How Online Physician Assistant Programs Work?

PA School • May 27, 2023

This video is for anyone who is interested in learning about online physician assistant programs. It provides an overview of what these programs are and how they can benefit students.

How Online Physician Assistant Programs Work?

In recent years, there has been a rise in online and hybrid programs for aspiring Physician Assistants (PAs). These programs offer a master’s degree in Physician Assistant Studies, Health Science, or Medical Science, providing students with the necessary qualifications to become PAs. While these programs are not fully online, they do incorporate online learning and offer flexibility for students who are unable to attend traditional in-person programs. In this article, we will explore how online Physician Assistant programs work and discuss their benefits and considerations.

Online or Hybrid PA Programs: A Combination Approach

Online or hybrid PA programs follow a combination approach, where the didactic phase is completed primarily through online learning, and the clinical rotations involve in-person experiences. During the initial 10 to 12 months, students engage in online coursework, allowing them to learn at their own pace in a distance learning format. Local preceptors, arranged by the program, assist students in developing clinical skills, including physical examination and diagnostic skills. Additionally, these programs often include immersion experiences, requiring students to visit the campus two to three times throughout the program for hands-on learning with their peers.

Focus on Clinical Rotations

The second phase of online physician assistant programs is dedicated to clinical rotations, which are similar to those in traditional in-person PA programs. Students are assigned rotations in various locations, either within their state or different counties. Program coordinators may work with students to arrange rotations in their local area, providing them with valuable connections and potential employment opportunities. While all PA programs emphasize networking during clinical rotations, hybrid programs particularly focus on connecting students with professionals in their current location.

The Hybrid Model: Catering to Specific Applicants

The hybrid model of online physician assistant programs primarily caters to individuals who are unable to relocate for their education due to family obligations, financial responsibilities, or other reasons. This model provides an opportunity for non-traditional applicants or career changers who are locked into a specific location. Although not exclusive to a particular demographic, statistics show that the average age of students in hybrid programs tends to be higher than in traditional programs, with individuals in their 30s and possessing significant healthcare experience. Nonetheless, these programs welcome applicants from diverse backgrounds and provide an alternative pathway to becoming a PA.

Notable Online or Hybrid PA Programs

Several universities offer online physician assistant programs. Among them are Yale University, University of Pittsburgh, Franklin Pierce University, Arcadia University, and West Coast University. It is important to ensure that the program you choose is accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) to meet the standards required for PA education and eligibility to sit for the certification exam.

Pros and Cons of the Hybrid Model

As with any educational model, there are pros and cons to consider when opting for an online or hybrid PA program. Pros include flexibility for individuals unable to relocate, the ability to manage personal obligations while pursuing education, and the opportunity to establish local connections during clinical rotations. However, the lack of in-person classroom experiences may limit the connection with peers and faculty. Additionally, since these programs are relatively new, there may be limited data available regarding graduate outcomes and PANCE (Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam) pass rates. Therefore, students should carefully evaluate their learning preferences, time management skills, and personal circumstances to determine if the hybrid model aligns with their needs.


Online physician assistant programs offer a flexible and accessible pathway to becoming a Physician Assistant for individuals who are unable to attend traditional in-person programs. While the didactic phase is completed through online learning, the clinical rotations provide hands-on experience in various locations. Applicants must consider their personal circumstances, learning preferences, and goals when deciding which program model is best suited for them. With proper research and consideration, aspiring PAs can find a program that meets their needs and enables them to pursue a fulfilling career in healthcare.

Also read: Top 3 Questions About NP vs PA Debate

About me:

I’m Michele Neskey, aka The Posh PA. Welcome to my YouTube channel! My mission is to provide personalized guidance, education, and motivation to build confidence and promote wellness for aspiring physician assistants and beyond.   

Having been a PA for 17+ years and helped hundreds of students gain acceptance into PA school,  I understand the admissions process. I know what they are looking for, and I can help you tailor every component to make you shine, giving you the BEST chance of getting accepted to a program.  But it doesn’t end there. I create personalized plans for PA students and practicing PAs including test-taking strategy for the PANCE, contract negotiations, and tools to overcome and prevent provider burnout. 

My goal is to get you into a physician assistant (PA) school & survive the rigorous program, help you prevent burnout as a practicing PA, and help you take care of yourself so you can be the best version of YOU for your patients, family, and most importantly YOU!