ABMS Board Eligibility Policy

Policy & FAQs - updated 9/30/2014

What is the ABMS Board Eligibility Policy?

The ABMS Board Eligibility Policy, effective January 1, 2012, limits the period of time that may elapse between a physician’s completion of training and achievement of initial certification in a specialty.

In implementing this policy, those ABMS Member Boards that did not have an existing Board Eligibility Policy in place were to establish a Board Eligible Period of three (3) to seven (7) years for candidates to achieve initial certification following the successful completion of accredited training, and in accordance with the corresponding Member Board requirements, plus time (if any) in practice required by the Member Board for admissibility to the certifying examination.

A Member Board with an already existing Board Eligibility Policy was to ensure that its Board Eligible Period aligned with the principles of the established ABMS Board Eligibility Policy, but each Board’s transition dates can vary. See Board Eligible Periods and Transition Dates table.

In addition, those Member Boards that did not have an existing Board Eligibility Policy in place were to establish Transition Dates for candidates who had completed their training but not yet achieved initial certification in a specialty as of the ABMS Board Eligibility Policy’s effective date. Member Boards chose a date between January 1, 2015 – January 1, 2019 for these candidates to achieve initial certification.

Where can I view the Board Eligible Periods and Transition Dates for ABMS Member Boards?

To view a chart that depicts the Board Eligible Periods and Transition Dates established by each Member Board, view the Board Eligible Periods and Transition Dates.

Why was the policy established?

The ABMS Board Eligibility Policy, adopted by the ABMS Board of Directors in September 2011, recognizes physicians’ legitimate need to use the term “Board Eligible” as a way to signal their preparations for initial certification. At the same time, it closes off the potential for abuse through use of the term indefinitely.

This policy tightens the connection between training and initial certification. Research has shown repeatedly that physicians lose knowledge and skills as the years pass after their training. The requirements of the ABMS Program for Maintenance of Certification (ABMS MOC®) address this issue through continuous professional development. The Board Eligibility Policy limits the time that may elapse before physicians become Board Certified.

NOTE: While some Member Boards may not recognize the term “Board Eligible,” their policies appropriately limit the time that may elapse before a physician becomes Board Certified.

Why does the policy allow for flexibility in the Board Eligible Period for achieving initial certification, rather than establish one common length of time?

The flexibility in the Board Eligible Period recognizes that ABMS Member Boards have different requirements for certification and different schedules for certifying examinations.

Are there exceptions to the Board Eligible Period?

An ABMS Member Board may waive the rule for candidates in instances of military deployment, acute illness or other individual instances.

What happens when a physician does not achieve initial certification prior to the expiration of the Board Eligible Period set by his or her certifying ABMS Member Board?

When a physician does not achieve initial certification within the Board Eligible Period, that physician must cease from representing him / herself as being Board Eligible. The physician is no longer eligible for certification until completing all requirements of the ABMS Member Board that oversees certification in his or her specialty.

What are the consequences for a physician who claims to be Board Eligible beyond the Board Eligible Period established by his or her certifying ABMS Member Board?

Any patient, hospital or other interested party may determine when a physician has completed training by referring to publicly available documents. Board Eligibility policies of ABMS Member Boards are also publicly available. A physician’s claims to be Board Eligible inappropriately will be obvious.

How does this policy relate to subspecialty certification?

“Board Eligible” only applies to the period of time prior to initial certification in a specialty. However, please note that ABMS Member Boards may have similar policies related to subspecialty certification.