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Initial Certification

Initial Certification > Medical Physics


Medical Physics

Initial Certification information is for candidates who have not been certified in one of the specialties of medical physics (diagnostic, therapeutic, or medical nuclear).

The Certificate

The certificate indicates that its holder has completed certain requirements that the Board considers to be at or above the minimum level of qualification to act in an advisory capacity to physicians regarding the physical aspects of radiation therapy, diagnostic radiology, and/or nuclear medicine. ABR certificates and other medical professional certificates in medical physics indicate that the applicant has been found qualified to practice medical physics independently in the following specialties:

Therapeutic Medical Physics is a specialty of medical physics that deals with:

  1. physical aspects of the therapeutic applications of x-rays, gamma rays, electron and other charged particle beams, protons, and radiations from sealed radionuclide sources, and
  2. the equipment associated with their production and use, including radiation safety.

Diagnostic Medical Physics is a specialty of medical physics that deals with:

  1. the diagnostic applications of x-rays, gamma rays from sealed sources, ultrasonic radiation, MRI, and
  2. the equipment associated with their production and use, including radiation safety.

Nuclear Medical Physics is a specialty of medical physics that deals with:

  1. the therapeutic and diagnostic applications of radionuclides (except those used in sealed sources for therapeutic purposes), and
  2. the equipment associated with their production and use, including radiation safety.

A certificate in medical physics does NOT:

  • qualify its holder to practice any phase of clinical radiology.
  • confer any degree, legal qualifications, privileges, or license to practice medical physics.
  • grant license to calibrate radiation-emitting machines or to practice medical physics in any of its aspects, or
  • suggest special achievement in the field of medical physics.

The certificate signifies that its holder, at the time of taking the examinations, intended to make the practice of medical physics his or her chief concern. Hence, those who intend to practice radiology (and be certified as radiologists) should not be certified as physicists. Physicists who are primarily concerned with areas of physics other than medical physics should not be encouraged to take the ABR examinations.

Your certificate is valid contingent upon meeting the requirements of Maintenance of Certification (MOC).

Throughout the period for which you hold certification, you are expected to continue learning and improving your skills in a personalized program (see MOC information), which will be evaluated annually on a rolling three-year "look-back" window. One of the requirements to maintain certification is successful completion of the cognitive examination (MOC Part 3), which must be passed every 10 years.

Your certification status and MOC status will be publicly reported on our website, as well as on the official public reporting website of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), www.certificationmatters.org. This shows interested parties that you are keeping up with the latest developments in your field.

A certificate granted by this Board does not of itself confer, or purport to confer, any degree or legal qualifications, privileges, or license to practice medical physics.

The Board reserves the right to make changes in its fees, policies, and procedures at any time and cannot assume responsibility for giving advance notice thereof.


Time Limitation for Attaining Initial Certification ("Board Eligibility")

Candidates have specific time limits for remaining eligible to be initially certified by the ABR and to maintain their status as board eligible. For medical physics, “end of training” is defined as completion of a CAMPEP-accredited residency program or approval for Part 2 of the initial certification examination, whichever is earlier.

The termination dates for board eligibility status are listed below.

End of Training or Part 2 Approval

Before January 1, 2011: December 31, 2016

January 1, 2011, or later: six full calendar years from the end of residency training or Part 2 approval, whichever comes first.

After the period of eligibility ends, candidates failing to successfully complete the initial certification process will no longer be considered by the ABR as board eligible, will no longer be permitted to designate themselves as such for communications or credentialing purposes, and will no longer be reported as such to external agencies in verification letters. Please click here for more information on board eligibility and reinstatement of board-eligible status.

In addition, the ABR Board of Trustees sets a limit for the time from approval for Part 1 and passing the Part 1 examination.

The required completion dates for Part 1 are listed below:

Approval Date for Part 1                                                

Before Jan. 1, 2011: December 31, 2016                 

Jan. 1, 2011, or later: five full calendar years from Part 1 approval

If the Part 1 exam is not passed within this period, one year of additional medical physics academic training at an institution with a CAMPEP-accredited medical physics education program is required before a candidate may re-enter the examination process.

Questions related to these or other board certification issues can be addressed to ic@theabr.org, or by calling (520) 790-2900.


Frequently Asked Questions

Medical Physics Board Eligibility

When can someone become approved to take Part 1?

The candidate must file an application. Currently, one must be enrolled in or have completed a CAMPEP-accredited program (graduate program, DMP program, certificate program, or medical physics residency).

The ABR then notifies the candidate that he or she is approved for Part 1.

Is there a time limit between the time one has passed Part 1 and the time one must be approved for Part 2?

Yes. Effective January 1, 2015, candidates who have passed the Part 1 examination will be allowed 10 years from the date they passed Part 1 to become approved for the Part 2 examination. Board eligibility begins once a candidate is approved for Part 2. The first group of candidates affected by this policy are those who passed Part 1 in 2007 or prior. The 10-year limit for these candidates will expire in 2017.

For more information, please see: Policy Limiting the Time between Passing the Part 1 Examination and the Beginning of Board Eligibility to 10 years.


Additional Certifications for Diplomates Previously Certified in Another Medical Physics Specialty

Any ABR diplomate certified in at least one specialty of medical physics (diagnostic medical physics, nuclear medical physics, or therapeutic medical physics) may pursue board certification in additional medical physics specialties. In applying to ABR for certification in an additional specialty, the diplomate must demonstrate that he or she has the equivalent of at least one year of clinical experience in that specialty. Another ABR diplomate, who is certified in the specialty for which the individual is seeking additional certification, must attest that the individual has the requisite one year of clinical experience in that specialty. The clinical experience need not be obtained in a full-time position but should be consistent with the requirements of the specialty, with the total time committed to clinical experience in the specialty being one year or more. One year is defined as at least 80 percent FTE effort. The clinical experience must address the competencies listed in AAPM Report 249: Essentials and Guidelines for Clinical Medical Physics Residency Training Programs, Section 2.5, 3.5 or 4.5.

Upon ABR acceptance of the application, the diplomate will be admitted into the Part 2 and Part 3 (oral) examination process. The standard ABR exam fee schedule will apply. After the diplomate has been approved for Part 2 in an additional specialty, he or she will be considered a board-eligible candidate in the additional specialty and will be allowed six years to complete the certification process. If certification is not completed within six years, the candidate’s board-eligible status will expire, and the candidate will have to complete at least one year of additional training at an institution that has a CAMPEP-accredited residency program before a new application can be filed. For more information on board eligibility, click here.

Diplomates who apply for a second or third certification must receive approval to take Part 2 within four years, or the ABR will remove the application from the certification process. In this case, the diplomate would then need to complete a year of clinical experience at an institution that has a CAMPEP-accredited residency program before a new application could be filed.   

Beginning in 2019, the clinical experience for additional certifications must be prospective. The diplomate and a supervisor must develop clinical experience and supervision plans prior to the initiation of the clinical experience. The supervisor must be a medical physicist certified by the ABR in the specialty for which the diplomate is seeking additional certification. Details will be available in 2016.

Applications for certification in a 2nd or 3rd discipline are accepted between July 1 and January 31. Please check back here during these dates for the application.