Frequently Asked Questions


Physician assistants are health care professionals licensed to practice medicine with the direction and responsible supervision of a doctor of medicine or osteopathy. The physician-PA team relationship is fundamental to the PA profession and enhances the delivery of high quality health care. Within the physician-PA relationship, PAs make clinical decisions and provide a broad range of diagnostic, therapeutic, preventive, and health maintenance services. The clinical role of PAs includes primary and specialty care in medical and surgical practice settings. PA practice is centered on patient care and may include educational, research, and administrative activities.

The ARC-PA only investigates concerns about a program if they are signed, received in writing, and related to the program’s compliance with the Standards. Concerns may be sent by mail to the attention of the Executive Director, ARC-PA at 12000 Findley Road, Suite 275, Johns Creek, GA, 30097. You may also contact the Executive Director by email as well.

The ARC-PA accredited PA programs are listed on the ARC-PA web site, alphabetically by state, along with information on their accreditation status and timing of next scheduled accreditation action. A list of developing applicant programs is also available on this web site.

The American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) is one of the collaborating organizations of the ARC-PA. It nominates individuals from its membership to serve as commissioners on the ARC-PA. The AAPA nominates individuals to fill 3 commissioner seats. Each commissioner serves a 3 year term, which is renewable once upon recommendation by the ARC-PA.

The Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) is one of the collaborating organizations of the ARC-PA. It nominates individuals from its member programs to serve as commissioners on the ARC-PA. The PAEA nominates individuals to fill three commissioner seats. Each commissioner serves  a three year term, which is renewable once upon recommendation by the ARC-PA.

APAP refers to the Association of Physician Assistant Programs. That organization officially changed its name in 2005 to become the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA).

The ARC-PA only accredits programs that educate physician assistants.

While accreditation is considered a voluntary process, graduation from an ARC-PA accredited PA program is important for practice as a physician assistant in the United States. Graduation from an accredited program is an eligibility requirement for the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physicians Assistants (NCCPA) and for state licensure.

The ARC-PA presently only accredits PA programs, i.e., those preparing individuals for entry into the PA profession.  The ARC-PA has also accredited clinical postgraduate programs. The process of accrediting these programs is in abeyance.  Clinical postgraduate programs are “formal educational programs that offer structured curricula, including didactic and clinical components, to educate NCCPA eligible or certified PA’s for a defined period of time in preparation for practice in a medical or surgical specialty. Programs typically involve full time study of 12-24 months duration and follow several models including fellowships, graduate degree programs, and residency programs.” The Council for Higher Education Accreditation’s (CHEA) recognition of the ARC-PA applies only to its accreditation of PA programs.

Students or potential students should inquire about a program’s accreditation status with the program director. The ARC-PA publishes the current accreditation status of programs on its web site and will provide the same information to callers. The ARC-PA will not provide any detail of historical or current information about a program’s accreditation status.

Anyone with comments related to the Standards may provide their comments to the ARC-PA national office. The ARC-PA has a standing committee that reviews and evaluates the Standards and comments received related to them on an ongoing basis. Clarification and changes to wording of the standards to provide clarification can be made by the commission at either of the two ARC-PA meetings per year. Substantial changes to the Standards are made ten years.

Information on this and other questions related to non-US health professionals is found in this FAQ section on the page for Non-US Health Professionals.

From the standpoint of the ARC-PA, individuals educated as physicians outside of the United States are not treated any differently than any other prospective PA student. To practice as a PA in the United States one must graduate from an ARC-PA accredited program and be certified by the National Commission on Certification of Physicians Assistants (NCCPA). If interested in applying to a PA program, such individuals should contact the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) for information on specific programs.

On the Accredited Programs page, the ARC-PA publishes the current accreditation status of PA programs as well as the date of the program’s first accreditation and the next scheduled accreditation action.

The ARC-PA maintains a pool of individuals who serve as site visitors to PA programs. The pool of site visitors is composed of PA educators, practitioners, past and present commissioners of the ARC-PA, physician employers of PAs, and others who have insight into the education and practice of PAs. All of these individuals serve as volunteers. To become a site visitor, an individual must participate in an initial site visitor preparation workshop. The ARC-PA posts information in the NEWS section of this web site when site visitor preparation will occur.

If you still have questions, submit them to the ARC-PA by email.