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PA rights are largely governed by the state in which they practice. Once a PA has passed the national board exam, obtaining licensure within a state is just a matter of completing paperwork. PAs are able to practice in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia. Each state has a board which controls license distribution.
If an individual wants to start practicing immediately after graduating, they may be eligible for a temporary license (sometimes called a limited license). This remains active for a specified period of time, allowing PAs to practice before they become board certified. For instance, in Nebraska a PA who has not yet passed their board exam can apply for a temporary license which expires one year after the date it is issued. By contacting the licensing board you can obtain more information. Click here to view a list the NCCPA has gathered of every licensing board across the country.
Before deciding where to work, it is crucial to understand what each states requires of PAs. Currently there are a few states (including Ohio, Missouri, and Mississippi) that necessitate practicing PAs to have at least a master’s degree. This would present a barrier for those that have graduated from Physician Assistant Programs where they did not receive a graduate degree and did not pursue a master’s degree thereafter.
A few years ago I was preparing for a move and seeking licensure in Georgia. Through the process I learned regulations Georgia implements for its PAs that I wasn't aware of before. In New York (where I began my career) PAs are free to join and leave an employer without having to inform the Office of Professions (the authority that dispenses licensure). However, in Georgia before a PA is allowed to practice the medical board must authorize their supervising physician. In addition, if ever changing supervising physicians or needing to expand the list of physicians under which a PA practices, the process would be the same. Although a minor rule, this was new to me.
The take home message: Before making big moves, make sure you can practice within the state you desire. Also, to avoid ever jeopardizing your license it’s important to familiarize yourself with the rules set forth by the state medical board.