Physician assistants (PAs) are medical professionals who have responsibility for the examination of patients, including the diagnosis and treatment of their illnesses or injuries. Physician assistants can typically order medical tests, such as x-rays, and prescribe prescription medicines. To become a PA, practitioners must hold a master's degree, pass a national examination, be licensed with their state of practice, and maintain a relationship with a practicing physician. Some individuals may wish to pursue doctoral-level study in order to grow their careers or move into closely-related fields. Read on to find out more about some doctoral degree options for physician assistants.
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Doctoral Programs for Physician Assistants
Physician assistants who are considering study at the doctoral level have a range of options depending on their educational and career goals.
Doctor of Medical Science
Some physician assistants may wish to obtain a doctoral degree in order to continue to grow as a practicing PA. These professionals may wish to consider earning the Doctor of Medical Science (DMSc). The DMSc is typically designed to provide research and leadership training to practicing physician assistants. The degree can often be earned in one year of study while maintaining practice as a PA. Courses may include healthcare law, health economics, and disaster medicine. An applied research project or other capstone course may be required for program completion.
Ph.D. in Clinical Research
Physician assistants who aspire to earn their doctorate of philosophy (Ph.D.) in order to move into medical research roles may wish to consider earning the Ph.D. in clinical research or clinical science. This degree may take from three to four years of study to complete, and students may be able to continue their employment as they complete classes. The Ph.D. in clinical research prepares candidates from a variety of medical fields to engage in research-based positions. Program completion usually requires coursework, a written qualifying examination, and the preparation and defense of a dissertation. Courses may include biostatistics and clinical trials management.
Ph.D. in Health Care Management
Those physician assistants who aspire to management and leadership roles within the health care industry might examine the Ph.D. in Health Care Management. Professionals with this degree may focus on health care delivery systems, accessibility of health care, and cost management measures. This degree may take four to five years to complete. To graduate, students typically complete coursework, preliminary examinations, and a dissertation. Courses may include heath econometrics, applied research, and organizational behavior in heath care.
Ph.D. in Public Health
PAs who are hoping for interdisciplinary training focused on ways to improve the health of the general public could consider pursuing a Ph.D. in public health. This degree typically takes four years to complete. Those who do not hold a Master of Public Health may complete some of this coursework during the first year of the program. A variety of specializations, such as biostatistics and epidemiology, may be available. Degree completion requirements often include coursework, qualifying examinations, and an independent dissertation. Courses may include global health informatics, social epidemiology, and longitudinal analysis of public health data.
Admission requirements will vary based upon the degree sought and school of attendance. To enter a DMSc program, applicants should hold a master's degree and possess active state licensure as a physician assistant. They would typically provide transcripts, a personal goal statement, a resume, and recommendations. Applicants for a Ph.D. in Clinical Research should hold at least a master's degree. They could expect to provide transcripts, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and a resume. GRE or MCAT scores may supplement the application. Clinical research experience is normally expected. Students applying to the Ph.D. in health care management have an advantage as a trained clinician, as applicants with master's degrees are preferred. They usually provide transcripts, recommendations and a personal statement. GRE or GMAT scores may be required. Programs may request an in-person interview or copies of written professional work. Graduate level coursework in statistics might be expected. Applicants for the Ph.D. in Public Health should expect to submit GRE results, a statement of purpose, recommendations, and transcripts. Relevant professional or research experience may be considered as well.
Physician assistants who are interested in doctoral study have a wide range of options depending upon their reasons for pursuing further education. The degrees reviewed can provide excellent educational programming and open doors to further career options.