Board Eligibility

The ABMS Board Eligibility Policy for Specialty Certification and the ABMS Eligibility Policy for Subspecialty Certification enable Member Boards to set parameters for how candidates can use the term “board eligible” as a way to signal their preparations for certification while at the same time closing off the potential for abuse through using the term indefinitely. The ability of a candidate to become board certified by an ABMS Member Board is directly related to when he or she completed an ACGME-accredited residency program (or its equivalent).  

Board eligible applies only to the period of time prior to initial certification in a specialty or subspecialty. It is not in the best interests of the medical specialty, the credentialing community, patients or the public for board eligibility to remain open for an unspecified period of time.

Questions Frequently Asked about Board Eligibility

What are the board eligibility periods and transition dates for specialties and subspecialties?

See the Board Eligibility Periods and Transition Dates[PDF] table.

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What are the board eligibility periods according to the policies?

A candidate’s eligibility for board certification (board eligible period) expires on a date determined by the ABMS Member Board. For initial certification in a specialty, that date must be no fewer than 3 and no more than 7 years following the successful completion of accredited training. For initial certification in a subspecialty, that date must be no more than seven (7) years following the candidate’s successful completion of Member Board recognized subspecialty training. In addition, individual Member Board requirements must be met, including time in practice required (if any) for admissibility to the qualifying or certifying examination. ABMS Member Boards with existing board eligibility policies aligned their board eligible periods with the principles of the established ABMS policies. Member Boards that did not have an existing policy in place established transition dates for their candidates.

Why were these policies established?

Allowing an unrestricted status of “board eligibility” denigrates the status of those physicians and medical specialists (also known as diplomates) who already have achieved board certification. These policies tighten the connection between training and certification by limiting the period of time that may elapse between a physician’s or medical specialist’s completion of an ACGME-accredited residency program and achievement of initial certification in a specialty or subspecialty. Research has shown that physicians and medical specialists can lose knowledge and skills as the years pass after their training. The requirements of ABMS Continuing Certification programs address this problem through continuing professional development.

Are there any exceptions to these limits?

The ABMS Member Boards may grant exceptions in instances of military deployment, acute illness, or other circumstances. Boards may make temporary alterations related to COVID-19. For more information, visit the ABMS COVID-19 page or contact the Member Board directly.

What happens if a physician’s or medical specialist’s board eligibility lapses?

When a candidate’s board eligibility lapses, the individual must cease and desist from making any representations of board eligibility. Any violation of this rule is considered a breach of ethical standards of medical practice. ​The candidate no longer is eligible for certification in that specialty or subspecialty without first completing all requirements for re-establishing board eligibility set by the particular ABMS Member Board. Entering into this process may not restore board eligibility status. Each board determines whether a candidate can represent themselves as board eligible during the period in which they are completing requirements. The individual will not appear in the ABMS database or on ABMS Solutions displays/products.

What is the process to re-establish board eligibility?

Requirements vary by Member Board and can include completion of pre-approved topic specific activities or modules, assessment of knowledge or practice performance, payment of fees, supervised practice, program director attestation, retraining in an accredited residency program for six months to one year or more. The Member Boards also may limit the number of times that a candidate can re-establish board eligibility. For specific questions regarding an individual physician or medical specialist, contact the appropriate Member Board.

Once re-established, how many additional years of eligibility does the physician or medical specialist have before initial certification must be achieved?

Once re-established, the ABMS Member Boards generally allow a candidate a single board eligibility period before initial certification in a specialty or subspecialty must be achieved. Contact the appropriate Member Board regarding specific questions about the duration of the re-established board eligibility period.