What Education Do I Need for a Career As a Physician Assistant?

Completing the educational and certification requirements to become a physician assistant can train you to examine patients, order necessary testing, supervise medical technicians, and prescribe medication. Review the requirements for entering this career field here. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Educational Requirements

In order to become a certified physician assistant (PA), you must graduate from a PA program that is accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). PA programs are offered primarily at the master's degree level; less than 20 programs leading to a certificate, associate's degree or bachelor's degree were available as of 2013, and it's important to note that the master's degree is increasingly becoming the standard for PAs. According to ARC-PA in 2013, there were 165 accredited master's-level programs for PAs.

Admission requirements for PA programs vary according to the institution and type of degree, but there are some common requirements you may see in most schools. It is common for schools to require previous work experience as a nurse, medical assistant, emergency medical technician, or medical technologist. You might also be required to have completed courses in topics such as anatomy, physiology, or microbiology.


According to the BLS, the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants' (NCCPA) Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) is a mandatory requirement in all states to practice as a licensed PA. Once you pass the PANCE, you can use the PA-C designation after your name.

You must maintain your certification by meeting specific requirements every two and six years. In every two-year period, you need to log 100 hours of continuing education. A re-certification exam must be taken every six years.

Postgraduate Educational Options

If you want to practice in a specialized area of medicine, such as neonatology or surgery, you have to complete education beyond a PA program. You could pursue postgraduate options such as internal medicine, pediatrics, emergency medicine, and internal medicine. In order to qualify to enter these programs, you must have already completed an accredited PA program and passed the NCCPA certification 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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