While board certification is not a requirement for practicing medicine, it is a useful tool for assessing a doctor's expertise and experience in a particular field. All doctors must have a license to practice medicine in the state where they work, but not all of them are certified in the specialties they practice. This does not mean that they are any less talented or dedicated than their board-certified colleagues. At the start of residency, doctors obtain a training certificate that allows them to practice under supervision until they are fully licensed.
The timing of when residents apply for a full license will depend on their individual priorities and what their institutions can support. Some residents may even be able to apply for a license to moonlight during their residency. Fully trained surgeons have completed medical school and an accredited residency program to learn the specialized skills of a surgeon. A good indication of a surgeon's competence is certification from a national surgical board approved by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS).
All board-certified surgeons have successfully completed an approved residency training program and passed a rigorous specialty exam. To learn more about certified doctors and specialists, as well as specialties and subspecialties, check out the ABMS Board Certification Report and the Medical Specialty Guide. Specialized councils, with the approval of the ABPTS, develop specific requirements for taking the certification exam in their area of specialty.