Physician Board Certification Defined

Physician Board CertificationWhile the term physician board certification is a familiar part of the vernacular to those in the medical profession, the average consumer might have, at best, only a vague notion of what it actually means for a physician to become board certified – and why it is important.

The American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS) is one of three nationally recognized multi-specialty certifying bodies in the United States. Part of our mission is to educate the public and other members of the medical community about physician board certification, which we define as a voluntary process that indicates a practicing physician’s mastery of the core body of knowledge and skills in his or her chosen specialty at a specific time. This is different, of course, from the required medical license.

The ABPS believes that in order to accurately measure a physician’s mastery and knowledge, test development should be as rigorous as possible. The Member Boards of the ABPS also maintain eligibility requirements that reflect the organization-wide commitment to recognizing the accomplishments of competent, respected, career physicians in the fields of the medical specialties for which we provide physician board certification.

Although the eligibility requirements for physician board certification differ among the various Member Boards, at minimum, the ABPS Member Boards require that physicians have:

  • An undergraduate college degree
  • Four years of medical school
  • Substantial, identifiable training such as a three- to five-year residency in an ACGME accredited program and several years of experience and proven competencies in the specific specialty or sub-specialty
  • A license to practice medicine

Nearly as important as the initial achievement of physician board certification is an ongoing commitment to periodic recertification and a willingness to adhere to a code of ethics and professionalism that all Member Boards should expect from their physicians. The medical field, no matter what specialty, is constantly evolving. A physician’s credentials should always reflect a dedication to continuing medical education in his or her area or areas of expertise, and mastery of that newly gained knowledge requires recertification.

It is incumbent upon the three most prestigious certifying bodies in the U.S. to help educate consumers about board certification. Consumers should be made aware of the credentials and credibility of the different board certification bodies, and ask if the organization is a 501(c)6 non-profit, if it has an established national headquarters, and if it has a staff of more than 10 full-time employees. These and other factors support the credibility of a board certifying body, and the three largest – the ABPS, the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), and the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) – set the highest, most rigorous standards in the nation.

To learn more about physician board certification and why it is important to consumers, contact the ABPS. The ABPS is the official certifying body of the American Association of Physician Specialists, Inc.

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

I feel truly blessed and grateful to be an internal medicine board-certified diplomate with the American Board of Physician Specialties. Their ongoing, steadfast commitment to physician board(s) enhancement, forward focused vision, and tenacity is second to none. ABPS has become a recognized choice in Physician Board Certification.

Adam Rench, MD
Internal Medicine
To be the best, you must measure yourself against the best. Achieving Board Certification in Emergency Medicine by the ABPS gave me the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of the art of EM in an objective way. The high bar that ABPS sets for candidates to be allowed to take both the written and oral exam is a testament to ABPS's rigorous vetting of one's ability to practice Emergency Medicine at a high level. By maintaining these credentials, I've been able to instill confidence in my abilities at the department/employer level and ultimately with the patients that choose to seek emergency care at the facilities at which I practice.

Royce Mathew Joseph, MD
Emergency Medicine
The American Board of Physician Specialties has supported the entire field of Integrative Medicine in sponsoring our board. It has been so validating of the importance of prevention-oriented and holistic approaches to care while emphasizing the scientific basis of this specialty to have it recognized by ABPS. I am proud to have been one of the first groups to be board certified by ABPS in Integrative Medicine, leading the way for others committed to training in this specialty.

Myles Spar, MD
Integrative Medicine