American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

How do surgeons prepare for board certification?

After completing the required period of training in a residency program that is approved by the board that certifies their particular specialty, surgeons are then eligible for examination to obtain certification from an approved medical specialty board. Board certification is a voluntary process that is regulated by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), an umbrella organization of 24 separate medical boards and surgical specialty boards. The ABMS establishes the criteria that physicians must meet in order to be eligible to take certifying exams.

Boards require that the applicant for certification complete a specific number of years in an accredited residency program in a particular specialty and that the candidate for board certification hold a license to practice medicine. Physicians in surgical specialties generally take a qualifying exam that consists of an oral and a written portion. In addition, some boards require that the physician have a period of experience in full-time practice in the specialty prior to examination for certification. A physician who successfully completes the requirements outlined by the ABMS receives board certification in his or her specialty and is given the status of "Diplomate." Many medical boards issue certificates that are valid for a certain number of years, usually no more than 10, and then the physician must recertify in order to keep certification current.

Although board certification is a voluntary process, the majority of physicians in medical practice today recognize its importance and choose to become board certified. The process of board certification provides a reliable way in which the public can identify physicians who are competent to practice medicine in their particular specialty, and patients in general are becoming more aware of the designation "board certified."

One of the ways in which the surgical specialty boards assist students in the preparation for board certification is through the use of "in-training examinations." These exams, which are given every winter, are used to assist residency programs in assessing the progress of residents, and are not necessary for board certification. They are administered as a tool in evaluating the residents' knowledge of the fundamental sciences and the management of clinical problems related to the surgical specialty that the residents intend to practice.

Below, you will find links for several surgical specialty boards.