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Number of Certified PAs Expanded in Every State Prior to Onset of COVID-19

For Immediate Release

Media Contact:
Erica Banks, Senior Director of Communications
email: [email protected]
phone: 678.417.8685

Johns Creek, Ga., April 6, 2021 – Just before the need for qualified medical providers expanded due to the onset of COVID-19, the Certified Physician Assistant workforce increased in every U.S. state.

According to the 2019 Statistical Profile of Certified Physician Assistants by State, an annual report issued by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), the total number of Certified PAs grew 6.52% between 2018 and 2019. The states with the largest percentage increase were: Rhode Island (10.66%), Mississippi (10.0%), New Jersey (9.76%), Indiana (9.72%) and Missouri (8.83%). New York, which emerged as an early hotspot for the coronavirus in the United States, continued to have the highest number of Certified PAs in the country (13,526).

In the months prior to hospitals reaching capacity, the states with the highest number of Certified PAs working in a hospital setting were: Maine (58.0%), New York (57.3%) and Massachusetts (57.2%).

But before having to navigate a short supply of available hospital beds and PPE, the country continued to reckon with a shortage of primary care providers, particularly in rural areas. Certified PAs were positioned to address these shortages, as the report data indicates that rural states had a higher percentage of their Certified PA workforce practicing in primary care (family medicine/general practice, internal medicine-general, pediatrics-general). The states with the highest number of Certified PAs working in primary care included: Alaska (49.2%), North Dakota (46.3%), Wyoming (45.6%) and South Dakota (42.2%).

“Whether it be a once in a century pandemic, or the need for more primary care providers in rural areas, this report indicates that Certified PAs were ready to address the nation’s health care challenges at a time when the country needed them the most,” said NCCPA President and CEO Dawn Morton-Rias, Ed.D., PA-C.

“Over the past year we’ve seen PAs mobilize across the country to assume their vital roles in America’s COVID-19 response. As we enter the second year of the pandemic, PAs remain on the front lines, now distributing vaccines, while continuing their work ensure that patients maintain access to high-quality care for non-COVID related concerns.”

Additional findings from the report include:

  • Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii and Kentucky reported the highest median number of patients seen by Certified PAs per week (75). Nationwide, 60 is the median number of patients seen by Certified PAs in a typical week. Alaska, Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota and Wisconsin reported the lowest median number of patients seen by Certified PAs per week (50).
  • Alaska ranks the highest in the rate of Certified PAs per 100,000 population.
  • California had the highest percentage of Certified PAs who indicated that they speak another language with patients (52.7%), followed by New Mexico (38.1%). The most common language other than English spoken by Certified PAs with their patients was Spanish, followed by Chinese.

2020 Certified PA state practice data will be available later this year.

Physician assistant is consistently ranked as one of the top jobs in America, most recently by U.S. News and World Report as #1 in the Best Health Care Jobs of 2021 and the top overall job in the country.

About the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants

The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) is the only certifying organization for the 139,000 physician assistants (PAs) in the United States. The PA-C credential is awarded by NCCPA to PAs who fulfill certification, certification maintenance and recertification requirements. NCCPA also administers the Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) program for experienced, Certified PAs practicing in seven specialties. For more information, visit