Skip to main content

PA Careers and Certification

This is a great time to pursue a PA career. As more physicians enter specialty areas of medicine, there will be a greater need for physician assistants to provide routine care. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that employment for PAs will increase by 30 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. The American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) projects that there will be between 137,000 and 173,000 certified PAs by the year 2020.

In addition to good job prospects, there are many other reasons to consider the PA profession:

  • PAs help and care for others. With the projected shortage of primary-care physicians, PAs can help meet the demand for healthcare services—especially from aging baby boomers and those newly insured by the healthcare reform. Access to care is a major concern in most rural areas and medically underserved regions.
  • PAs practice medicine. Physician assistants are licensed healthcare professionals; their duties differ from those of medical assistants.
  • PA is a 2012 “Best Job in America.” On CNNMoney/’s list of great careers, physician assistant was ranked 16 out of 100, with a median income of $93,000.

Where do physician assistants work?

According to the AAPA, about one-third of PAs work in primary care and two-thirds in specialties. PA students do not specialize during their education, but because the PA curriculum is broad-based, physician assistants can practice in any specialty.

PAs can practice in any specialty:

  • Surgical subspecialties
  • Emergency medicine
  • Internal medicine subspecialties
  • Dermatology
  • General surgery
  • Hospital medicine

Most PAs are employed in hospitals or group practices. According to 2010 AAPA Census figures, about 7,500 PAs work for government and the military.

Initial PA Certification

Graduates of an accredited PA program are eligible to take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE), a computer-based, multiple-choice test comprising questions that assess basic medical and surgical knowledge. Achieving a passing score on the PANCE allows a PA to use the designation Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C). Monmouth’s graduating classes of 2017 and 2018 both had a 100 percent pass rate on the PANCE. The graduating class of 2019 had a 93 percent pass rate. See our current report.

The Physician Assistant Program has extended Accreditation-Probation status from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. Read the full accreditation statement.

For more on initial PA certification, visit

State Authorization/Licensure

Before PAs can practice, they must apply for and obtain authorization from the state in which they plan to practice. This authorization process is called “licensure” in most states, but it can also be referred to as “registration.”

To learn more about state authorization, visit