Physician assistant program characteristics and faculty credentials on physician assistant national certifying exam pass rates

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of Physician Assistant Education








Purpose: Determination of the ideal terminal degree for physician assistants (PAs) and academic preparedness of PA educators have received much attention in recent years. This investigation, completed in 2009, sought to describe the current state of PA training programs, specifically regarding Carnegie classification, percent conferring master's degrees, number of full-time faculty, percent of faculty - both principal and other full-time faculty - with doctoral degrees, student-to-faculty ratio, and first-time graduate Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) pass rates. A secondary aim was to determine if any of these variables predict PANCE pass rates. Methods: This study combined existing data obtained from multiple Internet resources including PA program websites and the PAEA Faculty Directory to determine the number of faculty, faculty credentials, number of students, and PANCE reports. Faculty members were categorized by highest degree attained. Linear regression was used to examine whether any of the programmatic variables were significant predictors of PANCE pass rates. Results: Two of four predictors were significant - whether the program conferred a master's degree (Beta = 0.54, t = 7.25, P = 001) and student-to-faculty ratio (Beta = -0.21, t = 2.63, P = 01). Mean number of full-time faculty per training program was eight (SD = 4, range = 2-36). The mean percent of full-time faculty members with doctorates per training program was 17.6% (SD = 17.7%, range = 0-80%). Conclusions: These results, if replicated, suggest that if a program is seeking to increase its student performance on the PANCE, it may be more helpful to focus resources on improving student-to-faculty ratio, regardless of whether or not the faculty are doctoral level.

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