Best Dual PA/MPH Programs For 2021
Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN
The world of healthcare is ever-evolving, creating opportunities for motivated people to expand their knowledge and grow their careers. If you are among those people who have considered becoming a physician assistant and want to work in public health, a PA/MPH dual degree program is an excellent way to achieve that goal. Dual PA/MPH programs combine the clinical knowledge and skills of physician assistants with the understanding of public health issues and efforts to prepare professionals for advanced roles in healthcare. As you continue reading this article, you will learn about the best dual PA/MPH programs for 2021. You will find information about the advantages and disadvantages of these dual degree programs and ways to increase the likelihood of your acceptance.
What Exactly Is the Goal of a Dual PA/MPH Program?
The goal of the best dual PA/MPH programs is to provide students with exposure to the core competencies needed to provide patient care in clinical and public health settings, shaping local and global health systems as policymakers and physician assistants. These programs focus on developing healthcare professionals who possess a wealth of medical knowledge coupled with leadership and policy-making skills to meet the challenges and needs of an ever-changing healthcare industry.
The Physician Assistant program is a graduate-level professional program that prepares students for clinical practice, emphasizing the team approach to healthcare delivery and service to medically underserved populations. The Master of Public Health degree program is a graduate degree program that offers students opportunities to gain a broad knowledge of skills relevant to public health services.
7 Big Advantages of Dual PA/MPH Programs
As with any significant decision, there are advantages and disadvantages associated with even the best PA/MPH dual degree programs. By carefully considering the pros and cons, you can determine if the advantages outweigh the disadvantages and decide if pursuing your degrees through this path of study is the best choice for you.
1. Enhanced practice experiences:
The combination of clinical skills learned in the Physician Assistant program are complemented with public health insight and analytical skills from the Public Health program. By choosing accredited dual PA/MPH programs, you develop skills that will enhance your practice, improve patient care, and promote effective interdisciplinary collaboration and communication.
2. Opportunities for non-clinical career opportunities:
Graduates of dual PA/MPH programs can leverage public health expertise with the clinical skills of a physician assistant to pursue non-clinical roles and initiatives. You can assess and/or develop public health education programs and support underserved patient populations by advocating for healthcare change and conducting research.
3. Excellent income opportunities:
After earning the degrees conferred by dual PA/MPH programs, it is reasonable to expect to earn a generous income. The average salary for individuals with Physician Assistant and Master of Public Health degrees is over $122,000 yearly.
4. Dual PA/MPH programs can save you time as you earn your degrees.
Many PA/MPH programs take three years to complete, which could save you at least one year compared to the time it takes to achieve each degree separately.
5. Broaden your perspectives related to healthcare.
Students enrolled in Public Health programs complete coursework including environmental health, epidemiology, social and behavioral sciences, and health policy and administration. This training will help you view health and healthcare delivery from the point of view that is not typical in the medical model curriculum.
6. You can become a favorable candidate for positions as a healthcare administrator, public health director, or policymaker.
Graduates of PA/MPH dual degree programs have an understanding and appreciation of all the things that affect the population’s health. These attributes are highly sought-after in both public and private sectors of government and non-government organizations.
7. Prepare to educate future generations of public health professional physician assistants.
Many people who hold dual degrees as Physician Assistants and Master of Public Health make great candidates for employment as faculty members for public health and physician assistant programs. By choosing this academic path, you will gain the knowledge and skills necessary for practice and can share that knowledge with others.
3 Big Disadvantages of Dual PA/MPH Programs
Here are the most significant disadvantages of dual PA/MPH degree programs.
1. The program format may cause a feeling of burnout.
Many dual PA/MPH programs are designed with the MPH component of the program presented first. While this may not pose a problem to some students, those who go directly from an undergraduate course of study into the dual degree program may find themselves lacking motivation during the preclinical year of the Physician Assistant program.
2. The curriculum is quite rigorous.
Graduate degree programs typically have an in-depth curriculum. When you pursue dual PA/MPH programs, you are almost doubling the amount of coursework, which can feel overwhelming at times. Still, with hard work and determination, it is possible to be successful.
3. You may have little free time while involved in the program.
Because physician assistant/master of public health dual degree programs have a heavy course load, you may find you have much less time for other activities. Some students may find it challenging to maintain a job or continue with extracurricular activities they once enjoyed. One way to overcome this is to remember, you are working toward an important goal and, once you achieve it, you can enjoy the little things again.
How Long Are PA/MPH Dual Degree Programs?
The amount of time it takes to complete dual PA/MPH programs varies from one school to the next. Many students can graduate in three years, although some students may take longer. A few factors, such as when the first semester of a program begins and whether a student pursues the degrees part-time or full-time, have some bearing on how long it takes to graduate.
The following are some examples of how long some of the accredited PA/MPH dual degree programs featured in this article take students to complete.
Students at Touro University California
earn dual master's degrees: Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies and Master of Public Health in thirty-three months
of full-time study.
• Yale University’s
accredited PA/MPH dual degree program allows students to earn degrees as a Physician Assistant and Master of Public Health, focusing on clinical and public health training, in as few as thirty-nine months. The following is an example of the curriculum timeline for the program.
◦ 1st Year: Students spend three semesters (Fall/Spring/Summer) enrolled in the School of Public Health’s Master of Public Health Program
◦ 2nd Year: Students spend three semesters (Fall/Spring/Summer) enrolled in the Yale School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program
◦ 3rd Year: Students spend their time between Yale School of Public Health and the Physician Assistant Program. During this time, students complete clinical rotations and their MPH thesis.
◦ 4th Year: Students are enrolled in and complete coursework for the School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program.
At Tufts University
, students complete both the Physician Assistant and Master of Public Health degrees concurrently over thirty-six months. Students complete thirty-seven and a half credits of MPH coursework in the first year of the dual PA/MPH program. The program's second year integrates Physician Assistant didactic work and is followed by a third year of clinical preparation.
You can xxpand your professional reach as a physician assistant by earning a dual PA/MPH from Nova Southeastern University
in as little as three years.
The University of Nebraska Medical Center’s
dual Master of Public Health/Physician Assistant program is designed for graduation after three and a half years.
How Much Do PA/MPH Dual Degree Programs Cost?
The cost of earning graduate degrees is one common concern prospective students share. Although an investment in your professional education is something that can last a lifetime, it does take planning and careful consideration of one's financial means. In the following paragraphs, you will find a few examples of tuition costs at some of the dual PA/MPH programs discussed in this article. Unless otherwise stated, the price listed is for tuition only. Prospective students should take into consideration possible other expenses such as program fees, books, and supplies, as well as other incidental expenses.
Students participating in the accredited PA/MPH dual degree program at Tuft’s University
are billed a flat tuition rate each semester. Per the current 2021-2022 tuition guide, the total tuition cost of the PA/MPH program is $135,318
At the University of Alabama at Birmingham
, students complete the MPH portion of the dual PA/MPH program in the first year, then complete the Physician Assistant component over three additional years. Tuition is determined based on a student's state residence. Alabama residents pay $4,920 for the MPH component and $21,360 for the PA portion. Non-residents pay $77,736 for the Physician Assistant portion of the program and $19,704 for the MPH. Depending on residency status, the total tuition cost for the concurrent degree program costs between $34,624 and $99,096.
The concurrent Master of Public Health/Physician Assistant program at Arcadia University
costs $14,201 per semester. This program, one of the best PA/MPH dual degree programs, is formatted to be completed in nine semesters, making the average cost of the program $127,809
Like Arcadia University, Emory University
charges tuition on a per-semester basis. The rate for the 2021-2022 year is currently $17,767 per semester. Students who graduate in the recommended nine semesters pay tuition costs of approximately $159,903.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison
is another university that calculates tuition based on the student's residency status. Wisconsin residents pay $899.86 per semester hour and non-residents pay $1,218.32. The sixty-one-credit-hour dual PA/MPH program costs between $54,891.46 and $74,317.52
What Is the Curriculum Like For MPH/PA Dual Degree Programs?
Although the curriculum plan for accredited dual PA/MPH programs may vary, most share similar content and include three components: Didactic courses, Clinical classes, and Research projects. After an offer of admission is extended and you enroll in a program, an academic advisor can help determine whether you can receive credit for any previous coursework and develop a study plan tailored to your specific needs.
Here are some examples of classes students take at a few of the best PA/MPH dual programs.
• Emory University's
Rollins School of Public Health and Emory University School of Medicine offer its Physician Assistant/Master of Public Health dual degree program. During the first year of enrollment, students complete thirty-two semester hours at the Rollins School of Public Health. Students enroll in the Emory University School of Medicine Physician Assistant program in the second year and continue in that program through the third year.
While enrolled at the Rollins School of Public Health, curriculum plans include MPH core courses, departmental courses, completion of a thesis, and participation in an applied practice experience relevant to public health.
◦ Monitoring and Evaluation of Global Public Health Programs
◦ Evidence-Based, Policy Programs and Research
◦ Behavioral and Social Sciences in Public Health
◦ Epidemiological Methods
The Physician Assistant program at Emory University was ranked #5 by U.S. News and World Report. The PA component of the dual PA/MPH program includes the following classes.
◦ Gross Anatomy
◦ Foundations of Medical Science
◦ Biomedical Ethics
◦ Community and Social Medicine
◦ Fundamentals of Hematology/Oncology
The dual PA/MPH program at Northeastern University
is structured to offer students flexibility as they pursue both Physician Assistant and Master of Public Health degrees. Students typically begin their program sequence by completing most of the MPH coursework from January to mid-August in an online format. At the end of August, students begin the Physician Assistant coursework. Any MPH coursework that is remaining is taken during the remaining two years of the PA program.
◦ Urban Community Health Assessment
◦ Public Health Administration and Policy
◦ Environmental Health
◦ Physical Diagnosis and Patient Diagnosis I and II
◦ Clinical Neurology
◦ Applied Study in:
1. Medicine, Ambulatory Medicine, and Emergency Medicine
2. Family Practice
3. Obstetrics and Gynecology
6. Mental Health
The University of Nebraska Medical Center
offers a concurrent Master of Physician Assistant Studies/Master of Public Health degree program formatted as a ten-semester sequence of study. Students complete twenty-seven credit hours of MPH core courses, community-oriented care courses, and physician assistant clinical rotations.
◦ Public Health, Environment, and Society
◦ Fundamentals of Industrial Hygiene
◦ Epidemiological Methods
◦ Community-Oriented Primary Care
◦ Health information and Surveillance for Public Health Practice
◦ Health Disparities and Health Equity
Students in the dual PA/MPH program at Campbell University
spend the first year of study dedicated to earning thirty-two credit hours of public health coursework. After completing the first year, the next twenty-four months are spent in the Physician Assistant program meeting the PA curriculum requirements and completing the MSPH research project.
◦ Health Policy and Management
◦ Community Health Assessment and Evaluation
◦ Health Education and Promotion
◦ Ethical Issues in Public Health
◦ Foundations of Health and Disease
The Shenandoah University
Physician Assistant/Master of Public Health, like all PA/MPH dual degree programs, involves a rigorous curriculum. Because of the structure of the Physician Assistant program and the depth of coursework, students begin MPH coursework after completing their third year in the PA program. At that time, students may continue MPH coursework on a part-time or full-time basis.
◦ Medical Interview and Physical Assessment I and II (with Labs)
◦ Healthcare Systems and Issues in Healthcare
◦ Humanities for the Physician Assistant Profession
◦ Social and Behavioral Aspects of Public Health
◦ Public Health Perspectives on Chronic Disease
What Are the Most Difficult Courses in an MPH/PA Dual Degree Program?
Knowing which courses in an MPH/PA dual degree program are hardest is more a matter of opinion and personal preference. Classes that one student may struggle with are easy for other students and vice versa. Among some of the difficult classes are Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Neuroscience.
Epidemiology and Biostatistics:
This course includes content that exposes students to the basic concepts of analytic and descriptive epidemiology. Students are instructed on methods to effectively read and interpret medical studies and literature relevant to disease occurrence, probability, hypothesis testing, measures of data bias and quality, survival analysis, and test significance for evidence-based medical practices.
In this class, students are exposed to an overview of all the principles governing the development of the complex nervous system. Topics include formation of neural crest and neural tube, birth and proliferation of neurons, neuronal differentiation, cell migration, synaptic plasticity, and synapse formation.
Colleges and universities that offer accredited dual PA/MPH programs have the right to determine the admission criteria applicants must meet. Although there are some differences in admission requirements, the minimum standards for acceptance typically include the following.
◦ Applicants must possess a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university.
◦ Pass a criminal background check and drug screen
◦ Provide official transcripts that reflect any college credits earned
◦ Submit letters of professional recommendation
◦ Provide a current resume/curriculum vitae
The following are sample admission criteria for some of the PA/MPH dual programs shared in this article.
Applicants seeking admission to the dual PA/MPH program at George Washington University
must apply directly to the Physician Assistant Program. The Department of Physician Assistant Studies copies all application materials and forwards them to the Milken Institute School of Public Health admission department. The Milken Institute of Public Health and the School of Medicine then independently review the application for admission.
◦ Submit official transcripts from all academic institutions where credit was earned.
• Mercer University
◦ Provide current, official GRE test scores.
◦ Two letters of professional recommendation
◦ Prepare a Statement of Purpose explaining the reason for interest in the Physician Assistant/Master of Public Health dual degree program and how the program will help you reach your career goals.
offers another of our featured accredited dual PA/MPH programs. Prospective students must apply to both programs separately, first to the Physician Assistant program. After an applicant is granted admission to the PA program and with evidence of a solid academic record, students may apply to the fast-track MPH program.
◦ Bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited United States college or university
◦ Undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 or higher
◦ Complete all prerequisites before matriculation. Prerequisites for the PA program include General Chemistry series with Labs (2), Organic Chemistry (1), Biochemistry (1), General Biology series with Labs (2), Human Anatomy and Physiology with Labs (2), Microbiology (1), English Composition or Intensive Writing course series (2), Statistics or Biostatistics (1), and Introductory Psychology (1)
◦ Complete at least 1,000 hours of hands-on patient care experience
The dual PA/MPH program at Yale University’s
School of Medicine provides individuals with the opportunity to pursue clinical and public health training. Students must choose from four areas of specialty concentration for the public health component of the program. Specialty options are Chronic Disease Epidemiology, Health Policy, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases.
Sample Admission Requirements:
◦ Submit official GRE scores
◦ Provide three letters of recommendation (At least one letter must be from a healthcare professional who has observed the applicant in an employment or volunteer capacity.)
◦ Complete all prerequisites before applying.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham
offers another of the best dual PA/MPH programs available. Prospective students must meet admission criteria for both the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program and the School of Public Health.
Sample Admission Requirements:
◦ Possess a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university
◦ Minimum cumulative undergraduate grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 grading scale
◦ Complete all prerequisite courses at a regionally accredited learning institution in the U.S.
◦ Provide three letters of professional recommendation
◦ Submit a resume/curriculum vitae
Although Touro University California
has made recent changes to the joint PA/MPH program’s admission requirements for the 2020-2021 cycle, it remains a competitive program. It is recommended that prospective students strive to exceed the minimum admission requirements
Sample Admission Requirements:
◦ Minimum cumulative and Science GPA of 2.9
◦ Provide three letters of recommendation: At least one letter must be from someone working in a clinical position such as a physician assistant, nurse practitioner, or doctor.
◦ 1,000 hours of Clinical Experience: Candidates for admission must have obtained at least 1,000 hours of Patient Care and/or Healthcare Experience, either in a paid position or as a volunteer.
6 Tips to Make Your MPH/PA Dual Degree Program Application Stand Out
As you research the best dual PA/MPH programs, it is essential to gather as many facts as possible and get answers to your questions. Competition for placement can be fierce, and you want to make your application stand out among all those that the admissions faculty review. Here are some tips for getting the attention you want for your application.
1. Don’t try to “fit the mold.”
Admissions faculty for these dual degree programs review several applications each year. They are looking for someone whose application says, “Hey, I’m the one,” not some who could fit into the same mold as every other applicant. While it is a good idea to have someone review your application and suggest edits, it is just as crucial to be true to yourself and your goals.
2. Get excellent letters of recommendation.
Anyone can write a letter of reference. You need someone who can write a letter that leaves admissions teams wondering why they haven't already admitted you. Letters of reference should be from professionals such as a previous college instructor, supervisor, or another person who can speak to your likelihood of success in a Physician Assistant/Master of Public Health dual degree program. The letters should include how the writer knows you, their professional experience/credentials, how they know you, and why they believe you are a good choice for the program.
3. Remember, grades DO matter.
Colleges and universities usually stipulate a minimum grade point average as part of their admission criteria. Having a GPA that meets the admission requirements is excellent, but it's not the only part of your grades that will be considered. Admissions faculty want to know that you can succeed in coursework that is relevant to their program. For example, if one of the dual PA/MPH programs you apply to has prerequisite Anatomy, Chemistry, and Statistics requirements, you should strive to achieve good grades in these classes. Having strong grades in prerequisite courses can help make up for lower grades in other courses that may be less relevant to the MPH/PA program.
4. What makes you a good candidate for the program?
Members of the admissions team want to know what makes you different from other PA/MPH applicants. It is possible to point out your own good qualities without turning your application into a bragging list. Think about things other candidates may not have in common with you. For instance, were you reared in a family of public health professionals where you found a personal love for public health? Did your interest in becoming a public health physician assistant drive you to take extra classes not yet required of you? Demonstrating your passion and commitment to this career choice through life experiences will leave admission faculty with a positive impression.
These first four tips for creating an attractive application package are essential and can impact whether you are extended an offer of admission. However, even if you follow those tips to a tee, the next two could be deal-breakers if you are not careful.
5. Be on time!
Nothing says “unprofessional” like waiting until the last minute and risking late application submissions. By keeping a current resume and beginning to gather essential required documents, you should be able to submit your PA/MPH application ahead of time.
6. Follow directions.
The best of intentions can come across as an effort to do things your own way, which is not always good when it comes to applying to college. As a college instructor and employment supervisor, one of the most frustrating things for me was to give students an assignment and have them return it to me without following even the most straightforward directions. For example, if admission criteria for a Physician Assistant/Master of Public Health dual degree program states that you should prepare a Personal Statement that is 500-750 words, double spaced, it does not need to be 800 words single-spaced. While this may seem like a trivial thing, it speaks volumes to admission faculty about whether you are teachable and willing to follow instructions.
FOLLOWING ARE THE 17 BEST DUAL PA/MPH PROGRAMS (ONLINE & CAMPUS) IN THE NATION FOR 2021
(These PA/MPH Dual Degree Programs are ideal for individuals who wish to earn skills, knowledge, and expertise in both Physician Assisting and Public Health.)
View Ranking Methodology
After graduating from any of the best dual PA/MPH programs, there are numerous potential career opportunities. A few examples of places you may find a graduate of one of these programs are listed below.
Physician Assistant for Community Health Clinic:
Works in collaboration with interdisciplinary team promoting health and wellness using innovative disease management techniques for medically underserved populations.
Internal Medicine Community Health Physician Assistant:
Provides care to diverse populations within the community, performs wellness visits, ill-visit assessments and follow-ups, educates and monitors clients and the community on issues related to public health, health promotion, and disease prevention.
Physician assistants with degrees in public health often work in positions performing research. The PA/Research Assistant participates in grant preparation and submission for research projects related to public health, develops manuals of operation, study forms, and study protocols, manages both new and ongoing research studies, supervises study coordinators and other research staff, participates in publications, presentations, and data analysis.
Public Health Quality Improvement Specialist:
Physician Assistants with a public health degree are great candidates to work in quality improvement jobs within the public health industry. Their knowledge and clinical skills make them appealing to potential employers who want to improve healthcare organizations and healthcare delivery methods. The PA/Public Health Quality Improvement Specialist works with Quality Improvement Administrator to design, develop, implement, and measure public health organizational systems and processes to improve quality, safety, delivery, and cost performance of healthcare services relevant to public health.
Average PA/MPH Salary
After graduating from a Physician Assistant/Master of Public Health dual degree program, the average annual salary is $122,550. As reflected in the chart below, this salary is equivalent to almost $59 hourly and over $10,000 each month. With continued experience, individuals who possess dual degrees as a Physician Assistant and Master of Public Health may see salary increases of four percent or more every four to five years. Positions in geographical areas where the cost of living is higher may offer higher salaries. Any previous experience in public health and/or providing direct care to patients may be something you can leverage when negotiating a salary. Keep in mind, many employers offer benefits packages that include insurance, paid sick or vacation time, and retirement benefits that can add value to the overall salary and benefits package you are offered.
As the United States healthcare system continues to evolve, the need for well-educated, highly qualified healthcare professionals grows. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a five percent increase
in public health jobs from 2019 to 2029 and an increase of physician assistant jobs by thirty-one percent
in the same period. Several factors contribute to the demand for professionals with dual PA/MPH degrees. For example, the nationwide physician shortage, public health workforce approaching retirement age, cost-effectiveness of employing physician assistants, and local and/or global health issues such as the national opioid crisis, alcoholism, and the COVID-19 pandemic. All these factors combined a positive job outlook for graduates of dual PA/MPH programs.
The Bottom Line
A career path that leads to dual degrees as a Physician Assistant and Master of Public Health can open doors of endless opportunity. If you have been considering a career change or earning higher degrees in these fields, the best PA/MPH dual degree programs for 2021 offer excellent ways to get started.
Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years' experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels.