Postgraduate Programs

Standards, 2nd edition Now Effective

(October 2013)

The ARC-PA has published the Accreditation Standards for Clinical Postgraduate PA Programs, 2nd edition, which became effective for all currently accredited programs July 1, 2012.

A cross reference document comparing the first and second editions by standard number is available here.

The application packet is available on the Application Materials page of this section of the website.

The new Accreditation Manual is available on the Resources page of this section of the website.

ARC-PA Policies Available:

(May 2011)

The ARC-PA has compiled a Policy Manual available as an informational resource for physician assistant program faculty, staff and the general public in reference to Commission activities directly related to program accreditation. The manual can be found in the Resources page of this section. Additionally after the Standards for clinical postgraduate programs are revised, an Accreditation Manual for clinical postgraduate programs will be available.

Clinical Postgraduate PA Programs Overview

(updated December 2009)

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. Graduate degree programs and masters completion programs without a strong focus on clinical education in a recognized clinical specialty discipline are not included in this definition.

The mission of the ARC-PA is to protect the interests of the public and PA profession, and welfare of the student by defining the standards for PA education and evaluating PA educational programs. At its March, 2006 meeting the commission voted to provide accreditation services for clinical postgraduate programs. At its September, 2006 meeting the commission approved the distribution of accreditation standards for comment. The commission approved accreditation standards in March, 2007.

Accreditation Process

The clinical postgraduate PA program accreditation process conducted by the ARC-PA is a voluntary one entered into by institutions and programs that sponsor a structured educational experience. To be eligible to apply for accreditation, programs must be operational with at least one enrolled PA resident at the time of application. The accreditation process was most recently revised in November 2012.


Accreditation of clinical postgraduate programs is voluntary. It serves to provide programs an external validation of their educational offering. Additionally the process offers prospective learners one means by which they can judge the quality of the educational experience offered by the program or institution.

The PA profession is based on the model of broad based, generalist medical education provided by accredited entry-level PA programs. When supplemented with practice-based training and appropriate physician supervision, this preparation allows PAs to successfully integrate into medical specialties or practice settings throughout their careers.

The fact that PAs continue to refine their knowledge and skills via practice-based training is a hallmark feature of the physician assistant profession. With ever changing health care needs, including changes in physician staffing, this model allows PAs to rapidly adapt to the medical needs of their communities. Employers, physicians and patients, benefit from this model.

Some PAs may elect to obtain additional specialty education and training by participation in formal post-graduate PA training programs or residencies. Such specialty training is not, however, required for successful physician-PA teams to provide specialty medical care and should not be mandated by employers or governmental agencies.