Requirements for Certification

Eligibility to apply for board certification includes the specific requirements described below.

Medical Education and Residency Training

Medical school: All applicants must have graduated from an allopathic or osteopathic medical school. Applicants who are graduates of International Medical Schools are required to have a certificate from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG).

One (1) year* of internship with direct patient care: All applicants, both graduates of allopathic and osteopathic medical schools, entering ophthalmology training programs must complete a post-graduate clinical year (PGY-1) in a program in the United States accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) or a program in Canada approved by the appropriate accrediting body in Canada. The PGY-1 year must include direct patient care experience in fields such as emergency medicine, family medicine, internal medicine, neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, surgery, or a transitional year. As a minimum, six months of this year must consist of a broad experience in direct patient care. It is a requirement of the ABO that the Program Chair ascertain that an individual has completed an accredited PGY-1 in the United States or in Canada prior to the start of the ophthalmology residency.

Three to four years* in a U.S. or Canadian residency program: In addition to a PGY-1, all applicants must satisfactorily complete an entire formal graduated residency training program in ophthalmology of at least 36 months duration (PGY-4 or higher) in either the United States accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, or at least 48 months duration (PGY-5 or higher) in Canada accredited by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

The ABO recognizes that many licensed, qualified ophthalmologists who practice in the United States were trained elsewhere and has developed a certification pathway for internationally trained ophthalmologists (ITOs).

Interim Evaluation form for transferring residents: When a resident's training has been gained in more than one residency program, an interim evaluation must be completed by the first program. The first program may not be able to verify all competencies. It is the responsibility of the second program to obtain the interim evaluation from the first program. The second program, in its Satisfactory Completion document, must evaluate all competencies, taking into account any deficiencies noted in the interim evaluation by the preceding program(s). Click here to download the Interim Evaluation Form.

Satisfactory completion of residency training documentation: Upon application for Board Certification, the Board verifies satisfactory completion of all training requirements. Only those applicants who have completed their PGY-1 and entire ophthalmology training program, PGY-4 (for US Programs) or PGY-5 (for Canadian Programs) or higher, by August 1 are eligible to apply for the WQE given in the fall of the current year.

Verification of training form: The Chair's verification form(s) cannot be submitted to the ABO until the applicant has completed the entire residency training program. Programs have until October 1 (or later for residents that graduate by November 1) of every year to submit this documentation. If a program is disapproved or withdrawn during the course of a resident's training, he/she must complete the remaining required number of months of training in another accredited program.

* Duration of training is a specific requirement for board eligibility. If you have taken time off or extended leave for any reason during the course of your training, you will need to make up the missed time in consultation with your Residency Program Chair or Director. The ABO does not accept less than one PGY-1 internship year, followed by 36 months of ACGME-accredited residency training in ophthalmology (or 48 months of RCPSC-accredited residency training in ophthalmology for Canadian applicants).

State/Province Medical Licensure

Graduates of United States and Canadian Medical Schools: Applicants for Board Certification must hold a valid and unrestricted license(s) to practice medicine in the United States, its territories or Canadian province in which the applicant's practice of medicine is regularly conducted and in each other place in which the person practices or has practiced medicine and has an unexpired license. Applicants must notify the Board of any action taken by a state medical licensing board within 60 days of such action.  

Practice Pledge

All applicants are required to agree to a pledge upon application stating their commitment to provide ophthalmic services with compassion, respect for human dignity, and integrity.

The Certification Timeline

The Board certification application and examination process requires a minimum of one and one-half to two years to complete, during which time the candidate is usually in clinical practice or in a fellowship program acquiring advanced training in one of the subspecialties of ophthalmology. Candidates who meet the eligibility requirements may apply to sit for the WQE following completion of residency. The application filing period runs from March to August 1 each year. The ABO also accepts late applications from August 2 through December 1 with a $300 late fee. Passing the written examination allows a candidate to progress to the Oral Examination, which tests clinical abilities. Upon successful completion of the WQE, candidates are sent specific instructions for registering for their assigned Oral Examination. Oral Examinations are held twice per calendar year.


The Board Eligibility Policy requires successful completion of board certification requirements (written and oral examination) within seven years of residency graduation.