Practice Laws

Certification and Licensure

Upon graduation from an accredited physician assistant educational program, physician assistants take a national certification examination, the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE), developed by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) in conjunction with the National Board of Medical Examiners. Upon passing the PANCE, PAs receive a certificate which entitles them to add a “C” to their PA credentials (“PA-C”), indicating that they have met the defined course of study and undergone satisfactory testing by the NCCPA.*

To maintain their national certification and thereby the “C” behind their credentials, PAs must log 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years and sit for a recertification every six years.*

Graduation from an accredited physician assistant program and passage of the national certifying exam are required for state licensure.*

State Practice Laws

For more than a century, states have been exercising their power to protect the public health and safety by regulating the practice of certain professions. About 800 occupations are regulated in the United States, including physicians and physician assistants. Each state writes its own laws, and one should expect to find variation from state to state in the structure and content of most laws.*

Great progress has been made in standardizing the regulation of PAs. All states, the District of Columbia, and the majority of U.S. territories have enacted statutes and regulations that define PAs, describe their scope of practice, discuss supervision, designate the agency that will administer the law, set application and renewal criteria, and establish disciplinary measures for violations of the law.*

All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands have enacted laws that authorize prescribing by PAs.*

A more extensive summary of each state’s laws and regulations pertaining to PAs is available at–general-/981-summary-of-state-laws-and-regulations-governing-scope-of-practice-of-physician-assistants