Physician Assistant Certification

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Physician Assistant Certification


All 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, have legislation that governs physician assistant certification. While the qualification to be a PA may vary in small degrees from state to state, they all require PAs to pass the “Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination” (PANCE) as administered by the “National Commission on Certification of Physician Associates” (NCCPA).

Physician Assistant Certification Exam Questions

physician assistant certification examThe physician assistant exam requires six hours and is comprised of 360 multiple-choice questions. It is administered at more than 300 Prometric testing centers offering testing services throughout the U.S. and if an applicant fails to answer at least 162 questions here she will not receive a score report. To pass requires a scaled score of 75 or better.

Before you can take this test, you must graduate from a program that’s approved by the “Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant” (ARCPA). In fact, even if you have a medical degree from another country you must still graduate from one of these accredited PA programs in order to take the PANCE. There are currently 157 accredited colleges and schools that offer accredited programs.

What the program consists of

These programs require two or three years of study and are considered masters level programs. You must have appropriate GRE scores and a bachelors degree for admission to one of the programs. They include classroom and laboratory instruction in subjects such as human anatomy, critical care medicine, biochemistry, clinical pharmacology, pathology, clinical medicine, medical ethics and physical diagnosis. These programs may also include clinical training with a supervising attendant in several areas, which includes family medicine, prenatal care, internal medicine, emergency medicine, geriatrics, and internal medicine. Sometimes, physician assistant students work in one of more of these areas under the watchful eye of a supervising physician who is seeking to hire a PA.


Most physician assistant programs are offered at medical schools, four-year colleges, academic health centers and allied health schools. A few programs are offered as part of the military, at community colleges or at hospitals. Many accredited physician assistant programs are affiliated with medical schools.

To enter one of these programs normally requires a college degree and some health-related work experience. All states require PAs to complete an accredited, formal education and pass the national exam in order to get a license. Once youare complete on your training and pass the PANCE (Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination), you can apply for physician assistant certification.

Other qualifications

To be a physician assistant you must have a desire to see patients and must be self-motivated. In addition, a PA should have a good bedside manner, the ability to make decisions in times of emergency, and emotional stability. Last but not least, you should have an enthusiasm for lifelong learning because their eligibility to practice depends on continuing education.

To remain certified

Once a physician assistant is certified, after a period of 2 years the PA must have demonstrated professional and ethical conduct, completed 100 hours of continuing education units from approved medical curriculum. In addition to the two year re-certification requirements they must also do one of the two following requirements within a six year period: 1) pass an exam or 2) Complete a take home exam and display a certain level of proficiency demonstrated by work related learning experience. It really is not much different from other professional careers that addiditonal and ongoing education is required to maintain the physician assistant certification.