FeaturedFrom Dreaming to Becoming: 5 Steps to Become A Physician Assistant

Hospitals and clinics do not only equate to doctors alone. There is a great deal of staff that helps in treating patients in a hospital. Registered nurses, pharmacists, medical technologists, occupational therapists, dietitians, psychiatrists, student doctors, PAs, and interns are many health professionals who strive to give patients standard care and support. Visit this website to learn more.

Physician assistants (PA) are professionals who examine patients, diagnose illnesses, prescribe appropriate medications, and often serve as principal healthcare providers. However, most physician assistants are under the supervision of a medical doctor, and their functions may vary depending on their chosen specialty.

The word assistant may undermine the functions and responsibilities of physician assistants. Still, the required level of education and medical experience is the same as those with other health care professionals. Read below to know more about how to become a physician assistant.

Step 1: Get Prerequisites

To become a physician assistant, a four-year bachelor’s degree in college is necessary. Technically, any four-year undergraduate degree would suffice this requirement, but a medicine-related degree may give you a little advantage, especially regarding science-related subjects and topics. Some common undergraduate degrees for aspiring physician assistant include:

  • Biology
  • Psychology
  • Physical Therapy
  • Chemistry
  • Nursing

Additionally, some graduate schools will require that an undergrad student take the GRE. The minimum GRE score varies from school to school, and some don’t even require it at all. Visit My PA Resource to know more about GRE scores and top physician assistant schools near you.

Step 2: Physician Assistant Program

After completing a four-year degree course and acquiring additional requirements, you may now begin your journey in an accredited school that offers a PA program. Most programs will take at least three years to complete and will include both classroom and clinic instructions. Throughout the years of study, you will take detailed courses on topics that include:

  • Anatomy
  • Pharmacology
  • Behavioral science
  • Biochemistry
  • Physical diagnosis
  • Microbiology
  • Pathophysiology
  • Medical ethics

Moreover, you will be required to spend at least 2 000 hours in clinic duties, and these duties may include: Internal medicine, Pediatrics, General Surgery, Psychiatry, Family medicine, and more. Once you pass all the requirements on your PA program, you are now eligible to take the licensing exam and become a full-fledged PA.

Step 3: Become Certified and Pass the Licensing Exam

Once you’ve graduated from your PA program, you are now qualified to take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE). The PANCE is a computer-generated exam which consists of 300 multiple-choice questions that assess your medical and surgical knowledge.

The 300 multiple-choice questions’ administration is in 5 blocks with 60 questions each, appropriating 60 minutes for every block. You will also have a 45 minutes total break time during the duration of your exam. The items in PANCE fall into two categories: (1) organ systems and diseases, disorders, and assessments, and (2) knowledge and skills for those diseases, etc.

You will also have six tries to take the exam in your first six years after completing your PA program. If your first six years are over or failed six times, you will be subject to bridging programs to become eligible again.

Step 4: Practicing Your Profession

After passing the licensure exam and having the Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C) title, you can now practice your profession legally. Physician assistants can work at clinics, hospitals, medical offices, nursing homes, workplace clinics, community health centers, and correctional institutions.

An additional workplace suited for PAs includes urgent care centers, surgery centers, emergency departments, retail clinics, and rural healthcare facilities. PAs can serve as uniformed personnel. They can work for federal government agencies, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Therefore, PAs are needed almost in every area and specialty because of their education, training, and experience. It only goes to show that PAs are vital professionals in the field of medicine and community services.

Step 5: Maintaining Certification

To maintain your national certification, you need to take the Physician Assistant National Recertifying Exam or PANRE every ten years. Additional requirements during the ten-year certification maintenance cycle are also necessary.

Moreover, 100 hours of continuing medical education (CME) credit is required every two years of the certification maintenance cycle, including at least 50 Category I CME credits. The remaining 50 credits can be Category II or a combination of both.

The Physician Assistant National Recertifying Exam (PANRE)

During the last two years of the certification maintenance cycle, PAs can have up to four attempts to pass the PANRE. The recertification exam evaluates your general medical knowledge and surgical knowledge as well. It comprises 240 multiple-choice questions, with four blocks consisting of 60 questions, and each block has a 60-minute time frame.

There are many review centers and online board review websites to prepare yourself in taking up PANRE. What’s important is how dedicated you are, not just in passing the exam but also on your sworn oath as a physician assistant.


Pursuing and achieving your dreams is easier said than done. Challenges, hurdles, and sacrifices are undoubtedly part of the journey. In trying to achieve your goal, knowing your strengths, and becoming aware of your weaknesses is one way to help you overcome any obstacles that come your way. So, study hard, aim high and keep your passion burning.

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