PA education is typically provided in intense 2-3 year graduate-level programs. Prior to entering, students must complete rigorous pre-medical type undergraduate coursework. In addition, students who enter PA programs have just over 2 years of healthcare experience and are ~ 26 years old on average.
Classroom courses include basic sciences such as anatomy, pathology, physiology, and pharmacology and are followed by clinical and behavioral medicine instruction which covers health and illness of various body systems in diverse patient populations. The clinical education of PAs is broad, and typically includes approximately 2000 hours in multiple settings across key disciplines such as internal and family medicine, pediatrics, general surgery, orthopedics, psychiatry, women's health, emergency medicine, and geriatrics. In order to be accredited, physician assistant programs must meet rigorous Standards and are reviewed on a regular basis by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc. (ARC-PA).
After graduation PAs take a national certifying exam, and in order to maintain their certification must participate in 100 hours of Continuing Medical Education every two years and pass a
re-certifying exam every ten years. This process is overseen by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).