Becoming a PA


Prerequisites to PA Education

PA program applicants must complete two years of college courses in basic and behavioral sciences as prerequisites. Most students have a bachelor’s degree and about three years of health care experience before entering a PA program.

Accredited PA Programs

Accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA), PA programs are approximately 27 months long and include classroom instruction and clinical rotations. Visit ARC-PA or the Physician Assistant Education Association to learn about accredited PA programs.

National Certification

Only graduates of accredited PA programs may take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. PA graduates who pass the PANCE use the title Physician Assistant-Certified or PA-C.

Maintaining Certification

To maintain national certification, PAs must complete 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years and take a recertification exam every six years.

State Licensure

In order to practice, PAs must obtain a state license. All states require that PAs graduate from an accredited PA program and pass the PANCE.

Practice Settings

PA Practice

PAs deliver a range of medical and surgical services, including

  • Taking medical histories and performing physical exams
  • Ordering laboratory tests
  • Diagnosing and treating illnesses
  • Counseling patients and promoting wellness 
  • Assisting in surgery

Pay off your student loans while serving communities in need.

The 2014 NHSC Loan Repayment Program (LRP) application cycle is now closed.  To get a notification when the next cycle is available, go to the above site and click "get notified" under the scholarship section.  The program offers primary care medical, dental, and mental and behavioral health providers the opportunity to have their student loans repaid while serving in communities with limited access to care.