NATIONAL REGISTRY OF CERTIFIED MICROBIOLOGISTS

The National Registry of Certified Microbiologists (NRCM) certifies professional microbiologists at the baccalaureate, master's, and doctoral levels in biological safety, food safety and quality, and pharmaceutical and medical device. The NRCM has certified microbiologists in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and on six continents.

The goals of the NRCM are to:

  1. Minimize risk to the public by identifying qualified microbiologists
  2. Encourage mastery of microbiological knowledge and skills that contribute to improving the human condition
  3. Foster professional pride and a sense of accomplishment in qualified microbiologists

The application deadline is February 1 and the exam is offered in the month of April at testing centers worldwide.

Benefits of a NRCM certification:

  • A tangible credential
  • Validation of your expertise
  • Builds credibility
  • Resume builder
  • Personal accomplishment

NRCM benefits for employers: 

  • Minimizes initial on-site training
  • Selling point to clients that workforce contains certified microbiologists
  • Demonstrates staff competency to auditors and inspectors
  • Provides inspection-ready response about competency of lab microbiologists
  • Greater level of assurance in hiring
  • Attracts other certified microbiologists
  • Motivates the individual to stay updated in their field
  • Furthers career development
  • Reputation of reliability and trust
  • Relevant knowledge and skills 

Clinical Microbiology Certification

The American College of Microbiology and the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) conjointly develop and administer certification exams to those with bachelor’s and master’s degrees and who work in clinical microbiology. Individuals must meet ASCP eligibility requirements to take the exam. Those who pass the exam are certified as a Technologist in Microbiology (M) or Specialist in Microbiology (SM) by the ASCP and are issued a certificate with both organizations' names on it. For more information, visit their website.

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Eligibility

The NRCM 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.

The NRCM offers two levels of certification:

  • Registered Microbiologist (RM)—baccalaureate level 
    Specializing in Food Safety and Quality or Pharmaceutical and Medical Device
  • Specialist Microbiologist (SM)—baccalaureate, master’s, or doctoral level 
    Specializing in Biological Safety or Pharmaceutical and Medical Device

RM REQUIREMENTS for Pharmaceutical and Medical Device and Food Safety and Quality exams.

You must demonstrate one of the following:

  1. A minimum of a baccalaureate degree with 20 semester hours or 30 quarter hours of course work in microbiology (see below) AND one year of full-time work experience (gained within the last three years) in a microbiology laboratory related to the specialty area in which you are seeking certification.
  2. A minimum of a baccalaureate degree AND three years of full-time work experience (gained within the last five years) in a microbiology laboratory related to the specialty area in which you are seeking certification.

Work Experience

You must have significant experience in which the majority of your duties are in the area you are seeking certification. The reference form(s) must specifically document the functions associated with your position that relate to the area in which certification is being sought. 

Please submit as many references as needed to document the amount of time required under your preferred eligibility path. If experience from more than one employer is needed, references from former direct supervisors may be submitted in conjunction with the reference from your current supervisor.

Applicants who will complete the requisite experience within 60 days following the exam date are eligible to apply.

Teaching and/or graduate study does not fulfill the experience requirement.

Paid student work experience in a microbiology laboratory may be considered as partial fulfillment of the work experience requirement.

Partial credit may be given for the microbiology portion of a formal laboratory training program.

 


SM REQUIREMENTS for Biological Safety and Pharmaceutical and Medical Device exams.

You must demonstrate one of the following:

  1. A master's degree or doctorate with 30 semester hours or 45 quarter hours of course work in microbiology (see below) AND four years of full-time, postbaccalaureate work experience within the past seven years in the appropriate exam specialty area.
  2. A baccalaureate degree with 20 semester hours or 30 quarter hours of course work in microbiology (see below) AND seven years of full-time, postbaccalaureate work experience within the past ten years in the appropriate exam specialty area.
  3. A Bachelor's degree AND ten years of full-time, postbaccalaureate work experience within the past 15 years in the appropriate exam specialty area.

Individuals who pass the SM: Biological Safety exam is certified as Specialist Microbiologists by the NRCM and can apply to American Biological Safety Association (ABSA) International for the designation of Certified Biological Safety Professional (CBSP). See the ABSA International website for complete CBSP qualifications, since they differ from the NRCM requirements.

Work Experience

You must have significant experience in which the majority of your duties are in the area you are seeking certification. This experience must reflect your ability to supervise the effective operation of a microbiology laboratory. For biological safety applicants, the reference form(s) must specifically document the biological safety functions associated with your position.

Please submit as many references as needed to document the amount of time required under your preferred eligibility path. If experience from more than one employer is needed, references from former direct supervisors may be submitted in conjunction with the reference from your current supervisor.

Applicants who will complete the requisite experience within 60 days following the exam date are eligible to apply.

Paid graduate student experience in a microbiology laboratory may be considered as partial fulfillment of the work experience requirement.

Teaching and/or graduate study does not fulfill the experience requirement.

 


ACCEPTABLE COURSE WORK IN MICROBIOLOGY 

Appropriate academic courses must be completed and verified by submission of official transcripts or a foreign education evaluation done by World Education Services, Inc.; photocopies will not be accepted.

Courses with the words “microbiology”, “bacteriology”, or “microbial” in the title are acceptable. The following course titles are also acceptable:

Bacterial diversity Fungi friends & foes Mycology
Bacterial physiology Genetics Pathobiology
Biosafety: principles and practice Immunology Parasitology
Biotechnology Immunobiology Protozoology
Cell biology Infectious diseases Recombinant DNA
Cell physiology Metabolism Rickettsiology
Epidemiology Metagenomics Tissue culture
Eukaryotic pathogens Molecular biology Toxicology
Fermentation Molecular biotechnology Virology

If credit is claimed for a course not specifically listed above, a copy of the course description from the course catalog or another official source verifying the course content claimed for microbiology credit must be mailed to: 

National Registry of Certified Microbiologists
American Society for Microbiology
1752 N Street, N.W. 
Washington, DC 20036-2904 

Relevant courses must emphasize the study of microorganisms. In the past, courses like general biology, biochemistry, and animal and plant anatomy/physiology have not been found acceptable for microbiological course credit.

Academic credit will be given for workshop attendance. Up to four semester credit hours may be awarded for participation in workshops sponsored by ASM, P.A.C.E., the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP), the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), or the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET). One-half semester credit is awarded for each eight hours of participation. To claim credit, you must mail a copy of the certificate of attendance to NRCM. 

 

Apply

Applications are accepted throughout the year, however, your non-refundable application fee and all supporting documents must be received no later than February 1 to sit for the exam in the month of April at testing centers worldwide. 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 "NRCM Application Fee", and clicking "Add to Cart". You can then proceed to checkout. The application fee for the Registered Microbiologist (RM) exams is $100. The application fee for the Specialist Microbiologist (SM) exams is $100 for ASM members and $155 for non-members. All application fees are paid in U.S. currency. Check 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 $200 to register for the exam.

  3. Submit official 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 (certification@asmusa.org) or mail to:

    National Registry of Certified Microbiologists
    American Society for Microbiology
    1752 N Street, N.W.
    Washington, DC 20036-2904

    Notes:
    • If the name on your transcript(s) does not match the name in your Webassessor account and/or reference form(s), you must submit a certified copy of your marriage license as part of your application.
    • For applicants educated in the U.S., all educational requirements must be met through institutions accredited by a regulatory agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. 
    • For applicants educated in Canada, all educational requirements must be met through 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, you must obtain a course-by-course analysis of your transcripts and a degree equivalency statement from World Education Services, Inc. (WES), a process which may take several months. This analysis must be based on your original, official transcripts (not photocopies). WES must send your evaluation directly to the NRCM. Transcripts received directly from a foreign institution or translation of transcripts from such institutions will not be accepted by the NRCM. For applicants to be considered eligible to sit for the NRCM exam, their degrees earned outside the U.S. or Canada must be deemed equivalent to those earned at an accredited institution in the U.S. Transcripts and WES evaluations will not be returned to applicants. No other transcript agency evaluations will be accepted.

  4. Ask your supervisor to complete the online reference form.
    References in letter form will not be accepted by the NRCM.
    The minimum work experience requirement must be documented through the use of online reference forms completed by your current and/or former immediate supervisor(s). Submit only as many reference forms as are necessary to document the minimum requirement. References must include his/her business email address, such as jsmith@hospital.org.  Yahoo, hotmail, gmail or general email addresses, such as microbiology@hospital.org, 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 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 NRCM does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, national origin, sex, mental or physical disability, or age. The NRCM complies with the policies set forth by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

 

Approval

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 one-to-two weeks of an application becoming complete. Eligibility and approval to sit for the exam is determined on a case-by-case basis. 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 testing center, your desired date and time, and paying the exam registration fee of $200. The exam registration window opens on February 15 and closes on April 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.

 

Exam Information

The NRCM exam is offered once a year in April at testing centers worldwide.

EXAM FORMAT
The computer-based exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions with only one correct answer. Questions are reevaluated and updated annually. You should expect to see questions on technical advances or issues that occurred during the past year.

You can move forward and back through the questions while examining and are allowed three and one-half hours in which to complete the exam.

Learn more about how a question is developed.

Responsibilities and roster of the Exam Development Committees.

SCORING
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 competing against each other. 

Learn more about criterion-referencing, discrimination, and scoring.

RESULTS
Exam results are emailed by July 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 NRCM.

PASS RATE
The NRCM 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 $200 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
    • Passport
    • Military identification
    • National identification car
  • 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.


SM: BIOLOGICAL SAFETY

OBJECTIVE
The objective is to measure pertinent knowledge and the ability to develop, implement, and manage a comprehensive biological safety program.

PREPARING FOR THE EXAM

EXAM CONTENT
Download the list of topics tested on the exam.

SAMPLE QUESTIONS
Download sample questions.

RESOURCES
Download the suggested resources list.


SM: PHARMACEUTICAL AND MEDICAL DEVICE

OBJECTIVE
The objective is to measure the factual knowledge, concepts, and laboratory skills needed to supervise the effective operation of a pharmaceutical and medical device microbiology testing laboratory.

PREPARING FOR THE EXAM

EXAM CONTENT
Download the list of topics tested on the exam.

SAMPLE QUESTIONS
Download sample questions

RESOURCES
Download the suggested resources list.


RM: PHARMACEUTICAL AND MEDICAL DEVICE

OBJECTIVE
The objective is to measure the factual knowledge, concepts, and laboratory skills needed in a pharmaceutical and medical device microbiology testing laboratory.

PREPARING FOR THE EXAM

EXAM CONTENT
Download the list of topics tested on the exam.

SAMPLE QUESTIONS
Download sample questions.

RESOURCES
Download the suggested resources list.


RM: FOOD SAFETY AND QUALITY

OBJECTIVE
The objective is to measure the factual knowledge, concepts, and laboratory skills needed in a food microbiology testing laboratory.

PREPARING FOR THE EXAM

EXAM CONTENT
Download the list of topics tested on the exam.

SAMPLE QUESTIONS
Download sample questions.

RESOURCES
Download the suggested resources list.

 

Recertification

The NRCM encourages its certified individuals, Registrants, to keep up- to-date with the concepts, skills, and issues of importance to their field through voluntary recertification. To recertify, Registrants must complete an application AND participate in 30 hours of continuing education over a three year period OR retake the exam. If recertifying by continuing education, the recertification fees are $75 for ASM contributing and premium members and $130 for ASM supporting members and non-members AND three years of annual dues must be paid. If recertifying by exam, you must notify the NRCM office of your decision by March 23 and pay annual dues. A $200 seat fee will be required at the time of exam registration. Recertification demonstrates your continued commitment to maintaining a standard of excellence in the field.

EMERITUS STATUS

If you have retired from remunerative employment and have paid your annual NRCM dues, you are eligible for Emeritus status. Effective January 2016, Registrants holding active status may make a formal request to the Board for Emeritus status if they have ten or more years of active standing through certification/recertification, are no longer employed full-time, and do not require NRCM certification for their employment. The Board reserves the right to rescind Emeritus status if a Registrant does not meet the employment guidelines set forth. If you would like to request Emeritus status complete and submit the first page of the recertification application.

 

Dues

Annual dues of $75 are paid online through ASMscience. If you are a returning ASM customer, enter your user name and password.

 

FAQS

How do I verify NRCM Registrants?

If you are interested in verifying the certification of a NRCM Registrant, email your request to certification@asmusa.org with an authorization of release form signed by the Registrant.

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 into your Webassessor 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 certification@asmusa.org 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 course descriptions, if applicable), and your work experience will be evaluated based on the online reference forms submitted on your behalf by your current and/or former immediate supervisor(s).

What if the course titles on my transcript do not match those in the approved course titles’ list?

If the course titles on your transcript do not match the titles in the approved course titles list and you would like to claim any of them for microbiological credit, you must submit a course description from the year in which you took the course. A description from the course catalog or another official source is sufficient. Your school’s registrar is able to provide these descriptions.

Does experience need to be gained within the U.S. 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 tab. 

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 certification@asmusa.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 strongly 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?

New testing centers are added throughout the year and the list of testing centers posted on our website is updated each month. If there is not a testing center close to you when itis time to register to take the exam, you will need to travel to the nearest testing center to take the exam. Our exams can only be administered at Kryterion testing centers. 

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 NRCM office (at certification@asmusa.org 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 certification@asmusa.org. In order to be issued a $150 refund for a cancellation, your request must be received by the NRCM 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. 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 NRCM, 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.

In order to launch the exam, you must agree to abide by the ASM honor code, which is as follows: "I understand that my participation in any irregularity during this exam, including but not limited to giving or obtaining unauthorized aid, as evidenced by observation during the exam or by subsequent analysis, may result in the invalidation of the results of my exam, termination of my candidate status, revocation of my certification, civil liability, criminal prosecution, or other appropriate sanctions. I understand that I will be video-taped while examining. I will not leave the facility during the exam period, and I pledge that I will not discuss the content of this exam with any person at any time during or after the exam."

What if there is a power outage or other technical difficulties at my testing center?

In the event of an unforeseen circumstance preventing 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 the three 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. You are strongly 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.

 

Contact Us

The NRCM is prepared to assist you in applying for Board certification. Questions or comments about the NRCM are welcome and may be directed to the following address:

Nicole Jackson
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
email: certification@asmusa.org

 

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