- Accreditation Standards
- Accredited PA Programs
- Developing Programs
- Program Management Portal
- Student Questions
The Accreditation Manual is found in the Standards section of this site.
No, the suggested evidence of compliance and performance indicators are just that: suggestions for how programs can demonstrate compliance with the Standards. They are not mandatory or exclusive lists and programs should feel free to submit other documentation in addition to or instead of the suggested evidence.
The Standards require that programs must inform and receive approval required from the ARC-PA using forms and processes developed by the ARC-PA no less than six months prior to implementation of a proposed change in maximum entering class size of any number of students for any reason. Class size increases are considered at the commission meetings in March, June and September. Programs should note the deadlines for submitting changes for a meeting: December 31 for the March meeting, March 31 for the June meeting, and June 30 for the September meeting.
The ARC-PA does allow programs to temporarily increase class size without review by the ARC-PA when the increase is transient and required to accommodate a unique situation such as students delayed in progress through the program. However, programs making this accommodation must notify the ARC-PA via submission of the Explanation for Exceeding Class Size form. Programs will be prompted to submit the form when student numbers entered in the portal exceed the program’s approved maximum entering class size. This flexibility is not designed to encourage a program to recruit beyond its approved maximum entering class size. These increases DO NOT modify or reset the ARC-PA approved class size. They are not meant to be continually increased in successive years. The maximum entering class size is approved by the ARC-PA upon review of the program during a comprehensive review or after a change request from the program.
Forms related to reporting proposed changes to the ARC-PA are available in the Change Forms section of this site.
Institutions investigating starting a PA program should review the Provisional section of this web site and contact the ARC-PA for more information.
The ARC-PA accredits only qualified PA programs offered by, or located within institutions chartered by and physically located within, the United States and where students are geographically located within the United States for their education.
A single institution must be clearly identified as the sponsor of the program. Sponsoring institutions applying for provisional accreditation of a new PA program must be authorized under applicable law to provide a program of post-secondary education. They must be accredited by, and in good standing with, a recognized regional accrediting agency and must be authorized by that agency to confer upon graduates of the PA program a graduate degree.
If a PA program is accredited by the ARC-PA, it has met the Standards of accreditation that provide the minimum requirements and criteria to which PA programs and their sponsoring institutions are held accountable. As long as you are applying to a program that is ARC-PA accredited, you will be eligible upon graduation to sit for the PA National Certifying Exam (PANCE) offered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). Passing this exam is required for practice as a PA in all states.
Deciding which program to attend is not a simple task. There are many accredited PA programs, sponsored by a variety of institutions that include state funded and private funded colleges and universities, as well as the military. Programs vary in their prerequisite requirements, their professional PA curriculum, their length, the tuition they charge, and the credential they grant. More information about programs can be found by contacting the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA).
Questions about the Portal should be emailed to Portal Feedback
To be eligible for PANCE, you must graduate from a PA program accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). PA program graduates will be deemed to have graduated from an accredited program if their PA educational program was accredited at the time of their matriculation.
**Even if you have earned a medical degree from another country, you must still graduate from an accredited PA program to take PANCE
Refer to NCCPA eligibility.
Any program is at risk of having its accreditation withdrawn if it fails to meet the Standards for PA Education. Loss of a PA program’s accreditation may pose the risk to graduates of that program not being able to gain licensure for practice depending upon the state.
” Accreditation-Probation ” is a temporary status of accreditation assigned when a program does not meet the Standards and when the capability of the program to provide an acceptable educational experience for its students is threatened. Once placed on probation, programs that still fail to comply with accreditation requirements in a timely manner, as specified by the ARC-PA, may be scheduled for a focused site visit and/or risk having their accreditation withdrawn. A program on probation must provide clear evidence of progress toward improving the program by its next ARC-PA review. The usual maximum period of probation is two years.
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 NCCPA. If interested in applying to a PA program, such individuals should contact the PAEA for information on specific programs.
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 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 up to 4 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 up to 4 commissioner seats. Each commissioner serves a three year term, which is renewable once upon recommendation by the ARC-PA.
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. Beginning in 2020, the ARC-PA will also resume its accreditation of clinical postgraduate programs. 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 entry-level PA programs and not clinical postgraduate 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 and will provide the same information to callers.
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 any of the three ARC-PA meetings per year. Substantial changes to the Standards are made every 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.
On the Accredited Programs page, the ARC-PA publishes the current accreditation status and accreditation history 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.