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Becoming a PA

Prerequisites

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.


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.


PA Practice

PAs deliver a range of services, including:

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

Maintaining Certification

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


Practice Settings

  • Private practices and clinics
  • Hospitals
  • HMOs 
  • The armed forces and other federal government agencies
  • Hospice and Home Health

Student Loans

Pay off your student loans while serving communities in need. The  NHSC Loan Repayment Program (LRP) application is available here. 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.

The Physician Manpower Training Program is another opportunity for loan repayment. Click here for more information.