American Osteopathic Association

Advancing the distinctive philosophy and practice of osteopathic medicine

Definitions of Certifications

​These are the types of certification you can obtain from the AOA-approved specialty boards.

Primary Certification

Primary certification is conferred on diplomates who meet the requirements in a specified field of medical practice under the jurisdiction of a certifying board. Primary certification represents a distinct and well defined field of osteopathic medical practice. Certificates read, "Certified in (general field)."

Certification of Special Qualifications (CSQ)

Subspecialty certification is conferred by a certifying board in a specific subspecialty area of the field to which that board certifies. It requires prior attainment of general certification. Certificates read, "Certified in (subspecialty field)."

Certification of Special Qualifications indicates the possession of knowledge, skill, training and successful examination in a subspecialty field over and above that required for primary certification. Certification of special qualifications designates additional abilities in limited areas of the primary specialty field represented by that board. For example, Cardiology is a limited area within the field of Internal Medicine for which physicians may earn special qualifications.

Certification of Added Qualifications (CAQ)

CAQ is a modification of a primary certificate or certificate of special qualifications to reflect additional training of at least one year in length and satisfactory completion of a certifying examination in that field. The training required for added qualifications must incorporate a specific and identifiable body of knowledge within the broader practice of the primary specialty. For example, a physician can hold general certification in Family Practice, with added qualifications in Geriatric Medicine.

When the identifiable body of knowledge for certification of added qualifications overlaps more than one specialty or subspecialty area, a conjoint examination program may be developed by the corresponding certifying boards. Certification of added qualifications requires maintenance of valid primary or special qualifications certification from which the added qualification was modified. Recertification in areas of added qualifications requires maintenance of valid primary or special qualifications certification from which the added qualification was modified.