Standards of Accreditation

The Accreditation Standards 4th edition, for PA programs became effective in their entirety for all September 1, 2010. 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. Clarifying changes were added to the Standards in July 2010, October 2011, September 2012, December 2012, September 2013, September 2014 and March 2016. This copy of the Standards 4th Edition includes the most recent changes.

The Accreditation Manual for the fourth 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. 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 the this web site.