Physician Assistant Certified (PA-C): The Process

Become a Physician Assistant

Additional Resources…

Licensing requirements vary slightly from state to state, but they are generally very similar. You must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (or PANCE). It is a multiple choice exam, and is completed using a computer. You will have a 180 day exam window based on your application and graduation dates; you can schedule your exam at your convenience any time during this time period. You will find an overview of the content on the site of the National Commission of Certification of Physician Assistants.

You can also expect a background check as part of the certification/licensing process. In order to maintain national certification, you must do 100 hours of continuing education every two years and recertify every six. Continuing education not only keeps you current, but allows you to pursue additional training in areas that are relevant to your practice.

Some PAs choose to do postgraduate residencies in specialty areas like emergency medicine or surgery right after graduation. Details are available through the Association of Postgraduate PA Programs.

Very recently, some new opportunities have opened up for experienced physician assistants. PAs can earn advanced certification in several specialty areas. These include emergency medicine, nephrology, cardiovascular and thoracic surgery, orthopedic surgery, and psychiatry. These certifications are granted through an examination process. In order to earn a specialty certification, you will need a year or two of experience as a PA, and must have experience performing duties related to the specialty. Why pursue one if you’re already working? It displays advanced skill and may look good on your resume if you seek a better position.