In 2020, the ARC-PA will require that all Physician Assistant programs are offered at the graduate level; eliminating Associate and Bachelor PA programs completely. While certified PAs educated with an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree will not be required to obtain a Master’s degree in order to continue practicing, many are choosing to do so as means to not only stay up to date with the advancement of medicine, but also to remain competitive in the Physician Assistant job market as well.
But returning to a university campus full-time for a traditional MSPAS degree is impractical for physician assistants already in clinical practice, as many traditional programs either do not allow for advanced placement or offer flexible distance learning options that would allow PAs to learn while continuing to work in their home communities. Recognizing this, several educational institutions offer advanced placement programs exclusive to practicing PAs that can be completed via distance learning with little to no campus requirement.
The degree advancement option at the University of Nebraska Medical Center is designed for PAs who already hold a Bachelor’s in PA Studies. Practicing Physician Assistants attending the program can earn their Master’s in as little as five semesters without any required travel or on-campus visits. The flexible program consists of 36 semester credit hours of didactic courses, with the option to choose either a clinical track or education track for a program of study; so long as the program is completed in five years.
AT Still’s program offers the most direct path to Advanced Physician Assistant credentials and has earned prestige for its outstanding leadership as well as its curriculum, which elevates practicing PAs to the top tier of their profession. The curriculum consists of 40 credits spread over 8 courses, and can be completed in one to two years; with didactic coursework completed 100% online. The program is open to applicants who hold an Associate’s or certificate in PA Studies, in addition to those who hold a Bachelor’s degree in the profession.
The Advanced Placement Physician Assistant Master’s completion program at Touro University is geared towards graduates of a Bachelor of Science in PA Studies. The 17 credit curriculum can be completed in one year and is taught in a distance-learning, guided independent study format with 100% of the curriculum delivered online via Blackboard. Students can study at their own pace and fit the courses according to their schedules. Applicants must have at least 300 hours of clinical experience.
Offered 100% online, the MPAS program at UTRGV enables practicing PAs with a bachelor’s degree to obtain a Master’s degree while remaining and learning in their own communities. While enrolled in the Bridge Program, each student is required to enroll in three clinical tracks and a research experience course, totaling 16 credit hours. Applicants of the program must be licensed to practices as a PA as well as hold current employment as a PA in order to complete the clinical tracks.
The Physician Assistant Post-Professional Master’s Program at Stony Brook’s School of Health Technology and Management was first offered in a complete distance learning format in 2010. The program is structured to allow students to complete the required 30 credit hours within 15- 18 months, but no more than five years. In addition to being able to complete the program all online, students also have the option to choose a combination of onsite and online courses.
The Extended Master of Clinical Health Services (EMCHS) at UW Medicine is designed for professionals who have worked as PAs for at least two years and hold a bachelor degree. The program allows practicing PAs to earn a Master’s degree over the course of 15 months via online coursework. Students are required to complete a two-week intensive on campus at the beginning of the program and a partial week intensive on-campus prior to graduation. Practicing PAs who attend the program are able to receive credits for the patients they treat as well as earn credit for the improvements they make in their clinical practice while enrolled in the program.
Will you choose to advance from a bachelor’s to master’s-level physician assistant degree?