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Becoming a Physician Assistant in North Carolina

Physician Assistant Certification and License in North Carolina

As the health care industry expands, many of the newer occupations in health care are expected to grow with it.  This is particularly true for the employment outlook of physician assistants, which is expected to grow by 39% in the next ten years.  Physician assistant jobs in North Carolina are no exception.  There were 2,000 physician assistant jobs in North Carolina in 1999.  By 2008, there were over 3,000.  Much of this growth has happened as a cost saving measure, as physician assistants can perform much of the same patient care as regular physicians, but for less money.  However, physician assistant salaries are still quite substantial.  In 2008, physician assistants in North Carolina made about $82,000 annually, on average.

How to become a Physician Assistant in North Carolina

Before applying for a physician assistant license in North Carolina, applicants must pass an examination administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) called the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE).  Students should attempt to take this exam during the last couple months before they graduate.  The PANCE is a multiple-choice exam that is about 360 questions and is taken on a computer at a Pearson testing center.  In North Carolina, there are Pearson Professional Centers in Raleigh, Winston-Salem, Charlotte, Greenville, Wilmington, and Asheville.  The exam fee is $475.  Taking the exam while still in school is suggested for applicants in North Carolina since the state does not offer any temporary licenses for physician assistants waiting for their scores or waiting for their application to clear.  For those who wish to become a physician assistant in North Carolina, it is highly recommended that test takers download practice exam questions at the NCCPA website in order to prepare for the real exam.  The fee for downloading the practice questions is $35.  If a test taker fails, the PANCE can be taken three times in a single year.  However, if the exam is failed a total of six times, the test taker will become ineligible for NCCPA certification and must complete their education program again before retaking the exam a seventh time.

National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA)
12000 Findley Road, Suite 200
Duluth, GA 30097
Tel: (678) 417-8100
Fax: (678) 417-8135
http://www.nccpa.net/

Licensing of physician assistants in North Carolina is handled by the North Carolina Medical Board (NCMB).  Their contact information can be seen below.  Applicants can apply for a license with or without registry to the Federation Credentials Verification Service (FCVS).  The FCVS is a national registry of physicians’ medical credentials that may be helpful if a PA ever wants to move to a different state and has to obtain a licensure there as well.

It’s worth noting for those interested in knowing how to become a physician assistant in North Carolina that the licensing application can be completed online.  There is a multitude of questions about any criminal records, malpractice lawsuits, or any prior licenses held by the applicant.  Additional information concerning these may be required by the Board.  Applicants who wish to become a physician assistant in North Carolina must submit a head and shoulder photograph of themselves, as well as two fingerprint cards for a criminal background check.  An official from the university or school attended by the applicant must sign a form in the application and stamp the form with the school’s seal.  Three reference letters must be submitted with the application for anyone who wants to become a physician assistant in North Carolina.  One reference must be from a physician that the applicant trained under during the clinical portion of their education.  The other two references must be co-workers, professors, or other physicians that know the applicant.  Fellow students and relatives may not be references.  Applicants must also submit a National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) and Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank (HIPDB) report along with their application to the NCMB.

North Carolina Medical Board
PO Box 20007
Raleigh, NC 27619-0007
Tel: (919) 326.1100 or (919) 326.1109
Fax: (919) 326.1130 or (919) 326.1131
http://www.ncmedboard.org/

The licensing fee is $238 and includes the fee for the criminal background check.  The total process of obtaining a license in North Carolina takes at least four months.

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