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How to Become a Physician Assistant Online

Dec 02, 2019

To become a physician assistant, you must meet several education and licensure requirements. Learn which of these steps can be completed online and which ones cannot.

Physician Assistant Career Information

Physician assistants (PAs) are medical professionals who examine, diagnose, and treat patients - similar to doctors. They need to be able to communicate clearly to patients about health issues, to work well within a team of doctors and nurses, and have the medical knowledge to help their patients. Some of the steps to becoming physician assistant are able to be completed online, such as earning a bachelor's degree; however, other steps, such as obtaining your physician assistant license, cannot be done online.

The below chart shows the required skills for a physician assistant career, as well as salary information and projected job growth.

Required Skills Communication skills, problem-solving skills, compassionate
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 31%
Median Salary (2018)* $108,610

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Steps to Becoming a Physician Assistant Online

It's important to note that while you can complete some steps to become a physician assistant online, some of these steps may require some real-world components as well. This is primarily due to the fact that training to be a physician assistant requires several hands-on clinical experiences.

Step 1: Earn an Online Bachelor's Degree

The first step to becoming a physician assistant is earning a bachelor's degree. While there is not a specific major required, it's recommended that you choose a field of study includes the prerequisite coursework that physician assistant's graduate programs require for admissions. Some possible prerequisite coursework that you will want to complete in your online undergraduate programs includes classes on physiology, anatomy, chemistry, statistics, and biology. As such, you could ideally choose an online bachelor's degree in the sciences; it is possible to find fully online programs in these areas

Step 2: Complete an Online Physician Assistant Program

Next, you will need to complete a physician assistant graduate program. These programs usually take about 2 years to complete and typically lead to a master's degree. Admissions requirements include a bachelor's degree with prerequisite coursework; some, but not all, programs also require clinical health care experience, such as roles like EMT, nursing assistant, or registered nurse. You may also consider volunteering at a clinic, hospital, or patient-center organization to gain the necessary experience needed for admissions.

Online physician assistant programs aren't widely available; although, you do have some options for attending one. While online physician assistant programs include online courses, these programs also require extensive clinical training hours either on campus or at an approved place in your community. Because these online physician assistant program require real-world experience for admission and during the program, you are not able to complete this step fully online.

Step 3: Obtain a State License

After you have completed the right educational requirements, you need to obtain a state license in order to practice as a PA. The major requirement for licensure is taking and passing the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). This exam is not able to be taken online; however, there are online practice tests and materials that can help you study for the PANCE. Once you pass the exam, you can work as certified physician assistant; however, you must also form an agreement with a supervising physician in order to practice.

Step 4: Complete Continuing Education

To keep your physician assistant licensure, you must complete 100 hours of continuing education every 2 years. There are several online resources that allow you to earn continuing education credits. You must also take a recertification exam every 10 years, which like the PANCE, cannot be done online.

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