7 Steps to Become a Physician Assistant in Canada

Here we discuss how to become a Certified Physician Assistant in Canada. Keep in mind this is a rough outline – the official Canadian Physician Assistant association and Physician Assistant programs in Canada have the most up to date information about PAs and admissions processes.

Step 1: Be a Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident of Canada

All Canadian PA Programs require you to be Canadian Citizens or Permanent Residents of Canada before you can consider applying.

Do not proceed forward if you do not meet this qualification.

The same rule still applies, you MUST be a Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident of Canada.

There are however American PA programs that do accept International students. To learn more, see my post:  Can International Students Apply to Canadian PA Schools?

If you are a Canadian Citizen or Permanent resident of Canada, you can move on to Step 2. 

Step 2: Fulfill PA Admission Requirements

Check the admission requirements for the program and ensure you take the appropriate courses (if applicable), have the health care experience hours (not all PA programs require hands on patient experience to apply), and achieve the minimum GPA to get in.

All PA programs in Canada currently require you to complete 2-4 years of undergraduate study (at the university level) in order to apply. The number of years or coursework completed depends on schools.

Like many professional health care programs (i.e. physiotherapy, dentistry, medicine, pharmacy, OT, etc.), getting into PA school is competitive. Make sure to also take steps to strengthen your PA admissions application.

There are 3 Canadian PA programs in Canada:

*Note:  To become a military PA you must first complete a civilian PA program, then apply to a Canadian Forces PA position where you’ll receive additional training to work in the military.

As long as you are a Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident of Canada, and you meet admission requirements you can still apply!

Follow instructions on my page: Can International Medical Graduates become Physician Assistants?

No. Currently you need 2-4 years of undergraduate study/university level coursework to apply to PA school. Each PA program is different when it comes to requirements.

Learn more about this step: 

Step 3: Apply to a PA Program, and get into PA School!

Submit all the appropriate paperwork (GPA transcripts, supplementary applications, proof of English speaking competency level if applicable). For specific requirements & deadlines please see websites above.

If successful for the first stage of admissions, you’ll get invited for the interview process. PA programs in Canada use the Multi-Mini Interview (MMI). Successful candidates are contacted shortly after with invitations to join the PA program.

Canadian PA Admissions Comparison Chart

Step 4: Complete a Physician Assistant program at an accredited Canadian PA school

PAs are educated on the same medical model that physicians undergo during their training within a physician directed and patient-centered healthcare team.

First year, is considered didactic year:

  • involves intensive coursework in medical foundations across all body systems/areas of medicine (anatomy & physiology, cardiology, respirology, hematology, GI, oncology, infectious disease, etc.)
  • learning clinical skills (history taking, performing physical exams, interpreting lab results, reading x-rays & imaging)
  • communications skills (preventative health counselling, motivational interviewing, etc.),
  • and medical and professional ethics.

Second year, is clinical year, also known as “clerkship”. This compromises of clinical rotations across different areas and specialties of medicine: core rotations in placements like family medicine, emergency medicine, psychiatry, general surgery, internal medicine – although this varies from school to school. Evaluations for each rotation (lasting 4-12 weeks) completed by your clinical preceptor (a PA or physician) and you may have to complete a written test.

After completion of study, PAs go directly into practice. Additional learning takes place on the job, and scope of practice grows as PA builds competencies.

Regardless of your educational background or medical experience, you cannot skip any part of PA school.

Current PA students break down what PA school is like in 1st and 2nd year of PA School:

Step 5: Become a Canadian Certified Physician Assistant (CCPA)

Once you have completed PA school, you qualify to write the PA Entry to Practice Examination issued by PACCC – the Physician Assistant Certification Council of Canada.

You must be a CAPA member in order to write the exam.

The exam takes place once a year and can be written in several cities. For the past few years the exam has taken place in late October. If you pass the exam, you receive the “CCPA” designation, which is the “Canadian Certified Physician Assistant” title.

American trained Physician Assistants who graduated from an Accredited Program (ARC-PA) and are certified by NCCPA (have their PA-C designation) are qualified to write the PA exam.

You must join CAPA first as a regular member.

Then you can apply to write the examination.

Once you pass, and receive your CCPA Number, include this registration number on your resume.

Keep in mind, PAs are not yet practicing in all provinces and territories across Canada. There are also differences between provinces with how PAs are integrated and paid. See What is a PA? page for more information about where and how PAs practice.

The job market and salary in Canada for PAs also differ from the United States.

Regardless of what previous medical experience you’ve had in the past, you CANNOT skip any aspect of PA education.

Canadian PA programs do not take into consideration any USMLE scores, nor is it a requirement to become a PA.

Step 6: Apply for a PA Job, Get the Job, then Practice

Apply for positions that are listed on the CAPA website (members only). You can also perform a google search for “Physician Assistants jobs” in your area of choice. Hospital and clinic job boards will also post listings as well.

PAs are trained as generalists, so you can apply to job postings across different areas of medicine once you are done PA school.

PAs are able to switch specialties as well.

Read Where to Find Canadian PA Job Postings →

Step 7: Maintain your PA Certification with CPD/CME hours

In order to maintain your “CCPA” designation, you have to be a member of CAPA and complete a number of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) hours.

The Physician Assistant Certification Council of Canada (PACCC) website has more details on maintaining your certification.

Read How to Enter your CPD Credits to Maintain Certification →

Final Notes

I’m inspired everyday by the work that my PA colleagues do across different areas of medicine. You can also check out our Canadian PA Youtube Channel to view interviews, vlogs and insights on what it is like to be a PA!

You can also read about PA Admission requirements in Canada.

Have more questions about becoming a Physician Assistant in Canada? Post to our free Canadian Pre-PA Facebook Group.

25 Comments

  1. Mr.Allwin Marks November 13, 2021 at 11:56 am - Reply

    Myself finished my Bsc Physician Assistant and have experience of 2 years in critical care and Emergency how can I get job in Canada can I know detailed information about this please

    • Anne Dang November 14, 2021 at 10:15 am

      If you are an American PA-C, you can practice in Canada: Right now, Canada only accepts American Certified Physician Assistants (PA-C’s) who have trained in the United States to work in Canada.

      If you are a PA from another country (e.g. United Kingdom, New Zealand, Ghana, India), you would have to complete a PA education program in American or Canada to work as a PA in Canada. International PAs who are not American PA-Cs cannot currently practice in Canada. You can learn more here: https://canadianpa.ca/can-international-physician-assistants-practice-in-canada/

  2. Acheampong Okai Dorothy January 9, 2022 at 11:15 am - Reply

    Hello goodafternoon. I’m a physician assistant in Ghana. Please will relocating to work as a PA in Canada mean I have to school in Canada before I can take the Canadian exam?

    • Anne Dang January 14, 2022 at 11:38 am

      Yes exactly. Right now, Canada only accepts American Certified Physician Assistants (PA-C’s) who have trained in the United States to work in Canada.

      If you are a PA from another country (e.g. United Kingdom, New Zealand, Ghana, India), you would have to complete a PA education program in American or Canada to work as a PA in Canada. International PAs who are not American PA-Cs cannot currently practice in Canada. You can learn more here: https://canadianpa.ca/can-international-physician-assistants-practice-in-canada/

  3. Parvez Shaikh January 14, 2022 at 6:04 am - Reply

    Can an IMG having Bachelor’s Degree in Medicine from his own country,is eligible to sit for PA exam without attending the PA Schools in Canada?

    • Anne Dang January 14, 2022 at 10:29 am

      Hi Parvez,

      It is not possible to skip PA school and write the PA certification exam without getting into PA school and completing the PA school education program.

      You can learn more here: https://canadianpa.ca/img

  4. Dorothy Acheampong January 14, 2022 at 1:46 pm - Reply

    Okay Ma’am, thank you. God bless you Amen

  5. Maham Mahmood January 23, 2022 at 6:13 pm - Reply

    Hello
    I am a Canadian National who did MBBS from Pakistan. Is that sufficient to apply for PA school?

    • Anne Dang February 1, 2022 at 2:53 pm

      Is Canadian National mean Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident of Canada?

  6. Lamia February 1, 2022 at 5:05 am - Reply

    Hello mam
    I am a permanent resident in Canada not citizenship.I also completed my MBBS from Bangladesh. Is that sufficient to apply for PA school. and i also known that how can i prepared myself for entry a PA school?

    • Anne Dang February 1, 2022 at 2:53 pm

      If you do meet the requirement of being a Canadian Permanent Resident, you can follow steps outlined at: canadianpa.ca/admissions and canadianpa.ca/img

  7. kate February 2, 2022 at 3:02 pm - Reply

    I’m in high school right now, what courses would you recommend me taking to be a PA?

  8. Arun February 15, 2022 at 1:31 am - Reply

    Hello,
    I am a Canadian citizen, but have a medical degrees [MBBS, MD (Radiology)] from India.
    Can I write the Canadian PA exam directly? Or do i need to go through the course also?

    Also, Can you please provide any other opportunities available for a Internation medical graduate, however a Canadian citizen. Thank you.

    • Anne Dang February 16, 2022 at 12:43 pm

      You cannot directly write the Canadian PA Exam, as outlined above you have to get into PA school first, complete the PA program, and then you can challenge the PA certification to work as a PA in Canada.

      You can learn more about opportunities here: canadianpa.ca/img.

  9. Navneet March 3, 2022 at 6:19 am - Reply

    Hello
    I am from India and done my plus two in medical
    Now I am looking to do PA in Canada. I have gone through the procedure to get in PA.I just want to know that after doing Associate Degree in science of two years can I be eligible to get in PA course

    • Anne Dang March 3, 2022 at 5:45 pm

      You can visit each of the PA program websites to determine if your associate degree (I am not familiar with what an “associate degree” is) would count. You can visit canadianpa.ca/paprograms to see the list of websites

      You must also be a Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident of Canada first before applying to a PA program.

  10. Ugochi amaka March 9, 2022 at 10:34 pm - Reply

    Hello I just recently moved to Calgary. I Am a Dr with a medical degree from Nigeria. I live in Calgary. Is there a PA school in Alberta or do I have to choose from the 3 certified schools. Thank you

  11. Leanne Rimando May 11, 2022 at 8:53 pm - Reply

    I am currently a medical laboratory technician in field. But I would like to upgrade to become a Physician assistant.
    Can someone please help me the step by step process. Thank you. I really appreciate it

    • Anne Dang May 12, 2022 at 8:03 pm

      You have to have minimum 2 years of undergraduate (university) study to apply. I recommend visiting canadianpa.ca/admissions or the PA program websites to learn more canadianpa.ca/paprograms

  12. Sumeyya Abaraya May 23, 2022 at 1:48 pm - Reply

    If you go to a Canadian PA school, can you practice abroad? I know you can’t practice in the US, but how about other countries? Are PA positions only in limited countries?

    • Anne Dang May 29, 2022 at 9:07 am

      As far as I know, PAs trained in Canada can only practice in Canada. If you want the flexibility to practice in other countries, then training in the United States as a PA would allow for this.

  13. Annie June 3, 2022 at 10:46 am - Reply

    Is there a benefit from completing a masters PA program vs the bachelor?

    • Anne Dang June 4, 2022 at 8:13 am

      Hi Annie!

      In terms of employment, having a bachelors versus a masters degree does not affect your opportunities to find a job as a PA.

      There are differences between a bachelors and a Masters in PA studies when it comes to what the admission requirements are to apply, the curriculum and requirement for completion of a research project.

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