Stay Certified

Ongoing Certification Requirements

Diplomates must be up to date on their ongoing certification requirements to maintain their certification.

team of surgeons over an operating table

Diplomates must maintain their certification requirements

While the assessment is due every other year, most other program requirements should be updated no less than every five years. For diplomates with multiple ABS certificates, the assessment is the only requirement that must be repeated for each certificate.

Surgeons who are clinically inactive or no longer operating are welcome to participate in Continuous Certification. While some program requirements may vary slightly, clinically inactive diplomates are still required to maintain Continuous Certification requirements to remain certified.

For guidance on how to update any ongoing certification requirements, please see this document.

Requirements for Assessment Registration
All ongoing requirements must be met in order to register for and complete a Continuous Certification Assessment

Diplomates must hold a valid, full, and unrestricted (U.S. or Canada) medical license, and must immediately inform the ABS of any conditions or restrictions in force on any active medical license they hold.

Hospital or surgical center privileges are required if the diplomate is clinically active. If a diplomate is clinically inactive or does not otherwise hold privileges, they will be asked to provide an explanation.

Two reference forms must be submitted every five years. In most cases, one should be completed by the Chair of Surgery and the other by the Chair of Credentials at the institution where the diplomate performs most of their work. If necessary, a physician(s) of comparable rank may complete the form as long as they are familiar with the diplomate’s recent clinical activities. If a diplomate is clinically inactive, two physicians familiar with their current non-clinical activities should complete the form.

Surgeons who enroll in the Continuous Certification Program with a lapsed certification must submit additional references per our lapsed certificates policy.

Ongoing participation in a local, regional, or national outcomes registry or quality assessment program, either individually or through the diplomate’s institution, is expected. Diplomates must describe how they are meeting this requirement — no patient data is collected. See Practice Improvement for more details and resources.

Diplomates must earn 150 credits of Category 1 CME relevant to their practice over five years, of which at least 50 must include self-assessment — a question-and-answer exercise that assesses understanding of the material in the CME program. When a diplomate participates in a CME activity that includes self-assessment (SA), the SA credits will be transferred to ABS along with the category-1 credits via the PARS system. Check the ACCME’s CME Passport website to find CME activities that meet ABS continuous certification requirements. Activities with self-assessment will be denoted with “SA” (e.g., ABS Point: 1; ABS Credit Type(s) CME, SA).

NOTE: ACCME’s CME Passport website is hosted and maintained by the ACCME, not by the ABS. For questions or concerns related to any activities listed in the CME Passport, please contact the ACCME or the CME provider directly.

This requirement will change to 125 CME credits with no self-assessment required when a diplomate passes their first Continuous Certification Assessment, beginning January 1 of the year following the first successful assessment attempt. See our CME page for more information.

CME is counted over a five-year rolling basis, and this five-year window shifts annually on Jan. 1. Diplomates should check the CME repository in their ABS portal for information about the current five-year window.

Successful completion of a Continuous Certification Assessment prior to certificate expiration is required to maintain certification. To register for an assessment, diplomates must be up to date with all other program requirements and current with all program fees.

For diplomates who hold multiple ABS certificates, this is the only requirement that must be repeated for each certificate, aside from the annual fee.

female doctor putting on medical gloves
8/26 - 11/4
Continuous Certification Assessment
Location: Virtual
Fee: $285
Registration Start: 8/1/2024 - 11/4/2024

The $285 annual fee covers one assessment every other year, free access to all assessment reference materials, and general Continuous Certification Program participation.

10/15 - 10/28
Continuous Certification Readmission Examination
Location: Pearson VUE testing centers
Fee: $1,700
Registration Start: 8/1/2024 - 10/21/2024

This exam is for surgeons who either: (1) did not successfully complete the lapsed pathway; or (2) are not eligible to enter the lapsed pathway.

Annual Fee
Diplomates must be current with their annual fee payment to continue meeting ABS certification requirements

Once a diplomate enrolls into the Continuous Certification Program, an annual fee is required. The current annual fee is $285 and covers all Continuous Certification Program participation fees, including one assessment every other year. Fees can be paid online via the surgeon portal. Failure to pay an annual fee in a given year will result in a late fee and inability to register for the next Continuous Certification Assessment until all outstanding fees have been paid.

Delinquency in the year that a diplomate is due to complete an assessment will make the surgeon ineligible for a grace year for the following year, and certification will lapse Dec. 31 of the year that the assessment was due. Diplomate status will be listed as “Not Certified” until the outstanding balance has been paid. Following payment of an outstanding balance, the grace year will be reinstated along with a “Certified” certification status.

Diplomates who maintain multiple ABS certifications are eligible to receive a multi-certificate discount.


CME is waived during fellowship training

Diplomates in a fellowship will have the CME and practice improvement requirements waived during their time in training. The fellowship must be at least 12-24 months in duration and accredited by the ACGME or a surgical organization with a formal accreditation process (e.g., SSO, ASTS, ACS, Fellowship Council, etc.). Details about the fellowship must be provided via the diplomate’s ABS portal.

Certifications from Other Approved Boards

Reciprocity offered for certification requirements

Diplomates certified by other ABMS member boards must meet and report on all above-listed requirements; however, activities that meet ABS requirements completed for the continuing certification programs of other boards or the RCPSC may be used. If certification or recertification is achieved from another ABMS board, diplomates may be eligible to waive some CME with self-assessment toward ABS requirements – contact the ABS for more information.


The ABS audits a percentage of diplomates each year

If audited, diplomates will be asked to furnish documentation of the information they have provided in their ABS portal, including CME activities. No patient data is collected. Diplomates who do not reply to an audit will not be eligible to take an assessment and must re-enter the Continuous Certification Program. 

Certification Status and Issuance of Certificates

Certification status is contingent on meeting all program requirements

Once participating in the Continuous Certification program, a diplomate’s certification status will be contingent on passing the assessment every other year, as well as meeting the other program requirements. This paradigm is intended to more accurately reflect the rapid changes in surgical knowledge and practice, and better promote high-quality patient care.

Failing an assessment in the year it is due will not immediately affect certification status. Diplomates in good standing will be able to retake the assessment the following year if necessary (grace year).

medical students reviewing paper
Our exam managers are here to help

Most questions can be answered with the information available on our website. For specific inquiries, please contact the Continuous Certification Program manager.

Contact a Coordinator

Please use the form below to contact the appropriate exam coordinator. They will respond as soon as possible.