What does 'board-certified doctor' mean?


Becoming a doctor takes passion, hard work, and many years of studying and training. You will need to successfully graduate from a reputable medical school and then complete additional years of work in your  residency.  Many also choose to go on to a fellowship and then pass even more state-required exams to be licensed to practice in certain areas.

If these qualifications weren’t enough, a majority of doctors also choose to become Board Certified in one or more of their chosen specialties. This requires the successful completion of extensive training and the passing of specialty-specific exams.

So what does Board Certified mean? And do you need to be a Board Certified doctor to practice in your city? This guide will tell you all there is to know to make the best decision for your needs.

What does board-certified mean?

Having a Board Certified tag attached to your name and title is a form of distinction. It tells the public that you have undergone additional years of specialty training and education in order to practice medicine. It is not a mandatory requirement and is entirely voluntary. Doctors can choose from many different boards to get certified.

Becoming board-certified symbolizes that you have achieved the highest level of accreditation within your chosen specialty. The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) is a very well-known and recognized organization that commonly sets the standard for physician specialty in the United States. You can choose from 40 specialties and 87 subspecialties to be certified from. This includes:

  •     Medical Toxicology
  •     Anesthesiology
  •     Geriatric Medicine
  •     Cardiovascular Disease
  •     Sports Medicine
  •     Neurological Surgery
  •     Gynecologic Oncology
  •     Hospice and Palliative Medicine
  •     Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Cardiology
  •     Molecular Genetic Pathology
  •     Blood Banking/Transfusion Medicine
  •     Spinal Cord Injury Medicine
  •     Forensic Psychiatry
  •     Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery
  •     Pediatric Pathology and many more

You can also become board certified from the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS), the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM), and several other self-appointed medical boards across the country and the world.

How to become a board-certified doctor?

Each board will have its own set of requirements you will need to meet in order to qualify for its medical board certification. ABMS requires that physicians complete 3 to 7 years of an accredited residency or fellowship training following medical school. After this, you will need to pass a set of rigorous examinations that will provide you with an ABMS Board Certification.

Some boards might also ask you for:

-       A valid state medical license

-       A clear background check

-       A series of oral and written board examinations

-       Proven experience in treating a certain number of patients or cases within your specialty

-       Letters of attestation from previous faculty members


Many physicians continue to study and advance their certifications throughout their lives and careers. This enhances the efficiency and competency of their practice. Physicians are encouraged to stay up-to-date with the trends and developments of their specialty so they can offer the best and most comprehensive care to patients.

Many boards offer ongoing assessments and career-long certifications to inspire creative thinking, revive their skills and knowledge and encourage healthy curiosity among their physicians. As a doctor in today’s fast-paced and rapidly evolving world, it is vital to stay alert, agile, and inquisitive throughout your career.

To practice in Canada, you must be certified by the College of Family Physicians of Canada, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, or the Collège des médecins du Québec.

Should I be board-certified?

More than 90% of physicians are board-certified in the US, so it is a popular choice, but it is entirely up to you. However, it is essential to keep in mind that many patients may filter their requirements so that they only see board-certified physicians. This will mean that you might miss out on many cases. A board-certified doctor shows the world that they have undergone more years of specialty training, hence holding you up to a higher standard of care.

Board-certified doctors may gain more respect in society. You can always check with your medical school supervisor or faculty member for advice regarding getting board-certified in your specialty. Medical board certification is an additional step that many physicians choose to take, so it is something to keep in mind early on in your career. Many board-certified doctors believe that it is a guaranteed way to quickly gain their patients’ trust in their abilities.

Double board-certification

As the name suggests, double board-certified means that a physician has completed not just one but two extensive and all-encompassing exams to obtain two certifications. You can get certified through as many boards as you like, but bear in mind the additional costs and years of training and studying required each time. Less than 20% of doctors choose to undertake more than one board certification in their lifetime, so one medical board certification is usually enough.

How to check if a doctor is board-certified

Some patients may ask you to provide proof of your board certification and qualifications. Many doctors display their certificates, degrees, and accomplishments in their office while they practice for all patients to see.

There are also a number of board association websites that you can use to check someone’s certification, for example, the ABMS Certification Matters website. Patients will be able to search for their doctor’s name, specialty, and the state they practice to check if they are listed and see which board they are a member of. There also exist many rating websites that list a doctor’s qualifications, how many years of experience, and reviews or ratings that previous patients have provided for them in terms of quality of care, follow-ups, and what special conditions they have treated.

Usually, you can enter a doctor’s name into a search engine like Google to see what comes up. You will see their qualifications and board certifications associated with their name and where they practice.

The difference between licensed and board-certified

To practice in any state within the US, you will need to be licensed to practice in that state. This is a mandatory requirement, unlike getting board-certified. Medical licenses are issued by a state medical board, whereas a board certification is granted by a private organization like the one mentioned above.

A board certification indicates that the doctor has undergone extra training in a particular specialty; a medical license does not reflect a physician’s specialty training. Doctors who are ABMS and AOA board-certified are all licensed. However, doctors who have a license are not necessarily members of an ABMS or AOA member board.

Becoming a board-certified doctor

Wanting to become board-certified is a noble and ambitious goal, but it first starts with finishing medical school. This way you will learn more about which discipline you would like to specialize in — and eventually get board-certified in — as well.

Apply to our MD program today and reach out to us with any questions you may have. There is a vast resource of valuable information to learn more about how you can apply. This is your chance to make a difference to your country’s healthcare system, and make a name for yourself as a qualified and certified physician.

Get in touch for more information

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