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

  • Individuals who believe they meet the ABS requirements may begin the board certification process by applying for admission to the required examinations. The application process opens each year in the spring, at which time a link will be listed under each specialty in this section and under the login 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.

Maintenance of Certification

  • Once surgeons become certified in any ABS specialty, they are automatically enrolled in the ABS MOC Program and must fulfill its requirements to maintain any certificates they hold.

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 (HPM). The ABS also accepts diplomates of other ABMS surgical boards for certification in surgical critical care or HPM. Diplomates who become certified in general surgery and then wish to certify in another ABS specialty must be in compliance with the ABS MOC Program to be admissible to the certification process.
  • While diplomates are encouraged to maintain certification in both general surgery and their additional specialty, this is not required. As of 1997, maintaining a certificate in general surgery is not required for maintaining certification in other ABS specialties. Surgeons who allow their general surgery certificate to lapse while maintaining a certificate in another ABS specialty will no longer be reported as certified in general surgery, but will still be considered as certified by the ABS.

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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