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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 it's 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 you will be required to participate in their Certification Maintenance Program in order to maintain your certified PA(ASCP)cm status.  

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

You should have received a CMP packet from the ASCP 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) of all ASCP declarations will be audited by the ASCP.  

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 CMP Booklet describes the program in detail:  

ASCP requires 45 CMP points for every three-year period of certification, to include at least one point in safety and twenty points in anatomic pathology.  An ASCP CMP renewal form must be sent to ASCP two months prior to the end of each three-year period.  

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

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

The following Certification Maintenance Program requirements have recently 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 

Required Fee:

The ASCP BOC Certification Maintenance Program (CMP) costs $95 for three years (paid to the ASCP).  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 ASCP.

For more information on Certification maintenance and CE requirements:  

ASCP 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 recently announced new CMP requirements for Pathologists’ Assistants.  They include:

  • 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

60 points required during a three-year period

The new CMP requirements will apply to PA(ASCP) certificants recertifying 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!)

Current Credential Maintenance Program (CMP) Requirements

  • 1 point in safety
  • 20 points in anatomic pathology
  • Remaining points in the area(s) of anatomic pathology, management, education or other clinical specialties

45 points required during a three-year period

Required Fee:

The ASCP BOC Credential Maintenance Program (CMP) costs $95 for three years * (paid to the ASCP).  This is REQUIRED to maintain your certification as a PA(ASCP).

Optional Fee:

ASCP membership, which costs $99 annually*, is OPTIONAL. You DO NOT have to be an ASCP member to maintain your certification through ASCP.

For more information:

Certification maintenance and CE requirements: https://www.ascp.org/content/docs/default-source/boc-pdfs/boc-stay-credentialed-general-cmp-pdfs/boc_cmp_us.pdf?sfvrsn=2

ASCP 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   

Mike Sovocool, PA(ASCP)CM, BOT Adjunct - ASCP

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

Continuing Education - American Association of Pathologists' Assistants (AAPA)

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

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


AAPA Annual Fall and Spring Meetings:  1 CE per lecture attended; 1 CE per hour per workshop


Videotaped lectures from the AAPA Fall meetings:  1 CE per lecture, with completion of a quiz for each lecture.

FREE AAPA Journal quiz:  1 CE per quiz

FREE AAPA Web site quiz:  1 CE per quiz

AAPA Beyond the Bench series:  1 CE per case study

An AAPA CME 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 enters your AAPA PACE credits earned.

Once an AAPA PACE credit has been earned it is also reported to the ASCP 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.

You can completely manage your ASCP Certification Maintenance through the AAPA without having to enter or report anything to the ASCP!

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

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

Related News

Since its inception, the AAPA has experienced continued significant growth and now has over 1200 members including fellows, affiliates, 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 at 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.  Over the past several years, the AAPA and the College of American Pathologists (CAP) have 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 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 issued certification examination has replaced the AAPA fellowship 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 newsletter 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 will also greatly expand the available sources of accredited CE activity for our membership.

Sustaining Members

2345 Rice St, Suite 220 | St. Paul, MN 55113 | Phone 800.532.AAPA | Fax 651.317.8048 | Email info@pathassist.org