The American Board of Medical Microbiology (ABMM) certifies doctoral-level microbiologists to direct medical and public health microbiology laboratories. ABMM certification is recognized by federal and state governmental agencies as a significant component toward meeting licensure requirements to direct laboratories engaged in the microbiological diagnosis of human disease. It is recognized under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 final rule and in all 12 states that require licensure: California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Tennessee and West Virginia.
Once certified, the ABMM requires its Diplomates to recertify every three years.
The application deadline is April 1 and the exam is offered in the month of June at testing centers worldwide.
Benefits of an ABMM certification:
- Recognized as the highest and most widely acknowledged credential for doctoral-level microbiologists
- Approved under CLIA ’88 as a requirement for laboratory directors
- Documents qualifications with employers
- Required for licensure in 12 states
Download the list of topics tested on the exam. Updated: November 2016
The ABMM Board uses the following criteria to evaluate your application to sit for the exam. Please read the eligibility criteria carefully. If you fail to meet these criteria, your application will be denied and your application fee will not be refunded.
You must meet the criteria in one of the two “plans” to apply and sit in for the ABMM exam:
Plan I: Applicants must possess a doctorate and complete a minimum of three years of experience, as defined below.
Plan II: Applicants must possess a doctorate and complete two years of postgraduate training in a CPEP-approved program, as defined below.
All training and experience requirements must be met after the doctoral degree has been awarded.
Applicants must possess a Doctorate of Philosophy or Doctorate of Science in microbiology or an equivalent degree in one of the related sciences acceptable to the ABMM Board. Other degrees (such as Doctor of Medicine, Doctor of Osteopathy, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Doctor of Public Health, Doctor of Dental Medicine or Doctor of Dental Surgery) may be accepted if your additional special training and experience is approved by the ABMM Board.
For applicants educated in the U.S., all educational requirements must be earned from institutions accredited by a regulatory agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
For applicants educated in Canada, all educational requirements must be earned from institutions recognized by the Ministry of Education of the province in which each school is located.
For applicants educated outside the U.S. or Canada, degrees must be deemed equivalent to those earned at an accredited institution in the U.S. by World Education Services, Inc..
Experience is defined as full-time postdoctoral training and/or full-time director-level laboratory experience which is directly relevant to the practice of medical and public health microbiology and its subspecialties. Appropriate experience requires an ongoing relationship with a medical and public health microbiology, reference or other microbiology laboratory that includes a diagnostic service component such that the applicant has devoted at least 75% of his/her time to management, medical and administrative activities during the three years of experience. Specifically, the cumulative training and/or experience must include the following percentages of time devoted to each of the listed areas:
- Responsibilities and skills in the medical and public health microbiology laboratory (50-65%)
- Assisting medical and public health microbiology technologists in interpreting the medical significance of laboratory findings
- Oversight of quality assurance/quality control
- Technical troubleshooting and problem solving
- Interaction with healthcare providers (15-30%)
- Consultation with healthcare providers regarding the selection and interpretation of medical and public health microbiology tests/results
- Consultation with local and state public health officials
- Reference lab consultation with clients
- Participation in hospital/institution committees (infection control, antibiotic subcommittee, etc.)
- Management and administrative skills (10-20%)
- Interacting with institutional and laboratory administration and personnel
- Performing financial analyses on new test methods or laboratory programs
- Assuring/overseeing accreditation, competency, proficiency testing, etc.
- Research (0-25%)
- Development/evaluation of new test methods/techniques/instrumentation
- Collaboration with medical and public health microbiology/basic research colleagues
- Teaching (0-25%)
- Didactic lectures and rounds
- Resident/fellow/student training
The minimum percentages in each area must be met. Research and teaching experience are not required, but applicants may have up to 25% of their time devoted to either, or a combination, of those areas provided the combination does not exceed 25%. Experience in which more than 25% of time is spent on research, teaching, grant writing or test development does not satisfy the experience requirement.
Applicants who will complete the requisite training and experience within 60 days following the exam date are eligible to apply.
- An infectious disease (ID) fellowship may count towards the requisite experience if it meets the eligibility outlined above. Despite the length of fellowship, no more than one year's experience will count towards meeting the three years of required experience. Experience must involve an active role in the laboratory (e.g., attended rounds and completed a microbiology rotation) and must be documented by a reference form submitted by the director of microbiology.
- A pathology residency, devoted to microbiology and molecular pathology, may count towards the requisite experience if it meets the eligibility outlined above. No more than six month's experience will count towards meeting the three years of required experience. The number of months devoted to microbiology and molecular pathology during the residency must be specifically documented on the reference form.
- Residents of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada can apply for eligibility once their residency is completed. Due to the timetable of the program, residents will not be found eligible before the program is completed. Those who will complete the program within 60 days following the exam date are eligible to apply.
CPEP-approved fellowship programs prepare postdoctoral-level candidates (e.g., Ph.D., M.D., Sc.D., D.O., and Dr. P.H.) for leadership roles in the clinical microbiology or immunology professions. Programs are located in medical centers in locations around the U.S.
Applications are accepted throughout the year, however, your non-refundable application fee and all supporting documents must be received no later than April 1 to sit for the exam in the month of June at testing centers around the world. Your application cannot be evaluated until all materials are received.
Follow the instructions below to apply:
1. Create a Webassessor account.
After you create a login name, you will be asked to create a profile. Please complete all fields in the profile to expedite the processing of your application. You will receive an automated email with your login name and password. Keep this email for your records. If your application is approved, your login information will be required to register for the exam.
2. Pay the application fee.
The non-refundable application fee is paid through ASMscience. You will need to create an account and log in. You will find the application fees by clicking on the grey “Certification” tab, scrolling down to “ABMM Application Fee”, and clicking “Add to Cart”. You can then proceed to checkout. The application fee is $450 for ASM members and $575 for non-members, both in U.S. currency. Checks and money orders will not be accepted. Your application cannot be processed until this fee has been paid. If your application is approved, you must pay an additional fee of $400 to register for the exam.
3. Submit official graduate transcripts.
Photocopies will not be accepted.
If you were educated within the U.S. or Canada, official transcripts must be sent directly from the issuing institution via email (email@example.com) or mail to:
American Board of Medical Microbiology
American Society for Microbiology
1752 N Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036-2904
If you were educated outside the U.S. or Canada, your original, official graduate transcripts (not photocopies) must be evaluated by World Education Services, Inc. (WES), a process which may take several months. WES must send your U.S. degree equivalency statement via AccessWES to the American College of Microbiology. A document-by-document evaluation will suffice. Transcripts received directly from a foreign institution or translation of transcripts from such institutions will not be accepted by the ABMM. For applicants to be considered eligible to sit for the ABMM exam, their degrees earned outside the U.S. or Canada must be deemed equivalent to those earned at an U.S. accredited institution. Transcripts and WES evaluations will not be returned to applicants. No other transcript agency evaluations will be accepted.
- If the name on your transcript(s) does not match the name on your application form and/or reference letters, you must submit a certified copy of your marriage license as part of your application.
4. Ask your supervisor to complete the online reference form.
References in letter form will not be accepted by the ABMM.
The minimum work experience requirement must be documented through the use of an online reference form(s) completed by your current and/or former direct supervisor(s). Submit only as many reference forms as are necessary to document the minimum requirement. Experience can only be documented by your supervisor at the time. Current supervisors cannot attest to past work experience.
If you have completed a CPEP-approved training program, you must have your program director submit a reference form on your behalf.
References must specifically address the time you spent and your experience in the following areas:
- Responsibilities and skills in the medical and public health microbiology laboratory
- Interaction with healthcare providers
- Management and administrative skills
The reference must include his/her business email address, such as firstname.lastname@example.org. Yahoo, hotmail, gmail or general email addresses, such as email@example.com, are not acceptable. An automatic submission confirmation email will be sent to the reference and applicant upon submission.
The references provide reviewers with an adequate understanding of the depth of your training and/or experience. References will be verified.
Remember that your application is not complete until all of the following is done:
- Create a Webassessor Account
- Pay the application fee on ASMscience
- Mail official transcripts or transcript evaluation
- Complete online reference form(s) from your current and/or former supervisor(s)
- If applicable, send certified copy of your marriage license or name change certificate
Incomplete applications will be held for one year. If a complete application is not submitted within a year, a new application and non-refundable fee are required.
The ABMM does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, national origin, sex, mental or physical disability or age. The ABMM complies with the policies set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Once all application materials have been received, you will receive an email stating when you will be notified of your application’s review. In general, application results are sent out within two-to-three weeks of an application becoming complete. Eligibility and approval to sit for the exam is determined on a case-by-case basis by ABMM Board members. Once eligible, you must take the exam within one year of approval or a new application will be required. Therefore, you are advised not to apply until you are ready to take the exam. Once approved, you will be sent an email containing instructions for registering for the exam. This includes, selecting your local testing center, your desired date and time, and paying the exam registration fee of $400. The exam registration window opens on April 15 and closes on June 24 of each year. You are advised to register for the exam once it opens to ensure maximum flexibility in selecting your desired testing location and time.
The ABMM exam is offered once a year in June, at testing centers located around the world.
To measure the applicant’s knowledge in the four subject areas considered necessary for the effective practice of medical and public health microbiology:
- Directing Laboratory Testing Functions
- Directing Laboratory Administrative Functions
- Ensuring Safety and Security in the Laboratory
- Consulting with Other Medical and Public Health Microbiology Professionals
The computer-based exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions with only one correct answer.
Candidates can move forward and back through the questions while examining and are allowed six hours to complete the exam.
ABOUT THE EXAM QUESTIONS
- Two types of questions are incorporated in the exam:
- Questions designed to test the recall of basic knowledge, direct interpretation of data or simple synthesis of information.
- Questions that require a higher level of thought process, reasoning skills or interpretation of data to arrive at the correct answer.
- Any calculations needed on the exam will not require a calculator.
- Questions are reevaluated and updated annually. You should expect to see questions on technical advances or issues that occurred during the past year.
Learn more about how a question is developed.
Responsibilities and roster of the Exam Development Committees.
The certification boards of the American College of Microbiology use a criterion-referenced scoring system.
You are not graded on a curve and do not compete against each other.
Learn more about criterion-referencing, discrimination, and scoring.
Exam results are emailed by September 1 to the email address provided in your Webassessor profile. Please be sure to keep your contact information in your Webassessor profile updated to ensure you receive correspondence from the ABMM.
The ABMM pass rate is available for 2011-2016.
WHAT IF I DO NOT PASS THE EXAM?
Applicants have three exam cycles from their approval date to pass the exam. This means that if you do not pass the exam the first time you take it, you can take the exam up to two more times within the next two years under the same application. You must pay the exam registration fee of $400 each time you register to take the exam. If you fail three times with the same application, a new application and fee is required.
ON EXAM DAY
Please plan to arrive at the testing center no more than 15 minutes prior to your scheduled exam time. The check-in process should only take five minutes.
You must bring the following with you to the testing center:
- Your Test Taker Authorization Code. The proctor cannot launch the test without this code. This code will be included in the confirmation email you are sent when you register for the exam.
- Two forms of identification, one must be a current, government-issued, photo ID such as:
- State-issued driver’s license or identification card
- Military identification
- National identification card
- The other can be a non-photo identification such as:
- Credit card
- Check cashing card
- Bank debit card
- Student ID from an accredited school
- Both forms of identification can be a government-issued photo ID.
NOTE: Both forms of ID must show your name exactly as it appears in your Webassessor profile.
PREPARING FOR THE EXAM
Download preparation suggestions and the suggested resources list.
Download sample questions.
The ABMM requires its certified individuals, Diplomates, to recertify every three years. Diplomates need to complete an application form and must accumulate 150 contact hours of continuing education over three years. The recertification fee per specialty is $300 for ASM contributing and premium members and $350 for ASM supporting and non-members. The deadline is January 31. For applications not postmarked by January 31, a late fee of $300 for ASM contributing and premium members and $350 for ASM supporting and non-members will be applied.
- How do I verify ABMM Diplomates?
If you are interested in verifying the certification of an ABMM Diplomate, email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org with an authorization of release form signed by the Diplomate.
- I used my email address as my login and now my email address has changed. How can I change my login to my new email address?
You need to log in to your account and update the email address field with your current email address. Once you have done this, you will need to submit a request to email@example.com to change your login to match your new email address.
- I am unsure of which exam or Board I should apply to. Can you guide me?
We suggest you review the eligibility requirements and the exam information (including content and topics tested) for each Board to see which certification is appropriate for your education and experience.
- What if my application is not approved?
If your application is not approved, you will be informed of the reason and you will have 30 days to appeal the decision by having additional supporting materials (in the form of a transcript, educational evaluation, and/or an online reference form) submitted on your behalf. If your application is not approved on appeal, it will be withdrawn and you will need to submit a new application for your eligibility to be reevaluated.
- I applied previously, but my application was withdrawn. Do I have to resubmit all of my application materials to reapply?
Application materials are kept on file for seven years. If you reapply within seven years of your application’s withdrawal, you will not need to resubmit your transcripts and/or educational evaluation but all other application materials need to be resubmitted.
- I created a Webassessor profile and paid the application fee through the ASMscience. Is there an actual application that I need to fill out to document my education and work experience?
No. Your educational background will be evaluated based on the transcripts/educational evaluation you submit and your work experience will be evaluated based on the online reference forms submitted on your behalf by your current or former immediate supervisor(s).
- Do I need to have my undergraduate or master’s degree transcripts sent to the ABMM or evaluated?
No. You only need to have your doctoral degree transcript submitted to the ABMM if educated in the U.S. or Canada or obtain a U.S. degree equivalency statement for your doctoral degree if educated outside the U.S. or Canada.
- Does experience need to be gained within the United States in order to be considered for eligibility?
No, it does not matter where the experience is gained, as long as it meets the Board’s requirements delineated on the Eligibility page.
- I am trying to register to take the exam, but the dates on the calendar are grayed out and I do not have the option to select an exam time.
If all of the dates in a given month are grayed out, it means that testing center is not available. Check the availability of other testing centers in the area and, if none of them are available in the exam administration window, try expanding your testing center search to include testing centers that are further away. Additionally, you can submit a request to open the testing center in the exam administration window by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org (please include your desired testing center’s name and location and your first, second, and third choices for an exam date in your request). While a request to open a testing center is being processed, examinees are encouraged to schedule their exams at one of the other testing centers to ensure they are able to sit for the exam in the current year.
- What if my first choice of a testing center is not available?
You can submit a request to take the exam at your first choice of a testing center and we will do our best to accommodate your request. In case your request cannot be accommodated, however, you are advised to schedule your exam at an alternate testing center to ensure you are able to sit for the exam in the current year.
- What if there aren’t any testing centers in my area?
If there is not a testing center close to you when it is time to register to take the exam, you will need to travel to the nearest testing center to take the exam.
- Can I reschedule my exam?
Yes. As long as it is 72 hours before your scheduled exam time, you can reschedule your exam by logging into your Webassessor account, clicking on the Details link next to your scheduled exam and clicking on the “Reschedule” button. To reschedule an exam within 72 hours prior to your scheduled exam time, you must contact the ABMM office (at email@example.com or 202-942-9257). No refunds will be issued for exams rescheduled within 72 hours of the scheduled exam sitting, and rescheduling an exam within this time frame will result in your having to pay another exam registration fee.
- What if I need to cancel my exam registration once it has been scheduled?
To cancel your exam, you must send an email notification of your intent to cancel to firstname.lastname@example.org. In order to be issued a $350 refund for a cancellation, your request must be received by the ABMM at least five business days prior to your scheduled exam. No refunds will be issued for cancellations within this time frame.
- Besides my authorization code and two forms of identification, what else can I bring to the testing center?
You will not be allowed to bring anything into the exam room with you except for your identification and authorization code. Any other personal items including, but not limited to, bags, purses, wallets, coats, jackets, hats, briefcases, books, mobile devices such as beepers, cellphones and smartphones, calculators, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and watches must be stored outside of the exam room. The testing centers have locked cabinets available to store personal items, should you decide to bring any of these items with you. Please be advised that the ABMM, Kryterion, Inc., and the testing center are not responsible for lost or stolen personal items that you bring with you to the testing center. Additionally, tobacco products, food, drinks and chewing gum are not allowed in the exam room.
Once you have entered the testing center, you will need to participate in their pre-exam inspection, including:
- Pocket Turn-Outs: You will be asked to turn-out your pockets (on jackets, jeans, slacks, etc.) to verify that your pockets are empty or do not contain any prohibited items.
Please note: Proctors have been given strict instructions not to make physical contact with you. Ideally, you should empty your pockets prior to entering the Testing Center.
- Eyewear Inspections: Due to technological advances, such as "Google Glass", external eyewear will be inspected by the proctor to ensure it is not technology-enabled.
You are not allowed to leave the testing facility during breaks.
- What if there is a power outage or other technical difficulties at my testing center?
In the event of an unforeseen circumstance preventing the exam or interrupting the exam (for example, a power outage or loss of internet connectivity), the testing center and Kryterion will work diligently to resolve the problem as quickly as possible. If necessary, your exam can be rescheduled for another date in the exam administration window, or at another testing center: you will have the time remaining (out of a total of six and a half hours) to complete the exam. Please note, however, that if this happens toward the end of an exam administration window, it may not be possible to reschedule your exam in the current exam window. If this happens, your exam will need to be rescheduled for the next year’s exam window and a new exam will be administered to you at that time. As such, you are advised to schedule your exam as early as possible in the exam administration window.
Kryterion, Inc. (the company that runs Webassessor) has security and back-up measures in place to ensure that examinees' answers are recorded accurately and that examinees are given the full time allowed to complete the exam. Answers are transmitted and recorded individually by Kryterion each time you hit the Next button on your exam. As such, if something happens in the middle of the exam to prevent your completion of the exam on that day, your answers will not be lost. Additionally, Kryterion will keep track of how much time is remaining in your exam session. When your exam is re-launched, the last question you were answering when your exam was interrupted will appear, as will the exam timer showing the time remaining in your session.
Fellow of the Canadian College of Microbiologists F(CCM) Reciprocity
For candidates who are Fellows with the Canadian College of Microbiologists please use this form to apply for the ABMM through the reciprocity agreement. Please submit the complete form to email@example.com.
SIDP Antimicrobial Stewardships Program
The Antimicrobial Stewardship Program (ASP), sponsored by the Society of Infectious Disease Pharmacists (SIDP), is an innovative and intensive practice-based activity for pharmacists focusing on the pharmacist's role in the area of appropriate use of antimicrobial agents. For more information on the certification program, click here.
The ABMM is prepared to assist you in applying for Board certification. Questions or comments about the ABMM are welcome and may be directed to the ABMM at the following address:
American College of Microbiology
American Society for Microbiology
1752 N Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036
tel: (202) 942-9257
fax: (202) 942-9353