Updated on March 20, 2015
Physicians assistants are highly paid medical professionals who provide a lot of the same healthcare services that doctors do. They take patient histories and perform physical exams, diagnose illnesses and develop treatment plans, prescribe medications and counsel patients. And in surgical settings, they suture wounds and assist with the procedures.
PAs, as they’re known in the industry, typically earn master’s degrees in medical science before practicing. These programs usually last three academic years and include classroom instruction in topics ranging from anatomy to pharmacology. Students also participate in more than 2,000 hours of clinical rotations. This training entails a lot of rigorous coursework—education that would, in theory, be hard to deliver outside the brick-and-mortar walls of the 175 or so higher-education institutions with accredited PA master’s programs.
Or maybe not. Soon, an aspiring PA might be able to complete nearly all this coursework online—and through an Ivy League to boot: Yale.
Yale announced earlier this month that it’s partnering with 2U, Inc.—a firm that helps selective nonprofit universities develop virtual degree programs—to launch its online PA initiative. The project is still pending approval by the accrediting commission for PA schools and from various state licensing agencies. But if it gets the green light, it would likely be the country’s first fully online PA degree. (Some programs are considered "hybrid" and entail a combination of on-campus and online coursework.) It would also become Yale’s first fully online master’s program and join the university’s existing on-campus PA program, which was launched in the early 1970s. The online program would cost the same as the on-campus one, whose sticker price is $35,654 annually for the first two years, excluding other fees.