Becoming ABS certified

Becoming Certified

Certifications Offered

The ABS offers board certification in the following specialties:

  • Some specialties require two exams for board certification—a qualifying and a certifying exam. For others, only a certifying exam is required. If both a qualifying and certifying exam are required, the qualifying exam is a multiple-choice examination, and the certifying exam is an oral examination. If only a certifying exam is required, then it is a multiple-choice examination.
  • The ABS also offers multiple-choice "in-training" examinations to surgical training programs to allow them to assess their residents' educational progress. These exams are not offered to individuals and are not required as part of the certification process.

Certification Process

  • ABS certification is based upon a process of education, evaluation and examination. Individuals who believe they meet the ABS' educational, ethical and experience requirements may begin the board certification process by applying for admission to the required examinations.
  • The online application process for ABS examinations opens each year in early spring, at which time a link to the application process will be listed under each specialty in this section and under the log-in area (My Records). Surgeons must meet the application requirements currently in effect.
  • Once submitted, the application is reviewed by the ABS and, if approved, the applicant is granted a number of opportunities to take and pass the required examinations for certification in that specialty. Upon successful completion of the exam process, the candidate is deemed certified by the ABS in the specialty.
  • See also About ABS Certification under For the Public.

Required Training

  • The ABS requires that all training completed following medical school be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) in the U.S., or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC). The director of the training program must attest that a surgeon has completed an appropriate educational experience and attained a sufficiently high level of knowledge, clinical judgment and technical skills, as well as ethics, for the individual to be admitted to the certification process.
  • The ABS does not offer reciprocity with other countries' board certifications, but in certain cases will grant credit for prior foreign training toward certification in general surgery or vascular surgery.

Seven-Year Limit - General and Vascular Surgery

  • In 2012, the ABS enacted a new policy that limits the period in which a surgeon may achieve ABS certification in general surgery or vascular surgery to no more than 7 years following completion of training. Surgeons who completed their training in general surgery or vascular surgery in the 2012-2013 academic year or thereafter will have no more than seven academic years to achieve certification in the specialty. The seven-year period starts immediately upon completion of training. If individuals delay in applying for certification, they will lose exam opportunities.

General Surgery vs. Surgical Specialties

  • ABS certification in general surgery is a prerequisite for ABS certification in pediatric surgery, surgical critical care, complex general surgical oncology, surgery of the hand, and hospice and palliative medicine. The ABS also accepts diplomates of other ABMS surgical boards for certification in surgical critical care or hospice and palliative medicine.
  • While diplomates are encouraged to maintain certification in both general surgery and their additional specialty, this is not required. However diplomates who become certified in general surgery and then wish to certify in another ABS specialty must be in compliance with the ABS Maintenance of Certification (MOC) Program to be admissible to the certification process. If a diplomate's certificate in general surgery expires, he or she will no longer be considered certified in general surgery, even if he or she maintains the validity of another ABS certificate.

Certificate Duration and MOC

  • ABS certificates are valid for a period of 10 years, from the date of issuance through December 31 of the year of expiration. Once a surgeon becomes certified in any ABS specialty, he or she is automatically enrolled in the ABS MOC Program and must fulfill its requirements to maintain any certificates he or she holds.

CME Credit

  • The ABS will waive 60 credits of CME with self-assessment toward the ABS MOC Program for certification by the ABS or another ABMS board. For the ABS, a waiver will appear automatically in your CME Repository. For another ABMS board, you will need to enter those credits into your CME Repository and provide documentation if requested.
  • In addition, surgeons who achieve ABS certification may apply to the AMA to receive 60 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. Please see the AMA website and the direct CME application (pdf) for details.
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