Program Requirements - Diplomates with Time-Limited Certificates

For guidance on how to update your ongoing certification requirements, please see this document.
  • Diplomates who hold time-limited certificates and have not yet enrolled in the Continuous Certification Program must be up to date on all ongoing requirements of the ABS Continuous Certification Program to maintain their certification, except for the biennial assessment. Diplomates may also enroll in the Continuous Certification Program prior to certificate expiration if they choose, by registering for an assessment.

When to Report

  • Diplomates with time-limited certificates who are not yet enrolled in the Continuous Certification Program should maintain their requirements on an ongoing basis. While the assessment is not due until the year that your time-limited certificate expires, most other program requirements (listed below) should be updated no less than every five years. Check your status anytime at My Continuous Certification to view when items are due and submit any necessary information.


Professional Responsibility
  • Medical License
    Valid, full and unrestricted (U.S. or Canada). Diplomates must immediately inform the ABS of any conditions or restrictions in force on any active medical license they hold.
  • Hospital/Surgical Center Privileges
    If clinically active. If you are clinically inactive or do not otherwise hold privileges, you will be asked to provide an explanation when updating your Continuous Certification profile.
  • Professional References
    Two reference forms 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 you perform most of your work. If necessary, a physician(s) of comparable rank may complete the form. If you are clinically inactive, two physicians familiar with your current activities should complete the form.

    If you enroll in the Continuous Certification Program when your certification has lapsed, additional references are required. See more information about this pathway here.

  • Practice Improvement
    Ongoing participation in a local, regional or national outcomes registry or quality assessment program, either individually or through your institution. You will describe how you are meeting this requirement — no patient data is collected. See Practice Improvement for more details and resources.
Education and Assessment
  • CME and Self-Assessment
    150 credits of Category 1 CME relevant to your practice over five years, of which at least 50 must include self-assessment — a question-and-answer exercise that assesses your understanding of the material in the CME program. When you participate 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).

    This requirement will change to 125 CME credits with no self-assessment required when diplomates pass their first Continuous Certification Assessment, beginning January 1 of the year following the first successful assessment attempt. See our CME page for more information.
  • Continuous Certification Assessment
    Successful completion of a Continuous Certification Assessment prior to certificate expiration. A new assessment process was introduced in 2018 for general surgery, and in 2019 for vascular surgery, pediatric surgery, and surgical critical care. This assessment replaces the traditional recertification exam.

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

    To register for an assessment, diplomates must be up to date with all other program requirements and current with program fees.

Audit and Re-entry

  • While updating the above items is an entirely online process, the ABS audits a percentage of forms each year. If audited, you will be asked to furnish documentation of the information you provided, including CME activities. No patient data is collected.
  • Diplomates who do not reply to an audit will not be eligible to take an assessment. See our re-entry policy for details on how to re-enter the Continuous Certification Program.

Other Situations

  • Fellowships: Diplomates in a fellowship will have the CME and practice improvement requirements waived during their time in training. To qualify for this waiver, the fellowship must be at least 12 months (and no more than 2 years) 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 as part of your Continuous Certification profile.

  • Diplomates Certified by Other ABMS boards or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC): These diplomates must still report to the ABS about their activities; however, activities completed for the continuous certification programs of other boards or RCPSC that meet ABS requirements may be used. If you achieved certification or recertification by another ABMS board, you may be eligible to waive some CME with self-assessment toward ABS requirements - please contact the ABS office for more information.

  • Clinically Inactive: Diplomates who no longer see patients may still participate in Continuous Certification — see Clinically Inactive Policy. Diplomates who still see patients but no longer operate may participate by fulfilling the requirements in ways relevant to their current activities.

For specific inquiries, please contact the Continuous Certification coordinator.