June 01, 2015


 Not all certifications are the same

Posted May 13, 2015

A new AVMA policy explains the differences between being certified by an AVMA-recognized veterinary specialty organization and earning a certificate. The policy reads as follows: 

Distinction Between the Process of Board-Certification and Earning a Certificate
The American Veterinary Medical Association only recognizes as specialists, veterinarians who have been certified by a board or college recognized by the AVMA American Board of Veterinary Specialties. All other certificates or like documents are evidence of continuing education, course-work completion or similar initiatives and do not rise to the level of specialization.

The policy proposed by the ABVS and approved by the AVMA Board of Directors aims to show certificate programs are not equivalent to specialty board certification.

In its recommendation to the AVMA Board, the ABVS cites certification in veterinary surgery as an example of how the process encompasses several years spent acquiring a wide array of knowledge and skills in orthopedic and soft-tissue surgery of all body systems, using a variety of surgical techniques and technologies. In contrast, a certificate program might award a certificate to a veterinarian who has attended a several-hour or daylong continuing education program to learn a specific procedure such as repair of cranial cruciate ligament rupture.

Some certificates, the ABVS continued, are assessment-based and awarded to participants who demonstrate suitable attainment of the specific knowledge or skill presented to them. Certificate programs may improve the knowledge or technical proficiency of a veterinarian in a focused area, similar to what might be achieved through attendance at CE meetings.

“However, certificates awarded as described … do not require extensive training requirements for eligibility; do not represent expertise attained through long-term repetition of cases from start to finish under the mentorship of experts; and do not represent an assessment of knowledge and skills by a process independent of the provider of the knowledge and skills, and thus should not be confused with certification as an expert,” the ABVS stated.

Additionally, as defined by the Institute for Credentialing Excellence, certificates differ from certification in that awardees are not given a degree or credentials to be listed with their name.

Given these distinctions, the ABVS requested that the AVMA Board approve the policy statement, which it did, and that the AVMA provide further clarification and guidance with regard to certification.