The Difference Between Licensure and Board Certification

Board Certification & LicensureThere is a crucial difference between being licensed to practice medicine and being a board certified physician, which is why it is important that patients understand the two concepts in order to select the most qualified physicians in their communities. A medical license is a minimum requirement that all physicians must receive in order to be eligible to practice medicine. To be eligible, the candidate must be able to prove that he or she successfully finished medical school and completed postgraduate training, usually a residency. Additionally, licensure requires the successful completion of a standardized examination and each candidate is required to reveal any potential conflicts that could impede their ability to provide care. If all eligibility requirements are successfully met, the physician is granted a license, which will need to be updated every one or two years depending on the state.

Board certification, on the other hand, is specialty specific. Where licensure does not differentiate between areas of practice, board certification is focused entirely on the physician’s specialty. This is an extremely important differentiator because, as the modern healthcare sector gets more and more specialized, board certification is a helpful tool for singling out physicians who have the advanced training and verifiable experience needed to truly be recognized as trusted physician specialists.

At the American Board of Physician Specialties®, we provide board certification to highly qualified physician candidates in all 50 states, as well as throughout Canada and Puerto Rico. To receive this credential through our organization, the candidate must:

  • Meet our minimum eligibility requirements including completion of an accredited residency
  • Have extensive experience in their specialty area
  • Successfully complete a standardize written (and sometimes oral) examination

Furthermore, board certification needs to be renewed regularly, and the re-certification process entails a commitment to continuing medical education to ensure that our Diplomates remain up to date on the best practices in their specialties.

In summary, a medical license is a minimum requirement to practice medicine in North America, while obtaining board certification is a rigorous, specialty-specific process that identifies physicians who merit the distinction of being called specialists. If you are a physician who is considering pursuing board certification, contact the ABPS today.

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June 10-15, 2022
Patient Care Is Our Priority

Medical organizations throughout North America understand that our rigorous certification standards prove that ABPS Diplomates are capable of delivering the best patient care possible.

ABPS board certification validates a physician's competence in their medical specialty. This is important to a patient seeking medical care. Physician recertification through ABPS assures that we maintain knowledge and expertise throughout our career. The ABPS is a collegial and committed organization of physicians and administrative staff. The organization has given me the opportunity to become involved in all facets of the board certification process and physician governance.

Lawrence Stein, MD, FAASOS
Orthopedic Surgery
ABPS is a leading advocate for its Diplomates, their patients, and the public at large by promoting high-quality evidence-based patient care. ABPS certifies physicians through industry-leading rigorous examinations in various boards and offers continuous recertification making sure that these physicians are qualified to practice safe state of the art medicine.

Leslie Mukau, MD, FAAEP, FACEP
Emergency Medicine
In this time of uncertainty, Disaster Medicine Certification has helped tremendously to demonstrate to hospital leadership my commitment to disaster preparedness and knowledge of planning, response, and mitigation. ABODM certification focuses on the knowledge and skills a physician needs to become a recognized leader in the four stages of disaster preparation and management: planning, coordination, execution, and debriefing.

Lewis W, Marshall, MD, JD, FAAEP, FAADM
Disaster Medicine | Emergency Medicine