help distance learners fund their master's studies. Of the school's graduate students, 94% fund their education through financial aid.

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#15

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

School Information
Location Edinburg, Texas
Admission Rate 80%
Graduation Rate 46%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 51% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley offers accessible, affordable online programs. With 19 distance programs, the public institution provides academic programs in both in-person and convenient online formats. Degree-seekers can enroll in the school's master in physician assistant studies program. The online program features flexible scheduling and enrollment options, which can make earning a degree easier for busy students balancing academics with personal obligations.

Learners gain specialized knowledge during advanced classes. The rigorous curriculum blends theoretical and practical knowledge, with an emphasis on industry-specific skills. Master's degree-seekers pursuing their physician assisting degree full time typically graduate in 1-2 years. For details about application deadlines and requirements, prospective learners can review the institution's website.

The school supports online learners through affordable tuition rates and institutional funding. In-state graduate students at the institution pay an average tuition rate of $5,959. Out-of-state graduate students pay an average of $13,555. Enrollees at the accredited institution can qualify for federal grants and loans. The school reports that 90% of students receive financial aid.

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