What Continuing Education Is Required for Physicians?

All states and medical boards require physicians to participate in continuing medical education (CME) activities in order to maintain their medical licenses. Read on to discover what CME requirements you would need to fulfill after becoming a licensed physician. Schools offering Health Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Continuing Medical Education Requirements

According to the American Medical Association (AMA), CME requirements for physicians vary by state, so you'll need to check with your state board to make sure that you follow its guidelines (www.ama-assn.org). Some states mandate the content of CME courses. Depending on where you live, your state will require you to complete 12-50 credits per year, all of which must be approved by the AMA and follow AMA guidelines.

All states and boards agree on what activities are and are not defined as CME activities. The AMA describes CME activities as educational activities that are designed to improve your medical knowledge and practice, particularly in regards to serving patients. Hands-on clinical work, mentoring, charity work, committee work and non-CME examinations are not considered CME activities.

Important Facts About Physicians

Prerequisites Medical degree
Online Availability Yes; portions of CME requirements can be fulfilled through online learning
Common Courses Surgical pathology, obesity medicine, primary care medicine, neurology
Possible Careers Surgeon, chiropractor, registered nurse
Median Salary (2018) $211,780 (for family and general practitioners)
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 13% growth (for all physicians and surgeons)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

AMA CME Categories

AMA CME credits are awarded in two categories. For the first category, you may participate in courses in person or online, write or edit articles for a medical journal, create educational materials over an enduring length of time, contribute to medical examinations or research specific ways to improve your medical performance. The AMA reports that you may also earn these credits by presenting at conferences, earning additional advanced medical degrees and maintaining board certification in your specialty.

The second category of CME activities are educational activities that don't fall into any of the first category descriptions. You could earn category two credits by:

  • Teaching medical students and residents
  • Engaging in self-teaching through online or medical journal research
  • Participating in discussions and small-group activities with medical peers

Your state may require that you earn a specified number of credits from each category. Your state may also mandate that you complete CME activities in specific subjects, such as patient safety, anesthesia or medical ethics. Earning an average of at least 50 CMEs per year will allow you to apply for the AMA's Physician's Recognition Award (PRA), which demonstrates your dedication to growing as a physician to colleagues and patients.

CME Subject Areas

The AMA lists CME activities that focus on topics ranging from medical ethics to the treatment of patients who wish to stop smoking. Additional topics that you could choose to study include:

  • Dermatology
  • Drug therapy
  • Global health
  • Endocrinology
  • Cardiology

The course list changes on a yearly basis, so some topics may have limited availability.

Residencies or Fellowships

Your state may consider being currently enrolled in a residency or fellowship program as fulfilling CME requirements. In addition, earning board certification in your specialty may exempt you from CME requirements for one registration period. If your state doesn't mandate your CME courses, you could choose CME activities related to your area of specialization. Since CMEs are also required to maintain board certification, credits that you earn in your specialty area may apply toward both licensure and board certification requirements.

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