As with other careers in medicine, an increasing number of Physician Assistants have decided to seek a doctorate degree. Doing so elevates them above many of their peers and puts them on par with other doctorate-holding medical professionals, including psychologists, dentists, podiatrists, chiropractors, audiologists, and optometrists.
It’s a trend that’s been a long time in the making. As of December 2020, all PA graduates must earn a master’s degree. This has influenced 24 percent of all PA degree program faculty to advance their credentials to the doctorate level. About 44 percent of program directors have done the same, according to the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA).
The association also reports that 30 percent of all PA faculty job ads prefer candidates with a doctoral degree.
For those who aspire to attain a higher degree, Touro University Worldwide offers a 100 percent online Doctorate of Physician Assistant program without residency requirements – the only such program available in the nation. The program allows PAs to earn a doctorate and codify their clinical expertise in their area of specialty, all while working full-time.
Following Other Healthcare Careers
Other healthcare sectors have moved toward the doctorate degree a little faster, such as nurse practitioners and pharmacists. In a commentary titled “The Professional Doctorate: What Are We Waiting For?” published in Clinician Review, Dr. Randy D. Danielsen argued that PAs should seek a doctorate.
He wrote that “first and foremost,” a doctorate can help “ensure quality patient outcomes.” He also argued that having PAs with a doctorate can address shortages of providers, as well as provide more faculty members at places of higher education who can work on “educating the next generation of healthcare providers.”
For PAs, earning a doctorate also can “create opportunities for increased decision-making and upward mobility in the workplace,” Danielsen wrote.
Many PAs Will Seek a Doctorate
Even if earning a doctorate is not yet a requirement, many PAs will seek a doctorate. About 16.8 percent of all graduates from PA master’s programs move on to seek further education or clinical training, according to estimates from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).
The NCCPA further reports that currently, about 1.7 percent of PAs have earned a doctorate degree. They also report that 68.2 percent of all PAs are women.
Experts in the field expect this to continue. Writing for the PAEA website, Dr. Gerald Kayingo wrote that “As we look into the future, it appears that PA doctoral education is inevitable. Now is the time to create a critical mass of PA educators who will lead this transformation. The time is also ripe for developing innovative pathways for PA faculty to advance their careers to a doctorate credential.”
Get Ahead of the Trend
As more PAs decide to pursue a doctorate, Touro University Worldwide offers a convenient online program that allows them to earn a Doctorate of Physician Assistant (DPA). while maintaining busy professional and personal schedules. TUW designed the program for post-professional candidates who practice in any area of medicine, surgery, and medical education. Students in the program conduct research that aligns with their areas of interest.
Students also gain a comprehensive understanding of theories and research needed to expand professional competencies. They graduate from the program with research skills that support their specialized area of expertise, preparing them for success working as PAs in a global work environment that is culturally diverse and features innovative technology.
Students who enter the TUW Doctorate of Physician Assistant program are active in their own professional work and research. They keep pace with trends in healthcare. They leave the program with more developed expertise as scholar-practitioners and a greater understanding of its subject matter, literature, theory, and methods associated with their field of interest.