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Once you’ve graduated from a physician assistant program accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA), you can take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) for certification. The PANCE is a 300-question multiple choice exam that evaluates your basic medical and surgical knowledge, and is administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). All states, the District of Columbia, and Guam require that a candidate pass the PANCE exam for full authorization to practice as a physician assistant.
Once you’ve passed the PANCE exam, you can use the PA-C designation. Your certification is a ten-year period that requires recertification every two years. To qualify for recertification, you must have completed a minimum of 100 hours of CME during the two-year period.
Certified PAs are also required to pass a recertification exam, Physician Assistant National Recertifying Exam (PANRE), by the end of the 10th year. The PANRE is a 240-question multiple choice exam and is similar to the PANCE.
In January 2019, the NCCPA began a pilot program introducing a potential alternative to the PANRE. The pilot provided the opportunity for PAs to take the examination over 8 quarters with 25 questions provided each quarter. Questions could be answered on most computers and mobile devices and participants had 3-5 minutes per question. In the pilot, participants were allowed to use resources to assist in answering the questions. As of January 2021, the NCCPA has not made a decision about adopting this alternative going forward.
Visit NCCPA for more information on the PANCE and PANRE exams.
All states have laws and regulations pertaining to PAs. A summary of each state's laws and regulations may be found on the AAPA Website.