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Medical Board Certifications – Comparing the Standards of Physician Certifying Organizations

Medical Board CertificationsBy most impartial measurements, the standards of the three multi-specialty physician certifying organizations in the United States are comparable. In terms of the eligibility requirements for their medical board certifications, the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS), the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), and the  American Osteopathic Association’s Bureau of Osteopathic Specialists (AOABOS) are, in fact, quite similar.

There are other similarities among the multi-specialty certifying bodies, as well. All three require advanced training and residencies of similar duration, with a few exceptions. All three provide physicians the opportunity to demonstrate the knowledge and experience required to competently and effectively practice a particular specialty or subspecialty. And all three specialty boards require a passing grade on a written or computer-based exam to achieve certification.

There are, however, several distinguishing factors that give the ABPS a unique position among physician certification bodies in the United States.

One of the most obvious factors that distinguishes the ABPS is that it provides several important and fast-growing medical board certifications that are not available through the ABMS or the AOABOS. These specialties include:

  • Urgent care
  • Disaster medicine
  • Family medicine obstetrics
  • Hospital medicine
  • Integrative medicine (now under development)

There also are several other factors that set the ABPS apart from the ABMS and the AOABOS. These include:

  • The ABPS requires recertification after eight years, while the ABMS and AOABOS require a 10-year period before recertification.
  • Voluntary recertification continues to be in place for ABPS Diplomates, while it has been discontinued by the ABMS and the AOABOS.
  • The ABPS requires completion of a non-remedial medical ethics course, while the others do not.
  • The ABPS offers recertification reciprocity, while the others do not.
  • The ABPS has never offered life certification, while the others once did but have since discontinued the practice.
  • ABPS was the first certifying body to have Public Members on its Member Boards of certification.
  • The ABPS engages its own Diplomates, as well as those from ABMS and AOABOS, when developing new boards.
  • The ABPS requires annual attestation of full, unrestricted medical licenses for Diplomates.

Another distinguishing factor for ABPS medical board certifications is the fact that the exam development process was independently evaluated by testing agency Castle Worldwide, which concluded that “[ABPS examinations] meet or exceed the equivalent standards of any other certification organization.”

Click here for a more-detailed look at similarities and differences among the ABPS, the ABMS, and the AOABOS.