This article will describe what a physician assistant studies program is, how to choose this type of program, and why you may want to earn this degree. Also noted in the article is an example of an online master’s in physician assistant program.
What Is a Master’s in Physician Assistant Studies?
A master’s degree in physician assistant studies is a three year graduate degree program that provides healthcare professionals with the vital skills and knowledge to work as a physician assistant, or PA. A physician assistant studies program will teach you how to diagnose, treat and prescribe medications.
PAs are taught based upon a medical school curriculum. They learn how to make important diagnostic and therapeutic decisions while they work either under the supervision of a doctor, or on their own in some US states. PAs are certified to be a medical generalist with a strong foundation in primary care medicine. Over their career, the physician assistant may work in one or several speciality areas, including primary care, neonates or geriatric medicine. This type of specialization will provide the PA with the experience and skills to meet the always changing needs of employers, communities and patients.
Most PA programs are at least 26 months in length. You are required to complete the same prerequisites as medical school students. Most PA programs also will require you to have three years of experience and training in healthcare. Students who are most likely to be accepted into PA school typically have strong undergraduate performance in a healthcare related major, and several years of healthcare clinical experience.
Students are usually required to take background courses in basic science, clinical medicine, anatomy, pharmacology, microbiology, and physiology. After finishing all of the required coursework, the student is required to complete 2,000 hours of clinical rotations in these areas:
- Family medicine
- Internal medicine
- General surgery
- General surgery
Common subject covered in most PA programs include:
- Primary care
- Women’s health
- Primary care II
- ER medicine
- Evidence-based medicine
- Diagnostic imaging
- Internal medicine
After completing all coursework and clinical hours, the student is required to pass the PA National Certifying Exam or PANCE, and then to earn their license in their state.
Why Earn a Master’s in Physician Assistant Studies?
The biggest reason that many experienced healthcare workers become PAs is because there is such a strong need for skilled healthcare professionals today. There also is a strong demand for doctors, but becoming an MD takes at least eight years of school and residency. It is possible to become a PA in essentially three years of additional education after the bachelor’s degree level.
PAs are qualified to do most of the same duties as MDs, including prescribing drugs, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, and performing medical examinations. Because they can do most of the same work as doctors at a lower cost, the demand for PAs is at a very high level.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics or BLS, the demand for PAs will rise by 35% by 2024, which is one of the fastest rises in demand in all US occupations.
In fact, demand is so strong that ¾ of graduating PAs get several job offers when they get their initial license. That is why the PA field has been named as one of the most promising professions by such media outlets as Forbes and USA Today. Further, research shows that the demand for PAs rose by 300% from 2011-14.
Patient research also shows that Americans who interact with PAs report a very high level of satisfaction. One survey indicated that 93% of patients found that PAs were trustworthy and skilled healthcare providers. Also, 92% stated that having a PA available made it easier to get a healthcare appointment faster.
Many healthcare professionals also want to be PAs because the starting salary is excellent. BLS reports that the median salary is $101,400, and the top 10% earn more than $142,000 per year.
Master’s in Physician Assistant Studies Online Options
University of North Dakota
The University of North Dakota offers a partially online program that combines classroom and clinical experiences over 2.5 years to result in a master’s degree in physician assistant studies. This is a partially distance education program that allows you to complete much of your clinical work in your home region.
North Dakota has a dual entry admission method that is suitable to experienced healthcare professionals and also those who lack such a background.
This PA program has been accredited since 1974, and is dedicated to preparing top students who want to become the best PAs.
This program is 24 months in length, and it requires a total of 17 weeks to be spent on campus. The typical class size each year is 35, and the program continues to be accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA).
Pass rates for the PANCE exam as of May 2016 were 96% on a first time basis.
Required courses in this PA studies program are:
- Clinical Medicine I
- Clinical Applications I
- Gross Anatomy
- Medical Pharmacology I
- Basic and Laboratory Sciences I
- Human Physiology
- Psychosocial Medicine
- Professionalism and Biomedical Ethics
- Medical Pharmacology II
- Clinical Year Capstone
If you think that earning your master’s degree in physician assistant studies is for you, consider the program available at Pace University. This program will ready you for an exciting healthcare career in healing, helping, leading and making the most out of your career.
This is an intense, 76-credit hour program that will make you into a practicing PA. You will be able to examine patients, order diagnostic tests, prescribe drugs, and develop plans to treat your patients. Graduates of this program pass the national PANCE examination at a first time rate of 96%. This is above the national average.
This PA program provides students with an integrated curriculum that has an entirely holistic approach to modern healthcare. Your preclinical training will expose you to several healthcare disciplines at once, so your learning experience will be the same as when you are actually working in the field.
This is a 26-month program that will provide you with the skills and knowledge to excel in this quickly growing field. Most students who graduate from this program receive multiple job offers.
This program is fully accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). Thus, students may be confident that this program will teach them what they need to know to succeed in the field.
Earning a master’s degree in physician studies is an excellent choice for a dedicated healthcare professional who wants to have a high level of job demand, respect and salary for years to come.
- Physician Assistants. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physician-assistants.htm#tab-5
- What Is a PA? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.aapa.org/what-is-a-pa/
- Pace University. Physician Assistant Studies Master of Science. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.pace.edu/academics/graduate-students/degrees/physician-assistant-studies-ms%E2%80%94lenox-hill-hospital-program