How to Become a Physician Assistant in Pennsylvania
Physician offices are the tenth most common place to find help-wanted ads in Pennsylvania- more than truckers, office administrators, computer systems designers, and elementary and high schools. As part of these offices and the healthcare field – the industry with the largest number of growing companies in the state – physician assistants working in the Keystone State made an average income of $77,110 last year. Whether assisting in surgery, performing physical exams, or making diagnoses, PAs can expect to only have increasing prospects as they fill their vital roles in the state’s healthcare system. Candidates can consult the following guide on how to become a physician assistant in Pennsylvania for more information:
- Meet the Admission Requirements for Pennsylvania Physician Assistant Programs for Licensure
- Become Certified through the NCCPA
- Apply to be Licensed with the Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine
- Maintain Renewal Requirements
Step 1. Admission Requirements for Pennsylvania Physician Assistant Programs for Licensure
To become licensed in Pennsylvania PAs need to graduate from a degree program that is certified by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) and includes at least 60 hours of instruction in pharmacology or related courses. Candidates should also remember that for admission, most PA degree programs require an acceptable score on the GREs (Graduate Record Examinations) and for students to have logged a number of hours working in a clinical setting. It is also a requirement by the State of Pennsylvania that all its licensed PAs have a bachelor degree in any subject, and the following majors will additionally help to reduce PA program prerequisites:
- Molecular Biology
Step 2. Become Certified through the NCCPA
The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) is in charge of awarding the Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C) credential to students who have passed its qualifying test, the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE). This exam covers the major organ systems of the human body and the procedure for diagnosing their associated ailments. There is a $475 registration fee for the PANCE, which is offered four times a year at a variety of testing locations across the state. During the test students will answer 300 multiple-choice questions on a computer over the course of five hours. Students can sign up for the PANCE starting 90 days before the date of graduation from their PA degree program.
Step 3. Apply with the Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine
Applicants for official licensure in the state can be made to the Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine in Harrisburg. Making an application includes:
- $30 application fee
- Verification of Education form to be completed by applicant’s PA degree program (included in application)
- Licensure Application
- Bachelor degree transcripts to be sent directly to the Board if the PA’s bachelor program was different than the PA graduate degree program
- Arrange for the NCCPA to send PANCE scores directly to the Board
- Curriculum Vitae that lists all periods of employment and unemployment
- Self-query from the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB)
Before PAs can begin practicing they must also submit an application to register their supervising physician. It is normal for applications to be processed for at least 60 days.
Step 4. Maintain Renewal Requirements
PAs need to renew their Pennsylvania License by December 31st on even-numbered years for a fee of $40. To be eligible to renew their license, PAs need to maintain their NCCPA certification, and this involves completing 100 credits of continuing medical education (CME) every two years and passing the Physician Assistant National Recertifying Exam (PANRE) once every tenth year. PAs are exempted from the state requirement of CME for the first renewal cycle, though must always maintain their NCCPA certification. Information about CME credits, networking, professional development, and support is available through professional agencies such as the Pennsylvania Society of Physician Assistants (PSPA).