Jobs, Requirements, and Certifications for Physician Assistants in Pediatrics

Physician assistants (PAs) specializing in pediatrics are healthcare professionals who work collaboratively with pediatricians to provide medical care to infants, children, and adolescents. They play a crucial role in diagnosing and treating pediatric patients, ensuring their well-being, and promoting their overall health.

In terms of salary, pediatric PAs can expect competitive compensation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for physician assistants was $115,390 as of May 2020. Salaries can vary based on factors such as experience, geographic location, and work setting.

To become a pediatric physician assistant, certain requirements must be met. First, completing a bachelor’s degree in a science-related field is typically necessary to gain admission to a physician assistant program. Afterward, one must earn a master’s degree from an accredited physician assistant program, which typically takes around two years. These programs include both classroom and clinical training to provide a comprehensive education.

After obtaining a degree, aspiring pediatric PAs must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). This certification is required to practice as a physician assistant. Additionally, many pediatric PAs choose to pursue the Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) in Pediatrics, which demonstrates their expertise in this specific field.

Physician Assistants in Pediatrics: Responsibilities and Workplaces

Pediatric physician assistants, also known as PAs, play a crucial role in the healthcare team, specifically focusing on the medical care of children. These highly skilled professionals work under the supervision of pediatricians to provide comprehensive care to pediatric patients.

Regardless of the specific setting, their responsibilities encompass patient care, diagnosis, treatment, and education, all contributing to the well-being of children and their families. Let’s look more closely at the top three settings for pediatric PAs.


Pediatric PAs can work in various healthcare settings. One common work setting is hospitals, where they collaborate with pediatricians and other healthcare professionals to diagnose and treat various illnesses and injuries in children. They may also assist in performing medical procedures, conducting physical examinations, and providing education to families regarding the child’s condition.

Pediatric Clinics and Private Practices

Another work setting where pediatric PAs can be found is pediatric clinics or private practices. In these settings, they specialize in offering primary care services to children, such as routine check-ups, vaccinations, and minor illness diagnosis and management. They may also be involved in health promotion and disease prevention initiatives, ensuring the overall well-being of their young patients.

Urgent Care Centers and Emergency Departments

Additionally, pediatric PAs may work in urgent care centers or emergency departments. In these fast-paced environments, they attend to pediatric patients with acute illnesses or injuries that require immediate medical attention. Their role often entails assessing the severity of the condition, ordering diagnostic tests, and initiating appropriate treatments while closely coordinating with the supervising physician.

Education and Training Requirements for PA Specialized in Pediatrics

To become a pediatric physician assistant (PA), individuals must complete specific education and training requirements.

Bachelor’s Degree

First, aspiring pediatric PAs typically need to complete a bachelor’s degree program as a prerequisite for entering a PA program. While there is no specific major required, coursework in biology, anatomy, physiology, and similar subjects can be beneficial.

Additionally, gaining clinical experience through volunteering or working in a healthcare setting is highly encouraged.

Master’s Degree in Physician Assistant Studies

The next step is to complete a Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) program accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA).

This highly competitive program includes both classroom instruction and clinical rotations. The didactic portion covers various topics, including pharmacology, physical examination techniques, medical ethics, and pediatric medicine.

This program typically takes two to three years to complete. Admission into a physician assistant program is highly competitive, and applicants are required to submit transcripts, and letters of recommendation, and demonstrate clinical experience.

Completing the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination

Following completion of the PA program, graduates must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) to obtain licensure.

This standardized exam evaluates their medical knowledge and clinical skills. Additionally, some states may require PAs to pass the Pediatrics CAQ (Certificate of Added Qualification) exam to specialize in the field of pediatrics.

Continuing Education Requirements

To maintain licensure and stay up-to-date with advancements in pediatric medicine, pediatric PAs are required to complete continuing education courses regularly. This ensures they stay competent and knowledgeable in their field and provide optimal care to pediatric patients.

Becoming a pediatric physician assistant requires dedication, hard work, and a passion for working with children. By completing the necessary education and training, individuals can pursue a fulfilling career providing medical care to the youngest members of our society.

Best Majors for Pediatric PAs

Pursuing a major in Biology, Health Sciences, or Psychology can provide the necessary knowledge and skills required to become a successful pediatric physician assistant. These majors offer a solid foundation in the essential areas of healthcare, biology, and psychology, which are all crucial elements in providing effective and compassionate care to young patients.


One of the best majors for individuals aspiring to become pediatric physician assistants is a Bachelor of Science in Biology. This major provides a strong foundation in the biological sciences, including courses in physiology, anatomy, microbiology, and genetics. Understanding these core concepts is essential for a pediatric physician assistant who will be responsible for diagnosing and treating various medical conditions in children.

Health Sciences

Another excellent major for aspiring pediatric physician assistants is a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences. This major covers a wide range of health-related subjects, such as medical terminology, healthcare ethics, pharmacology, and pathophysiology. These courses are highly relevant to the field of pediatric medicine and provide a comprehensive understanding of the healthcare system.


Additionally, a major in Psychology can also be beneficial for individuals pursuing a career as a pediatric physician assistant. Psychology majors gain knowledge and skills in understanding human behavior, which can be valuable when interacting with young patients and their families. Understanding the psychological aspects of child development and the emotional impact of illness can aid in providing comprehensive care.

Top Colleges for Pediatric PAs

When it comes to pursuing a career as a pediatric physician assistant, selecting the right college can make a significant difference. Several top-tier institutions offer exceptional programs in this field that can adequately prepare students for their future careers.

Yale University, Duke University, and the University of Colorado Denver offer exceptional programs for aspiring pediatric physician assistants. These colleges provide rigorous education, specialized training, and valuable clinical experiences that adequately prepare students for their future careers in pediatric medicine.

Yale University

One of the best colleges for aspiring pediatric physician assistants is Yale University. Yale’s Physician Associate Program is highly regarded and provides students with an intensive education in a variety of medical disciplines. The program emphasizes a patient-centered approach and offers specialized pediatric training, equipping students with the knowledge and skills necessary to work effectively in pediatric settings.

Duke University

Another exceptional college is Duke University, renowned for its Master of Health Sciences in Physician Assistant Studies program. Duke’s curriculum includes specialized coursework in pediatric medicine, clinical experiences in leading pediatric hospitals, and opportunities for research and global health experiences. The program’s faculty consists of experts in the field of pediatrics, ensuring students receive top-notch education and training.

University of Colorado – Denver

Additionally, the University of Colorado Denver’s Child Health Associate/Physician Assistant Program is highly esteemed. This program focuses on preparing students for primary care practice and emphasizes pediatric medicine. Students benefit from hands-on clinical experiences in various pediatric settings, allowing them to develop their skills and build a strong foundation in pediatric care.


Career Paths for Pediatric Physician Assistants

When it comes to becoming a pediatric physician assistant, there are unconventional paths that individuals can take to achieve their goals.

While the traditional path to becoming a pediatric physician assistant typically involves completing a physician assistant program after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in a related field, there are unconventional routes available. Direct entry programs, military service, and beginning as a pediatric nurse serve as alternative paths for those aspiring to become pediatric physician assistants.

Direct Entry Program

One such path is through a direct entry program. These programs are designed for individuals who already hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-medical field but wish to pursue a healthcare career. By joining a direct entry program specialized in pediatrics, students can receive the necessary education and training to become a pediatric physician assistant.

Military Service

Another unconventional route is through military service. The armed forces offer various medical career opportunities, including physician assistant roles.

Through military service, aspiring individuals can receive comprehensive training as a physician assistant and gain valuable experience in pediatric care. This path provides a unique opportunity to serve the nation while pursuing a rewarding career in medicine.

Going from Pediatric Nurse to Pediatric PA

Additionally, individuals can consider becoming a pediatric nurse before transitioning to a physician assistant role. By working as a pediatric nurse, individuals can gain firsthand experience in pediatric care and develop a strong foundation in healthcare. This experience can be beneficial when pursuing further education to become a pediatric physician assistant.

Professional Certifications for Physician Assistants Specializing in Pediatrics

To become a pediatric physician assistant, aspiring professionals must obtain the necessary certifications to demonstrate their expertise in caring for children.

The following certifications not only provide recognition of a physician assistant’s competence in pediatric patient care but also enhance their job prospects in pediatric healthcare settings. By attaining these professional certifications, individuals can showcase their dedication and commitment to delivering high-quality care to young patients.

Pediatric Certificate of Added Qualifications

One of the most widely recognized certifications for physician assistants is the Pediatric CAQ (Certificate of Added Qualifications) offered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). This certification validates the specialized knowledge and skills required to provide comprehensive care to pediatric patient


To be eligible for the Pediatric CAQ, physician assistants must first complete the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). After obtaining the PANCE certification, they must accumulate a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical experience in pediatric patient care. Furthermore, applicants must complete 100 hours of continuing medical education in pediatrics and pass the Pediatric CAQ exam.

CAQ Information At-a-Glance

  • The Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) in Pediatrics signifies advanced training and proficiency in pediatric-focused healthcare for physician assistants (PAs).
  • This certificate allows PAs to specialize within the field of pediatrics, focusing on areas such as neonatal care, primary care, and acute care.
  • PAs interested in pursuing the CAQ in Pediatrics must meet specific eligibility criteria set by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), including completing relevant education and clinical experience.
  • Upon meeting the eligibility requirements, PAs must pass a rigorous examination to earn the CAQ in Pediatrics.
  • The CAQ in Pediatrics enhances PAs’ professional credentials and expands their career opportunities in pediatric healthcare.
  • By earning this certificate, PAs demonstrate their dedication to providing specialized care tailored to the unique needs of pediatric populations.
  • The CAQ in Pediatrics contributes to the overall quality of healthcare services provided to children and adolescents by ensuring that PAs have the specialized knowledge and skills necessary for pediatric care.

Certificate of Advanced Pediatrics

In addition to the Pediatric CAQ, physician assistants can also pursue certification through the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA). The AAPA offers the Certificate of Advanced Pediatrics (CAP) to recognize the specialized expertise of physician assistants in pediatric care.

Similar to the Pediatric CAQ, the CAP requires physician assistants to complete a specified number of clinical hours and continuing education credits in pediatrics. Additionally, individuals must pass an exam to obtain this certification.

Additional Resources for Physician Assistants in Pediatrics

If you are interested in becoming a pediatric physician assistant, there are several resources available to help guide you through the process. These resources provide valuable information on educational requirements, certification, job outlook, and additional training opportunities in the field of pediatrics.

One of the main resources to explore is the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) website. The AAPA offers a wealth of information on becoming a physician assistant, including specific resources geared toward those interested in working in pediatrics. Their website provides a comprehensive overview of the profession, educational requirements, and certification options. They also offer networking opportunities, job boards, and continuing education resources for practicing physician assistants.

Another useful resource is the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) website. This organization is responsible for certifying physician assistants in the United States. Their website provides detailed information on the certification process, including eligibility requirements, exam content, and exam preparation resources. They also offer tools to verify the certification status of practicing physician assistants.

Additionally, the website of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) can provide helpful information for those interested in working as pediatric physician assistants. The AAP offers resources specific to pediatrics, including guidelines, research articles, and educational opportunities to stay up-to-date with advancements in pediatric care.

By utilizing these resources, aspiring pediatric physician assistants can gain a comprehensive understanding of the profession, educational requirements, and certification process. This knowledge will help them make informed decisions and take the necessary steps toward a rewarding career in pediatric healthcare.


  • What is the best major for a Pediatric PA – No specific major for becoming a Pediatric PA, but do focus on the best major for getting into PA school including science majors such as Chemestry, Biology, Biomedical Science, etc.
  • Are there residency programs for Pediatric PAs?  For general Pediatric PAs, there are not currently any residency programs.  However, there are several specialty Pediatric Residency Programs including Pediatric Surgery and Neonatal Physician Assistant.
  • Do Pediatric PAs make less money?  This is a hard question to answer with a specific level of detail because salaries have many factors that can impact how much you make.  Looking at average Physician salaries, Pediatricians make less than most specialties, so one can expect Pediatric Physician Assistant salaries to be lower on average too.


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