Accreditation Standards

The Accreditation Standards for Physician Assistant Education reflect a determination that a commonality in the core professional curriculum of programs remains desirable and necessary to offer curricula of sufficient depth and breadth to prepare all PA graduates for practice.

These Standards are the requirements to which an accredited program is held accountable and provide the basis on which the ARC-PA will confer or deny program accreditation. The ARC-PA expects all accredited programs to be in compliance with the Standards at all times.

The Accreditation Standards, 5th edition went into effect on September 1, 2020. These Standards resulted from an extensive multiyear process of review and revision. This revision process is an integral part of the ARC-PA’s ongoing business practice.

Accreditation Standards for Physician Assistant Education, 5th edition (with clarifications as of March 2022)

The Accreditation Manual (7.2022) for the fifth edition includes the Standards along with suggested evidence of compliance and performance indicators, and clarifying comments to help guide programs in their self assessment of compliance with the Standards. Polices related to the accreditation process are also included in this manual.

Historical Note

The accreditation standards have undergone periodic revision and improvement since their initial development in 1971 when PA program accreditation was tied to the American Medical Association (AMA). The first set of changes to the “Essentials for the Education of Assistants to Primary Care Physicians,” as the standards were first named, was made in 1978. In 1985, the standards were modified again and the title was changed to “Essentials for an Educational Program for the Physician Assistant”. Early versions of the standards addressed curriculum for generalist and surgical physician assistant preparation. In 1990 the accreditation standards for physician assistants and surgeon assistants were consolidated to ensure that all students received a comparable base of knowledge and skill in primary care medicine and drugs. The Essentials, now termed Standards, were again reviewed and revised in 1996, and became effective in 1997. The 3rd edition of ARC-PA Accreditation Standards for Physician Assistant Education were developed in concert with the ARC-PA’s separation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and became effective January 1, 2001. The 4th edition became effective September 1, 2010.

Accreditation Standards for Clinical Postgraduate PA Programs

The ARC-PA approved accreditation standards for clinical postgraduate PA programs in March 2007. Those interested in accreditation of clinical postgraduate PA programs should review the Postgraduate Programs section of this web site.