FAQs for Residents & Fellows

Background & Overview
Requirements for Initial Certification
BASIC Exam
Certification Pathway
     CORE Exam
     APPLIED Exam
Scoring of Pass/Fail Exams
Residency Issues
Requirements for Subspecialty Certification
     Dermatopathology
     Pediatric Dermatology
     Micrographic Dermatologic Surgery
Continuing Certification (MOC)

Background and Overview

What does it mean to be board certified?
Becoming Board certified is a process that involves much more than preparing for and passing examinations.  Certification by the American Board of Dermatology (ABD) is the public’s assurance that the certified individual has satisfactorily completed rigorous training in an accredited program, as well as having passed a comprehensive examination.  Initial certification is simply the portal into a career-spanning process of continuing certification (MOC) to continue that assurance to the public.

Who are the certifying and accrediting organizations in dermatology?
The ABD certifies dermatologists who meet qualifications in dermatology, dermatopathology, pediatric dermatology and micrographic dermatologic surgery (MDS). The ABD is a Founding Member of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), an organization consisting of 24 Member Boards.  The ABMS reviews and approves Member Board continuing certification processes.  The ABMS Member Boards certify the majority of medical specialists in the US. 

The major accrediting organization for training programs in the US is the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).  The ACGME, in concert with its Residency Review Committees (RRC), sets and maintains national standards of graduate medical training. To see the number of ACGME accredited Dermatology programs by academic year, click here.  The ABD is involved in the process through the contributions of members of its Board of Directors who serve on the RRC along with appointees from the American Medical Association (AMA). 

Who are the educational and advocacy organizations in dermatology?
There are many specialty and subspecialty groups that function as educational and advocacy organizations.  The largest of these is the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).  These educational and advocacy organizations are independent of the ABD. 

What is the American Board of Dermatology? Who are its directors?
The American Board of Dermatology (ABD) is one of 24 medical specialty boards that make up the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). It exists to assure safe, high-quality dermatologic care for the public by setting, promoting and assuring standards of excellence in the practice of our specialty. The ABD is a voluntary, non-profit organization formed for the primary purpose of protecting the public interest by establishing and maintaining high standards of training, education and qualifications of physicians rendering care in dermatology.

The ABD is composed of volunteer Directors, a public member, and Executive Staff.   Each director is elected to the board and serves a 9-year term. The ABD also consists of a DO Representative and an Early Career Diplomate Observer as well as support staff.

What is the difference between the American Board of Dermatology (ABD) and the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD)?
The American Board of Dermatology (ABD) is an autonomous body that acts as the certifying agency for the specialty of dermatology.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) is the largest national professional society for the specialty of dermatology. Its purposes are to educate dermatologists and the public and to represent the specialty on issues concerning other professional organizations, the public, industry, and the government. Membership in the AAD is not limited to Board-certified dermatologists, but includes other dermatologists, other physicians and health care providers from all over the world who have an interest in the field of dermatology.

What are the ABD’s expectations of professionalism in its diplomates?
The ABD expects diplomates to exhibit a commitment to carrying out professional responsibilities, adhere to ethical principles and demonstrate sensitivity to diverse patient populations.

Requirements for Initial Certification

What are the residency training requirements for certification?
Candidates for certification by the ABD are required to have a minimum of four years of postgraduate training, including a preliminary year residency or first-year residency in a qualifying specialty, and three years of dermatology residency.  The residency program must be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC). 

Requirements during residency include:

• An online Preliminary Registration Form must be completed by the resident within 30 days of the start of training. Documented verification of the resident’s first postgraduate year must be uploaded to the resident’s profile on ABDerm.org.

• An annual online Evaluation Form for each resident must be submitted by the program director by August 1 after completion of the first and second year of training and by May 15 for residents who will complete their third year of training on June 30.

• Training must be completed within five years after the beginning of dermatology residency, except when military service or other compelling circumstances intervene.

• It is the responsibility of the program director to determine if a resident has satisfactorily completed the required 3 years of dermatology training and is, therefore, eligible to sit for the certifying examination of the American Board of Dermatology (see Guidelines for Determining Adequacy of Clinical Training).

• The final evaluation must verify that the resident has demonstrated sufficient professional ability to practice competently, ethically and independently.

How do I qualify to take the APPLIED exam?
For a candidate to sit for the APPLIED exam, the following requirements must be met:

• The candidate must have graduated from a medical school in the United States accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), an accredited medical school in Canada, an accredited osteopathic school in the United States, or if a graduate of a foreign medical school, must possess the standard certificate of the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG).

• The candidate must complete the residency training requirements for certification.  (See above.)

• The candidate’s program director must complete all required documentation attesting to the candidate’s qualifications for certification.

• The candidate must hold a currently valid, full and unrestricted license to practice medicine or osteopathy in the state or province of his or her residence in either the United States or Canada.  (Note: Residents with training licenses rather than full licensure may apply for and take the exam, however will not become certified until they demonstrate that they hold a current, valid, full, and unrestricted license.)

• The candidate must not have engaged in conduct which, in the judgment of the Board, (i) reflects unethical activity relating to the practice of medicine, or (ii) casts significant doubt on the ability of the candidate to practice dermatology in the best interests of patients.

• The candidate must complete any required ABD competency assessments.  To take the APPLIED Exam, the candidate must have passed all four required CORE Exam modules. 

When and for how long am I considered “board eligible”?
Board eligibility begins at the successful conclusion of dermatology residency training and concludes 5 years later, or upon successful completion of certification requirements, whichever is earlier.  After the 5-year eligibility period, a dermatologist may not claim to be “board eligible” unless the ABD determines that the physician has been prevented from taking the exams within the applicable five-year period by military deployment or personal catastrophic illness.

How soon after meeting eligibility requirements can I take the certification exam?
Physicians who complete their residency training in dermatology by July 1, and who meet all other qualifications, including passing all CORE Exam modules, may apply to take the APPLIED Exam, typically administered in July, the same year. Under the special conditions described under Guidelines for Determining Adequacy of Clinical Training, candidates completing additional (make-up) training before October 1 may also be eligible to apply to take the APPLIED Exam that same year. Programs must seek approval from the ABD for any resident completing their residency on or after July 1.

How many years does a candidate have to complete the Certification Exams?
Eligible candidates may take the exams required for certification during a 5-year period of eligibility that begins at the date of the completion of residency training.  Please note that a candidate may not exceed 5 attempts to pass the APPLIED Exam.   

Examples:
A resident who graduates June 30, 2021 is considered board eligible until June 30, 2026.  This means the last opportunity to pass the APPLIED Exam, the final exam in the certification pathway, is in July 2025. 

A resident who graduates December 31, 2021, is considered board eligible until December 31, 2026.  The last opportunity to pass the APPLIED Exam is in July 2026.

If my residency training is extended slightly beyond June 30, do I have to wait until the next year to take the APPLIED exam?  And how does that affect my board eligibility window?
If your residency training ends before October 1st, and you meet other qualifications (including passing all CORE Exam modules), you may be granted permission to take the APPLIED Exam before officially completing your residency training.  In that case, your 5-year board eligibility window will be adjusted to close on June 30 in the 5th year after your graduation. 

Example:
A resident who graduates September 15, 2021, who has been granted special permission to take the APPLIED Exam in July 2021, will have their last opportunity to pass the APPLIED Exam in July 2025.

What if a candidate has not passed all CORE Exam modules by the time of graduation from residency?  Does that extend the board eligibility window?
No.  The eligibility window closes 5 years after graduation, whether or not the CORE Exam modules have been completed by the end of residency. 

BASIC Exam

What is the purpose of the BASIC Exam?  
The BASIC Exam assesses fundamental skills expected of first-year dermatology residents.  Its primary purpose is to help the resident and the training program assess how well the resident is learning these fundamental skills. 

Who is eligible for the BASIC Exam?
The BASIC Exam is administered to first-year dermatology residents.  The BASIC exam is also available, upon request of the program, for second and third-year residents, faculty, fellows, Program Directors and international residents.

Can I receive special accommodations for the BASIC Exam?
Candidates must indicate a need for special accommodations during the BASIC Exam by checking the appropriate box when applying to take the exam.  The candidate will then receive our Application for Special Accommodations form to submit a formal request and the required paperwork to the Board at communications@abderm.org. This is due at the time of application.

Where is the BASIC Exam administered?
The BASIC Exam is proctored at your institution.

What is the fee for the BASIC Exam?
There is a $300 fee that is paid by the resident’s program. Residents incur no out-of-pocket expenses. Any other candidates, such as faculty members, will be charged $150. However,  Program Directors will not be charged a fee.

What does the BASIC Exam consist of?
The BASIC Exam is a four-hour exam of approximately 200 multiple-choice items. For more information, see the BASIC Exam content outline.  Sample items are available to demonstrate the types of content that appear on the exam. 

Do residents have to pass the BASIC Exam?
Residents do not have to sit for nor pass the BASIC Exam. It is informational only and is not required for certification. First-year candidates receive an exam total percent correct score, percent correct score per each content area, and a percentile rank among their peers.

What if a resident hasn’t had a subspecialty rotation?  Aren’t there questions about pediatrics, surgery, and pathology?
There is a detailed content outline for the BASIC Exam that should facilitate self-study, and the level of difficulty is lower than that for the CORE or APPLIED Exams.  A program director will take into consideration a resident's previous experience when evaluating scores.  The BASIC Exam is not pass/fail and does not affect a resident's standing at ABD. 

Certification Pathway

     CORE Exam

What is the purpose of the CORE Exam?
The purpose of the CORE Exam is to assess the acquisition of knowledge at a level appropriate for a practicing dermatologist. 

Who is eligible for the CORE Exam?
Residents become eligible for the CORE Exam during their second year of residency, after having completed at least 1.5 years of training. At that administration, candidates may only take up to two modules.  The CORE Exam modules are offered three times during the third year of residency.  In those administrations, candidates may take any number of modules they wish. 

May I retake a module that I previously passed?
No.  Once a module is passed, it may not be retaken.   

At what point during residency are the CORE Exam modules offered?
For residents who begin training in July, the first opportunity to take the CORE is late winter of the second year of dermatology residency.  At that administration, candidates may only take up to two modules.  The CORE Exam modules are offered three times during the third year of residency.  In those administrations, candidates may take any number of modules they wish. 

How is the CORE Exam administered?
The CORE Exam is available via online proctoring in a private location of the resident’s choice or at a Pearson VUE testing center.  For information about the environment and technical requirements to take the exam by online proctoring, see CORE Exam Online Proctoring Info.  

Can I receive special accommodations for the CORE Exam?
Candidates must indicate a need for special accommodations during the CORE Exam by checking the appropriate box when applying to take the exam.  The candidate will then receive our Application for Special Accommodations form to submit a formal request and the required paperwork to the Board at communications@abderm.org. This is due at the time of application.

Is it better to take the CORE Exam via online proctoring or at a test center?
The decision is best individualized.  Online proctoring allows examinees to be tested in any location that has an environment appropriate for the testing experience, proper computer equipment, and a reliable internet connection.  Thus, online proctoring can be more convenient and time-saving than traveling to a test center.  However, with online proctoring, it is the examinee who is responsible for assuring the appropriate environment, computer equipment, and internet connection.  If any of these are faulty, the exam may be canceled or invalidated and the examinee may have to wait until the next cycle to take the exam.  At a test center, the environment, equipment, and internet connection are the responsibility of the test center company.

What does the CORE Exam consist of?
The CORE Exam consists of four modules that assess dermatology’s major clinical areas – medical, pediatric, surgical and dermatopathology. Each 2-hour module consists of 75-100 multiple-choice items. Residents can sit for a maximum of 2 modules in their first sitting and take up to 1-4 modules thereafter, based on the administration. Residents may take the modules in any order they choose. For more information, see CORE Exam Study Guide, Certification Pathway Content Overview, Sample Items, and CORE Exam Dermpath Module – Sample Virtual DP Items.

How should residents prepare for the CORE Exam?
Actively participating in residency program educational offerings, learning from your clinical experiences, and reading standard dermatology textbooks should be helpful preparation.  To assist residents in preparing for the CORE Exam, ABD created a content overview and study guide. For more information, see CORE Exam Study GuideCertification Pathway Content Overview, Sample Items, and CORE Exam Dermpath Module – Sample Virtual DP Items.

What is the fee for the CORE Exam?
Residents pay an up-front fee of $200 for the opportunity to sit for 4 CORE Exam modules. Additional modules beyond the first 4 attempts require an additional $54 fee per module. This fee covers the cost of proctoring with the exam administration vendor.

Will I lose my proctoring fee for withdrawing from a CORE Exam administration?
No, if you withdraw up to 48 hours prior to your appointment, the fee will be assigned to any upcoming exam modules.

What happens if a resident fails to complete the modules during residency
Individuals who do not successfully pass the CORE Exam modules before completing residency training may continue to attempt the module(s) after graduation from residency.  Because passing the CORE Exam is necessary to qualify for the APPLIED Exam, they will not be able to apply for the APPLIED Exam until they complete the CORE Exam. They are considered “board eligible” because they have completed training.  Their window of opportunity to become Board Certified is during a five-year period of eligibility that begins at the date of the completion of residency training.

Will a DRY 3 resident with CORE Exam modules still outstanding at the conclusion of residency training be able to take the CORE Exam in July 2021 and receive results in time to know whether s/he is eligible to take the 2021 APPLIED Exam?
No. Results from the July 2021 CORE Exam will not be available in time for graduating residents to confirm their eligibility for the 2021 APPLIED Exam. Residents should plan accordingly when scheduling their modules across the 3 CORE Exam administrations each year.

If a resident does not pass all 4 CORE Exam modules during residency training, what is the fee to take the remaining module(s)?
When a candidate submits an application for a CORE Exam module after residency training, there is a fee of $125 per module. This fee only applies to exam applications submitted after residency. If a candidate submits an application for the CORE Exam while still in training, even if the exam will be administered after training ends, the candidate will pay the regular resident fee for the module(s). Only when the candidate submits an application after their residency ends will the increased pricing apply. Example: A candidate's residency ended on June 30. The candidate submits an application in September, to take the November CORE Exam. The candidate will pay a fee of $125 per module. 

     APPLIED Exam

What is the purpose of the APPLIED Exam?
The purpose of the APPLIED Exam is to assess the ability to apply knowledge in clinical scenarios relevant to the practice of general dermatology.

Who is eligible to take the APPLIED exam?
Individuals who have passed all 4 CORE Exam modules and completed residency training are eligible to take the APPLIED Exam.

How is the APPLIED Exam administered?
The APPLIED Exam is administered at Pearson VUE Test Centers.

What does the APPLIED Exam consist of?
The APPLIED Exam is an 8-hour exam of approximately 200 multiple-choice items. For more information, see the Certification Pathway Content Overview, Sample Items, and APPLIED Exam Content Overview.

How do candidates prepare for the APPLIED Exam?
Gaining clinical experience during residency training, reviewing clinical cases and thinking carefully through diagnosis and management, attending educational conferences, and reviewing ABD’s content overview and sample items should be helpful in preparation. It may also be helpful to review consensus and evidence-based practice guidelines.   

What advice can you give about how to answer these questions?
Think about what a physician would actually do when treating the patient in real life and answer the question accordingly.  Do not try to second-guess what the ABD “wants” residents to answer.  Do not assume a question that seems simple is actually complex or is a trick question.  “Trick” questions are not psychometrically valid and should not appear on exams. 

When can I sit for the APPLIED Exam?
Physicians who complete their residency training in dermatology by July 1, and who meet the qualifications (including passing all four CORE Exam modules) are eligible to apply to take the exam in July of the same year. Under the special conditions described under Guidelines for Determining Adequacy of Clinical Training, with prior approval candidates completing additional (make-up) training before October 1 may also be eligible to apply to take the exam.

Can I receive special accommodations for the APPLIED Exam?
Candidates must indicate a need for special accommodations during the APPLIED Exam by checking the appropriate box when applying to take the exam.  The candidate will then receive our Application for Special Accommodations form to submit a formal request and the required paperwork to the Board at communications@abderm.org. This is due at the time of application.

What is the fee for the APPLIED Exam?
The fee for the APPLIED Exam is $2,250.

What can the ABD do to assure me of the accuracy of my results if I am unsuccessful with the APPLIED Exam?
The psychometrics service that ABD uses has the exams routinely scored by two psychometricians.  At the request of the ABD, the psychometric service also refers out all APPLIED Exam results to an independent psychometrician for confirmation. This additional review provides extra assurance of the accuracy of the results. 

If I wish to defer sitting for the APPLIED Exam after I have already paid the fee, do I lose my money?
If a candidate withdraws within ten (10) days of an exam or fails to appear for the exam and does not provide verifiable evidence of extenuating circumstances that prevented the candidate from appearing for the exam, the candidate will forfeit their entire $2250 fee. Candidates must notify the Board office in writing regarding all withdrawals from exam. Withdrawals will not be accepted by phone. If a candidate withdraws prior to ten (10) days of the exam, the entire fee will be carried over to the following year for one exam only. Refunds are not issued.    

What happens to my board eligibility if I am deployed on military duty when the APPLIED Exam is scheduled to occur?
In circumstances where a candidate is deployed on military duty and unable to sit for the APPLIED Exam, the 5-year time frame of eligibility to pass the certification exams may be extended by up to 2 years. 

Scoring of Pass/Fail Exams (CORE Exam and APPLIED Exam)

How are the certifying exams graded?
The ABD certification exams are “criterion-based” tests.  This means that it is possible that all candidates could pass the test if they perform at a certain level.  With criterion-based testing, there is no pre-defined failure rate. For example, the ABD does not state that “candidates performing X standard deviations below the mean will fail,” which would be an alternative form of testing known as “normative-based” testing. The ABD performs standard-setting exercises with the examinations to determine appropriate cut-off values for passing.  The performance of each question on the examination is studied by examination scientists, called psychometricians. They calculate question performance to determine question fairness and level of difficulty. At this time, there are no partial credit or extra credit questions. Each question on the exam is worth one point, including questions where the examinee must select more than one answer. Questions that do not meet testing standards of performance are identified by psychometricians, reviewed by ABD directors, and may not be included on the final calculations of pass/fail for candidates. A percentage of psychometrically sound questions are repeated each year, to allow comparison of examination difficulty across different years of testing.

Do you define ahead of time the percentage of certification exam candidates who should fail?
No.  The ABD certification exams are “criterion-based” tests.  This means that it is possible that all candidates could pass the test if they perform at a certain level.  With criterion-based testing, there is no pre-defined failure rate. For example, the ABD does not state that “candidates performing X standard deviations below the mean will fail,” which would be an alternative form of testing known as “normative-based” testing.

I am concerned about my exam results. Can I speak to someone at the ABD about my exam?
If you have concerns about your exam results, please contact the ABD office (phone: 617.910.6400 x 0 | email: communications@abderm.org). The ABD office is open Monday – Friday, 8:00 am – 4:30 pm.

What does the ABD do to assure the accuracy of my results?
The psychometrics service that ABD uses has the exams routinely scored by two psychometricians.  At the request of the ABD, the psychometric service also refers out all exams, with the exception of the CORE Exam modules, to an independent psychometrician for confirmation. This additional review provides extra assurance of the accuracy of the results.  Unsuccessful CORE Exam modules will be re-scored by the independent psychometrician if it is the last administration prior to the candidate’s graduation.

Residency Issues

Am I eligible to sit for the Boards if I have missed time during residency?
Any departure from continuous full-time training, such as time lost for a medical leave of absence, must be documented and communicated to the Board in the resident evaluation forms filed annually by the program director. An absence exceeding eight weeks (6 weeks leave + 2 weeks vacation) in any one academic year, or a total of 16 weeks in three years, may necessitate additional training to successfully “make up” for that lost time. If the program director anticipates that this additional training will be completed in a satisfactory manner before October 1, a letter may be submitted to the Board requesting approval for the resident to sit for the July APPLIED Exam. The letter must indicate the training period's anticipated completion date. The resident will not receive exam results or a certificate until the program director completes the annual evaluation at the conclusion of the extended training period. If the time is not made up, any resident approved to sit for the APPLIED Exam despite such an absence must have completed each year of training in an above-average or excellent manner as recorded on the annual residency evaluation forms. For additional information, see Guidelines for Determining Adequacy of Clinical Training

What is the family leave policy as of July 1, 2021?    
Absence from training exceeding 8 weeks (6 weeks leave + 2 weeks vacation) in a given year or 16 weeks over three years should be approved only under exceptional circumstances and may necessitate additional training time to ensure that competency requirements are met.  The ABD will rely on the program director to attest when a trainee afforded extra time away from training is competent for initial certification.  Departure from completing 36 continuous months of full-time dermatology training should be documented and justified to the Board through the resident evaluation forms filed annually by the program director.  The approval of such absences are at the discretion of the local program director / clinical competency committee. 

If I am late in finishing my residency training, can I still sit for that year’s APPLIED Exam?
Candidates who will complete residency training after June 30 will be allowed to take the APPLIED Exam if (i) they will finish all training by October 1, (ii) their program director attests to successful completion, (iii) they have passed all CORE modules, and (iv) any other applicable prerequisites are met. Exam results will not be provided before the ABD receives the final year evaluation form indicating successful completion of training.

Are there set numbers of dermatology procedures that I need to complete to be eligible to sit for my general dermatology certifying exams?
The ABD does not set requirements for procedure totals for dermatology residency training. This is the purview of the Dermatology Residency Review Committee of the ACGME.  Candidates should refer to the ACGME Program Requirements for Dermatology. 

What can I do if I don’t agree with the yearly program evaluation submitted to the ABD by my program director?
Within their ABD profile, residents can view an electronic copy of the annual ABD resident evaluation completed by their program director.  After reviewing it, every resident is provided with the opportunity to agree or disagree with the assessment as submitted and comment.  The ABD office will contact you to discuss why you disagreed and can enter a comment on your behalf regarding your disagreement which will not be visible to the program. In cases of significant dispute, the ABD reserves the right to make inquiries by speaking with the resident, the program director, or both.

Requirements for Subspecialty Certification

Fellowship Duration

What if I need to take a leave of absence during my subspecialty training?
High priority should be given to completing 12 continuous months of full-time training. Any departure from 12 months of training, for example, time lost for a medical leave of absence, should be documented and fully justified in the trainee evaluation forms filed by the training program director with the Board.

Eleven months of training must be completed to qualify for subspecialty certification. Thus, without exception, any absence (inclusive of vacation) resulting in less than 11 months of training during a 12-month program will require an additional period of training to achieve 11 total months. Only when this requirement is documented by the program director will the trainee be qualified to take the subspecialty certifying exam. If the program director anticipates that this additional training will be completed in a satisfactory manner before October 1, the Board may allow the trainee to take the certifying exam in that year.

     Dermatopathology

What are the prerequisites for Dermatopathology Subspecialty Certification Exam?

All candidates for subspecialty certification in Dermatopathology must meet the following requirements:

1. A currently valid, full and unrestricted license to practice medicine or osteopathy in the state or province of the candidate's medical practice in either the United States or Canada. The candidate may be denied certification if his/her license has been revoked, suspended, restricted, or surrendered in any jurisdiction - or if the candidate is subject to adverse licensure proceedings.

2. Primary certification by the American Board of Dermatology (ABD) or the American Board of Pathology (anatomic pathology or anatomic and clinical pathology).

3. Satisfactory completion of one year of training in dermatopathology in a program accredited for such training by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).  Four months of the one-year program will be devoted entirely to dermatopathology, while for the remaining eight months, 50% of each day (averaged over one week) will be devoted to education in either anatomic pathology or clinical dermatology, depending upon the fellow’s background. The other 50% of that eight-month time period will be devoted to dermatopathology.

What does the Dermatopathology Subspecialty Certification Exam consist of?
The Dermatopathology exam is an 8-hour single-day test administered by the American Board of Pathology.

What is the fee for the Dermatopathology Subspecialty Certification Exam?
The fee for the exam is $1,800.

How long after training am I eligible to take the Dermatopathology Subspecialty Certification Exam?
Candidates are eligible for certification by ABD in Dermatopathology for five years after completion of their fellowship as long as they continue to hold primary certification or are board eligible for primary certification by ABD. Physicians who complete an approved Dermatopathology fellowship will not be permitted to take the subspecialty certifying exam later than five years following the completion of their training.  See the Five-year Eligibility Policy for more information. A dermatologist who has not become board certified within the 5-year eligibility period may not claim to be “board eligible” unless the American Board of Dermatology determines that that physician has been prevented from taking the exam within the applicable five-year period by military deployment or by catastrophic illness. If either of these situations exists, a dermatologist wishing to claim to be “board eligible” or wishing to take the exam after the expiration of the five-year period may be granted a one- or two-year deferral by submitting a request to the Board. The decision to grant or deny a deferral will be at the sole discretion of the Board.

Do I have to maintain my certification in Dermatology if I have a subspecialty certification?
Yes.  ABD subspecialty certification is linked to primary certification in dermatology. Maintaining ABD subspecialty certification in Dermatopathology is contingent upon maintaining certification in Dermatology.

How long does certification in Dermatopathology last?
As of 2006, certification in Dermatopathology is time-limited for 10 years. When a candidate is certified in Dermatopathology, he/she will enter into Continuing Certification (Maintenance of Certification) for the 10-year period. See the Continuing Certification / Maintenance of Certification requirements.   

     Pediatric Dermatology

What are the prerequisites to obtain a Pediatric Dermatology subspecialty certification?
All candidates for subspecialty certification in Pediatric Dermatology must meet the following requirements:

1. A currently valid, full and unrestricted license to practice medicine or osteopathy in the state or province of the candidate's medical practice in either the United States or Canada. The candidate may be denied certification if his/her license has been revoked, suspended, restricted, or surrendered in any jurisdiction - or if the candidate is subject to adverse licensure proceedings.

2. Primary certification by the American Board of Dermatology (ABD).

3. An additional one or more years of fellowship training in an ABD-approved Pediatric Dermatology fellowship or ACGME approved fellowship – in the future. The minimum amount of time in direct clinical care during fellowship will be determined in part from whether the candidate has had prior pediatric training. For candidates without one or more years of post-graduate pediatric residency, a minimum of 80% time in clinical pursuits is mandated.

What are the requirements for Pediatric Dermatology Fellowship training?
All applicants for fellowship training in Pediatric Dermatology must have satisfactorily completed the residency requirements for general Dermatology and be certified by or be eligible for certification by the American Board of Dermatology (ABD).

Residents not yet certified by ABD in dermatology may complete the fellowship but are not eligible for pediatric dermatology certification until they are certified in general dermatology.

What does the Pediatric Dermatology Subspecialty Certification Exam consist of?
The Pediatric Dermatology Subspecialty Certification Exam is an approximately 4-hour exam consisting of 200 multiple-choice items.  It is administered at Pearson VUE test centers.

What is the fee for the Pediatric Dermatology Subspecialty Certification exam?
The fee for the Pediatric Dermatology exam is $1,600.

How long after training am I eligible to take the Pediatric Dermatology Subspecialty Certification Exam?
Certification in general dermatology is required prior to certification in Pediatric Dermatology. Candidates remain eligible for certification in Pediatric Dermatology for five years after completion of their fellowship as long as they hold primary certification or are board eligible for primary certification by ABD. An individual who is not eligible for certification in general dermatology is not eligible for certification in pediatric dermatology.  A pediatric dermatologist who has not been certified within five years of training may no longer claim to be “board eligible” unless the American Board of Dermatology determines that that physician has been prevented from taking the exam within the applicable five-year period by military deployment or by catastrophic illness.

Do I have to maintain my certification in Dermatology if I have a subspecialty certification?
Yes.  ABD subspecialty certification is linked to primary certification in dermatology. Maintaining ABD subspecialty certification in Pediatric Dermatology is contingent upon maintaining certification in Dermatology.

How long does certification in Pediatric Dermatology last?
Certification in Pediatric Dermatology is time-limited for 10 years.  When a candidate is certified in Pediatric Dermatology, he/she will enter into Continuing Certification (Maintenance of Certification) for the 10-year period. Continuing Certification / Maintenance of Certification requirements.  

     Micrographic Dermatologic Surgery (MDS)

What are the prerequisites to obtain a Micrographic Dermatologic Surgery subspecialty certification?
Candidates who wish to sit for the MDS Exam must:

1. Possess a current, valid, full and unrestricted license to practice medicine or osteopathy in at least one state or province within the United States or Canada;

2. Hold primary certification in general dermatology from ABD;

3. Be up to date in Maintenance of Certification (MOC) if certification by ABD is time-limited;

4. Demonstrate experience in the subspecialty by:

          successfully completing the ACGME-accredited MSDO fellowship
             OR
          attesting to active practice of micrographic surgery as part of one’s patient care activities*

              * during an initial five-year practice pathway eligibility period only

Must every candidate seeking the MDS subspecialty certification complete the ACGME-accredited fellowship in MSDO? 
No, for the initial five years, the ABD created a way for physicians who attest to performing micrographic surgery to attain the subspecialty certification without completing the ACGME-accredited fellowship in MSDO - this option is known as the practice pathway.

How long will the MDS Practice Pathway be available?
The self-attestation eligibility practice pathway is available during the first five years in which the exam is offered (2021-2025). Starting in 2026, any ABD-certified dermatologist who wishes to become certified in MDS must successfully complete the ACGME fellowship in MSDO to be eligible to sit for the MDS Exam. Individuals who first become certified in general dermatology during the years of the practice pathway (2021-2025) may become certified in MDS through the practice pathway provided that they meet all requirements for MDS certification.  However, the practice pathway opportunity will not be extended beyond 2025, regardless of the date of initial certification.

What does the MDS Subspecialty Certification Exam consist of?
The Micrographic Dermatologic Surgery Subspecialty Certification Exam is an approximately 4-hour exam consisting of 200 multiple-choice items.  It is administered at Pearson VUE test centers. 

What is the fee for the MDS Exam?
The fee for the MDS exam is $1800.

Do I have to maintain my certification in Dermatology if I have a subspecialty certification?
Yes.  ABD subspecialty certification is linked to primary certification in dermatology. Maintaining ABD subspecialty certification in Micrographic Dermatologic Surgery is contingent upon maintaining certification in Dermatology.

How long does certification in MDS last?
Certification in Micrographic Dermatologic Surgery is time-limited for 10 years. When a candidate is certified in Micrographic Dermatologic Surgery, he/she will enter into Continuing Certification (Maintenance of Certification) for the 10-year period. See the Continuing Certification / Maintenance of Certification requirements requirements.   

How many times can the MDS Exam be taken?
The MDS Exam can be repeated annually during the five-year practice pathway, provided the candidate meets the exam eligibility requirements. After the five-year practice pathway, only those who have successfully completed an ACGME-accredited program will be able to take the examination. For graduates of ACGME-accredited fellowships, the window of eligibility will close five years after graduation from the program, or at the conclusion of the practice pathway, whichever is later.

What resources are available to help me prepare for the MDS Exam?
The MDS Exam Study Guide is available to help candidates prepare for the exam. It provides an overview of the knowledge and skills obtained through fellowship training in micrographic dermatologic surgery. The Study Guide may be updated periodically during the exam development process.

Continuing Certification (Maintenance of Certification or MOC)

To view all continuing certification FAQs, click here

After I have become certified in dermatology, when do I enter continuing certification?
Upon passing the certifying exam, new diplomates are automatically enrolled in the continuing certification (MOC) program.  Your MOC period begins on January 1 after the July certifying exam. Participation in MOC components prior to the onset of the MOC period is not discouraged, but diplomates are not currently eligible to count MOC credit for their activities until their MOC period commences.  See Continuing Certification / Maintenance of Certification requirements. 

I am doing a fellowship following my dermatology residency. When does MOC start for me?
You enter MOC the year after you become certified. However, those who enter fellowships are exempt from having to earn CME for MOC and from paying the annual $150 MOC fee for the full year after passing the certifying exam. You will be required to complete all continuing certification requirements in the year following your waived year. Check your MyMOC Table within your ABDerm.org profile to confirm you received credit for your fellowship year. See Continuing Certification / Maintenance of Certification requirements.

Will the ABD remind me when I have continuing certification (MOC) deadlines coming up or if I missed a deadline?
The ABD publishes timelines for all continuing certification (MOC) activities.  It is the responsibility of the individual to meet those deadlines.  However, the ABD sends reminder emails periodically to notify you about overdue requirements and to alert you to future requirements.

Contact Us

American Board of Dermatology
2 Wells Avenue
Newton, Massachusetts 02459
Office Hours: Mon-Fri,
8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. ET
(617) 910-6400 (Phone/Fax)
Communications@ABDerm.org

Our Mission

To serve the public and profession by setting high standards for dermatologists to earn and maintain Board certification.