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What is ABMS Board Certification?

ABMS board certification serves two primary roles:

  1. As an independent evaluation of a physicians’ or specialist’s knowledge and skills to practice safely and effectively in a specialty
  2. As a trusted credential patients can rely upon when selecting a provider for their needs

The ABMS Member Boards design certification programs that advance the quality and delivery of patient care and encourage:

  • Continuing learning and professional development
  • Health care research and innovation
  • Practice improvement for high quality care

What Do Certification Boards Do?

24 ABMS Member Boards assess and certify physicians and specialists after training and throughout their careers, and:

  • Determine the knowledge, skills, and clinical judgment important to the practice of each specialty
  • Utilize initial and ongoing evaluation to verify sufficient mastery of necessary knowledge and skills
  • Offer relevant, convenient, and evidence-based assessments that enhance learning and retention
  • Involve physicians practicing in the specialty to create the standards and assessments
  • Follow set standards of professional conduct and revoke certificates when an individual breaches them

What Does Board Certification Evaluate?

Board certification evaluates six core competencies integral to the delivery of high-quality patient care. The competencies were co-developed by ABMS and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). They are an extension of the milestones physicians and specialists must meet during training, and they are the basis for continuing certification assessment.

Practice-Based Learning & Improvement

Show ability to investigate and evaluate patient care practices, appraise and assimilate scientific evidence, and improve practice.

Patient Care & Procedural Skills

Provide care that is compassionate, appropriate, and effective for the treatment of health problems and to promote health.

Systems-based Practice

Demonstrate awareness of and responsibility systems of health care. Be able to call on system resources to provide optimal care.

Medical Knowledge

Demonstrate knowledge about established and evolving biomedical, clinical, and cognate sciences and their application in patient care.

Interpersonal & Communication Skills

Demonstrate skills that result in effective information exchange and teaming with patients, their families, and professional associates.


Demonstrate a commitment to carrying out professional responsibilities, adherence to ethical principles and sensitivity to diverse patient populations.

How Does a Physician or Specialist Become Board Certified?

Before becoming certified, each physician and specialist must:

  1. Finish four years of premedical education in a college or university
  2. Earn a medical degree (MD, DO) from a qualified medical school
  3. Complete three to five years of full-time experience in an ACGME-accredited residency program
  4. Obtain an unrestricted medical license to practice in the United States or Canada
  5. Pass the examinations created and administered by an ABMS Member Board

How Does a Physician or Specialist Stay Board Certified?

Just like initial board certification, the ABMS Member Boards’ continuing certification programs are developed by practicing physicians and specialists according to the standards set through ABMS. There are four main components to the continuing certification process. The boards determine the requirements and activities within each component.


This component emphasizes the importance of demonstrating moral, ethical, professional, and competent behavior and holding a current medical license.

Lifelong Learning

With a combination of self-assessment, Continuing Medical Education (CME), and other practice relevant activities, this component helps keep physicians and specialists on track and learning throughout their career.


Assessment measures the knowledge that sets a board certified practitioner apart from non-physicians and other non-certified medical practitioners with less training and experience. It shows that they are up to date and aware of best practices in their specialty.


This component helps physicians and specialists demonstrate that they reflectively look at their practice and identify opportunities to improve care or the process of care delivery.