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.

Save the Date
House of Delegates & Annual Scientific Meeting
Innovation & Overcoming Challenges
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.

On October 18, 2007, President George W. Bush released Homeland Security Presidential Directive 21 (HSPD-21), calling on our nation, among other initiatives, to “collectively support and facilitate the establishment of a discipline of disaster health”. It is a great testament to the wisdom and foresight of the American Board of Physician Specialties that it immediately set to work and created, within the short span of only one year, an educational blueprint and set of certification examinations, both written and oral, for a new subspecialty of disaster medicine—and it is why I chose to be part this vital initiative and this wonderful organization. This is but one of the many innovative programs initiated by the American Board of Physician Specialties over the years, and why I am proud to support its work on behalf of our nation’s public health.

Art Cooper, MD
Disaster Medicine
When the American Board of Physician Specialties offered to host the American Board of Integrative Medicine, ABPS became a landmark organization working to move medicine into the twenty first century. Certifying physicians who have completed rigorous academic training in Integrative Medicine ensures that the field of Integrative Medicine will continue to develop academically, clinically, and professionally. The leadership of ABPS continues to impress me - they are diligent in constantly innovating to provide certifications for physicians who want to advance their careers and their areas of expertise. I am honored to be a part of this organization.

Ann Marie Chiasson, MD
Integrative Medicine
There are many ways board certification advances a physician career. ABPS Board examination verifies your accuracy, precision, and reflects your mastery of your residency training verifying your expertise. ABPS Board certification demonstrates your level of expertise beyond your practice experience, primary education degrees, and training which are necessary for insurance reimbursement and practice privilege requirements. Attaining your ABPS Board Certification will clarify your purpose, secure your practice growth, and expand into leadership positions. Board certification can serve as an indication of a physician’s commitment to medicine, beyond the minimal standards and competency of training, their measurement to quality of care, and attaining an award for excellence.

Chris Kunis MD
Internal Medicine
When I think historically, advancement in medicine and patient safety and care has been driven by the diversity of people and scientific thought. That’s what I found at the ABPS and more. For over 60 years that is just who we are. I found a physician certifying body that provides a choice and voice to all physicians ensuring that patients are always placed first.

Jerry Allison, MD
Emergency Medicine
When I decided to pursue a full time role as a physician executive it was important to me to obtain additional professional training, education and work experience. Board certification through the ABPS in Administrative Medicine is validation of my efforts and a demonstration of dedication to professional development. We need more physicians to become full time health care executives, knowing there is a board certification option in Administrative Medicine encourages physicians to take the leap from full time clinical practice to healthcare organizational leadership.

Richard Paula, MD
Administrative Medicine
The American Board of Physician Specialties has provided me with the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of internal medicine through board certification. As a hospitalist, board certification is an expected credential, and hospitals recognize the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS) as one of the three standard credentialling bodies for Internal Medicine. Additionally, the ABPS has helped me develop leadership skills as a Board member and Committee Chairperson. ABPS has also helped me sharpen critical thinking skills as a test question developer and reviewer. The Allopathic (MD) and Osteopathic (DO) physicians in the ABPS are lifelong learners and frequently pursue multiple board certifications. I enjoy the camaraderie of my peers in ABPS.

Loren Jay Chassels, DO
Internal Medicine