When students want to seek a Master's degree, they don't typically turn to the local community college. But, now Red Rocks Community College is offering a first-of-it's kind option for students like Justin Murphy pursuing careers as a Physician Assistant.
"To have that level of training will become important everywhere," Murphy said.
As a current student, he will not be eligible. But, starting in 2017, Red Rocks Community College will start offering a Master's degree in the Physician Assistant Program.
"We will be the first community college in the nation to offer a Master's degree for our students," Christa Dobbs, program director, said.
Starting in 2020, the government will require that all physician assistants have a Master's degree. Dobbs says P.A. programs are offered in university medical center settings which can add to their current Master's programs . So, she says the fact that Red Rocks can also offer a Master's is crucial for her school.
"Us, being able to offer the Master's really gives us an economic and ongoing sustainability for our P.A. program," Dobbs said.
Murphy says finances are crucial for a lot of students and being to able to obtain a Master's at a community college is significant.
"The cost of tuition is unbelievably affordable here and that's a really big draw," Murphy said.
Dobbs says her program aims to address a systemic problem of the number of health care providers in areas outside of the Metro area.
"Typically, nationwide, the rural communities are underserved as far as health care professionals," Dobbs said.
That's why Murphy says establishing a Master's program is key for the school and the state of Colorado.
"Make it more accessible to students as the demand rises," Murphy said.
The enrollment process has started for the Master's degree program. Dobbs says for the 32 available spots, there are already more than 1,000 applicants.
"There is a huge demand for (physician assistants) around the state," Dobbs said.