ABMS Board Certification Report

ABMS Board Certification Report - cover

The ABMS Board Certification Report[PDF] for 2020–2021 is a compilation of demographic information about ABMS Member Board certified physicians and medical specialists (known as diplomates), the specialty and subspecialty certificates approved by ABMS, the basic requirements for initial certification and continuing certification, and the number of certificates issued.

  • A companion publication, the ABMS Guide to Medical Specialties provides information about board certification and the specialties and subspecialties in which ABMS Member Boards offer certification.

Download Previous Reports

2019-2020 ABMS Board Certification Report | 2018-2019 ABMS Board Certification Report | 2017-2018 ABMS Board Certification Report

ABMS Board Certified Diplomates: A Population Overview

As of June 30, 2021 there were 949,928 individuals with an active ABMS board certification

The 2020–2021 ABMS Board Certification Report[PDF] reflects a growing population of board certified physicians and medical specialists (also known as diplomates) who use board certification to demonstrate their specialty expertise and continued commitment to provide safe, high-quality, and effective care.

The report shows that as of June 30, 2021 there were 949,928 individuals with an active board certification in one or more of the 40 specialties and 88 subspecialties approved by ABMS. Tables 1A and 1B in the report list the specialty and subspecialty certificates approved by ABMS. See Figure 1 in the report for the total number of board certified diplomates per ABMS Member Board.


Geographic Distribution of ABMS Member Board Diplomates

Geographic distribution of the ABMS Member Board diplomates was done using data from the ABMS Board Certification Database, along with United States Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (2019) data for population estimates. Table 3C of the report provides diplomate totals by Member Board and location. The figure below shows the diplomate distribution per 10,000 at the state level.

Diplomate distribution per 10,000 at the state level (click map to enlarge)

Age and Gender Breakdown

The age and gender breakdown of the board certified diplomate population shows that the younger age groups are trending toward a more even gender distribution than the older age groups. Overall, 32.7% of ABMS Member Board certified diplomates are women, and 61.4% are men (5.9% unknown). Currently, the median age of an ABMS board certified diplomates is 52 and the mean age is 54.5. The figure below shows the distribution of ABMS Member Board diplomates across gender and age groups.

Distribution of ABMS Member Board diplomates across gender and age groups

Certifications Awarded

ABMS Member Boards awarded 23,694 new specialty certificates and 11,839 new subspecialty certificates (see Table 3A and Table 3B in the report) to physicians and medical specialists during 2020. In looking at the number of active certifications held, many ABMS Member Board diplomates choose to maintain more than one certification to further demonstrate additional specialized medical expertise. About 25% of ABMS Member Board diplomates have at least two active certificates. There are 36,306 diplomates cross-certified by more than one ABMS Member Board


Continuing Certification

The ABMS Board Certification Database shows that as of June 30, 2021, there were 657,814 diplomates participating in continuing certification. Continuing certification is the ongoing process of board certification that simultaneously supports diplomates in keeping their knowledge and skills current while validating their increasing expertise in a specialty. The process has developed during the last 20 years. Initial certification is the entry point for diplomates to participate in continuing professional development through focused, relevant, and accessible activities and assessments (see Table 2D). Board certified diplomates are required to participate in ongoing activities to maintain certification. Some do not however, because the requirement was not in place when they were first certified. The Member Boards strongly encourage these individuals to participate voluntarily. The figure below shows the increase of the number of ABMS Member Board diplomates participating in continuing certification.

Increase in number of ABMS Member Board diplomates participating in continuing certification