Certification is a voluntary credential.  By choosing a plastic surgeon certified by the ABPS, you can be assured that the surgeon has completed the appropriate training and passed comprehensive written and oral examinations covering all plastic surgery procedures. 


The ABPS certification encompasses the entire spectrum of plastic surgery, including cosmetic, reconstructive, craniomaxillofacial, and hand surgery. Examinations cover plastic surgery of the entire body.  That is, cosmetic and reconstructive surgery of the head and neck, trunk, and extremities.
We recommend consumers compare the training and testing requirements of the other boards to those of ABPS in order to make an informed decision.
The ABPS is a member of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). For 80 years, the not-for-profit American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) has been committed to providing patients with the highest quality health care by assisting our 24 Member Boards in developing and implementing uncompromising professional standards for doctors. You can trust Board Certified doctors to take excellent care of you and your family. That’s because doctors who are Board Certified by an ABMS Member Board and participate in the ABPS Continuous Certification program are voluntarily part of a rigorous process that continually assesses and enhances their medical knowledge, judgment, professionalism, clinical techniques and communication skills.
ABMS collaborates with Member Boards to create lifelong learning standards that help to ensure physicians keep abreast of the latest practices and treatments. We also verify Board Certification of doctors to patients, the government, schools and business, providing a respected foundation for a national movement that supports physician accountability and the highest standards of quality care for every patient.


The doctor must graduate from an accredited medical school, complete at least 6 years of additional training as a resident surgeon in a program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (www.acgme.org) or at least 5 years in a program accredited by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (www.royalcollege.ca).

The residency training must cover all areas of surgery, including at least 3 years devoted entirely to plastic surgery.


Board Certification is an additional voluntary credential a physician chooses to obtain after medical school and residency training. It can mean that the surgeon did not complete the requisite training requirements for ABPS, completed training outside the Unites States or Canada, completed surgical training in an Osteopathic program, elected not to take an examination or was unsuccessful on the examination.


Yes.  If a physician possesses a medical license from a state medical board, then he or she may practice plastic surgery. It is the patient’s personal decision as to whether they prefer to choose a board-certified surgeon.

Verifying certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery is a way for you, the consumer, to confirm that the surgeon has met the training requirements and passed examinations covering all plastic surgery procedures.


Residency training programs in specialties other than plastic surgery do include some aspects of plastic surgery.

For example, Otolaryngology training involves plastic surgery of the head and neck. Ophthalmology with an additional fellowship in Occuloplastic Surgery training includes procedures in and around the eyes, and Dermatology training can include laser procedures of the skin.

We suggest you have a discussion with your physician about the procedure, and how his/her training has prepared him/her for the surgery you are considering.


The Board’s website homepage provides a search function for patients and credentialing specialists called “Is your plastic surgeon ABPS board certified?” Certification dates with Continuous Certification Participation status are reported.  


The ABPS concentrates on the initial certification and continuous certification of plastic surgeons (diplomates of the Board) through the verification of training requirements and examination processes. 

The mission of the ABPS is to promote safe, ethical, efficacious plastic surgery to the public by maintaining high standards for the education, examination, certification, and maintenance of certification of plastic surgeons as specialists and subspecialists.

Societies are professional membership organizations.  The specific society or academy should be contacted for specific membership requirements.  


Licensure is required in order to practice medicine while certification is a voluntary, additional credential.

To practice medicine in the United States, doctors must be licensed by the states in which they work. However, being licensed does not indicate whether a doctor is qualified to practice in a specific medical specialty, such as family medicine, plastic surgery or dermatology. One of the best ways to know if your doctor has the qualifications to provide care in a specialty is to find out if he or she is Board Certified and participating in activities to stay up-to-date with the latest advances in medicine and patient care.

More information regarding state medical licensure can be found at www.fsmb.org.

More information regarding certification can be found at www.certificationmatters.org


Verify if a surgeon’s license is in good standing or if there are formal patient complaints/disciplinary actions on file through the individual state medical board.  Most offer (free) online verification.

The Federation of State Medical Boards has a directory with contact information for each board at www.fsmb.org.

You can also search the internet for the individual state medical board (for example: CA Medical Board for those in California)


The individual state medical board will investigate the issue.  Unfortunately, handling patient complaints are outside of the scope of our work.  The ABPS concentrates on the examination and certification of plastic surgeons.  Actions taken by the state medical boards are reported to the ABPS after the investigation is complete. 

Contact the individual state medical board through the Federation of State Medical Boards (www.fsmb.org).  There is a directory of medical boards’ contact information.


Contact the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) at www.plasticsurgery.org or the Aesthetic Society of www.theaestheticsociety.org.

Each website includes helpful patient and procedure information.