A total of 7,776 physician assistants (PAs) were newly certified in the United States in 2015, with New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, California, and Texas leading the way, according to results from an annual survey conducted by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).

PAs who passed the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) in 2015 participated in the 2015 Statistical Profile of Recently Certified Physician Assistants. All participants responded to at least part of the survey between January 1, 2015, and December 31, 2015. Additional data were obtained with use of other NCCPA data collection methods. As of December 31, 2015, 6,048 recently certified PAs provided responses.


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The median age of recently certified PAs was 27 in 2015; 2,110 (27.1%) were men, and 5,666 (72.9%) were women. Overall, 67.2% of certified PAs are women. In addition, 21.8% of newly certified PAs said that they could communicate with patients in a language other than English, a percentage that has increased steadily over the past 3 years.

Among other findings, 798 (16.6%) of recently certified PAs plan to seek additional education or clinical training within the next 3 years (excluding on-the-job training or required continuing medical education [CME]). Furthermore, 80.3% of PAs who have accepted a position said that that they did not face any challenges when searching for a job.

A hospital setting is the leading practice setting among recently certified PAs (50.4%), while 37.7% of PAs work in a hospital setting. Survey results also showed that 26.9% of recently certified PAs with a clinical position work in primary care (family medicine/general practice, general internal medicine, and general pediatrics), which is a slight decrease from 2014. Overall, 28.3% of certified PAs work in primary care. Also, 27.9% of women who are recently certified PAs chose a primary care specialty, compared with 24.7% of men.

The survey also found that 65.3% of the recently certified PAs who accepted a position were offered employment incentives. The top 3 incentives that had the greatest influence on their decision to accept their position were income guarantee, reimbursement for CME and certification maintenance, and flexible hours.

Among recently certified PAs who have not searched for or accepted a position, 69.8% stated that they decided to take time off before they began their career, an increase from 2013 and 2014. In addition, 1.2% said that they decided to work in a non-PA position, and 29.0% cited other reasons. Furthermore, 58.3% who have searched for a position but have not accepted one indicated that they have not faced challenges when searching for a job. A lack of clinical PA opportunities for recent graduates and a lack of clinical PA opportunities in a geographic area were the top 2 challenges cited in 2013, 2014, and 2015 by PAs who have searched for and accepted a PA position as well as by those who have searched for but have not yet accepted a position.

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  1. National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. 2015 Statistical Profile of Recently Certified Physician Assistants. Accessed October 7, 2016.