The best physician assistant degree programs require that you begin planning for your post-graduation life even before you apply. During the planning stages of your PA career, you may wonder if you need to take the same board exams as a physician with an MD or DO degree in order to be certified. Unlike doctors, physician assistants are not required to sit for the same board exams as those who are licensed and certified.
Differentiating between Licensure and Board Certification
The distinctions between licensure and certification, as well as between board exams and regulatory boards, are often misunderstood by those considering a career in healthcare. It’s important to know the differences between these terms if you want to work in this field.
Board certification and licensing are two different things. State governments typically oversee the licensing of both doctors and physician assistants (PAs). Physician assistants (PAs) and physicians are both required to have licenses in order to practice medicine. As an alternative, certification is awarded by an independent board, rather than the government. It is common for board certification to be awarded across a larger geographic area, often across the United States.
The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), commonly referred to as “the board exam,” is a requirement for licensure for physicians. But don’t be misled by the moniker. Instead of granting board certification in any specialty, passing this exam allows you to practice medicine in its entirety.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical board certification is an optional process for physicians (BLS). This is due to the fact that the state license is used to determine whether a physician has met the government’s minimum standards. According to U.S. News & World Report, obtaining a board certification instead shows that you have met standards above and beyond the bare minimum. Despite the fact that many employers prefer candidates who are board-certified, medical specialists who go above and beyond the call of duty are not eligible for certification.
One must be familiar with both types of certification when working as a PA. Physician assistants (PAs) are required in some states to be certified as Physician Assistants (PAs). Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) test passing is required to receive this credential from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). In order to practice as a PA in every state, you must pass the PANCE exam, just like a doctor must pass the USMLE exam to practice medicine. NCCPA’s Specialty Certificates of Additional Qualifications (SCAQs) are another voluntary certification option (CAQS).
There are additional factors that can make the distinction between licensing and certification even more blurry, including the fact that state licensing boards are frequently referred to as such. PAs and doctors are regulated by the same licensing boards despite the fact that the two professions have different licensing and certification requirements.
There is only one credentialing body that certifies PAs, the NCCPA, while doctors can get their certification from ABMS, ABPS, or the American Osteopathic Association Bureau of Osteopathic Specialists (AOABOS) (AOABOS).
Accreditation of Physician Assistants
Certification requires passing exams for both physicians and physician assistants. All Physician Assistants must pass the PANCE exam, which measures their knowledge of the fundamentals of medical and surgical practice, in order to obtain the Physician Assistant-Certified credential. As a PA, you must complete continuing education requirements on a regular basis and take a recertification exam every ten years to maintain your certification, according to the BLS.
The NCCPA’s specialty certifications of added qualification are a more appropriate substitute for specialty board certification for physicians among PAs. ‘ It is a voluntary credential that demonstrates a physician’s mastery of a specific medical specialty, rather than a mastery of general medical knowledge as a whole.
Emergency medicine, cardiothoracic surgery, hospital medicine, orthopedic surgery, nephrology, pediatrics, and psychiatry are among the specialties where physician assistants have access to CAQs. Obtaining a CAQ requires a combination of relevant work experience and a passing score on a specific exam.
There are 26 medical specialties for which doctors can seek board certification, but the NCCPA only offers certificates of additional qualification in seven of them.