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National Certification for Pathologists' Assistants



In 2005, pathologists' assistants became eligible for certification by the ASCP.  The creation of a national professional certification program for AAPA members and for the pathologists' assistant profession had been a long-time goal of the AAPA.

From its inception, one of the major goals of the AAPA had been to achieve national recognition of the professional status of pathologists' assistants.  In 1999 the AAPA initiated formation of the National Commission on Certification of Pathologists' Assistants, with participation by the Association of Pathologists' Assistant Educational Programs (APAEP), American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), Association of Pathology Chairmen (ACP), Association of Directors of Anatomic and Surgical Pathology (ADASP), and with additional representation from National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS), American Board of Pathology (ABP), Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB), Canadian Association of Pathologists (cap), and the World Association of Societies of Pathology (WASP).  Over a period of more than four years, the Commission investigated all aspects of a national certification program and regularly presented its findings to the AAPA Board of Trustees (BOT) for evaluation.

In late 2003, the AAPA elected to pursue a joint national certification program with the ASCP Board of Registry (now recognized as Board of certification - BOC).  In September 2004, the AAPA BOT and the ASCP BOR created a memorandum of understanding, forming a firm foundation for the joint program for national certification of pathologists' assistants and defining the relationship between the two groups by outlining each organization’s responsibilities.

If you have obtained certification through the ASCP Board of Certification (BOC), you will be required to participate in their Credential Maintenance Program (CMP) in order to maintain your certified PA(ASCP)CM status.  

Participation in the ASCP BOC Credential Maintenance Program is mandatory to remain certified through ASCP.

You should have received a CMP packet from the ASCP BOC that explains the program.  

Certification lasts for 3 years.  

The expiration date is found on your BOC certificate.  

To maintain your certification you will have to renew online at:

You are required to submit a completed declaration with the required CMP renewal fee (this is separate from the ASCP Membership fee) at least 2 months prior to the expiration of your certification.  

If your declaration form is accepted without audit, you will receive a new certificate valid for 3 years.  

A certain percentage (decided by the ASCP BOC) of all ASCP BOC declarations will be audited by the ASCP BOC.  

If your declaration is chosen to be audited, you will have to submit documentation of all your CE activities for that time period.  

The ASCP BOC CMP Booklet describes the program in detail:  

The ASCP BOC requires 45 CMP points (will increase to 60 CMP points effective 1/1/2022) for every three-year period of certification, to include at least one point in safety and twenty points in anatomic pathology.  An ASCP BOC CMP renewal form must be sent to the ASCP BOC two months prior to the end of each three-year period.  

The ASCP BOC accepts many more activities for credit than PACE does.  Activities that are approved for credit are listed on pages 4 in the ASCP BOC CMP booklet.  

If your renewal is audited, the types of documentation the ASCP BOC requires are described on page 9 in the ASCP BOC CMP booklet.

The following Credential Maintenance Program requirements have been approved by the Board of Governors for the certification as Pathologists' Assistant, PA(ASCP)CM:

  • 45 points required during a three-year period
    • 1 point in safety
    • 20 points in anatomic pathology
    • Remaining points may be in the area(s) of anatomic pathology, management, education, or other clinical specialties

See "New CMP Requirements" below for details on upcoming changes, which will apply to PA(ASCP)CM certificants re-certifying on or after January 1, 2022.

  • Required Fee*:
    The ASCP BOC Certification Maintenance Program (CMP) costs $95 for three years (paid to the ASCP BOC).  This is REQUIRED to maintain your certification as a PA(ASCP)CM.
  • Optional Fee*:
    ASCP membership, which costs $99 annually, is OPTIONAL.  You DO NOT have to be an ASCP member to maintain your certification through the ASCP BOC.

* All fees are subject to change by the ASCP BOC.

For more information on Certification maintenance and CE requirements:  

ASCP BOC CMP Booklet: https://www.ascp.org/content/docs/default-source/boc-pdfs/boc-stay-credentialed-general-cmp-pdfs/ascp-cmp-us-booklet-final-web.pdf

The ASCP BOC recently announced new CMP requirements for pathologists’ assistants.  They include:

  • 60 points required during a three-year period
    • 1 point in laboratory or patient safety (i.e. quality control, quality assurance)
    • 20 points in general anatomic pathology
    • 15 points addressing macroscopic examination and staging of cancer cases (i.e. advanced cancer anatomic pathology) NEW!
    • 1 point in medical ethics NEW!
    • 23 remaining points in areas of anatomic pathology, management, education, or other clinical specialties

The new CMP requirements will apply to PA(ASCP)CM certificants re-certifying on or after January 1, 2022.

Based on a 3-year renewal cycle, the earliest anyone would need to begin accruing credits under the NEW requirements is January 1, 2019.  Individual renewal timelines will vary. 

By 2019, the AAPA will offer 20 free credits per year, ensuring these credits fulfill the new advanced cancer credit, the new ethics credit, and the required safety credit.  By simply renewing your membership annually, you will have access to all the credits needed to fulfill the new standards.

Examples of where to obtain the new advanced cancer credit include:

  • AAPA membership: 20 credits offered per year beginning in 2019 to cover the new requirements.
  • AAPA conferences: Multiple lectures offered to fulfill the new advanced cancer credit requirement.
  • Hospital cancer conferences: Most hospital cancer conferences and tumor boards will have all the elements to fulfill the advanced cancer credit.
  • Author a paper or write a chapter:  Papers submitted that include cancer cases and staging information will count as CE for the advanced cancer credit.  (Hint: If you authored a chapter for the grossing guideline, it is worth 7 credits!)

The AAPA is an approved provider of continuing medical education (CE) programs through ASCLS P.A.C.E.®

All ASCLS P.A.C.E.® credits are approved by ASCP for certification renewal.

The AAPA offers PA-specific CE topics to include extremely educational conferences with high-level renowned speakers.

The AAPA offers 15 FREE CEs annually (will increase to 20 beginning in 2019).

The following are P.A.C.E.® approved credits and are automatically entered into your AAPA CE Journal upon completion:

  • AAPA Annual Fall Conference and Spring Meetings: 1 CE per lecture attended; 1 CE per hour per workshop
  • Live stream Fall Conference lectures: 1 CE per lecture attended
  • On-demand recorded lectures from the AAPA Fall Conference: 1 CE per lecture, with completion of a quiz for each lecture
  • FREE AAPA Journal quiz: 1 CE per quiz
  • FREE AAPA monthly CE e-Blast quiz: 1 CE per quiz
  • AAPA Beyond the Bench series: 1 CE per case study, with completion of a quiz for each article

An AAPA CE Award Certificate is given to members who have earned at least 40 AAPA sponsored CEs in one calendar year.

The AAPA offers CE tracking and reporting as an AAPA membership benefit.

The AAPA 'CE Journal’ CE tracking system on the AAPA website automatically records your AAPA-earned PACE credits.

Once an AAPA PACE credit has been earned it is also reported to the ASCP BOC weekly if the member has entered their ASCP ID into their profile.  This means any AAPA PACE credits earned do not need to be manually entered with the ASCP BOC.

You can completely manage your ASCP BOC Credential Maintenance through the AAPA without having to enter or report any self-awarding credits to the ASCP BOC!

Members, get started earning your Free CE and check out the CE Store and Conference pages for more credit.

Participation in the ASCP BOC Credential Maintenance Program (CMP) is mandatory to remain certified through ASCP BOC. 

Related News

Since its inception, the AAPA has experienced significant continued growth and now has over 2000 members including Fellows, Associates, Students, and Sustaining members.  Recognition of the profession by the medical community has also greatly increased.  In 1993, the AAPA established an affiliation with the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS), and together developed an accreditation process setting the minimum standards for PA training programs.  The Essentials of Pathologists' Assistant Training Programs can be found on the NAACLS website.  In 1994, the AAPA compiled a list of the professional responsibilities of pathologists' assistants that was approved by a review committee of the ASCP, and later the AAPA and the College of American Pathologists (CAP) participated in constructive discussions regarding these professional responsibilities with the common goal to refine them and to define how they fit into the overall "Scope of Practice" for the professionIn 2018, the AAPA released a revised, contemporary "Scope of Practice" for the profession.  In this matter, as in all matters relevant to the profession, the AAPA will continue to look out for the best interests of the pathologists' assistant.

Future of the AAPA

With the establishment of the AAPA/ASCP BOC joint certification program, the new gold standard of nationally certified pathologists' assistants has been set.  Since the ASCP BOC-issued certification examination has replaced the AAPA Fellowship Exam program as the measure of competency for NAACLS-accredited training program graduates, a major focus of the AAPA has become the provision of Continuing Education (CE) credits to its members. In 2001, the AAPA gained CE provider status through the Professional Acknowledgement for Continuing Education (PACE) program under the aegis of the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (ASCLS).  Since that time, we have been able to provide our membership with PACE-approved CE credits for attendance at our annual conference lectures and workshops, participation in quarterly journal quizzes, and attendance at other accredited institutional lectures and workshops.  The AAPA will continue to be the primary provider of CE credits necessary to maintain professional certification status for the pathologists' assistant and will be the repository for tracking and maintaining records of CE accreditation for its members.  The affiliation with the ASCP BOC has also greatly expanded the available sources of accredited CE activity for our membership.

Sustaining Members

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