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American Board of Pathology (ABP)

Certification in Pathology in the United States

Specialty certification for the medical practice of pathology in the United States is the responsibility of The American Board of Pathology (ABP). For the benefit of physicians planning to specialize in pathology, the ABP provides the following statement of its aims and requirements. Complete information regarding ABP certification is available in the Booklet of Information found at the website <www.abpath.org>.

The granting of a certificate to a physician by the ABP denotes that the pathologist is a physician who has:

  1. Successfully completed a graduate medical education program in pathology or a pathology subspecialty accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC)

  2. Had the Program Director verify that the resident has demonstrated sufficient competence to enter practice without direct supervision

  3. 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 knowledge, skills, and other abilities that the ABP deems important for the practice of pathology

  4. Possesses a full and unrestricted license in a state or jurisdiction of the US or Canada.

The ABP offers three primary certificates: combined anatomic pathology and clinical pathology, anatomic pathology only, and clinical pathology only. The examinations for each are designed to assess general competence in pathology. In addition, the ABP offers a number of examinations to assess expertise in subspecialty areas of anatomic pathology and clinical pathology.

Pathology Training and Credentialing Requirements for Primary Certification
Pathology Training Requirements
A candidate must satisfactorily complete training in a program accredited by the ACGME or the RCPSC. The requirements are as follows:

a. Certification in combined anatomic pathology and clinical pathology (AP/CP) requires four years of full-time training in an accredited APCP program that includes at least 18 months of structured training in anatomic pathology and 18 months of structured training in clinical pathology, plus an additional 12 months of full-time training in anatomic pathology and/or clinical pathology. Training may include up to 6 months of research.

b. Certification in anatomic pathology (AP) only requires three years of full-time, approved training in anatomic pathology in an accredited program that includes at least 24 months of structured training in anatomic pathology, plus an additional 12 months of full-time training in other areas of pathology as part of the defined accredited training program.

c. Certification in clinical pathology (CP) only requires three years of full-time, approved training in clinical pathology in an accredited program that includes at least 24 months of structured training in clinical pathology, plus an additional 12 months of full-time, approved training in other areas of pathology as part of the defined accredited training program.

Subspecialty Certification
Candidates holding a primary certificate from the ABP, or in certain specific situations, from another member board of the American Board of Medical Specialties, may qualify after one to two years of appropriate training to qualify for subspecialty certification examination in blood banking/transfusion medicine, chemical pathology, clinical informatics (by experience route available until 2018), cytopathology, dermatopathology, forensic pathology, hematology, medical microbiology, molecular genetic pathology, neuropathology or 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.  Each certificate is valid for 10-years provided that the diplomate meets all requirements of MOC during that 10 year period.  Successful completion of the 10-year cycle will result in a new certificate which will also be time-limited and subject to the same conditions.  Please see the MOC Booklet of Information on the ABP web site for the latest updates.

Mission and Purpose
The mission of the ABP, as a member of the American Board of Medical Specialties, is to promote the health of the public and advance the practice and science of pathology by establishing voluntary certification standards and assessing the qualifications of those seeking to practice the specialty of pathology.

The ABP accomplishes its mission through the following principal activities:

  1. Establishing certification and maintenance of certification standards.
  2. Assessing the qualifications of those seeking to obtain voluntary certification in the specialty of pathology.
  3. Conducting voluntary primary and subspecialty certification examinations and awarding certificates to successful candidates.
  4. Encouraging the Maintenance of Certification to assist physicians certified by the ABP in maintaining competencies necessary for provision of quality patient care.
  5. Participating in the review of pathology training programs and supporting the directors and trainees of these programs.
  6. Maintaining communication with pathology and other medical organizations, with its Diplomates, and with others as appropriate.
  7. Encouraging the study of pathology.
  8. Maintaining a registry of its diplomates.

Further Information
For more detailed and specific information on the requirements for certification, consult the Booklet of Information, FAQs, and Instructions for Candidates on the ABP web site (www.abpath.org). Additional questions may be directed to questions@abpath.org or sent in writing to:

The American Board of Pathology
PO Box 25915, Tampa, Florida 33622-5915
Phone: (813) 286-2444
Fax: (813) 289-5279
Web site: www.abpath.org