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Physician assistant (PA) programs train students to execute certain medical duties, such as compiling patients' medical histories, performing physical exams, ordering diagnostic tests and developing patient care management plans, while under the supervision of a licensed medical doctor. PA programs are offered on the bachelor's and master's levels, with the latter increasingly becoming the educational standard.
Online physician assistant (PA) master's degree programs are available; however, they are often designed as a degree completion program for those who have already completed an undergraduate degree in physician assistant studies. Some programs may also require applicants to hold current PA certification and have prior clinical experience.
It is possible to find a fully online master's degree programs, although some programs have on-campus or internship requirements. Clinical requirements may be completed at the student's current place of employment.
Online PA assistant master's programs are offered both completely online and in hybrid formats that pair short-term campus residencies with distance learning. They typically can be completed in 1-2 years.
Those interested in an online or hybrid program will need access to a computer with high-speed Internet. Courses generally combine reading with audio and video presentations, and communication is conducted by phone and e-mail. Because some classes may include research papers, word processing and printing capabilities are required.
Courses in PA studies programs at the master's level continue to build upon skills learned in undergraduate studies and on the job. Curricula focus on areas such as leadership principles and health policy.
Leadership Principles for Physician Assistants
Students learn valuable leadership and communication skills specific to health care delivery and access. Professional case studies and role models are discussed and analyzed.
Health Policy Basics
This class gives students a broad overview of health care policies and procedures in the United States. It highlights the delicacies of decision-making and provides a look at the legislative process.
This course gives students a chance to implement new knowledge and skills. They typically can choose to practice in their current place of employment or use this opportunity to explore new specialty areas.
In every state, physician assistants must earn certification from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). To earn the NCCPA's Physician Assistant-Certified credential, applicants must graduate from an accredited PA program and pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam. Physician assistants must recertify every two years by meeting continuing education standards. Additionally, every six years, they must take a recertification exam.
In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 57% of practicing PAs worked in doctor's offices, while 22% were employed by hospitals (www.bls.gov). Job growth for PAs was on a rapid incline, with a 30% increase in employment expected from 2014-2024. In 2015, the BLS reported an average yearly wage of $99,270 for physician assistants.
While some may be able to find employment as a PA with only a bachelor's degree, many employers are looking for applicants with a minimum of a master's degree. Online PA master's degree programs offer additional training through online coursework and clinical experiences, which may be completed at the PA's current place of employment.