How to Become a Physician Assistant in Illinois
Physician assistants dealt with many of the nearly 60,000 victims of the top four causes of mortality in Illinois at the time of the last census: heart disease, cancer, respiratory diseases and strokes. Besides helping the sick, physician assistants in Illinois also perform regular check-ups and physical exams as part of their many duties. By a recent count there were 2,060 PAs working in the Land of Lincoln, being outnumbered by registered nurses by more than 1 to 55, though earning about a 30 percent greater average salary at $84,440. As the state’s population ages over the coming decades the demand for PAs is projected to rise. Citizens planning ahead who are interested in making a positive difference in their communities can consider these steps of how to become a physician assistant in Illinois:
- Choose Among Accredited Illinois Physician Assistant Programs for Licensure
- Become Certified by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA)
- Apply for Licensure with the Illinois Division of Professional Regulation
- Maintain the PA License
Step 1. Choose Accredited Illinois Physician Assistant Programs for Licensure
When browsing for good PA programs students should keep in mind two things: admission requirements and accreditation. Because PA degree programs are at the graduate level most require applicants to already have a bachelor’s degree in any subject. Having an undergraduate major or minor in the sciences or psychology can also be advantageous as these are general prerequisites for most PA programs. Bachelor’s degrees that can transfer more easily into a PA graduate program include:
- Medical Assistant
PA degree admission standards vary from program to program, but some common requirements include scoring well on the Graduate Record Examinations (GREs) and having some previous clinical experience.
Equally important to being able to meet the admission requirements is finding a program that meets the required accreditation for licensure in Illinois. The state requires all education programs to be approved by the Committee on Allied Health Education and Accreditation of the American Medical Association. Additionally, programs must also be accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA).
Step 2. National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA)-Certification
Beginning 90 days before students graduate from their PA degree program they can register for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE). Passing this exam is required for Illinois licensure and will give the successful candidate NCCPA certification in the form of a Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C) credential. The PANCE itself lasts five hours and is made up of 300 multiple-choice questions. It covers the major organ systems of the human body and their associated disorders/diseases. There are practice exams available for a $35 fee, and there is a $475 fee to register for the PANCE. Once students pass the exam they should arrange for the results to be sent directly to the Illinois Division of Professional Regulation as part of an application for licensure.
Step 3. Licensure with the Illinois Division of Professional Regulation
After students have passed the PANCE they will be ready to apply for licensure with the Illinois Division of Professional Regulation. The license application packet includes:
Application for Licensure
Certification of graduation from an accredited PA academic program
$50 application fee
PA-C certificate from the NCCPA
Before the PA can begin practicing a partnership needs to be established with a physician, who must then notify the Division of Professional Regulation by registering a Notification of Employment along with a notice of any prescriptions the PA is authorized to write.
Step 4. Maintain the Illinois PA License
The first PA License issued is valid for three years, and subsequent licenses thereafter expire on March 1st of even-numbered years. Renewals are available on the Division of Professional Regulation’s website and the appropriate forms will be posted two to three months before the expiration of a license. The fee to renew the PA License is currently $40 per year.
As their practice grows PAs may consider joining professional organizations in their field such as:
- Association of Family Practice Physician Assistants
- American Academy of Physician Assistants
- Illinois Academy of Physician Assistants