California Physician Assistant Programs for Licensure

How to Become a Physician Assistant in California

The medical services field and physician assistants in particular have good job outlooks in California’s future. By a recent count there were nearly 8,000 licensed physician assistants working in California, making an average annual salary of $101,880. The current trend in the healthcare industry is shifting to favor the employment of PAs as the number of more expensive doctors relatively shrinks. There are currently nine college and university campuses across the state that offer accredited PA degrees with that number expected to rise with the increasing demand for PAs. Students interested in how to become a physician assistant in California should review these following steps:

  1. Meet the Prerequisites of an Accredited Program
  2. Take and Pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE)
  3. Apply for Licensure to California’s Physician Assistant Board
  4. Maintain License Validity

Step 1. Meet the Prereqs for an Accredited California PA Program

The first duty of prospective students is to find qualifying California physician assistant programs for licensure. California’s Physician Assistant Board requires candidates applying for a license to have completed a PA training program approved by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). Each program has its own admission requirements, however there are some general stipulations such as:

  • Taking the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE)
  • Direct clinical patient-care experience
  • Meeting the course prerequisites in psychology, biology, and chemistry for PA programs
  • Possession of a bachelor’s degree. Most PA degree programs are at the graduate level and students should therefore have a four-year degree before enrolling. Any major suffices to fulfill this requirement, although the following programs also fulfill PA course prerequisites:
    • Psychology
    • Public Health
    • Biology
    • Nursing
    • Medical Assistant

Step 2. Take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE)

Passing the PANCE is required for licensure in California. The PANCE is an exam sponsored by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) whose successful completion affords the credential of Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C). Once students have obtained their PA-C they may apply for licensure to the California’s Physician Assistant Board. There is a $475 fee required to register for the PANCE, a 300-question multiple-choice exam lasting five hours and offered at locations across the country. The NCCPA offers practice exams for $35.

Step 3. Apply for a PA License from California’s Physician Assistant Board

The application packet for PA licensure in California includes the following:

  • Application for a PA License
  • Certification of Completion of Physician Assistant Training Program
  • Instructions on how to:
    • Request the release of PANCE scores
    • Be fingerprinted
    • Request application expedition for active military soldiers and spouses

There is an application fee of $25, a license fee of $200, and if applicants choose to be manually fingerprinted there will be an additional $49 processing fee. Applicants are generally notified of their status within 30 days. Once successful applicants have received their California Physician Assistant License they will be eligible to legally practice in the Golden State.

Step 4. Maintain the California PA License

Physician Assistant licenses expire every two years at the end of their holder’s birth month. To renew their license, PAs need to:

California does not require its PAs to renew their PA-C credential from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), however maintaining the PA-C fulfills the 50 CME-credit requirement and gives PAs the option to move their practice to other states that do require a PA-C credential.

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