Getting Board Certified

What board certification means to your patients - and your career

If you’re in the midst of PM&R residency training, you’re likely looking forward to what’s next, when you can finally start your practice.

First, though, comes the culmination of your years of study and training: board certification in PM&R.

Not only is board certification required by many hospitals and practice settings, but it also demonstrates value, quality, and accountability to your patients. When they understand that their physiatrist is board certified, they know their health is in good hands.

Primary certification in PM&R also sets you up to gain subspecialty certification if you choose to focus your career in one of ABPMR’s seven subspecialty areas.

Steps to Certification

From resident to diplomate: A step-by-step process

How does the board certification process work? Most physiatrists follow this stepwise approach to achieve board certification. Find where you are in the process and you can plan your future.

  • 1

    Medical School

    Complete a post-graduate degree in medicine, achieving either a medical doctor or doctor of osteopathy degree.

  • 2

    PM&R Residency

    Get matched and complete a four-year residency program in PM&R.

  • 3

    ABPMR Part I Certification Exam

    In your final year of residency, you’ll be able to apply for the Part I Certification Examination, which is a computer-based test administered each year at Pearson Professional Centers nationwide. The test is scheduled for a single day each August, which most people take just after graduating from residency.

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  • 4

    Fellowship or Practice

    Following residency graduation and the Part I Exam, some physiatrists move on to a fellowship year, while others practice.

  • 5

    ABPMR Part II Certification Exam

    The application window for the Part II Examination opens right about the time you get your results from the Part I Examination (September-October). If you pass, you can apply for the Part II Oral Examination that is administered virtually in the spring.

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  • 6

    Unrestricted License

    Prior to the issuance of certification, applicants must report and attest to the possession of a current, valid, and unrestricted license to practice medicine in at least one jurisdiction in the United States, its territories, or Canada. Read the complete ABPMR Licensure Policy for more information.

  • 7

    Board Certification

    If you successfully pass the Part I and Part II Examinations, congratulations! You’re now certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation and have set yourself apart as a board certified specialist.

  • 8

    Subspecialty Exam and Certification

    If you become board certified in PM&R and meet eligibility criteria for a subspecialty examination, you can take that subspecialty exam (typically after completing a fellowship). If you successfully pass that examination, you’re now subspecialty board certified, too.

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  • 9

    Continuing Certification

    Certification isn’t a one-time event at the start of your career. After demonstrating that you meet the competency standard, you commit to keeping your medical knowledge current, your skills sharp, and your quality improving. The ABPMR Continuing Certification (CC) Program provides a framework and tools to do so.

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The Certification Examinations

Two exams, one certification

Together, the written and oral exams provide a complete picture of knowledge, skill, and competence in PM&R. Read on for more information about what each exam is testing.


Part I Examination

The Part I Examination is a computer-based, multiple-choice test covering the broad base of PM&R knowledge and practice. With a mix of fact-based and clinical scenario questions, the Part I Examination tests judgment-making and problem-solving skills as well as the ability to identify correct facts and principles.

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Part II Examination

The Part II Examination is an oral examination consisting of two separate sessions with four different examiners. The exam is an interactive process between the candidate and examiners, allowing you to demonstrate your expertise and judgment in data acquisition, problem solving, patient management, systems-based practice, and interpersonal and communication skills.

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