Schools with Masters Programs for Surgical Assistants: How to Choose

Surgical assistants are specialized physician assistants who perform medical and surgical tasks under the supervision of surgeons. Applicants to a master's degree program in surgical assisting must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited 4-year university and satisfy a prospective school's list of prerequisites to qualify for admission.

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Students interested in becoming surgical assistants can pursue a Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) or Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (MSPAS) program. Offered at teaching hospitals and the medical schools of 4-year colleges and universities, the program prepares students to assist physicians in many medical specialties, including internal medicine, emergency trauma and surgery.

Schools for Physician Assistants

These schools offer physician assistant master's programs, and may also offer residencies for surgical assistants.

College/University Location Institution Type Tuition 2015-2016*
Duke University Durham, NC 4-year, Private $48,656
University of Iowa Iowa City, IA 4-year, Public $9,693 in-state, $26,871 out-of-state
Emory University Atlanta, GA 4-year, Private $41,940
George Washington University Washington, DC 4-year, Private $27,851
Quinnipiac University Hamden, CT 4-year, Private $17,874
University of Colorado Denver, CO 4-year, Public $7,804 in-state, $21,646 out-of-state
University of Utah Salt Lake City, UT 4-year, Public $7,222 in-state, $22,983 out-of-state
University of Nebraska Omaha, NE 4-year, Public $5,836 in-state, $13,975 out-of-state
Wake Forest University Winston-Salem, NC 4-year, Private $36,846
University of Washington Seattle, WA 4-year, Public $16,278 in-state, $28,326 out-of-state

Source: *National Center for Educational Statistics

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School Selection Criteria

Further considerations:

  • Certification requirements is one important consideration when choosing a program. Programs should prepare students for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination.
  • Coursework may be something to look at when choosing between a MPAS and MSPAS. MPAS programs place greater emphasis on surgery and may offer more extensive classroom or clinical opportunities in surgical fields.
  • Prospective students must hold a bachelor's degree prior to enrollment and may need to apply through the Centralized Application Service for Physician Assistants, or else through the college directly.
  • A school may require certain prerequisite undergrad courses or previous work experience in patient care or clinical practice.

Master's Degree in Physician Assistance

A Master of Physician Assistant Studies program takes an average of 26 months. Students typically spend the first half of the program in lectures and classrooms and the second half in a clinical setting. Students complete clinical experiences in rotations over a period of months, placing them in a hands-on environment in a number of medical specialties, including obstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics, orthopedics and general surgery. Some programs include a capstone project.

Students who wish to purse a master's degree to become a surgical assistant should choose an accredited program that prepares them for the certification exam. Some schools may offer surgical residencies, and may also require previous work experience or prerequisite courses.

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