Looking to stand out? NCCPA offers the Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) in ten specialties.

Certificates of Added Qualifications (CAQs)

What are CAQs?

The CAQ is a voluntary credential that Board Certified PAs can earn to show your advanced expertise in your specialty. Earning a CAQ shows your employers that you are committed to your specialty. It demonstrates your dedication and passion for health care and the well-being of your patients.

CAQ Specialties

Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery (CVTS) CAQ

Earn a Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) in Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery (CVTS) to show your advanced expertise in your specialty.

CAQ recipients seeking the following benefits have reaped reward for their achievement:

  • Over 75% found or anticipate finding a new job
  • Over 40% successfully sought a promotion
  • 60% achieved or expect to increase their job responsibilities
  • Over 50% received or anticipate receiving a pay increase, and 33% received a cash bonus
  • Over 75% found the CAQ useful in documenting qualifications required for external accreditation
  • Over 33% achieved or anticipate a broadening of their eligibility for reimbursement
  • Almost 75% have received greater recognition or regard from physicians or other health care professionals
  • 66% reported greater respect or acceptance from patients

Earning a CAQ shows your employers that you are committed to your specialty. It demonstrates your dedication and passion to health care and the well-being of your patients.

Still unsure? Get a feel for the exam by reviewing some sample questions. Then read more about the requirements below.

Introduction and Prerequisites

PAs seeking the Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery CAQ must show they have advanced knowledge and experience in either or both of these surgical subspecialties, above and beyond that expected of entry-level PAs or PAs working in a generalist practice. PAs applying for the Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery Specialty Examination must have specialty-specific CME and experience in the field. They can begin CAQ process by submitting at least one of the components and the $100 administrative fee. They’ll have six years to complete all four components for the CAQ, including passing the specialty exam.

PAs seeking the Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery CAQ must also first satisfy two basic pre-requisites: (1) current PA-C certification and (2) possession of a valid, unrestricted license to practice as a PA in at least one jurisdiction in the United States or its territories, or unrestricted privileges to practice as a PA for a government agency. (Note: If a PA holds licenses in multiple states, all of the licenses must be unrestricted.) The licensure prerequisite is addressed more fully here.

In support of the procedures and patient case requirement, each applicant must provide attestation from a physician, lead/senior PA, or physician/PA post graduate program director who works in the specialty and is familiar with the PAs’ practice and experience. PAs may find it helpful, however, to secure such a sponsor at the beginning of the process for the purpose of seeking guidance on the pursuit of the other requirements.

CME Requirement

In the six years preceding the date of application for the specialty exam, PAs must earn a minimum of 75 credits of Category I CME focused on cardiovascular/thoracic surgery practice, including 25 credits earned within the last two years. The same 75 credits may also be used for maintenance of the PA-C credential.

How do you know if CME activities are related to cardiovascular and thoracic surgery? Use your best judgment. (Keep in mind that the credits may be subject to a CME auditing process.)

Once PAs have completed the CME requirements for the CAQ, they’ll attest to this online at their personal certification record.

Recommendations for CME Activities:

PA cardiovascular/thoracic surgery leaders provided input in developing the following CME recommendations for PAs interested in pursuing a Cardiovascular/Thoracic Surgery CAQ.

PAs are encouraged to complete CME activities that include knowledge of post-op critical care management, and surgical management of coronary artery disease, congenital heart disease, thoracic disease, and central and peripheral vascular disease.

Experience Requirement

PAs seeking the Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery CAQ must have at least 4,000 hours of experience (the equivalent of two years of full-time practice) working as a PA in cardiovascular/thoracic surgery within six years of the date they attest to this. If selected for an audit, documentation substantiating that work experience will be required.

Procedures/Patient Case Requirement

PAs must provide an attestation from a physician, lead/senior PA, or physician/PA post graduate program director who works in the specialty and is familiar with your practice and experience within 90 days after your receive your CAQ score. More details are listed in the required attestation form here.

The Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery Specialty Exam

Once PAs have satisfied other requirements for the Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery CAQ, they can apply for the Cardiovascular/Thoracic Surgery Specialty Exam — 120 multiple-choice questions related to cardiovascular/thoracic surgery targeted for PAs with experience in the practice of those specialties. It is based on the Content Blueprint, developed using data gathered during the 2009-2015 PA Practice Analysis conducted by NCCPA.

To review sample questions, click here.

Earning a Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery CAQ

All exams for earning the initial CAQ are administered at Pearson VUE Test Centers. 

Maintaining the Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery CAQ

Exams for maintaining a CAQ are administered both online and in the Pearson VUE Test Center

The Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery CAQ is valid for ten years. To maintain the CAQ beyond that timeframe, PAs must continue to meet the same PA-C and licensure requirements required of those seeking the CAQ for the first time, pass the Cardiovascular/Thoracic Surgery Specialty Exam before the expiration of the current CAQ, and — during the ten-year CAQ cycle — earn and log at least 125 credits of Category I CME focused on the specialty. The same 125 credits may also be logged to maintain the PA-C credential.

Other Policies

Auditing

To ensure the reliability and accuracy of the CAQ and maintenance processes, NCCPA may audit the requirements of PAs who have applied for a CAQ or have successfully completed the CAQ process. PAs who fail the audit or refuse to submit to an audit may be subject to loss of the CAQ and/or other disciplinary actions as deemed appropriate by NCCPA and in accordance with the Policy and Procedures for PA Disciplinary Matters

Loss of Eligibility

If a PA loses eligibility for a CAQ after submitting the application and fee, he or she will be deemed ineligible and restricted from registering for the exam or from maintenance of CAQ activity, or will be withdrawn from the examination or maintenance activity if registration has already been processed.

Financial Requirements

PAs must submit any outstanding fees to NCCPA prior to becoming eligible to apply for a CAQ or for CAQ maintenance.

If a PA loses eligibility for a CAQ or CAQ maintenance after submitting the application and fees or if, at any time, it is determined that a PA provided incorrect eligibility information on any NCCPA application, the PA shall forfeit all fees.

Exam Scores

Scores from the CAQ exams will be released to examinees after NCCPA has completed all scoring and validation processes. PAs may not register to repeat an examination if they have scores pending from a previous administration of the same examination. If a PA is deemed ineligible for the CAQ after taking the exam but prior to the release of exam scores, the exam scores will be invalidated and not reported to the PA.

Disciplinary Review

Nothing in this policy shall limit or prevent NCCPA from imposing sanctions as set forth in its Policy and Procedures for PA Disciplinary Matters

Regaining a Certificate of Added Qualifications

PAs who lose a CAQ due to the expiration of their PA-C certification may reinstate their CAQ upon regaining their PA-C certification, as long as the original or most recent CAQ expiration date has not passed and the PA meets the licensure/federal privilege requirements for the CAQ program. The CAQ will be reinstated for the period of time remaining in the CAQ maintenance period. PAs who lose a CAQ for any other reason, including NCCPA disciplinary actions, must begin the CAQ process anew by meeting the eligibility requirements for initial CAQs, including passing the CAQ examination, or may seek reinstatement of their CAQ when they regain certification by filing a request for an exception to policy, as long as the CAQ expiration date has not passed and the PAs meets the licensure/federal privilege requirements for the CAQ program.

Dermatology CAQ

Earn a Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) in Dermatology to show your advanced expertise in your specialty.

CAQ recipients seeking the following benefits have reaped reward for their achievement:

  • Over 75% found or anticipate finding a new job
  • Over 40% successfully sought a promotion
  • 60% achieved or expect to increase their job responsibilities
  • Over 50% received or anticipate receiving a pay increase, and 33% received a cash bonus
  • Over 75% found the CAQ useful in documenting qualifications required for external accreditation
  • Over 33% achieved or anticipate a broadening of their eligibility for reimbursement
  • Almost 75% have received greater recognition or regard from physicians or other health care professionals
  • 66% reported greater respect or acceptance from patients

Earning a CAQ shows your employers that you are committed to your specialty. It demonstrates your dedication and passion to health care and the well-being of your patients.

Still unsure? Read more about the requirements below.

Introduction and Prerequisites

PAs who work in dermatology and wish to earn the Dermatology CAQ must demonstrate they have knowledge and experience in dermatology, above and beyond that expected of entry-level PAs or experienced PAs who are new to this specialty. The CAQ designation provides an objective measure of knowledge and expertise for the PA practicing in dermatology. Earning this credential demonstrates a commitment to the specialty and supports the concept of progressively enhanced scope of practice which has been a tradition in the PA profession. It may increase employability, respect among peers and open doors for career advancement, and increase patients’ confidence in the dermatology PA’s qualifications.

PAs seeking the Dermatology CAQ must first satisfy two basic pre-requisites: (1) current PA-C certification and (2) possession of a valid, unrestricted license to practice as a PA in at least one jurisdiction in the United States or its territories, or unrestricted privileges to practice as a PA for a government agency. (Note: If a PA holds licenses in multiple states, all of the licenses must be unrestricted.) The licensure prerequisite is addressed more fully here.

In addition to these prerequisites, PAs must have specialty-specific CME, experience in the field, and pass a Dermatology CAQ exam. In support of the procedures and patient case requirement, each applicant must provide attestation from a physician, lead/senior PA, or physician/PA post graduate program director who works in the specialty and is familiar with the PAs’ practice and experience. PAs may find it helpful, however, to secure such a sponsor at the beginning of the process for the purpose of seeking guidance on the pursuit of the other requirements.

CME Requirement

In the six years preceding the date of application for the specialty exam, PAs must earn a minimum of 75 credits of Category I CME focused on dermatology, with a minimum of 25 of those credits having been earned within two years prior to the date of exam application. The 75 credits must include successful completion of a dermoscopy course for a minimum of 5 credits. The CME credits used for earning a CAQ may also be used for maintaining the PA-C credential.

Recommendations for CME Activities:

Other than the required CME activity listed above, it is recommended that PAs complete a comprehensive CME program in dermatology

How do you know if CME activities are related to dermatology? Use your best judgment. (Keep in mind that the credits may be subject to a CME auditing process.)

Once PAs have completed the CME requirements for the CAQ, they’ll attest to this online at their personal certification record.

Experience Requirement

PAs seeking the Dermatology CAQ must document a minimum of 4,000 hours of experience (the equivalent of two years of full-time practice) working in the dermatology specialty within six years of the date they provide their attestation to NCCPA. If selected for an audit, documentation substantiating that work experience will be required. Although not required by NCCPA, it may be beneficial for PAs to create a log of knowledge, skills, and patient management experiences.

Procedures/Patient Case Requirement

PAs must provide an attestation from a physician, lead/senior PA, or physician/PA post graduate program director who works in the specialty and is familiar with your practice and experience within 90 days after your receive your CAQ score. More details are listed in the required attestation form here.

Exam Requirement 

Once PAs have satisfied other requirements for the Dermatology CAQ, they are eligible to apply for the Dermatology CAQ Exam. This exam will consist of 120-multiple choice questions related to dermatology topics and targeted for PAs with two years of dermatology experience. It is based on the Content Blueprint.

Earning a Dermatology CAQ

All exams for earning the initial CAQ are administered at Pearson VUE Test Centers. 

Maintaining the Dermatology CAQ

Exams for maintaining a CAQ are administered both online and in the Pearson VUE Test Center

The Dermatology CAQ will be valid for ten years. To maintain the CAQ beyond that timeframe, PAs must continue to meet the same PA-C and licensure requirements required of those seeking the CAQ for the first time, pass the Dermatology CAQ Exam before the expiration of the current CAQ, and — during the ten-year CAQ cycle — earn and log at least 125 credits of Category I CME focused on the specialty. The same 125 credits may also be logged to maintain the PA-C credential.

Other Policies

Auditing

To ensure the reliability and accuracy of the CAQ and maintenance processes, NCCPA may audit the requirements of PAs who have applied for a CAQ or have successfully completed the CAQ process. PAs who fail the audit or refuse to submit to an audit may be subject to loss of the CAQ and/or other disciplinary actions as deemed appropriate by NCCPA and in accordance with the Policy and Procedures for Disciplinary Review.

Loss of Eligibility

PAs who lose eligibility for a CAQ after submitting the application and fee will be deemed ineligible and restricted from registering for the exam or from maintenance of CAQ activity, or will be withdrawn from the examination or maintenance activity if registration has already been processed.

Financial Requirements

PAs must submit any outstanding fees to NCCPA prior to becoming eligible to apply for a CAQ or for CAQ maintenance.

If a PA loses eligibility for a CAQ or CAQ maintenance after submitting the application and fees or if, at any time, it is determined that a PA provided incorrect eligibility information on any NCCPA application, the PA forfeits all fees.

Exam Results

Results from the CAQ exams will be released to examinees after NCCPA has completed all scoring and validation processes. PAs may not register to repeat an examination if they have scores pending from a previous administration of the same examination. If a PA is deemed ineligible for the CAQ after taking the exam but prior to the release of exam results, the exam results will be invalidated and not reported to the PA.

Disciplinary Review

Nothing in this policy shall limit or prevent NCCPA from imposing sanctions as set forth in its Policy and Procedures for Disciplinary Review.

Regaining a Certificate of Added Qualifications

PAs who lose a CAQ due to the expiration of their PA-C certification may reinstate their CAQ upon regaining their PA-C certification, as long as the original or most recent CAQ expiration date has not passed and the PA meets the licensure/federal privilege requirements for the CAQ program. The CAQ will be reinstated for the period of time remaining in the CAQ maintenance period. PAs who lose a CAQ for any other reason, including NCCPA disciplinary actions, must begin the CAQ process anew by meeting the eligibility requirements for initial CAQs, including passing the CAQ examination, or may seek a reinstatement of their CAQ when they regain certification by filing a request for an exception to policy, as long as the CAQ expiration date has not passed and the PA meets the licensure/federal privilege requirements for the CAQ program.

Emergency Medicine CAQ

Earn a Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) in Emergency Medicine to show your advanced expertise in your specialty.

CAQ recipients seeking the following benefits have reaped reward for their achievement:

  • Over 75% found or anticipate finding a new job
  • Over 40% successfully sought a promotion
  • 60% achieved or expect to increase their job responsibilities
  • Over 50% received or anticipate receiving a pay increase, and 33% received a cash bonus
  • Over 75% found the CAQ useful in documenting qualifications required for external accreditation
  • Over 33% achieved or anticipate a broadening of their eligibility for reimbursement
  • Almost 75% have received greater recognition or regard from physicians or other health care professionals
  • 66% reported greater respect or acceptance from patients

Earning a CAQ shows your employers that you are committed to your specialty. It demonstrates your dedication and passion to health care and the well-being of your patients.

Still unsure? Get a feel for the exam by reviewing some sample questions. Then read more about the requirements below.

Introduction and Prerequisites

PAs seeking the Emergency Medicine CAQ must demonstrate they have advanced knowledge and experience in emergency medicine, above and beyond that expected of entry-level PAs or PAs working in a generalist practice. PAs seeking eligibility for the Emergency Medicine Specialty Examination must meet requirements of specialty-specific CME and experience in the field. After initiating the CAQ process by submitting the requirements for one of the components and the $100 administrative fee, PAs will have six years within which to complete all four components for the CAQ, including passing the specialty exam.

PAs seeking the Emergency Medicine CAQ must also first satisfy two basic pre-requisites: (1) current PA-C certification and (2) possession of a valid, unrestricted license to practice as a PA in at least one jurisdiction in the United States or its territories, or unrestricted privileges to practice as a PA for a government agency. (Note: If a PA holds licenses in multiple states, all of the licenses must be unrestricted.) The licensure prerequisite is addressed more fully here.

In support of the procedures and patient case requirement, each applicant must provide attestation from a physician, lead/senior PA, or physician/PA post graduate program director who works in the specialty and is familiar with the PAs’ practice and experience. PAs may find it helpful, however, to secure such a sponsor at the beginning of the process for the purpose of seeking guidance on the pursuit of the other requirements.

CME Requirement

In the six years preceding the date of application for the specialty exam, candidates must earn a minimum of 75 credits of Category I CME focused on emergency medicine practice with a minimum of 25 of those credits having been earned within the two years prior to the date of exam application. The same 75 credits may also be used for maintenance of the PA-C credential.

PAs are encouraged to use their best judgment when determining whether individual CME activities are related to emergency medicine, understanding that those credits may be subject to a CME auditing process.

Upon fulfillment of all CME requirements, candidates will attest to their completion at NCCPA’s website.

Recommendations for CME Activities:
Physician and PA emergency medicine leaders provided input in developing the following CME recommendations for PAs interested in pursuing a CAQ in that specialty.

Applicants should complete a comprehensive emergency medicine course that reflects the guidelines set forth in the most current version of Model of the Clinical Practice of Emergency Medicine. Applicants should also complete the following courses:

• Pediatric Advanced Life Support or Advanced Pediatric Life Support
• Advanced Trauma Life Support
• Airway course

Experience Requirement

PAs seeking the Emergency Medicine CAQ must have gained at least 3,000 hours of experience (the equivalent of 18 months of full-time practice) working as a PA in emergency medicine within six years of the date they attest to NCCPA that the experience requirement has been satisfied. If selected for an audit, documentation substantiating that work experience will be required.

Procedures/Patient Case Requirement

PAs must provide an attestation from a physician, lead/senior PA, or physician/PA post graduate program director who works in the specialty and is familiar with your practice and experience within 90 days after your receive your CAQ score. More details are listed in the required attestation form here.

The Emergency Medicine Specialty Exam

Once PAs have satisfied other requirements for the Emergency Medicine CAQ, they can apply for the Emergency Medicine Specialty Exam — 120 multiple-choice questions related to emergency medicine targeted for PAs with experience in the practice of that specialty. It will be based on the Content Blueprint, developed using data gathered during the 2009-2015 PA Practice Analysis conducted by NCCPA.

To review sample questions, click here.

Earning a Emergency Medicine CAQ

All exams for earning the initial CAQ are administered at Pearson VUE Test Centers. 

Maintaining the Emergency Medicine CAQ

Exams for maintaining a CAQ are administered both online and in the Pearson VUE Test Center

The Emergency Medicine CAQ awarded to successful candidates will be valid for ten years. To maintain the CAQ beyond that timeframe, PAs must continue to meet the same PA-C and licensure requirements required of those seeking the CAQ for the first time, pass the Emergency Medicine Specialty Examination before the expiration of the current CAQ, and — during the ten-year CAQ cycle — earn and log at least 125 credits of Category I CME focused on the specialty. Those CME credits may also be used to satisfy the CME requirement for maintenance of the PA-C credential.

Other Policies

Auditing

To ensure the reliability and accuracy of the CAQ and maintenance processes, NCCPA may audit the requirements of PAs who have applied for a CAQ or have successfully completed the CAQ process. PAs who fail the audit or refuse to submit to an audit may be subject to loss of the CAQ and/or other disciplinary actions as deemed appropriate by NCCPA and in accordance with the Policy and Procedures for Disciplinary Review.

Loss of Eligibility

If a PA loses eligibility for a CAQ after submitting the application and fee, he or she will be deemed ineligible and restricted from registering for the exam or from maintenance of CAQ activity, or will be withdrawn from the examination or maintenance activity if registration has already been processed.

Financial Requirements

PAs must fulfill all outstanding financial debts and any applicable fees to NCCPA prior to becoming eligible to apply for a CAQ or for CAQ maintenance.

If a PA loses eligibility for a CAQ or CAQ maintenance after submitting the respective application and fees or if, at any time, it is determined that a PA provided incorrect eligibility information on any NCCPA application, the PA shall forfeit all fees.

Exam Scores

Scores from the CAQ exams will be released to examinees after NCCPA has completed all scoring and validation processes. PAs may not register to repeat an examination if they have scores pending from a previous administration of the same examination. If a PA is deemed ineligible for the CAQ after taking the exam but prior to the release of exam scores, the exam scores will be invalidated and not reported to the PA.

Disciplinary Review

Nothing in this policy shall limit or prevent NCCPA from imposing sanctions as set forth in its Policy and Procedures for Disciplinary Review.

Regaining a Certificate of Added Qualifications

PAs who lose a CAQ due to the expiration of their PA-C certification may reinstate their CAQ upon regaining their PA-C certification, as long as the original or most recent CAQ expiration date has not passed and the PA meets the licensure/federal privilege requirements for the CAQ program. The CAQ will be reinstated for the period of time remaining in the CAQ maintenance period. PAs who lose a CAQ for any other reason, including NCCPA disciplinary actions, must begin the CAQ process anew by meeting the eligibility requirements for initial CAQs, including passing the CAQ examination, or may seek a reinstatement of their CAQ when they regain certification by filing a request for an exception to policy, as long as the CAQ expiration date has not passed and the PAs meets the licensure/federal privilege requirements for the CAQ program.

“I feel that the CAQ will finally give me a way to quantify the level of skill and specialized knowledge that I have gained through my PA career. It will also be an easily recognizable way that patients can tell that they are being cared for by a competent individual who has gone out of his-or-her way to prove themselves in their chosen career path.”

– -Dimas J. Valentin, PA-C, CAQ-HM, MPAS

Hospital Medicine CAQ

Earn a Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) in Hospital Medicine to show your advanced expertise in your specialty. 

CAQ recipients seeking the following benefits have reaped reward for their achievement:

  • Over 75% found or anticipate finding a new job
  • Over 40% successfully sought a promotion
  • 60% achieved or expect to increase their job responsibilities
  • Over 50% received or anticipate receiving a pay increase, and 33% received a cash bonus
  • Over 75% found the CAQ useful in documenting qualifications required for external accreditation
  • Over 33% achieved or anticipate a broadening of their eligibility for reimbursement
  • Almost 75% have received greater recognition or regard from physicians or other health care professionals
  • 66% reported greater respect or acceptance from patients

Earning a CAQ shows your employers that you are committed to your specialty. It demonstrates your dedication and passion to health care and the well-being of your patients.

Introduction and Prerequisites 

PAs seeking the Hospital Medicine CAQ must demonstrate they have advanced knowledge and experience in hospital medicine, above and beyond that expected of entry-level PAs or PAs working in a generalist practice. PAs seeking eligibility for the Hospital Medicine Specialty Examination must meet requirements of specialty-specific CME and experience in the field. After initiating the CAQ process by submitting the requirements for one of the components and the $100 administrative fee, PAs will have six years within which to complete all four components for the CAQ, including passing the specialty exam.

PAs seeking the Hospital Medicine CAQ must also first satisfy two basic pre-requisites: (1) current PA-C certification and (2) possession of a valid, unrestricted license to practice as a PA in at least one jurisdiction in the United States or its territories, or unrestricted privileges to practice as a PA for a government agency. (Note: If a PA holds licenses in multiple states, all of the licenses must be unrestricted.) The licensure prerequisite is addressed more fully here.

In support of the procedures and patient case requirement, each applicant must provide attestation from a physician, lead/senior PA, or physician/PA post graduate program director who works in the specialty and is familiar with the PAs’ practice and experience. PAs may find it helpful, however, to secure such a sponsor at the beginning of the process for the purpose of seeking guidance on the pursuit of the other requirements.

CME Requirement

In the six years preceding the date of application for the specialty exam, PAs must earn a minimum of 75 credits of Category I CME focused on hospital medicine practice with a minimum of 25 of those credits having been earned within the two years prior to the date of exam application. The 75 required CME credits must include an activity related to risk management. The same 75 credits may also be used for maintenance of the PA-C credential.

PAs are encouraged to use their best judgment when determining whether individual CME activities are related to hospital medicine, understanding that those hours may be subject to a CME auditing process.

Upon fulfillment of all CME requirements, candidates will attest to their completion at NCCPA’s website.

Experience Requirement

PAs seeking the Hospital Medicine CAQ must have gained at least 3,000 hours of experience (the equivalent of 18 months of full-time practice, primarily involving the management of hospitalized adult patients) working as a PA in that specialty within six years of the date they attest to NCCPA that the experience requirement has been satisfied. If selected for an audit, documentation substantiating that work experience will be required.

Procedures/Patient Case Requirement

PAs must provide an attestation from a physician, lead/senior PA, or physician/PA post graduate program director who works in the specialty and is familiar with your practice and experience within 90 days after your receive your CAQ score. More details are listed in the required attestation form here.

The Hospital Medicine Specialty Exam

Once PAs have satisfied other requirements for the Hospital Medicine CAQ, they can apply for the Hospital Medicine Specialty Exam — 120 multiple-choice questions related to hospital medicine targeted for PAs with experience in the practice of that specialty. It will be based on the Content Blueprint, developed using data gathered during the 2012-2015 PA Practice Analysis conducted by NCCPA

To review sample questions, click here.

Earning a Hospital Medicine CAQ

All exams for earning the initial CAQ are administered at Pearson VUE Test Centers. 

Maintaining the Hospital Medicine CAQ

Exams for maintaining a CAQ are administered both online and in the Pearson VUE Test Center

The Hospital Medicine CAQ awarded to successful candidates will be valid for ten years. To maintain the CAQ beyond that timeframe, PAs must continue to meet the same PA-C and licensure requirements required of those seeking the CAQ for the first time, pass the Hospital Medicine Specialty Exam before the expiration of the current CAQ, and — during the ten-year CAQ cycle — earn and log at least 125 credits of Category I CME focused on the specialty. Those CME credits may also be used to satisfy the CME requirement for maintenance of the PA-C credential.

Other Policies

Auditing

To ensure the reliability and accuracy of the CAQ and maintenance processes, NCCPA may audit the requirements of PAs who have applied for a CAQ or have successfully completed the CAQ process. PAs who fail the audit or refuse to submit to an audit may be subject to loss of the CAQ and/or other disciplinary actions as deemed appropriate by NCCPA and in accordance with the Policy and Procedures for Disciplinary Review.

Loss of Eligibility

If a PA loses eligibility for a CAQ after submitting the application and fee, he or she will be deemed ineligible and restricted from registering for the exam or from maintenance of CAQ activity, or will be withdrawn from the examination or maintenance activity if registration has already been processed.

Financial Requirements

PAs must fulfill all outstanding financial debts and any applicable fees to NCCPA prior to becoming eligible to apply for a CAQ or for CAQ maintenance.

If a PA loses eligibility for a CAQ or CAQ maintenance after submitting the respective application and fees or if, at any time, it is determined that a PA provided incorrect eligibility information on any NCCPA application, the PA shall forfeit all fees.

Exam Scores

Scores from the CAQ exams will be released to examinees after NCCPA has completed all scoring and validation processes. PAs may not register to repeat an examination if they have scores pending from a previous administration of the same examination. If a PA is deemed ineligible for the CAQ after taking the exam but prior to the release of exam scores, the exam scores will be invalidated and not reported to the PA.

Disciplinary Review

Nothing in this policy shall limit or prevent NCCPA from imposing sanctions as set forth in its Policy and Procedures for Disciplinary Review.

Regaining a Certificate of Added Qualifications

PAs who lose a CAQ due to the expiration of their PA-C certification may reinstate their CAQ upon regaining their PA-C certification, as long as the original or most recent CAQ expiration date has not passed and the PA meets the licensure/federal privilege requirements for the CAQ program. The CAQ will be reinstated for the period of time remaining in the CAQ maintenance period. PAs who lose a CAQ for any other reason, including NCCPA disciplinary actions, must begin the CAQ process anew by meeting the eligibility requirements for initial CAQs, including passing the CAQ examination, or may seek a reinstatement of their CAQ when they regain certification by filing a request for an exception to policy, as long as the CAQ expiration date has not passed and the PAs meets the licensure/federal privilege requirements for the CAQ program.

Nephrology CAQ

Earn a Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) in Nephrology to show your advanced expertise in your specialty. 

CAQ recipients seeking the following benefits have reaped reward for their achievement:

  • Over 75% found or anticipate finding a new job
  • Over 40% successfully sought a promotion
  • 60% achieved or expect to increase their job responsibilities
  • Over 50% received or anticipate receiving a pay increase, and 33% received a cash bonus
  • Over 75% found the CAQ useful in documenting qualifications required for external accreditation
  • Over 33% achieved or anticipate a broadening of their eligibility for reimbursement
  • Almost 75% have received greater recognition or regard from physicians or other health care professionals
  • 66% reported greater respect or acceptance from patients

Earning a CAQ shows your employers that you are committed to your specialty. It demonstrates your dedication and passion to health care and the well-being of your patients.

Still unsure? Get a feel for the exam by reviewing some sample questions. Then read more about the requirements below.

Introduction and Prerequisites

PAs seeking the Nephrology CAQ must demonstrate they have advanced knowledge and experience in nephrology, above and beyond that expected of entry-level PAs or PAs working in a generalist practice. PAs seeking eligibility for the Nephrology Specialty Examination must meet requirements of specialty-specific CME and experience in the field. After initiating the CAQ process by submitting the requirements for one of the components and the $100 administrative fee, PAs will have six years within which to complete all four components for the CAQ, including passing the specialty exam.

PAs seeking the Nephrology CAQ must also first satisfy two basic pre-requisites: (1) current PA-C certification and (2) possession of a valid, unrestricted license to practice as a PA in at least one jurisdiction in the United States or its territories, or unrestricted privileges to practice as a PA for a government agency. (Note: If a PA holds licenses in multiple states, all of the licenses must be unrestricted.) The licensure prerequisite is addressed more fully here.

In support of the procedures and patient case requirement, each applicant must provide attestation from a physician, lead/senior PA, or physician/PA post graduate program director who works in the specialty and is familiar with the PAs’ practice and experience. PAs may find it helpful, however, to secure such a sponsor at the beginning of the process for the purpose of seeking guidance on the pursuit of the other requirements.

CME Requirement

In the six years preceding the date of application for the specialty exam, PAs must earn a minimum of 75 credits of Category I CME focused on nephrology practice with a minimum of 25 of those credits having been earned within the two years prior to the date of exam application. The same 75 credits may also be used for maintenance of the PA-C credential.

PAs are encouraged to use their best judgment when determining whether individual CME activities are related to nephrology, understanding that those credits may be subject to a CME auditing process.

Upon fulfillment of all CME requirements, candidates will attest to their completion at NCCPA’s website.

Recommendations for CME Activities
Physician and PA nephrology leaders provided input in developing the following CME recommendations for PAs interested in pursuing a CAQ in that specialty.

PAs should complete CME activities that encompass knowledge of the evaluation of the kidney function, urinalysis, radiological assessment of renal disease, the kidney in systemic disease, chronic kidney disease, peritoneal dialysis, hemodialysis, medications and the kidney, the kidney in special circumstances (i.e., pediatric patients, pregnancy, and/or aging), hypertension, billing and coding, and kidney transplantation.

Experience Requirement

PAs seeking the Nephrology CAQ must have gained at least 4,000 hours of experience (the equivalent of two years of full-time practice) working as a PA, including at least 2,000 hours (the equivalent of one year of full-time practice) in nephrology within six years of the date they attest to NCCPA that the experience requirement has been satisfied. If selected for an audit, documentation substantiating that work experience will be required.

Procedures/Patient Case Requirement

PAs must provide an attestation from a physician, lead/senior PA, or physician/PA post graduate program director who works in the specialty and is familiar with your practice and experience within 90 days after your receive your CAQ score. More details are listed in the required attestation form here.

The Nephrology Specialty Exam

Once PAs have satisfied other requirements for the Nephrology CAQ, they can apply for the Nephrology Specialty Exam — 120 multiple-choice questions related to nephrology targeted for PAs with experience in the practice of that specialty. It will be based on the Content Blueprint, developed using data gathered during the 2009-2015 PA Practice Analysis conducted by NCCPA.

To review sample questions, click here.

Earning a Nephrology CAQ

All exams for earning the initial CAQ are administered at Pearson VUE Test Centers. 

Maintaining the Nephrology CAQ

Exams for maintaining a CAQ are administered both online and in the Pearson VUE Test Center

The Nephrology CAQ awarded to successful candidates will be valid for ten years. To maintain the CAQ beyond that timeframe, PAs must continue to meet the same PA-C and licensure requirements required of those seeking the CAQ for the first time, pass the Nephrology Specialty Exam before the expiration of the current CAQ, an — during the ten-year CAQ cycle — earn and log at least 125 credits of Category I CME focused on the specialty. Those CME credits may also be used to satisfy the CME requirement for maintenance of the PA-C credential.

Other Policies

Auditing

To ensure the reliability and accuracy of the CAQ and maintenance processes, NCCPA may audit the requirements of PAs who have applied for a CAQ or have successfully completed the CAQ process. PAs who fail the audit or refuse to submit to an audit may be subject to loss of the CAQ and/or other disciplinary actions as deemed appropriate by NCCPA and in accordance with the Policy and Procedures for Disciplinary Review.

Loss of Eligibility

If a PA loses eligibility for a CAQ after submitting the application and fee, he or she will be deemed ineligible and restricted from registering for the exam or from maintenance of CAQ activity, or will be withdrawn from the examination or maintenance activity if registration has already been processed.

Financial Requirements

PAs must fulfill all outstanding financial debts and any applicable fees to NCCPA prior to becoming eligible to apply for a CAQ or for CAQ maintenance.

If a PA loses eligibility for a CAQ or CAQ maintenance after submitting the respective application and fees or if, at any time, it is determined that a PA provided incorrect eligibility information on any NCCPA application, the PA shall forfeit all fees.

Exam Scores

Scores from the CAQ exams will be released to examinees after NCCPA has completed all scoring and validation processes. PAs may not register to repeat an examination if they have scores pending from a previous administration of the same examination. If a PA is deemed ineligible for the CAQ after taking the exam but prior to the release of exam scores, the exam scores will be invalidated and not reported to the PA.

Disciplinary Review

Nothing in this policy shall limit or prevent NCCPA from imposing sanctions as set forth in its Policy and Procedures for Disciplinary Review.

Regaining a Certificate of Added Qualifications

PAs who lose a CAQ due to the expiration of their PA-C certification may reinstate their CAQ upon regaining their PA-C certification, as long as the original or most recent CAQ expiration date has not passed and the PA meets the licensure/federal privilege requirements for the CAQ program. The CAQ will be reinstated for the period of time remaining in the CAQ maintenance period. PAs who lose a CAQ for any other reason, including NCCPA disciplinary actions, must begin the CAQ process anew by meeting the eligibility requirements for initial CAQs, including passing the CAQ examination, or may seek a reinstatement of their CAQ when they regain certification by filing a request for an exception to policy, as long as the CAQ expiration date has not passed and the PAs meets the licensure/federal privilege requirements for the CAQ program.

Obstetrics and Gynecology (OBGYN) CAQ

Be among the first to earn a Certificate of Added Qualifications in Obstetrics and Gynecology and demonstrate your knowledge and expertise in your specialty! Registration for this new CAQ will begin in 2023 and the first CAQs will be issued in 2024 for the inaugural group of PAs who pass the CAQ exam.

CAQ recipients seeking the following benefits have reaped reward for their achievement:

  • Over 75% found or anticipated finding a new job.
  • Over 40% successfully sought a promotion.
  • 60% achieved or expect to increase their job responsibilities.
  • Over 50% received or anticipate receiving a pay increase, and 33% received a cash bonus.
  • Over 75% found the CAQ useful in documenting qualifications required for external accreditation.
  • Over 33% achieved or anticipate a broadening of their eligibility for reimbursement.
  • Almost 75% have received greater recognition or regard from physicians or other health care professionals.
  • 66% reported greater respect or acceptance from patients.

Earning a CAQ shows your employers that you are committed to your specialty. It demonstrates your dedication and passion for health care and the well-being of your patients.

Still unsure? Read more about the requirements below.

Introduction and Prerequisites

PAs seeking the Obstetrics and Gynecology CAQ must demonstrate they have knowledge and experience in obstetrics and gynecology, above and beyond that expected of entry-level PAs or experienced PAs who are new to this specialty. The CAQ designation provides an objective measure of knowledge and expertise for the PA practicing in obstetrics and gynecology. Earning this credential demonstrates a commitment to the specialty and supports the concept of progressively enhanced scope of practice which has been a tradition in the PA profession. It may increase employability, respect among peers and open doors for career advancement, and increase patients’ confidence in PA’s qualifications.

PAs seeking the Obstetrics and Gynecology CAQ must first satisfy two basic pre-requisites: (1) current PA-C certification and (2) possession of a valid, unrestricted license to practice as a PA in at least one jurisdiction in the United States or its territories, or unrestricted privileges to practice as a PA for a government agency. (Note: If a PA holds licenses in multiple states, all the licenses must be unrestricted.) The licensure prerequisite is addressed more fully here.

In addition to these prerequisites, PAs must have specialty-specific CME, experience in the field, and pass an Obstetrics and Gynecology CAQ exam. In support of the procedures and patient case requirement, each applicant must provide attestation from a physician, lead/senior PA, or physician/PA post graduate program director who works in the specialty and is familiar with the PA’s practice and experience. PAs may find it helpful, however, to secure such a sponsor at the beginning of the process for the purpose of seeking guidance on the pursuit of the other requirements. Beginning in July 2023, PAs can begin the OBGYN CAQ process by submitting at least one of the non-exam components and the $100 administrative fee and then will have six years to complete all requirements for earning the CAQ, including passing the specialty exam. More detailed policy information is available here.

CME Requirement

In the six years preceding the date of application for the specialty exam, PAs must earn a minimum of 75 credits of Category I CME focused on obstetrics and gynecology, with a minimum of 25 of those credits having been earned within two years prior to the date of exam application. The same 75 credits may also be used for maintenance of the PA-C credential.

Recommendations for CME Activities:

It is recommended that PAs choose a variety of CME activities that cover the breadth and depth of obstetrical and gynecological medical, surgery, and preventive practice throughout the lifespan.

Once PAs have completed the CME requirements for the CAQ, they’ll attest to this online in their personal certification record.

Experience Requirement

PAs seeking the Obstetrics and Gynecology CAQ must document a minimum of 2,000 hours (the equivalent of one year of full-time experience) of practice providing obstetrical and gynecologic care.

Procedures/Patient Case Requirement

PAs must provide an attestation from a physician, lead/senior PA, or physician/PA post graduate program director who works in the specialty and is familiar with your practice and experience within 90 days after your receive your CAQ score. More details are listed in the required attestation form here.

Exam Requirement 

Once PAs have satisfied other requirements for the Obstetrics and Gynecology CAQ, they are eligible to apply for the OBGYN CAQ Exam. The inaugural administration of the OBGYN CAQ exam will be offered nationwide beginning the Spring of 2024 at Pearson VUE testing centers. This exam will consist of 120 multiple-choice questions related to obstetrics and gynecologic topics and targeted for PAs with one year of OBGYN experience. It is based on the Content Blueprint.

This What to Expect on Test Day  document will be helpful to those preparing for this exam as well.

Maintaining the Obstetrics and Gynecology CAQ

Exams for maintaining a CAQ are administered both online and in the Pearson VUE Test Center

The Obstetrics and Gynecology CAQ will be valid for ten years. To maintain the CAQ beyond that timeframe, PAs must continue to meet the same PA-C and licensure requirements required of those seeking the CAQ for the first time, pass the OBGYN CAQ Exam before the expiration of the current CAQ, and — during the ten-year CAQ cycle — earn and log at least 125 credits of Category I CME focused on the specialty. The same 125 credits may also be logged to maintain the PA-C credential.

Other Policies

Auditing

To ensure the reliability and accuracy of the CAQ and maintenance processes, NCCPA may audit the requirements of PAs who have applied for a CAQ or have successfully completed the CAQ process. PAs who fail the audit or refuse to submit to an audit may be subject to loss of the CAQ and/or other disciplinary actions as deemed appropriate by NCCPA and in accordance with the Policy and Procedures for Disciplinary Review.

Loss of Eligibility

PAs who lose eligibility for a CAQ after submitting the application and fee will be deemed ineligible and restricted from registering for the exam or from maintenance of CAQ activity or will be withdrawn from the examination or maintenance activity if registration has already been processed.

Financial Requirements

PAs must submit any outstanding fees to NCCPA prior to becoming eligible to apply for a CAQ or for CAQ maintenance.

If a PA loses eligibility for a CAQ or CAQ maintenance after submitting the application and fees or if, at any time, it is determined that a PA provided incorrect eligibility information on any NCCPA application, the PA forfeits all fees.

Exam Results

Results from the CAQ exams will be released to examinees after NCCPA has completed all scoring and validation processes. PAs may not register to repeat an examination if they have scores pending from a previous administration of the same examination. If a PA is deemed ineligible for the CAQ after taking the exam but prior to the release of exam results, the exam results will be invalidated and not reported to the PA.

Disciplinary Review

Nothing in this policy shall limit or prevent NCCPA from imposing sanctions as set forth in its Policy and Procedures for Disciplinary Review.

Regaining a Certificate of Added Qualifications

PAs who lose a CAQ due to the expiration of their PA-C certification may reinstate their CAQ upon regaining their PA-C certification, as long as the original or most recent CAQ expiration date has not passed, and the PA meets the licensure/federal privilege requirements for the CAQ program. The CAQ will be reinstated for the period of time remaining in the CAQ maintenance period. PAs who lose a CAQ for any other reason, including NCCPA disciplinary actions, must begin the CAQ process anew by meeting the eligibility requirements for initial CAQs, including passing the CAQ examination, or may seek a reinstatement of their CAQ when they regain certification by filing a request for an exception to policy, as long as the CAQ expiration date has not passed and the PA meets the licensure/federal privilege requirements for the CAQ program.

Occupational Medicine (OM) CAQ

Earn a Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) in Occupational Medicine (OM) to show your advanced expertise in your specialty.

CAQ recipients seeking the following benefits have reaped rewards for their achievement:

  • Over 75% found or anticipate finding a new job.
  • Over 40% successfully sought a promotion.
  • 60% achieved or expect to increase their job responsibilities.
  • Over 50% received or anticipate receiving a pay increase, and 33% received a cash bonus.
  • Over 75% found the CAQ useful in documenting qualifications required for external accreditation.
  • Over 33% achieved or anticipated a broadening of their eligibility for reimbursement.
  • Almost 75% have received greater recognition or regard from physicians or other health care professionals.
  • 66% reported greater respect or acceptance from patients.

Earning a CAQ shows your employers that you are committed to your specialty, and the well-being of your patients. The window to begin submitting the non-exam requirements, via the PA Portal, are scheduled to begin by August 2024.

Still unsure? More details about the requirements are below.

Introduction and Prerequisites

PAs seeking the Occupational Medicine CAQ must show they have advanced knowledge and experience in Occupational Medicine beyond that expected of entry-level PAs or PAs working in a generalist practice. PAs applying for the CAQ examination must first meet requirements of earning specialty-specific CME and gaining experience in Occupational Medicine. They can begin the CAQ process by submitting at least one of these requirements and the $100 administrative fee. After initiating the process by submitting one of the requirements and the fee, PAs will  have six years to complete all four components for the CAQ, including passing the specialty exam.

PAs seeking the Occupational Medicine CAQ must also first satisfy two basic pre-requisites:  (1) current PA-C certification and (2) possession of a current, unrestricted license to practice as a PA in at least one jurisdiction in the United States or its territories, or unrestricted privileges to practice as a PA for a government agency. 

*If a PA holds licenses in multiple states, all the licenses must be unrestricted (more details can be found in the Policies Regarding the Certificates of Added Qualifications Program).

In support of the procedures and patient case requirement, each applicant must provide an attestation from a physician, lead/senior PA, or physician/PA post graduate program director who works in the specialty and is familiar with the PAs’ practice and experience. PAs may find it helpful, however, to secure such a sponsor at the beginning of the process for the purpose of seeking guidance on the pursuit of the other requirements.

CME Requirement

In the six years preceding the date of application for the CAQ exam, PAs must earn a minimum of 75 credits of Category I CME focused on Occupational Medicine practice, including 25 credits earned within the last two years. The same 75 credits may also be used for maintenance of the PA-C credential.

After completing the CME requirements for the CAQ, PAs may attest to this requirement through the online registration process that is accessed by logging into their personal certification record.

Recommendations for CME Activities:

PA leaders in the specialty provided input in developing the following CME recommendations for PAs interested in pursuing an Occupational Medicine CAQ.

  • PAs are recommended to complete CME activities that are sponsored or offered by organizations focused on Occupational Medicine and activities related to the regulations and guidelines applicable to Occupational Medicine.

How do you know if CME activities are related to the specialty? Use your best judgment. Keep in mind that the credits may be subject to a CME auditing process. If it is not immediately apparent that the credits are related to Occupational Medicine, you may be asked to provide a rationale for how the activity related to your practice.

Experience Requirement

PAs seeking the Occupational Medicine CAQ must have at least 2,000 hours of experience (the equivalent of one year of full-time practice) working as a PA in Occupational Medicine within six years of the date they attest to NCCPA that the experience requirement has been satisfied. If selected for an audit, documentation substantiating that work experience will be required.

Procedures/Patient Case Requirement

PAs must provide an attestation from a physician, lead/senior PA, or physician/PA post graduate program director who works in the specialty and is familiar with their practice and experience within 90 days after you receive your CAQ score. More details are listed in the required attestation form.

Occupational Medicine CAQ Exam Requirement

All exams for earning the initial CAQ are administered at Pearson VUE Test Centers.

Once PAs have satisfied the other non-exam requirements, they can apply for the Occupational Medicine CAQ Exam, which includes 120 multiple-choice questions targeted for PAs with experience in the specialty. The exam is based on the Content Blueprint, developed through a practice analysis conducted by NCCPA with feedback from PAs working in the specialty.

PAs who complete all the requirements for earning a CAQ are awarded the CAQ credential, which is valid for ten years. The PA must continue meeting the CAQ prerequisite licensure/federal privilege requirements and maintain their PA-C certification. PAs who have a current CAQ may display their NCCPA certification and CAQ credentials as follows: PA Name, PA-C, CAQ-OM. Individuals can verify the status of the CAQ credential on NCCPA’s website through the Verify Board Certification function.

Other Policies

Auditing

To ensure the reliability and accuracy of the processes for earning and maintaining a CAQ, NCCPA may audit the requirements of PAs who have applied for a CAQ or have successfully completed the CAQ process. PAs who fail the audit or refuse to submit to an audit may be subject to loss of the CAQ and/or other disciplinary actions as deemed appropriate by NCCPA and in accordance with the Policy and Procedures for PA Disciplinary Matters.

Loss of Eligibility

If a PA loses eligibility for a CAQ after submitting the application and fee, the PA will be deemed ineligible and restricted from registering for the exam or from any CAQ maintenance activity or will be withdrawn from the examination or maintenance activity if registration has already been processed.

Financial Requirements

PAs must submit any outstanding fees to NCCPA prior to becoming eligible to apply for a CAQ or for CAQ maintenance.

If a PA loses eligibility for a CAQ or CAQ maintenance after submitting the application and fees or if, at any time, it is determined that a PA provided incorrect eligibility information on any NCCPA application, the PA shall forfeit all fees.

Exam Scores

Scores from the CAQ exams will be released to examinees after NCCPA has completed all scoring and validation processes. PAs may not register to repeat an examination if they have scores pending from a previous administration of the same examination. If a PA is deemed ineligible for the CAQ after taking the exam but prior to the release of exam scores, the exam scores will be invalidated and not reported to the PA.

Disciplinary Review

Nothing in this policy shall limit or prevent NCCPA from imposing sanctions as set forth in its Policy and Procedures for PA Disciplinary Matters.

Regaining a Certificate of Added Qualifications

PAs who lose a CAQ due to the expiration of their PA-C certification may reinstate their CAQ upon regaining their PA-C certification, as long as the original or most recent CAQ expiration date has not passed, and the PA meets the licensure/federal privilege requirements for the CAQ program. The CAQ will be reinstated for the period remaining in the CAQ maintenance period. PAs who lose a CAQ for any other reason, including NCCPA disciplinary actions, must begin the CAQ process anew by meeting the eligibility requirements for initial CAQs, including passing the CAQ examination, or may seek reinstatement of their CAQ when they regain certification by filing a request for an

“I have been promoted and given higher pay and more responsibility since earning a CAQ.”

-Mark Wright, PA-C, CAQ-OS

Orthopaedic Surgery CAQ

Earn a Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) in Orthopaedic Surgery to show your advanced expertise in your specialty. 

CAQ recipients seeking the following benefits have reaped reward for their achievement:

  • Over 75% found or anticipate finding a new job
  • Over 40% successfully sought a promotion
  • 60% achieved or expect to increase their job responsibilities
  • Over 50% received or anticipate receiving a pay increase, and 33% received a cash bonus
  • Over 75% found the CAQ useful in documenting qualifications required for external accreditation
  • Over 33% achieved or anticipate a broadening of their eligibility for reimbursement
  • Almost 75% have received greater recognition or regard from physicians or other health care professionals
  • 66% reported greater respect or acceptance from patients

Earning a CAQ shows your employers that you are committed to your specialty. It demonstrates your dedication and passion to health care and the well-being of your patients.

Still unsure? Get a feel for the exam by reviewing some sample questions. Then read more about the requirements below.

Introduction and Prerequisites 

PAs seeking the Orthopaedic Surgery CAQ must demonstrate they have advanced knowledge and experience in orthopaedic surgery, above and beyond that expected of entry-level PAs or PAs working in a generalist practice. PAs seeking eligibility for the Orthopaedic Surgery Specialty Examination must meet requirements of specialty-specific CME and experience in the field. After initiating the CAQ process by submitting the requirements for one of the components and the $100 administrative fee, PAs will have six years within which to complete all four components for the CAQ, including passing the specialty exam.

PAs seeking the Orthopaedic Surgery CAQ must also first satisfy two basic pre-requisites: (1) current PA-C certification and (2) possession of a valid, unrestricted license to practice as a PA in at least one jurisdiction in the United States or its territories, or unrestricted privileges to practice as a PA for a government agency. (Note: If a PA holds licenses in multiple states, all of the licenses must be unrestricted.) The licensure prerequisite is addressed more fully here.

In support of the procedures and patient case requirement, each applicant must provide attestation from a physician, lead/senior PA, or physician/PA post graduate program director who works in the specialty and is familiar with the PAs’ practice and experience. PAs may find it helpful, however, to secure such a sponsor at the beginning of the process for the purpose of seeking guidance on the pursuit of the other requirements.

CME Requirement 

In the six years preceding the date of application for the specialty exam, candidates must earn a minimum of 75 credits of Category I CME focused on orthopaedic surgery practice with a minimum of 25 of those credits having been earned within the two years prior to the date of exam application. The same 75 credits may also be used for maintenance of the PA-C credential.

PAs are encouraged to use their best judgment when determining whether individual CME activities are related to orthopaedic surgery, understanding that those credits may be subject to a CME auditing process.

Upon fulfillment of all CME requirements, candidates will attest to their completion at NCCPA’s website.

Recommendations for CME Activities:
Physician and PA orthopaedic surgery leaders provided input in developing the following CME recommendations for PAs interested in pursuing a CAQ in that specialty.

Applicants should complete CME activities that are focused in orthopaedic surgery and at the level appropriate for a PA practicing in the specialty.

Experience Requirement

PAs seeking the Orthopaedic Surgery CAQ must have gained at least 4,000 hours of experience (the equivalent of two years of full-time practice) working as a PA in that specialty within six years of the date they attest to NCCPA that the experience requirement has been satisfied. If selected for an audit, documentation substantiating that work experience will be required.

Procedures/Patient Case Requirement

PAs must provide an attestation from a physician, lead/senior PA, or physician/PA post graduate program director who works in the specialty and is familiar with your practice and experience within 90 days after your receive your CAQ score. More details are listed in the required attestation form here.

The Orthopaedic Surgery Specialty Exam

Once PAs have satisfied other requirements for the Orthopaedic Surgery CAQ, they can apply for the Orthopaedic Surgery Specialty Exam — 120 multiple-choice questions related to orthopaedic surgery targeted for PAs with experience in the practice of that specialty. It will be based on the Content Blueprint, developed using data gathered during the 2023 PA Practice Analysis conducted by NCCPA.

To review sample questions, click here.

Earning a Orthopaedic Surgery CAQ

All exams for earning the initial CAQ are administered at Pearson VUE Test Centers. 

Maintaining the Orthopaedic Surgery CAQ

Exams for maintaining a CAQ are administered both online and in the Pearson VUE Test Center

The Orthopaedic Surgery CAQ awarded to successful candidates will be valid for ten years. To maintain the CAQ beyond that timeframe, PAs must continue to meet the same PA-C and licensure requirements required of those seeking the CAQ for the first time, pass the Orthopaedic Surgery Specialty Examination before the expiration of the current CAQ, and — during the ten-year CAQ cycle — earn and log at least 125 credits of Category I CME focused on the specialty. Those CME credits may also be used to satisfy the CME requirement for maintenance of the PA-C credential.

Other Policies

Auditing

To ensure the reliability and accuracy of the CAQ and maintenance processes, NCCPA may audit the requirements of PAs who have applied for a CAQ or have successfully completed the CAQ process. PAs who fail the audit or refuse to submit to an audit may be subject to loss of the CAQ and/or other disciplinary actions as deemed appropriate by NCCPA and in accordance with the Policy and Procedures for Disciplinary Review.

Loss of Eligibility

If a PA loses eligibility for a CAQ after submitting the application and fee, he or she will be deemed ineligible and restricted from registering for the exam or from maintenance of CAQ activity, or will be withdrawn from the examination or maintenance activity if registration has already been processed.

Financial Requirements

PAs must fulfill all outstanding financial debts and any applicable fees to NCCPA prior to becoming eligible to apply for a CAQ or for CAQ maintenance.

If a PA loses eligibility for a CAQ or CAQ maintenance after submitting the respective application and fees or if, at any time, it is determined that a PA provided incorrect eligibility information on any NCCPA application, the PA shall forfeit all fees.

Exam Scores

Scores from the CAQ exams will be released to examinees after NCCPA has completed all scoring and validation processes. PAs may not register to repeat an examination if they have scores pending from a previous administration of the same examination. If a PA is deemed ineligible for the CAQ after taking the exam but prior to the release of exam scores, the exam scores will be invalidated and not reported to the PA.

Disciplinary Review

Nothing in this policy shall limit or prevent NCCPA from imposing sanctions as set forth in its Policy and Procedures for Disciplinary Review.

Regaining a Certificate of Added Qualifications

PAs who lose a CAQ due to the expiration of their PA-C certification may reinstate their CAQ upon regaining their PA-C certification, as long as the original or most recent CAQ expiration date has not passed and the PA meets the licensure/federal privilege requirements for the CAQ program. The CAQ will be reinstated for the period of time remaining in the CAQ maintenance period. PAs who lose a CAQ for any other reason, including NCCPA disciplinary actions, must begin the CAQ process anew by meeting the eligibility requirements for initial CAQs, including passing the CAQ examination, or may seek a reinstatement of their CAQ when they regain certification by filing a request for an exception to policy, as long as the CAQ expiration date has not passed and the PAs meets the licensure/federal privilege requirements for the CAQ program.

“I feel having a CAQ in pediatrics is a testament to my commitment to the  field, my fellow physicians and patients I work with on a daily basis. I feel it is  important as a PA to show my interest and dedication in  pursuing my education in pediatrics and the Pediatrics CAQ is the perfect opportunity.”

-Lauren Donaldson, PA-C, CAQ-Peds

Pediatrics CAQ

Earn a Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) in Pediatrics to show your advanced expertise in your specialty. 

CAQ recipients seeking the following benefits have reaped reward for their achievement:

  • Over 75% found or anticipate finding a new job
  • Over 40% successfully sought a promotion
  • 60% achieved or expect to increase their job responsibilities
  • Over 50% received or anticipate receiving a pay increase, and 33% received a cash bonus
  • Over 75% found the CAQ useful in documenting qualifications required for external accreditation
  • Over 33% achieved or anticipate a broadening of their eligibility for reimbursement
  • Almost 75% have received greater recognition or regard from physicians or other health care professionals
  • 66% reported greater respect or acceptance from patients

Earning a CAQ shows your employers that you are committed to your specialty. It demonstrates your dedication and passion to health care and the well-being of your patients.

Introduction and Prerequisites

PAs seeking the Pediatrics CAQ must demonstrate they have advanced knowledge and experience in pediatrics, above and beyond that expected of entry-level PAs or PAs working in a generalist practice. PAs seeking eligibility for the Pediatrics Specialty Examination must meet requirements of specialty-specific CME and experience in the field. After initiating the CAQ process by submitting the requirements for one of the components and the $100 administrative fee, PAs will have six years within which to complete all four components for the CAQ, including passing the specialty exam.

PAs seeking the Pediatrics CAQ must also first satisfy two basic pre-requisites: (1) current PA-C certification and (2) possession of a valid, unrestricted license to practice as a PA in at least one jurisdiction in the United States or its territories, or unrestricted privileges to practice as a PA for a government agency. (Note: If a PA holds licenses in multiple states, all of the licenses must be unrestricted.) The licensure prerequisite is addressed more fully here.

In support of the procedures and patient case requirement, each applicant must provide attestation from a physician, lead/senior PA, or physician/PA post graduate program director who works in the specialty and is familiar with the PAs’ practice and experience. PAs may find it helpful, however, to secure such a sponsor at the beginning of the process for the purpose of seeking guidance on the pursuit of the other requirements.

CME Requirement

In the six years preceding the date of application for the specialty exam, PAs must earn a minimum of 75 credits of Category I CME focused on pediatric practice with a minimum of 25 of those credits having been earned within the two years prior to the date of exam application. The same 75 credits may also be used for maintenance of the PA-C credential.

PAs are encouraged to use their best judgment when determining whether individual CME activities are related to pediatrics, understanding that those hours may be subject to a CME auditing process.

Upon fulfillment of all CME requirements, candidates will attest to their completion at NCCPA’s website.

Experience Requirement

PAs seeking the Pediatrics CAQ must have gained at least 4,000 hours of experience (the equivalent of two years of full-time practice) working as a PA in that specialty within six years of the date they attest to NCCPA that the experience requirement has been satisfied. If selected for an audit, documentation substantiating that work experience will be required.

Procedures/Patient Case Requirement

PAs must provide an attestation from a physician, lead/senior PA, or physician/PA post graduate program director who works in the specialty and is familiar with your practice and experience within 90 days after your receive your CAQ score. More details are listed in the required attestation form here.

The Pediatrics Specialty Exam

Once PAs have satisfied other requirements for the Pediatrics CAQ, they can apply for the Pediatrics Specialty Exam — 120 multiple-choice questions related to pediatrics targeted for PAs with experience in the practice of that specialty. It will be based on the Content Blueprint, developed using data gathered during the 2012-2015 PA Practice Analysis conducted by NCCPA.

To review sample questions, click here.

Earning a Pediatrics CAQ

All exams for earning the initial CAQ are administered at Pearson VUE Test Centers. 

Maintaining the Pediatrics CAQ

Exams for maintaining a CAQ are administered both online and in the Pearson VUE Test Center

The Pediatrics CAQ awarded to successful candidates will be valid for ten years. To maintain the CAQ beyond that timeframe, PAs must continue to meet the same PA-C and licensure requirements required of those seeking the CAQ for the first time, pass the Pediatrics Specialty Exam before the expiration of the current CAQ, and — during the ten-year CAQ cycle — earn and log at least 125 credits of Category I CME focused on the specialty. Those CME credits may also be used to satisfy the CME requirement for maintenance of the PA-C credential.

Other Policies

Auditing

To ensure the reliability and accuracy of the CAQ and maintenance processes, NCCPA may audit the requirements of PAs who have applied for a CAQ or have successfully completed the CAQ process. PAs who fail the audit or refuse to submit to an audit may be subject to loss of the CAQ and/or other disciplinary actions as deemed appropriate by NCCPA and in accordance with the Policy and Procedures for Disciplinary Review.

Loss of Eligibility

If a PA loses eligibility for a CAQ after submitting the application and fee, he or she will be deemed ineligible and restricted from registering for the exam or from maintenance of CAQ activity, or will be withdrawn from the examination or maintenance activity if registration has already been processed.

Financial Requirements

PAs must fulfill all outstanding financial debts and any applicable fees to NCCPA prior to becoming eligible to apply for a CAQ or for CAQ maintenance.

If a PA loses eligibility for a CAQ or CAQ maintenance after submitting the respective application and fees or if, at any time, it is determined that a PA provided incorrect eligibility information on any NCCPA application, the PA shall forfeit all fees.

Exam Scores

Scores from the CAQ exams will be released to examinees after NCCPA has completed all scoring and validation processes.  PAs may not register to repeat an examination if they have scores pending from a previous administration of the same examination. If a PA is deemed ineligible for the CAQ after taking the exam but prior to the release of exam scores, the exam scores will be invalidated and not reported to the PA.

Disciplinary Review

Nothing in this policy shall limit or prevent NCCPA from imposing sanctions as set forth in its Policy and Procedures for Disciplinary Review.

Regaining a Certificate of Added Qualifications

PAs who lose a CAQ due to the expiration of their PA-C certification may reinstate their CAQ upon regaining their PA-C certification, as long as the original or most recent CAQ expiration date has not passed and the PA meets the licensure/federal privilege requirements for the CAQ program. The CAQ will be reinstated for the period of time remaining in the CAQ maintenance period. PAs who lose a CAQ for any other reason, including NCCPA disciplinary actions, must begin the CAQ process anew by meeting the eligibility requirements for initial CAQs, including passing the CAQ examination, or may seek a reinstatement of their CAQ when they regain certification by filing a request for an exception to policy, as long as the CAQ expiration date has not passed and the PAs meets the licensure/federal privilege requirements for the CAQ program.

Palliative Medicine and Hospice Care (PMHC) CAQ

Earn a Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) in Palliative Medicine and Hospice Care (PMHC) to show your advanced expertise in your specialty.

CAQ recipients seeking the following benefits have reaped reward for their achievement:

  • Over 75% found or anticipate finding a new job
  • Over 40% successfully sought a promotion
  • 60% achieved or expect to increase their job responsibilities
  • Over 50% received or anticipate receiving a pay increase, and 33% received a cash bonus
  • Over 75% found the CAQ useful in documenting qualifications required for external accreditation
  • Over 33% achieved or anticipate a broadening of their eligibility for reimbursement
  • Almost 75% have received greater recognition or regard from physicians or other health care professionals
  • 66% reported greater respect or acceptance from patients

Earning a CAQ shows your employers that you are committed to your specialty. It demonstrates your dedication and passion to health care and the well-being of your patients.

Still unsure? Read more about the requirements below.

Introduction and Prerequisites

Palliative medicine and hospice care focus on the physical, psycho-social, cultural, and spiritual aspects of serious illness. Palliative care is person/family-centered, aligning a person’s values to possible treatments and interventions with the goal to relieve suffering. Through early integration of service, an effort is made to improve quality of life, for the patient and their family.

The Palliative Medicine and Hospice Care (PMHC) CAQ program is applicable to all PAs who practice in diverse specialties such as palliative medicine and hospice care, critical care, emergency medicine, family medicine, general internal medicine, general pediatrics, geriatrics, hospital medicine, nephrology, neurology, oncology, etc. and in a wide range of settings, such as private practices, health systems medical groups, cancer centers, dialysis centers, hospitals, long-term care facilities, and hospices may routinely rely on palliative care skills and knowledge in caring for their patients.

PAs who wish to earn the Palliative Medicine and Hospice Care CAQ must demonstrate they have knowledge and experience in palliative medicine and hospice care, above and beyond that expected of entry-level PAs or experienced PAs who are new to this area of care. Earning a PMHC CAQ will help PAs who want to document their experience and knowledge and/or who are required to have such a credential for privileges or reimbursement in this specialty area.

PAs seeking the PMHC CAQ must first satisfy two basic pre-requisites: (1) current PA-C certification and (2) possession of a valid, unrestricted license to practice as a PA in at least one jurisdiction in the United States or its territories, or unrestricted privileges to practice as a PA for a government agency. (Note: If a PA holds licenses in multiple states, all of the licenses must be unrestricted.) The licensure prerequisite is addressed more fully here.

In addition to these prerequisites, PAs must have specialty-specific CME, experience in the field, and pass a PMHC CAQ exam. In support of the procedures and patient case requirement, each applicant must provide attestation from a physician, lead/senior PA, or physician/PA post graduate program director who works in the specialty and is familiar with the PAs’ practice and experience. PAs may find it helpful, however, to secure such a sponsor at the beginning of the process for the purpose of seeking guidance on the pursuit of the other requirements.

CME Requirement

In the six years preceding the date of application for the specialty exam, PAs must earn a minimum of 75 credits of Category I CME focused on palliative medicine and hospice care, with a minimum of 25 of those credits having been earned within two years prior to the date of exam application. The 75 credits must include an activity related to the safe and effective prescribing of opioids, and the CME credits used for earning a CAQ may also be used for maintaining the PA-C credential.

Recommendations for CME Activities:

PA and physician leaders working in palliative medicine and hospice care provided input in developing the following recommendations for CME activities for PAs interested in pursuing the Palliative Medicine and Hospice Care CAQ:

  • Advanced Care Planning
  • CME sessions offered by palliative medicine and hospice care organizations
  • Certificate courses, graduate level courses, fellowship programs, etc.

How do you know if CME activities are related to palliative medicine and hospice care? Use your best judgment. (Keep in mind that the credits may be subject to a CME auditing process.)

Once PAs have completed the CME requirements for the CAQ, they’ll attest to this online at their personal certification record.

Experience Requirement

PAs seeking the Palliative Medicine and Hospice Care CAQ must document a minimum of 2,000 hours of experience (the equivalent of one year of full-time practice) providing palliative medicine and/or hospice care to patients with serious and life-threatening illnesses and advanced/serious chronic health within six years of the date they provide their attestation to NCCPA. If selected for an audit, documentation substantiating that work experience will be required. Although not required by NCCPA, it may be beneficial for PAs to create a log of knowledge, skills, and patient management experiences.

Procedures/Patient Case Requirement

PAs must provide an attestation from a physician, lead/senior PA, or physician/PA post graduate program director who works in the specialty and is familiar with your practice and experience within 90 days after your receive your CAQ score. More details are listed in the required attestation form here.

Exam Requirement 

Once PAs have satisfied other requirements for the Palliative Medicine and Hospice Care CAQ, they are eligible to apply for the PMHC CAQ exam. This exam will consist of 120-multiple-choice questions related to palliative medicine and hospice care and targeted for PAs with experience in this area.

The Content Blueprint for the PHMC CAQ exam can be found here.

Earning a Palliative Medicine and Hospice Care CAQ

All exams for earning the initial CAQ are administered at Pearson VUE Test Centers. 

Maintaining the Palliative Medicine and Hospice Care CAQ

Exams for maintaining a CAQ are administered both online and in the Pearson VUE Test Center

The Palliative Medicine and Hospice Care CAQ will be valid for ten years. To maintain the CAQ beyond that timeframe, PAs must continue to meet the same PA-C and licensure requirements required of those seeking the CAQ for the first time, pass the PMHC CAQ Exam before the expiration of the current CAQ, and — during the ten-year CAQ cycle — earn and log at least 125 credits of Category I CME focused on the specialty. The same 125 credits may also be logged to maintain the PA-C credential.

Other Policies

Auditing

To ensure the reliability and accuracy of the CAQ and maintenance processes, NCCPA may audit the requirements of PAs who have applied for a CAQ or have successfully completed the CAQ process. PAs who fail the audit or refuse to submit to an audit may be subject to loss of the CAQ and/or other disciplinary actions as deemed appropriate by NCCPA and in accordance with the Policy and Procedures for Disciplinary Review.

Loss of Eligibility

PAs who lose eligibility for a CAQ after submitting the application and fee will be deemed ineligible and restricted from registering for the exam or from maintenance of CAQ activity, or will be withdrawn from the examination or maintenance activity if registration has already been processed.

Financial Requirements

PAs must submit any outstanding fees to NCCPA prior to becoming eligible to apply for a CAQ or for CAQ maintenance.

If a PA loses eligibility for a CAQ or CAQ maintenance after submitting the application and fees or if, at any time, it is determined that a PA provided incorrect eligibility information on any NCCPA application, the PA forfeits all fees.

Exam Results

Results from the CAQ exams will be released to examinees after NCCPA has completed all scoring and validation processes. PAs may not register to repeat an examination if they have scores pending from a previous administration of the same examination. If a PA is deemed ineligible for the CAQ after taking the exam but prior to the release of exam results, the exam results will be invalidated and not reported to the PA.

Disciplinary Review

Nothing in this policy shall limit or prevent NCCPA from imposing sanctions as set forth in its Policy and Procedures for Disciplinary Review.

Regaining a Certificate of Added Qualifications

PAs who lose a CAQ due to the expiration of their PA-C certification may reinstate their CAQ upon regaining their PA-C certification, as long as the original or most recent CAQ expiration date has not passed and the PA meets the licensure/federal privilege requirements for the CAQ program. The CAQ will be reinstated for the period of time remaining in the CAQ maintenance period. PAs who lose a CAQ for any other reason, including NCCPA disciplinary actions, must begin the CAQ process anew by meeting the eligibility requirements for initial CAQs, including passing the CAQ examination, or may seek a reinstatement of their CAQ when they regain certification by filing a request for an exception to policy, as long as the CAQ expiration date has not passed and the PA meets the licensure/federal privilege requirements for the CAQ program

Psychiatry CAQ

Earn a Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) in Psychiatry to show your advanced expertise in your specialty. 

CAQ recipients seeking the following benefits have reaped reward for their achievement:

  • Over 75% found or anticipate finding a new job
  • Over 40% successfully sought a promotion
  • 60% achieved or expect to increase their job responsibilities
  • Over 50% received or anticipate receiving a pay increase, and 33% received a cash bonus
  • Over 75% found the CAQ useful in documenting qualifications required for external accreditation
  • Over 33% achieved or anticipate a broadening of their eligibility for reimbursement
  • Almost 75% have received greater recognition or regard from physicians or other health care professionals
  • 66% reported greater respect or acceptance from patients

Earning a CAQ shows your employers that you are committed to your specialty. It demonstrates your dedication and passion to health care and the well-being of your patients.

Still unsure? Get a feel for the exam by reviewing some sample questions. Then read more about the requirements below.

Introduction and Prerequisites

PAs seeking the Psychiatry CAQ must demonstrate they have advanced knowledge and experience in psychiatry, above and beyond that expected of entry-level PAs or PAs working in a generalist practice. PAs seeking eligibility for the Psychiatry Specialty Examination must meet requirements of specialty-specific CME and experience in the field. After initiating the CAQ process by submitting the requirements for one of the components and the $100 administrative fee, PAs will have six years within which to complete all four components for the CAQ, including passing the specialty exam.

PAs seeking the Psychiatry CAQ must also first satisfy two basic pre-requisites: (1) current PA-C certification and (2) possession of a valid, unrestricted license to practice as a PA in at least one jurisdiction in the United States or its territories, or unrestricted privileges to practice as a PA for a government agency. (Note: If a PA holds licenses in multiple states, all of the licenses must be unrestricted.) The licensure prerequisite is addressed more fully here.

In support of the procedures and patient case requirement, each applicant must provide attestation from a physician, lead/senior PA, or physician/PA post graduate program director who works in the specialty and is familiar with the PAs’ practice and experience. PAs may find it helpful, however, to secure such a sponsor at the beginning of the process for the purpose of seeking guidance on the pursuit of the other requirements.

CME Requirement

In the six years preceding the date of application for the specialty exam, PAs must earn a minimum of 75 credits of Category I CME focused on psychiatry practice with a minimum of 25 of those credits having been earned within the two years prior to the date of exam application. The same 75 credits may also be used for maintenance of the PA-C credential.

PAs are encouraged to use their best judgment when determining whether individual CME activities are related to psychiatry, understanding that those hours may be subject to a CME auditing process.

Upon fulfillment of all CME requirements, candidates will attest to their completion at NCCPA’s website.

Recommendations for CME Activities:
Physician and PA psychiatry leaders provided input in developing the following CME recommendations for PAs interested in pursuing a CAQ in that specialty.

Applicants should complete CME activities that are focused in psychiatry and at the level appropriate for a PA practicing in the specialty.

Experience Requirement

PAs seeking the Psychiatry CAQ must have gained at least 2,000 hours of experience (the equivalent of one year of full-time practice) working as a PA in that specialty within six years of the date they attest to NCCPA that the experience requirement has been satisfied. If selected for an audit, documentation substantiating that work experience will be required.

Procedures/Patient Case Requirement

PAs must provide an attestation from a physician, lead/senior PA, or physician/PA post graduate program director who works in the specialty and is familiar with your practice and experience within 90 days after your receive your CAQ score. More details are listed in the required attestation form here.

The Psychiatry Specialty Exam

Once PAs have satisfied other requirements for the Psychiatry CAQ, they can apply for the Psychiatry Specialty Exam — 120 multiple-choice questions related to psychiatry targeted for PAs with experience in the practice of that specialty. It will be based on the Content Blueprint, developed using data gathered during the 2023 PA Practice Analysis conducted by NCCPA.

To review sample questions, click here.

Earning a Psychiatry CAQ

All exams for earning the initial CAQ are administered at Pearson VUE Test Centers. 

Maintaining the Psychiatry CAQ

Exams for maintaining a CAQ are administered both online and in the Pearson VUE Test Center

The Psychiatry CAQ awarded to successful candidates will be valid for ten years. To maintain the CAQ beyond that timeframe, PAs must continue to meet the same PA-C and licensure requirements required of those seeking the CAQ for the first time, pass the Psychiatry Specialty Exam before the expiration of the current CAQ, and — during the ten-year CAQ cycle — earn and log at least 125 credits of Category I CME focused on the specialty. Those CME credits may also be used to satisfy the CME requirement for maintenance of the PA-C credential.

Other Policies

Auditing

To ensure the reliability and accuracy of the CAQ and maintenance processes, NCCPA may audit the requirements of PAs who have applied for a CAQ or have successfully completed the CAQ process. PAs who fail the audit or refuse to submit to an audit may be subject to loss of the CAQ and/or other disciplinary actions as deemed appropriate by NCCPA and in accordance with the Policy and Procedures for Disciplinary Review.

Loss of Eligibility

If a PA loses eligibility for a CAQ after submitting the application and fee, he or she will be deemed ineligible and restricted from registering for the exam or from maintenance of CAQ activity, or will be withdrawn from the examination or maintenance activity if registration has already been processed.

Financial Requirements

PAs must fulfill all outstanding financial debts and any applicable fees to NCCPA prior to becoming eligible to apply for a CAQ or for CAQ maintenance.

If a PA loses eligibility for a CAQ or CAQ maintenance after submitting the respective application and fees or if, at any time, it is determined that a PA provided incorrect eligibility information on any NCCPA application, the PA shall forfeit all fees.

Exam Scores

Scores from the CAQ exams will be released to examinees after NCCPA has completed all scoring and validation processes. PAs may not register to repeat an examination if they have scores pending from a previous administration of the same examination. If a PA is deemed ineligible for the CAQ after taking the exam but prior to the release of exam scores, the exam scores will be invalidated and not reported to the PA.

Disciplinary Review

Nothing in this policy shall limit or prevent NCCPA from imposing sanctions as set forth in its Policy and Procedures for Disciplinary Review.

Regaining a Certificate of Added Qualifications

PAs who lose a CAQ due to the expiration of their PA-C certification may reinstate their CAQ upon regaining their PA-C certification, as long as the original or most recent CAQ expiration date has not passed and the PA meets the licensure/federal privilege requirements for the CAQ program. The CAQ will be reinstated for the period of time remaining in the CAQ maintenance period. PAs who lose a CAQ for any other reason, including NCCPA disciplinary actions, must begin the CAQ process anew by meeting the eligibility requirements for initial CAQs, including passing the CAQ examination, or may seek a reinstatement of their CAQ when they regain certification by filing a request for an exception to policy, as long as the CAQ expiration date has not passed and the PAs meets the licensure/federal privilege requirements for the CAQ program.

Specialty Certificates Resources

Specialty Certificates FAQs

Read FAQs about the Certificate of Added Qualifications program.

Earning a CAQ allows PAs to achieve recognition for their specialty experience, skills and knowledge. The CAQ offers PAs a credential to effectively document their specialty experience and expertise. Over time, we expect this will help PAs remain competitive in environments where credentials are increasingly important.

The CAQ reflects the fact that PAs are grounded first in primary care or generalist practice, a base of training and knowledge that is augmented but not replaced through specialization. The CAQ is something that PAs earn above and beyond the PA-C, which remains the foundational credential for the PA profession.

Further, while NCCPA hopes that PAs practicing in specialties will choose to participate in the CAQ program, we wanted to take every measure possible to ensure that it was a voluntary credential. We believe the CAQ is less likely to trigger automatic changes in credentialing or privileging requirements in many hospital settings.

The NCCPA Board of Directors chose the specialties based on information about the need for specialty credentials that NCCPA received from PAs practicing in these specialty areas and from leaders of the specialty organizations serving those PAs. We also considered a host of other factors, including the number of PAs practicing in the specialty, mobility trends into and out of the specialty, the criticality of the patient population served, and the degree to which the specialty is hospital-based.

PAs may register for a CAQ in the following specialties:

  • Cardiovascular/Thoracic Surgery
  • Dermatology
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Hospital Medicine
  • Nephrology
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Orthopaedic Surgery
  • Palliative Medicine and Hospice Care
  • Pediatrics
  • Psychiatry
  • Occupational Medicine (coming in 2025)

The total cost is $350. There are two fees associated with earning the CAQ. The $100 registration fee is due when you submit your first non-exam requirement (specialty CME, experience, and procedures/patient cases). When you apply for the exam, you will need to submit the $250 exam fee. (Note: PAs who fail the exam and are still within the six-year eligibility period for completing their CAQ will only need to submit the exam application fee when retaking the exam.)

Yes. Having a current PA-C status is one of the two basic eligibility requirements for earning and maintaining a CAQ. For additional information on all the requirements, please refer to the Governing Policies Regarding the Certificate of Added Qualifications Program.

Yes, PAs can register for, and earn, more than one specialty CAQ at a time. However, they must meet the specific requirements for each specialty CAQ.

Before PAs can apply to take the CAQ exam, they must first meet the two basic eligibility requirements: valid unrestricted licensure and current PA-C status. In addition, they must also have completed two other core requirements (specialty CME and experience.) The procedures/patient cases attestation must be submitted within 90 days after receiving a CAQ score. For additional information on these requirements, please refer to the Governing Policies Regarding the Certificate of Added Qualifications Program.

From the time PAs submit their $100 registration fee and satisfy the first requirement, they have six years within which they must complete the CAQ process. However, if they have been working in the specialty and can complete all the non-exam requirements together, they may submit all of those requirements at once and then apply for the exam when the CAQ exam application period opens.

Yes. If PAs meet the PA-C and licensure requirements but are under disciplinary review by NCCPA, they will be allowed to participate in the CAQ process and will be allowed to apply and take the CAQ exam. However, the exam score, if applicable, will not be released and the CAQ, if applicable, will not be issued until a final decision has been made by NCCPA which satisfactorily resolves the disciplinary issue to NCCPA’s satisfaction.

Please refer to the Governing Policies Regarding the Certificate of Added Qualifications Program for more detailed information on this requirement.

Yes. If a PA loses his/her valid unrestricted licensure or current PA-C or government agency privileges for any reason, he/she will lose any CAQ that has been achieved. Once the valid unrestricted licensure or current PA-C or government agency privileges has been restored, the PA must begin the CAQ process anew by meeting the eligibility requirements for the initial CAQ, including passing the CAQ examination.

PAs will be able to print documentation of their progress from the CAQ Status section by signing in to their online record at www.nccpa.net.

If you lose your CAQ due to the expiration of your PA-C certification, you may reinstate your CAQ when you regain certification as long as the original or most recent CAQ expiration date has not passed and you meet the licensure/federal privilege requirements for the CAQ program.  Your CAQ will be reinstated for the period of time remaining in the CAQ maintenance period.

If you lose your CAQ for any other reason, you must begin the CAQ process anew by meeting the eligibility requirements for initial CAQ Qualifications, including passing the CAQ exam or you may seek a reinstatement of the CAQ when you regain your certification by filing a request for an exception to policy as long as the CAQ expiration date has not passed and you meet the licensure/federal privilege requirements for the CAQ program.

Upon successful completion of all requirements, PAs will be granted a CAQ that is valid for ten years, based on their continuing to meet the current PA-C and licensure requirements. The CAQ will expire on December 31 of the tenth year.

The two processes are independent of each other. The only time a PA’s initial ten-year cycle will coincide with the re-certification cycle is when the PA passes the CAQ exam during the tenth year of his or her re-certification cycle.

As with the audit processes for the PA-C credential, PAs will be randomly selected for the CAQ audit.

Since PAs are selected randomly for audits, it is possible for their PA-C certification maintenance requirements and CAQ requirements to be audited at the same time.

If an applicant loses his or her eligibility for a CAQ or CAQ maintenance after submitting the respective application and fees or if, at any time, it is determined that a PA provided incorrect eligibility information on any NCCPA application, the PA shall forfeit all fees.

Yes! After you receive notice that you have earned a CAQ, you can use the following designation along with your PA-C credential, depending on the CAQ you earned:

Cardiovascular/Thoracic Surgery CAQ: PA-C, CAQ-CVTS

Emergency Medicine: PA-C, CAQ-EM

Hospital Medicine: PA-C, CAQ-HM

Nephrology: PA-C, CAQ-Neph

Orthopaedic Surgery:  PA-C, CAQ-OS

Pediatrics: PA-C, CAQ-Peds

Psychiatry:  PA-C, CAQ-Psych

If your request to be withdrawn is received by NCCPA in writing within 30 days of registration, NCCPA will issue a full refund. If the request is not received in writing within 30 days of registering for the program, all fees paid to NCCPA for the CAQ will be forfeited; and you will have to submit another $100 registration fee when you re-apply for a future CAQ.

A PA must possess either (1) a valid, unrestricted license to practice as a PA in at least one jurisdiction in the United States or its territories or (2) unrestricted privileges to practice as a PA for a government agency. Further, if more than one PA license or government agency privilege is held, all of them must be valid and unrestricted. These requirements are described in greater detail in the eligibility section of the Governing Policies Regarding the Certificate of Added Qualifications Program.

PAs must submit the required information for any and all state licenses and/or government agency privileges that they hold. Further, if they have more than one PA license or government agency privilege, all of them must be valid and unrestricted. If NCCPA determines that a PA has submitted incomplete or inaccurate information regarding state licenses and/or government agency privilege, the PA may be subject to disciplinary review.

Physician assistants must provide information on all licenses and federal privileges to practice that are held by the physician assistant, and the licenses and federal privileges must be in compliance with the criteria listed in the eligibility section of the Governing Policies Regarding the Certificate of Added Qualifications Program. The status of all licenses and federal privileges to practice will be verified by NCCPA. A physician assistant registering for the CAQ process agrees to provide NCCPA with any and all requested information and the authority to request and receive further information to verify the license and/or federal privilege status. If, for any reason, the license and/or federal privilege to practice cannot be verified by NCCPA, the physician assistant may be deemed ineligible for the CAQ program. This information must be provided using the Licenses/Privileges link on their online record.

PAs must also attest to the statement, “I certify that my state license is active, unencumbered, and unrestricted and that the information above is true and correct.”

PAs must provide information on all licenses and federal privileges to practice that are held by the PA, and the licenses and federal privileges must be in compliance with the criteria listed in the eligibility section of the Governing Policies Regarding the Certificate of Added Qualifications ProgramThe status of all licenses and federal privileges to practice will be verified by NCCPA. A PA registering for the CAQ process agrees to provide NCCPA with any and all requested information and the authority to request and receive further information to verify the license and/or federal privilege status. If, for any reason, the license and/or federal privilege to practice cannot be verified by NCCPA, the PA may be deemed ineligible for the CAQ program. This information is entered through the Licenses/Privileges link on the CAQ section of their online record.

PAs must also attest that the federal/government privilege provided is active, unencumbered, and unrestricted and that the information is true and correct and that they acknowledge that their employer or previous employer must provide proof of the privilege by supplying documentation to NCCPA.’

In addition, PAs must request that the government agency provide NCCPA with verification of the privilege status.

PAs can download the Verification of Government Agency Privilege to Practice form  to be completed by the government agency and returned to NCCPA as verification of the government agency privilege.

For the initial CAQ, PAs must log 75 credits of Category I CME that is focused on their specialty and earned with six years prior to when they apply for the CAQ exam, and at least 25 of those credits must have been earned within two years of applying for the exam.  Each specialty also has specific CME requirements and recommendations. These requirements are listed in the appendix section of the Governing Policies Regarding the Certificate of Added Qualifications Program.

For meeting the CME requirement to earn the initial CAQ, the 75 credits of Category 1 CME must have been earned within six years prior to applying for the CAQ exam, and 25 of those credits must have been earned within two years of applying for the exam.

For CAQ maintenance, the 125 CME credits must be earned within the current ten-year CAQ cycle.

These requirements are listed in the Governing Policies Regarding the Certificate of Added Qualifications Program.

No. The exam does not qualify as a CME activity.

Preparing for a CAQ exam can be logged on an hour-for-hour basis as Category II CME for maintaining certification. Category II credits are not required or accepted for maintaining the CAQ.

Details for the experience requirement are provided in the Appendix of the Governing Policies Regarding the Certificate of Added Qualifications Program. The number of experience hours required varies by specialty and was developed with input from PAs and physicians working in the specialty. The experience hours must have been acquired during the six-year period prior to when the PA provides their attestation of the experience to NCCPA. Volunteer work and clinical experience gained in a post-graduate training program may also be counted for this requirement. The hours do not have to be congruent, but they must have occurred within the six-year period prior to your attestation. PAs selected for an audit will be required to provide documentation of their experience.

Please refer to the Governing Policies Regarding the Certificate of Added Qualifications Program for more detailed information on this requirement.

To fulfill the experience requirement, PAs must sign in to their online record at www.nccpa.net, and pay the $100 registration fee (if they have not already done so). Then they will need to read the attestation statement regarding the experience requirement and click on the button to attest that they have earned the required hours of experience within the previous six years.

The experience requirement for each specialty was developed based on recommendations from physicians and PAs practicing in each specialty.

Details for the procedures/patient case requirement are provided in the Appendix of the Governing Policies Regarding the Certificate of Added Qualifications Program. The procedure/patient case requirement varies by specialty and was developed with input from PAs and physicians working in the specialty. In support of this requirement, PAs must provide an attestation from a physician, lead/senior physician assistant, or physician/physician assistant post graduate program director who works in the specialty and is familiar with the PA’s practice and experience. The attestation of knowledge and skills must indicate that the PA has performed the procedures and patient management relevant to the practice setting and/or understands how and when the procedures should be performed.

Please refer to the Governing Policies Regarding the Certificate of Added Qualifications Program for more detailed information on this requirement.

To submit the procedure/patient case requirement, PAs must sign into their online record and pay the $100 registration fee (if they have not already done so). Then they will need to read the attestation statement regarding the procedure/patient case requirement and click on the button to attest that they have satisfied the requirement.

PAs will then need to acknowledge that they must also provide an attestation from a physician, lean/senior physician assistant, or physician/physician assistant post graduate program director who works in the specialty and is familiar with their practice and experience. The attestation of knowledge and skills must indicate that the PA has performed the procedures and patient management relevant to the practice setting and/or understands how and when the procedures should be performed. PAs can access the appropriate CAQ Attestation Form to present here. The attestation of knowledge and skills must be submitted to NCCPA.

The CAQ exam consists of 120 questions. PAs are provided with two hours of exam time, 15 minutes of break time and 15 minutes to take the tutorial.

The exam is currently offered twice a year. Information regarding exam administrations is available on each of the CAQ page of our web site.

Just like the PANCE and PANRE, the CAQ exams will be offered at Pearson VUE centers that are located throughout the U.S. and in select other countries. PAs can take the exam at a Pearson VUE location of their choice, based on availability.

The examination consists of 120 multiple-choice questions related to the specific specialty and targeted for PAs who have experience in the practice of that specialty. Content blueprints for each exam were developed using data gathered from NCCPA’s most recent practice analysis. PAs can access the blueprints from our website by visiting the CAQ page, and then selecting the specialty of their choice

If you fail the CAQ exam, you may apply for the next exam administration. Information regarding CAQ exam administrations can be found by accessing the specific CAQ  from the main CAQ page of our web site. Currently there are no limits on the number of times a PA can take the CAQ exam. However, PAs must pass the exam within six years of initiating the CAQ process or will be required to start the process for earning a CAQ anew. Also, PAs applying for a subsequent exam must continue to meet all of the CAQ eligibility requirements.

The CAQ exams are offered twice a year. If a PA fails the exam, he/she may register to take the next administration.

To see a list of the current practice exams, click here.

After your exam application has been processed and completed, you will receive an acknowledgement email providing details for scheduling the exam with Pearson VUE.

Specialty CME and the experience requirements must be met prior to applying for and taking the CAQ exam. In addition, PAs must also meet the basic requirements for licensure and have a current PA-C status. The procedures/patient case requirement can be submitted up to 90 days after receiving notification of the CAQ exam results.

In most cases, you would have to wait until the next administration to take the exam. However, if such a situation occurs, NCCPA may offer a make-up exam date depending on the extenuating circumstance and the number of PAs affected.

Yes. To maintain a CAQ, PAs must continue to meet the current PA-C and licensure and/or government agency requirements, earn and log at least 125 credits of Category 1 CME focused on the specialty over the ten-year cycle, and pass the CAQ exam prior to the expiration of their current ten-year cycle. (The CME hours may also be used to satisfy the PA-C requirements.)

For their CAQ maintenance exam, PAs may choose to take the CAQ at Pearson VUE test centers or may choose the online format.  Exams are offered at Pearson VUE centers in the Spring and Fall, and the online option is offered once per year in the Spring.

Yes, the exams administered at Pearson VUE test centers can be taken by PAs who are earning their CAQs or maintaining their CAQs.

The online maintenance exam is based on the same Content Blueprint and has the same number of test questions (120) as the exams administered at Pearson VUE.  However, with the online format, PAs are provided with 5 minutes per question and are permitted to use online or printed resources while taking the exam. The exam is open for a period of approximately six weeks each Spring, and PAs may answer questions at their convenience during that time, as long as all questions are completed by the exam deadline.

No, the CAQ exam does not replace the requirement of taking and passing the recertification exam (PANRE and PANRE-LA) and meeting the PA-C CME requirement to maintain NCCPA certification (PA-C).

No. NCCPA does not recommend specific study guides or review courses.

NCCPA will conduct analysis and validation activities before the scores are released. Therefore, scores will be released approximately eight to ten weeks after the exam administration.

The CAQ cycle is ten years.

To maintain the CAQ, PAs must continue to meet the current PA-C and licensure and/or government agency requirements, earn and log at least 125 credits of Category 1 CME focused on the specialty over the ten-year cycle, and pass the CAQ exam prior to the expiration of the current ten-year cycle. (The CME credits may also be used to satisfy the PA-C requirements.)

No, unlike the PA-C maintenance requirements that must be met every two years, the maintenance requirements for the CAQ may be submitted any time prior to the end of the ten-year cycle.

Since one of the requirements to maintain the CAQ is that PAs must continue to meet the current PA-C requirements and hold a valid certification, loss of the certification will result in loss of the CAQ.