Physician Assistant Certification and Training Programs

Physician assistants work closely with patients while under the supervision of a physician. Programs in this field of study are offered at the graduate level. Read about the prerequisites for enrolling in a physician assistant program, and explore what you'd learn as a student. Review the certification requirements. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Physician Assistant Do?

For a physician assistant (PA), specific job duties are delegated by the physician; however, many duties focus on direct patient care. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the role of a PA should not be confused with that of a medical assistant due to the fact that a PA is involved with patients far beyond the administrative level and is much more involved on the diagnostic level (

Job Duties Provide patient care under physician's supervision, including diagnosis and treatment
Required Education Varies, depending upon the institution; typically a bachelor's degree is required for admission into a physician assistant program
Continuing Education Recertification is required every six years
Median Salary (2018) $108,610 (for all physician assistants)*
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 37% growth (for all physician assistants)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How Much Education Do I Need?

PA program requirements vary from school to school, but many programs take around two years to complete. The majority of programs require that you complete a bachelor's degree before you seek admission into a PA program, and many programs require that you have experience working in the medical field before you enroll. After you complete your education, you will need to be licensed by the state that you are practicing in.

Many physician assistant programs require that you have a high grade point average and patient care experience before you will be admitted into a program. Many PA programs are offered at the graduate level and require a full-time commitment that may prevent you from working while enrolled in the program. While you are enrolled in a PA program, you will be trained in both the classroom and clinical setting. In the classroom, you may take classes such as anatomy and physiology, biology, medical terminology and medical ethics. If you wish to specialize in a certain area of practice, such as pediatrics or geriatrics, you may be required to take more extensive classes that focus on these specialties.

What Does Certification Involve?

Once you complete a physician assistant program from an accredited university, you can seek your certification from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). The NCCPA offers the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) which includes the successful completion of a multiple choice examination. At the end of the sixth year, you will need to pass the recertification exam.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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