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Education & Licensing

According to the AAPA, 25% of PAs have a general surgery specialty or surgical subspecialty.

Physician Assistants are licensed health care professionals trained in the same format as physicians. The training is roughly two-thirds the length of medical school with over 100 weeks of general primary care education. The average physician assistant has a bachelor’s degree and four and a half years of health care experience prior to entering a PA program.

Educational Requirements for Surgical Physician Assistants

PAs usually enter surgical practice by one of three routes:

  • Graduation from an ARC-PA accredited surgically focused PA Program
  • Completion of a surgical residency for PAs (after attending PA school)
  • On the job training (after graduating from an ARC-PA accredited Program)


Accredited Academic Program

In every state, a prospective physician assistant must complete an accredited academic program. In 2007, 137 education programs for PAs were accredited or provisionally accredited by the AAPA. More than 90 of these programs offered the option of a master’s degree; the rest offer either a bachelor’s degree or associate degree.

A PA who wants to specialize in surgery assistance will want to choose a program designed with this focus in mind. Most programs are housed in universities, colleges, or other academic institutions. However, programs can also be found in hospitals and military facilities.


Surgical Residency

While not strictly required to become a surgical PA, surgical residencies offer an excellent opportunity to expand your PA skills and gain the experience needed to globally manage patient care in the pre-, intra- and post-operative settings, as is required in specialty positions.



Surgical PAs are licensed by each state to practice and must take a national certification exam given by the National Commission for the Certification of PAs (NCCPA). Each hospital board then credentials the surgical PA for specific practice privileges. So, surgical PAs are able to work anywhere the supervising surgeon has practice privileges.


More Information

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