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Doctorate PA Questions

Click on the questions below to find out more about questions many PAs commonly have about doctorate-level physician assistants.

This is probably the most frequently asked question of all of the questions that people have in regards to being a doctorate PA. In any setting, except the clinical setting, a PA with a doctorate degree can be and should be addressed with the “Dr” moniker. It is the opinion of the ADPA that in the clinical setting, PAs may and should use the doctor title as well as their professional title. For example, in a clinical setting, a PA should introduce themselves as, ‘Dr. Mason, the physician assistant that will be caring for them today’. Unfortunately, physicians in several states have inserted language into the PA Practice Act and other places prohibiting PAs from using the “Dr” moniker in the clinical setting. Other states require PAs to divulge where the “authority” by which one obtains this doctorate degree. This is usually the school you graduated from. It would be our caution to check with your state legislation to ensure that you are not in one of these states.

Some healthcare professionals, such as physicians, state that they are concerned use of the doctor title will confuse patients. The ADPA would like to point out that the doctor title has been used by many non-physician professionals for decades. As such, there is no reason that a practicing physician assistant with a doctorate degree cannot also use their hard-earned title proudly.

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Many would argue that you can do everything with a master's degree that you could do with a doctorate degree. While this may be a mostly true statement, it is considerably easier to obtain one’s goals if you have a terminal degree. Although non-doctorate professionals can be found in many healthcare-related fields, it would be disingenuous to suggest that the doctorate degree is not a useful tool in obtaining entry into those professions. Those with doctorate degrees are more likely to gain employment into higher education, including instructing at professional programs such as MD/DO, NP, and PA professional programs. Doctorate degrees make it easier to gain entry into fields such as pharmaceuticals and as a medical liaisons. Research is a new area for PAs. As such, becoming a principal research scientist is unlikely without the doctorate degree. In clinical medicine, a doctorate degree is not required to perform the usual clinical functions of a PA. However, when one expands into administration and supervision, a doctorate degree is more attractive in potential candidates.

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While no one can guarantee additional income, data from the US Census Bureau’s salary statistics reveal a positive trend for those with a doctorate degree in comparison to those with a master's degree. That said, it is important to note that professional degrees do conflate the issue of degree and salary income.

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Whether you choose a PA-specific doctorate degree, a more traditional PhD degree, an educational doctorate, or other types of doctorate degrees is entirely dependent upon your professional goals. If you would like further guidance from the ADPA on what others that may have professional goals similar to you have done, the ADPA recommends checking out our podcast series.

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The first task is to decide which type of doctorate degree (DMS, PhD, EdD, etc) you would like to pursue. Once you have nailed down that decision and have decided on a PA-specific doctorate degree, many have questions as to which program is right for them. With new DMS programs popping up every year, the decision-making process can become increasingly more intricate for the potential PA doctorate scholar. This is where the ADPA is here to help. Our association is made up of all types of PA professionals, including those who have attended a variety of PA specific doctorate programs.

Several times a year, the ADPA hosts a round table discussion consisting of doctorate PAs that have graduated from different programs. These roundtable discussions are for members-only, so please join if you are interested in hearing their UNBIASED experiences before committing to a particular program.

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The total cost, as well as time spent on a PA-specific doctorate degree varies from program to program. Although some programs may seem like they are longer than others and thus cost more, scholars can often transfer in several credits to decrease both the time and cost of the program. For a list of the most up-to-date programs, as well as links to projected total cost, excluding potential benefits from transferring credits, please log on to the ADPA website.

For other Doctorate Degrees, the cost is largely dependent upon whether or not the scholar can obtain aid in the form of an assistantship, a grant, or a scholarship.

As to whether or not you will recoup the cost associated with obtaining a doctorate degree, please see the above question, “Will I make more money with a doctorate degree?”

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This is a seemingly easier question to answer than some of the other common questions regarding the PA doctorate degrees. If one has a truly educational directory and has already decided on the PA specific doctorate (vs an educational doctorate), then the educational DMS route would likely be the obvious choice. However, one must also think about an educational doctorate and the types of schools that will allow tenure with a non-dissertation doctorate degree. For further guidance on this issue, please check out the ADPA podcast on PAs in education with Dr. Wes Johnson.

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