Bachelors In

Physician Assistant Degrees

The complete guide on what you’ll learn, job prospects, university programs, and saving time and money.
on July 21, 2020

Why We Love It

  • $45,730
    Potential Avg. Salary*
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook

* Salary & growth data is based on the recent Bureau of Labor and Statistics data published at for 29-2099 Health technologists and technicians, all other 11/2021. Based on national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary.

If you’re interested in practicing medicine but don’t want to spend many years completing medical school and residencies, a bachelor of science in physician assistant may be the degree for you. Physician assistants (PAs) are allowed to practice medicine—write prescriptions, assist with surgeries, form diagnoses, and administer treatments—as long as they do so under the care of a licensed physician.

What is a Degree in Physician Assistant?

Medical school is extremely expensive, grueling, lengthy, and competitive—only a limited number of candidates are accepted annually. This can be a turn-off for many people who would like to work as doctors. Luckily, there is an alternative, and it’s not nursing. Physician assistants (PAs) perform many of the same duties as doctors. They see patients in the office, diagnose minor illnesses, order diagnostic tests, prescribe medicines, and assist with x-rays. They just do so under the supervision of a physician.

In a physician assistant program, students take courses similar to what they would take in medical school. Initially, they take courses in biology, anatomy, physiology, and math, but in their later years they move into clinical residencies and internships that allow them to gain hands-on experience providing medical care. Additionally, many programs allow PAs to choose a focus specialty, and students can choose to focus studies on specialties like family medicine, emergency medicine, pediatrics, or others.

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What Courses Would I Take For a Major in Physician Assistant?

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Biochemistry for Health Sciences
  • Pathophysiology
  • Clinical Medicine
  • Pharmacology
  • Hospital Practice
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Healthcare Law

What Jobs Can You Get with a Degree in Physician Assistant?

Medical care is expensive, but physician assistants can help bring the cost of care down by reducing the workload of doctors. By hiring PAs, doctors can take on more patients without having to pay additional physician or partner salaries, enabling patients to pay lower appointment fees. For this reason—and because of the expected increase in demand of medical care as a result of the aging Baby Boomer generation—physician assistants are expected to be in extremely high demand in the coming decades.

How Long does it take?

A bachelors in Physician Assistant will have a typical length of 4 years in a full time schedule. That said, there are many ways to speed up the timeframe by either taking more units via online coursework, community college, or taking free classes at that could transfer to universities in the US.

Online Physician Assistant Degree

Physician assistant is a practical scientific study which makes it difficult to be studied entirely online. Most online programs are offered in a hybrid mode with some courses offered online while others require presence on campus. Accreditation of the academic program is vital to get the license for medical practicing. Studying a bachelor degree is normally not sufficient to get a license as a physician assistant and a master’s degree is usually required. Students may choose to study a master’s degree if they already have a bachelor degree in a related field of study.

What Can You Do With a Physician Assistant Degree?

Physician assistant is a profession that is found in some countries as the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. It refers to professionals who received education in general medicine and training to practice medicine. Physician assistants can work in collaboration with physicians or independently depending on the state or country laws. The profession of physician assistant appeared during times when there was significant shortage of physicians as the World War II. It was introduced as a short track to train medical professionals. It is currently appealing type of study to students who want to work in the medical field but cannot afford the cost or time needed to complete the lengthy educational track.

What does a physician assistant student learn?

Physician assistant is a sort of shortened medical academic degree programs. Accordingly, students learn subjects similar to medical students but following more concise and less specialized curriculum. The following list shows the courses commonly offered in physician assistant degree programs:

  1. Foundation or basic science courses: chemistry, microbiology and biology.
  2. Physiology: this course presents the normal functioning of living organisms including their tissues and organs focusing on humans.
  3. Biochemistry: it refers to the chemical reactions and processes occurring in human bodies including metabolism, hormones and enzymes.
  4. Pharmacology: it is the study of the use of drugs including their actions and side effects. Drugs are the main type of medical interventions used with humans.
  5. Physical diagnosis: this course introduces the methods used for diagnosis through physical examination including inspection, palpation, percussion, and auscultation.
  6. Pathophysiology: it is the branch of science that deals with the malfunction or disordered functioning of tissues and organs during various diseases. This information is vital for choosing the adequate medical intervention.
  7. Clinical laboratory science: this course introduces the use of laboratory tests as an essential tool for diagnosis. Physician assistants should clearly understand the results of various tests to reach a valid conclusion about the diagnosis.
  8. Medical ethics: Following medical ethics is vital part of any medical job. Medical professionals should always keep in mind their own rights as well as the rights of the patients. Violating medical ethics commonly result in serious consequences including loss of professional license.

Now I have the physician assistant degree…where can I work after graduating?

Working as a physician assistant is financially rewarding compared to other jobs but less than working as a physician. Some students work as a physician assistant while studying to complete their degree as a specialized physician. There are several specializations and settings available for physician assistant graduates. These options require different levels of education as associate, bachelor, master’s or doctoral degrees:

  1. Medical assistant
  2. Dental assistant and dental hygienist.
  3. Pharmacy technician
  4. Physical therapy assistant
  5. Nurse practitioner
  6. EMT or paramedic

Should I choose a physical assistant degree?

Are you passionate about working in the medical and providing medical assistance to people in need? Have you always dreamt of being a physician but you do not have the resources or time to earn a medical degree? You should consider physician assistant as an alternative easier, shorter and cheaper way to work in the medical field. It can also be an intermediate step to earn your full medical degree while working and gaining experience. You should have the following skills to become a successful physician assistant:

  1. Medical knowledge: this is the core of your profession. You should have clear and organized knowledge of diseases, diagnosis, treatments or drugs.
  2. Communication skills: you should have the ability to communicate effectively with your patients as well as other members of the healthcare team.
  3. Team working skills: physician assistants commonly work as part of healthcare teams with physicians, pharmacists, nurses and others.
  4. Professionalism: this is a critical part of medical professionals as their decisions relates directly to lives of people and have to be based on clear scientific evidences.
  5. Continuous learning: physician assistants should always keep updated of the rapidly changing medical approaches with the introduction of new diagnosis or treatment methods.
  6. Compassion and enthusiasm: medical professions can get very stressful and highly demanding. You should have the passion and enthusiasm to cope with your job.

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Best Jobs for Physician Assistant Degrees

The logical career for physician assistant degree graduates is to work as PAs. However, the type of PA you become depends on the specialty you choose in school. You may work as a PA for a pediatrician, OBGYN, or ENT, or you could assist in the emergency room or with surgeries. Some PAs also ultimately return to school to pursue full physician licensing to become independent doctors or dentists.

How to save time and money

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Enroll in a Dual-Degree Program

To become a licensed physician assistant, you’ll have to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree. While you can choose to earn these separately, there are many advantages of finding a dual-degree program that allows you to earn them both concurrently. In a dual-degree program, you’ll study for both degrees in the same program, and the length of the program is only five years. This will shave a year off of your required education, and it may also save you a year’s worth of tuition costs.

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About the Author
Grant founded with a purpose-driven mission: make college accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their education. He's a frequent speaker and author in higher education, and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, American Express, AOL, MSN, Thrive Global, Reader's Digest, Inside Higher Ed, Evolllution, EducationDive, and nearly 100 radio shows and podcasts.

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