Online Physician Assistant Master's Degree

Overview

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The day-to-day work of a physician assistant in many ways mirrors that of a full-fledged M.D. Physician assistants diagnose and treat patients, order tests such as X-rays and blood work, and prescribe medications - and some even assist in surgeries. They perform these tasks under the supervision of a doctor, which allows physician assistants to start practicing medicine after completing a two-year training program, rather than spending four years in medical school.

Students interested in earning an online master’s degree in physician assistant studies first need to complete their bachelor’s degree at an accredited university. Some programs also require prospective students to have a minimum number of semester hours in biology, chemistry, math and psychology already under their belts.

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Course Work

Prerequisites
Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university
College algebra and/or statistics
Anatomy and physiology
Biology/microbiology
Biochemistry/organic chemistry

Online physician assistant master’s degree programs often include courses such as human physiology, pharmacology, epidemiology, diagnostic medicine and clinical decision making. Physician assistant students must log some face time with patients in the form of clinical rotations in order to complete their degree. During these rotations, students work in clinics and hospitals to get hands-on experience in various medical disciplines, including family medicine, pediatrics, mental health and emergency medicine.

Graduates with a master’s in physician assistant studies must be licensed, and requirements for licensure vary by state. Some states require physician assistants to be nationally certified through the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants.

Students who earn national certification must take professional development courses - often referred to as continuing medical education (CME) courses - to stay up to date on medical best practices, and must retake the certification exam every six years in order to maintain their credentials. The American Academy of Physician Assistants offers a variety of CME opportunities for graduates to meet this requirement.

Job Outlook

Median salaries*
Physician assistant, college/university $80,800
Physician assistant, government $85,200
Physician assistant, doctor’s office $85,350
Physician assistant, outpatient care center $88,200
Physician assistant, hospital $89,500

*per the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook

Students who earn their master’s degree in physician assistant studies online are poised to enter one of the fastest growing professions. Demand for licensed physician assistants is expected to climb 30 percent by 2020, which translates into nearly 25,000 new PA jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Salaries for physician assistants often depend on where they are employed. The median salary for a PA working at a college or university is roughly $80,800, for example, but that figure rises to almost $85,350 for those working in a physician’s office and climbs as high as $89,500 for those employed by a hospital, according to BLS data.

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