Pediatric Physician Assistants

Are you a physician assistant (PA) who would like to specialize in pediatrics? Even if you aren’t yet an educated and licensed PA, you may already know that you want to work with younger populations once you begin your PA career. A pediatric Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) is an option you may want to consider as you work towards specialized practice. Earning the pediatrics CAQ will ensure that you work to get the experience and education that you need to be prepared to work in pediatrics, and having the credential will show others that you have gone above and beyond what is required of you to practice in this area. Interested in learning more? This guide will help you chart your path to earning a CAQ in pediatrics. 

What is a Certificate of Added Qualifications?

A CAQ from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) is a credential denoting specialized knowledge in an area of the medical field. To practice within a specialty as a PA, one does not need a CAQ, so having one shows that a PA has gone above and beyond to gain relevant experience and education in the chosen area of specialty. Typically, PAs are trained as generalists in school, so specialty experience is built on a generalist or primary care foundation.

How to Earn a Pediatrics Certificate of Added Qualifications as a Physician Assistant (PA)

Looking to become a CAQ in pediatrics? Here is what you need to do:

Step 1: Become a Certified Physician Assistant 

Credentials for specialization cannot be earned until a PA is practicing in the field. While different PA programs will expose students to various levels of specialized practice, the typical PA program is geared towards primary care or generalist education. After you become a PA who is licensed in at least one jurisdiction, you can start working towards the CAQ, so long that all of your licenses are valid and unrestricted. Looking to become a physician assistant? Check out our guide on how to become a licensed PA.

Step 2: Earn Continuing Medical Education (CME) Credits in Pediatrics

You need to earn 75 pediatric related CME credits in order to qualify for a CAQ in the specialty, within six years of starting your CAQ application. Of these 75 Category I credits, 25 must be earned within the two years directly preceding your application to take the exam. Deciding which CMEs are relevant to pediatrics requires your best judgment – look for programs related to pediatrics. 

According to the CCPA Pediatrics CAQ requirements, the credits you earn can also be used towards PA license renewal. It is important to keep proof of the credits you have earned so that you can produce evidence of course completion if you are audited.

Step 3: Earn Enough Experience Working in Pediatrics as a PA

While you gather the necessary continuing medical education (CME) credits, you will also need to get experience working in pediatrics as a physician assistant – 4,000 hours to be exact, according to the NCCPA Pediatrics CAQ requirements. This equates to two full years of full time practice and can be earned over the course of a maximum of six years before you attest to the NCCPA. Again, have proof that you did the necessary amount of work in the specialty!

Make sure that there is a qualifying professional (physician, senior physician assistant, or program director for a PA or MD program) who can attest that you have the skills and know how needed to practice in the pediatric specialty. They will need to know that you meet all of the NCCPA Pediatrics CAQ requirements. For the pediatrics specialty, the requirements are as follows:

  • Physical exams for infants, children, and adolescents
  • Pre and post operative management
  • Preventive health counseling
  • Lumbar puncture and venipuncture
  • IV administration
  • Central line insertion
  • Endotracheal intubation
  • Peripheral placement of IV catheter
  • Abscess incision and drainage
  • Bladder catheterization
  • Laceration repair
  • Tympanography
  • Foreign body removal
  • Spirometry
  • Vision and hearing screening
  • Splinting and casting
  • Circumcision
  • Adolescent medicine
  • Burn and wound care

Check with the NCCPA to make sure you are best prepared to get all the relevant experience you need.

Step 4: Take the Specialty Exam in Pediatrics

A 120 question multiple choice exam in pediatrics is also required for the CAQ. The exam can be taken in spring or fall and is given at Pearson VUE test centers. Education, experience, and CME requirements must be completed before taking the CAQ. The exam costs $250.

Step 5: Submit Attestation that You Meet the Procedures and Patient Case Requirement for Earning a Pediatrics CAQ

A qualifying professional (described above) will need to attest that you meet the requirements listed in step 3, and that you have the know-how, skills, and understanding required to practice the specialty. This attestation needs to be made and submitted within 90 days of receiving your CAQ exam score.

Step 6: Start the Pediatrics CAQ Application Process

If any one of the CAQ requirements are complete (CME credits, experience, procedure and patient case attestation, or exam), you can start the application process for the CAQ. It is not required that you have everything completed before starting, but you may prefer to wait until you have all of the requirements complete. Once you initiate the application you will have six years to complete it. You must pay a $100 application fee.

Why Earn a CAQ in Pediatrics?

PAs with CAQ qualifications report a variety of benefits, according to a survey by the NCCPA:

  • 60% of PAs report increase their practice scope with the CAQ
  • 33% of CAQ earners earn a cash bonus, and most increase their salary or expect to 
  • 75% of CAQs have found or expect to find a new job
  • 40% of CAQs have earned promotions.
  • 75% of CAQs find themselves more respected by other health professionals
  • 66% of CAQs find themselves more respected by patients.

Last updated February 2022.