Specialty certification for the medical practice of pathology and its subspecialties in the United States is the responsibility of The American Board of Pathology (ABP). Complete information regarding ABP certification is available in the Booklet of Information found at the website.
The mission of the ABP, as a member of the American Board of Medical Specialties, is to promote the field of pathology and the continuing competency of practicing pathologists.
The ABP accomplishes its mission through these principal activities:
- Establishing certification and maintenance of certification standards.
- Assessing the qualifications of those seeking to obtain voluntary certification in the specialty of pathology.
- Conducting voluntary primary and subspecialty certification examinations and awarding certificates to successful candidates.
- Requiring diplomates with time-limited certification and encouraging diplomates with non-time limited certification to participate in Maintenance of Certification as a means to assist diplomates in evaluating and maintaining competencies necessary for provision of quality patient care.
- Participating in the review of ACGME accredited pathology training programs, supporting the directors and trainees of these programs, and contributing to the Milestones Project.
- Maintaining communication with the pathology community and other medical organizations, with its diplomates, and with others as appropriate.
- Encouraging the study of pathology.
- Maintaining a registry of its diplomats.
The granting of a certificate to a physician by the ABP denotes that the pathologist is a physician who:
- Successfully completed a graduate medical education program in pathology or a pathology subspecialty accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) or a program in pathology accredited by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC) ; and
- Had the Program Director verify that the resident has met the six ACGME competencies and Milestones and is competent to practice safe and effective medicine without direct supervision ; and
- Successfully completed a voluntary evaluation process designed and administered by the ABP to assure the public and other physicians that, at the time of certification, the candidate had the knowledge, skills, judgment and other abilities that the ABP deems important for the practice of pathology.
The ABP offers primary certificates in combined anatomic pathology and clinical pathology, anatomic pathology only, clinical pathology only, and combined anatomic pathology and neuropathology. The examinations for each are designed to assess general competence in pathology. In addition, the ABP offers certification in eleven subspecialty areas of pathology.
Pathology Training and Credentialing Requirements for Primary Certification
A candidate must satisfactorily complete training in a program accredited by the ACGME or the RCPSC. The requirements are as follows:
- Certification in combined anatomic pathology and clinical pathology (AP/CP) requires four years of full-time training in an accredited program that includes at least 18 months of structured training in AP and 18 months of structured training in CP, plus an additional flexible 12 months of flexible full-time training in AP and/or CP. Training may include up to 6 months of research.
- Certification in anatomic pathology only (AP) requires three years of full-time training in an accredited pathology program that includes at least 24 months of structured training in AP, plus an additional flexible 12 months of full-time training in other areas of pathology. Training may include up to 6 months of research.
- Certification in clinical pathology only (CP) requires three years of full-time training in an accredited pathology program that includes at least 24 months of structured training in CP, plus an additional flexible 12 months of full-time training in other areas of pathology. Training may include up to 6 months of research.
- The ABP has approved a Clinical Scientist Pathway for certification in APCP, AP only, and CP only. See the Booklet of Information for details.
Candidates with primary certification from the ABP, or for some subspecialties certified by another member board of the American Board of Medical Specialties, may qualify after one or two years of ACGME accredited fellowship training for subspecialty certification in blood banking/transfusion medicine, chemical pathology, clinical informatics (by experience route available until 2018), cytopathology, dermatopathology, forensic pathology, hematopathology, medical microbiology, molecular genetic pathology, neuropathology and pediatric pathology.
Maintenance of Certification
All certificates issued by the ABP after January 1, 2006 are time-limited and diplomates holding such certificates are required to participate in the ABP Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program to maintain certification. The ABP has adopted a program of continuing certification requiring diplomates to meet MOC requirements every two years for MOC Parts I, II, and IV and take a secure examination (MOC Part III) once every ten years.
For more detailed and specific information and updates on the requirements for certification and MOC, consult the ABP Booklets of Information, FAQs, and Instructions for Candidates on the ABP web site (www.abpath.org).