Physician Assistant CME Requirements for Certificate Maintenance

physician assistant cme requirements

Physician assistants play a huge part in numerous roles across our health systems. Often working alongside other healthcare professionals like physicians, nurses, and APRNs, PAs are important multidisciplinary team members. With extensive training in patient assessment, diagnosis, procedural interventions, and prescribing, it’s no surprise the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a much-needed 27% occupational growth rate during the 2022-2032 decade.

Becoming a PA is also an education-heavy path. Candidates must obtain a graduate-level degree in physician assistant studies loaded with challenging didactic coursework and immersive clinical experiences. However, just like any role in healthcare, PAs need to continually update their knowledge base with coursework to keep their certificate active. 

There are a variety of physician assistant CME requirements for certificate maintenance that vary widely by state, and PAs have to meet strict deadlines and content standards to stay active. Fortunately, Premiere is helping them stay on track with online courses like Controlled Substance Prescribing Verification and the Shocking Reality of True Crime Stories that provide core credit hours for their certificate renewal from the ease of any screen. 

Of course, while Premiere’s courses make meeting CME requirements simple and informative no matter where you are, you’ll still need to know your state’s requirements and processes to make renewal smooth and painless. 

Physician Assistant Practice and Certification

After graduating from an accredited masters-level physician assistant program, the next step in a PA’s career is the pursuit of certification. For all states, this is a required part of the process for obtaining initial licensure. 

The certification exam for physician assistants is known as the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination, or PANCE for short. Administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), it’s an incredibly challenging 300-question exam covering content from all areas of medicine. 

While not every state requires its PAs to maintain their certificate through the NCCPA (or in some cases, even be a member), all 50 states rely on the NCCPA to ensure new PAs are certified and ready for entry into practice.

Physician Assistant Recertification Through the NCCPA

Because it’s a trusted organization, the majority of states place the NCCPA in charge of PA recertification and ongoing training as well. This includes a recertification exam and a range of physician assistant CME requirements. 

Taking the PANRE or PANRE-LA

The NCCPA mandates that all PAs under its supervision establish recertification every 10 years. The PANRE, or Physician Assistance National Recertifying Examination, creates another layer of accountability in maintaining practice with current standards of care. Those preparing to take the PANRE should know:

  • It’s completed in 5 hours.
  • It’s administered through a testing center only.
  • It consists of 240 multiple-choice questions.
  • Scores are returned within 2 weeks.
  • Eligibility begins in the 9th or 10th year of current certification.

For those PAs not wanting to wait 9 or 10 years to take their recertification exam, the NCCPA created the PANRE-LA. The PANRE-LA can be administered across 12 quarters, beginning the 7th year of certification. Each quarter the PA can log into their own personal device and complete 25 questions per quarter with a 5-minute time limit per question.

Meeting Your 2-Year Physician Assistant CME Requirements

Inside the 10-year certification period, there are five two-year certification maintenance cycles. During each of these cycles, the PA must complete and log 100 CME credits online and submit a $180 certification maintenance fee. 

CME is broken down into Category 1 and Category 2 CME. The NCCPA requires that at least 50 credits be Category 1. The remaining 50 credits can be Category 1, Category 2, or a combination of both. 

Requirements by State

Although most states rely on the NCCPA to establish certificate maintenance standards, some have additional requirements proscribed by law or utilize their own process entirely. It’s critical to know if your state itself has defined any physician assistant CME requirements and how it handles PA certificate maintenance and renewal, and you can review your state’s process here.  

To give you an idea of the variations you may encounter by state, here are three examples of physician assistant CME requirements that are not strictly NCCPA-certification processes.

NOTE: All DEA-registered practitioners are required to complete the federally-mandated 8-hour DEA controlled substances CE in addition to the steps below.

New York

New York requires the PANCE for initial licensure but doesn’t utilize the NCCPA for certificate maintenance and renewal. New York does require all PAs to complete infection control training from approved sources every four years, as well as the newly updated Child Abuse Identification and Reporting (CAIR) training by April 1st, 2025.

South Dakota

South Dakota lets you decide how you want to renew your PA license. A PA applying for renewal must complete at least 30 hours of continuing education annually or maintain current certification through the NCCPA. 

New Mexico

To renew your license as a PA in New Mexico, you need to maintain your NCCPA certification. On top of the renewal requirements defined by the NCCPA, PAs who hold a federal DEA registration and a New Mexico controlled substance registration are separately required by state law to complete 5 hours of training during the first year of licensure and 3 hours every renewal thereafter in pain management and controlled substance prescribing.

Let’s Nail Down Those Physician Assistant CME Requirements

As you can see, initial certification and licensure as a PA is pretty straightforward, but the renewal process may be more complicated. Maintaining your certificate and completing your physician assistant CME requirements is a top priority for your career, and it’s a significant obligation to yourself, your institution, and the patients you serve. 

Premiere has an incredible library of online education that can set you up for success wherever you are across the country. With physician assistant-specific courses providing AMA PRA Category 1 Credits for a variety of important topics, we’re making it easier than ever to maintain your PA certificate. 

All of Premiere’s content is developed by leading experts in their fields and makes staying up-to-date and compliant with all licensing requirements easy, fast, and hassle-free. 

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