The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education defines and monitors educational standards for specialty and subspecialty programs, otherwise known as medical residency and fellowship programs. These ACGME-accredited programs prepare physicians for delivering safe and quality health care. You can use the Accreditation Data System (ADS) public tool to find suitable options for you. In this article, we’ll focus on understanding what the ACGME is, how the accreditation process works, and how you can find accredited institutes and programs as you prepare for residency applications. Before you apply, you need to know what do residency program directors look for to improve your chances of matching. 

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10 min read

What is the ACGME? Why is Accreditation Important? What is ACGME Accreditation? How Does ACGME Use AIRE? What Are The ACGME Common Program Requirements? How Can You Tell If Your Chosen Program Has ACGME Accreditation? Conclusion FAQs

What Is The ACGME? 

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Examination (ACGME) is a not-for-profit organization. It sets and monitors voluntary professional education standards. As an aspiring medical professional, you need to know that these standards are essential as they help prepare physicians to deliver safe and high-quality health care. 

Another thing you need to know is that Graduate Medical Education (GME) refers to an academic period that generally comes after medical school. Up-and-coming medical professionals have the option to choose either a particular medical specialty called a residency or a subspeciality called a medical fellowship.

The fundamental mission of the ACGME is to improve healthcare and population health in the US. To achieve this mission, ACGME assesses and helps improve the quality of resident and fellowship physician education in the United States. Once the quality of these programs meets the requirements, the institute is given an ACGME accreditation. 

As of now, there are a total of: 

  • 13,066 accredited residency and fellowship programs
  • 182 accredited specialties and subspecialties
  • 886 sponsored institutes that house accredited programs
  • 158,079 active full-and-part-time residents and fellows in ACGME-accredited programs
  • 1 in 7 physicians in the US are part of the resident or fellowship programs

Before we dive any further into the topic, you need to know that these programs offer both clinical experience and education. These programs train aspiring medical professionals so that they can provide quality patient care without the need for supervision. In addition, they also help them make informed decisions and teach them how to cope with challenges pertaining to practicing medicine. 

Why is Accreditation Important?

Now that you know what the ACGME is, let’s look at why accreditation is important. An accreditation is basically a metric that is used to assess the overall quality of an institute or program. You need to know that the accrediting body for medical schools in different countries may vary and be chosen by the school's host country. 

In the case of the US, that accrediting body would be the ACGME. If an institute has ACGME accreditation for a program such as dermatology residency, it means the institute itself and the program have met certain requirements pertaining to education and medical training. Most people often get confused when understanding the importance of accreditation from a student’s perspective.

If you, as an up-and-coming medical professional, are studying at an ACGME-approved institute, you can rest assured knowing that you are receiving proficient training. An institute with an accreditation also emphasizes ensuring diversity, which for students is essential as it teaches them how to improve health outcomes for a diverse patient population. This helps you ensure that you’re setting yourself up for a successful career.

However, if you’re looking for residency programs in dermatology residency, ophthalmology residency, or any other field of medicine, you must ensure that the institute or program is ACGME accredited. We’ll get into how you can check that later in the article. For now, you need to know that a non-accredited program may not have the same level of credibility as one with an accreditation. Having an accreditation ensures that your medical education is recognized throughout the country, which makes it essential for almost all medical specialties.

What is ACGME Accreditation?

By now, you probably have a firm grip on accreditation, so let’s dive deeper and look at how accredited programs are monitored, what the standards are, and more. The ACGME basically sets standards for accreditation that are known as the Institutional and Program Requirements. 

These standards are set by a specialty-specific committee of volunteer physicians. In addition, the committee also has non-physician members and a resident/fellow representative. The standards they set are applied across all specialty and subspecialty programs across the US. 

In addition to developing the standards, the committee also conducts surveys and site visits for collecting and analyzing data. This information is then used to determine whether or not the accredited institute or residency or fellowship program is maintaining compliance with the standards. 

The review committee also checks the accreditation requirements to ensure that they are in line with the best practices in the field. So, it’s possible for an institute to have earned an accreditation for a plastic surgery residency but not be in compliance given a change in the requirements.

As an aspiring medical professional, you must know that the ACGME also takes feedback from residents and fellows. The organization uses this feedback to understand and improve the overall quality of the accredited programs.

Along with academic education, the ACGME also sets standards to cultivate a team-based learning environment. If you’re looking to get into a residency program, pathology residency, for example, you need to check the accreditation status before applying. 

You need to know that each review committee receives data on accredited programs within their jurisdiction. The committee is then asked to make a decision for the accreditation based on the data on an annual basis.  

Writing your residency personal statement? Here are some examples you NEED to see!

How Does ACGME Use AIRE?

The ACGME, building on its commitment to improve the overall quality of the education and training in residency programs, launched a pilot program called Advanced Innovation in Residency Education (AIRE). This program has two primary objectives:  

  1. Enable the exploration of novel approaches and pathways in GME
  2. Use innovative structures and processes to enhance educational and clinical outcomes in both residency and fellowship education

You need to know that AIRE encourages institutes to adopt key principles of competency-based medical education (CBME), educational outcomes, and health care. AIRE’s review process has been divided into three stages, where the goal of each stage is to help programs facilitate effective innovation. These stages include: 

Stage 1 

This is the initial stage of the program, and the review is conducted by AIRE professionals who have experience in curriculum design and assessment. The review also consists of the executive director of the Review Committee, who is responsible for the accreditation of the programs.

For a better understanding, you can think of this stage as an exchange of information between the AIRE team and the proposal lead. The underlying purpose here is to ensure that the proposal is:

  • Competency-based
  • Outlines approaches to learning, teaching, and faculty development
  • Has an assessment for each of ACGME’s six core competencies (these are similar to but separate from the AAMC core competencies for entering medical students)

The duration of the stage varies from one proposal to the other and mainly depends on the number of revisions required for the initial proposal to be approved. 

Stage 2 

Once the proposal advances to the second stage, it is reviewed by the Accreditation Review Team. This team includes senior professionals from ACGME’s accreditation staff and the Review Committee’s executive directors who were involved in the proposed innovation. These meetings are scheduled to take place every quarter. 

The main purpose of these meetings is to assess the completeness and methodological comprehensiveness of the proposal. The overall duration of this stage is subject to the Accreditation Review Team meetings.

Stage 3 

Once the proposal has cleared the second stage, it is then passed on to the appropriate Review Committee. In this stage, the proposal can be approved, given back for revision, or rejected. The third stage serves two purposes in the review process: 

  • In this stage, it is determined whether any relief pertaining to the targeted accreditation requirements will be given or not
  • Whether or not any additional requirements regarding the approval have been or will be identified or not

When the review is completed, the proposal lead receives a letter that states whether the proposal has been approved, given for revision, or rejected. The duration of this stage is subject to the meeting schedule and agenda of the Review Committee. 

What are the ACGME Common Program Requirements?

The ACGME Common Program Requirements (CPRs) are a set of requirements regarding the training and preparation of physicians in both resident and fellowship programs. These requirements emphasize personal responsibility for the individual care of patients among physicians. 

It’s important for you to know that these requirements basically serve as the contextual landscape for the clinical learning environment. The primary focus of the CPRs is to ensure that all resident and fellowship physicians acquire the required knowledge and develop the necessary skills and attitudes needed to improve health and health care. 

The CPRs are quite comprehensive and have slight differences among the requirements for residency or fellowship programs. However, someone who’s looking for a residency or fellowship program must be aware of the educational components of the CPR for both programs. Let’s look at the CPRs in detail for a more comprehensive understanding. 

Residency CPRs

The underlying principle of residency CPRs is to facilitate the development of knowledgeable and skilled physicians who provide quality care to patients. The first thing you need to understand is that the goals for one program may vary. For example, a psychiatry residency program may differ from one for plastic surgery. 

Despite the differences, the curriculum of the program must be set based on educational components that include:  

  • Program aims are consistent with the Sponsoring Institute's mission, community needs, and capabilities of the graduates and are communicated to the applicants, residents, and faculty members
  • Education experience is designed based on competency-based goals and objectives
  • Responsibilities for patient care and management are precisely described
  • Structured educational activities are made available, and residents are provided with time to participate in the activities
  • Formal education activities facilitate goals and techniques pertaining to patient safety

In addition, a residency program for neurology residency or for any other field of medicine must have competencies that include: 

  • Professionalism
  • Patient care and procedural skills
  • Medical knowledge
  • Practice-based learning
  • Communication skills
  • Systems-based practice

When applying to the ACGME-accredited program, you need to know that the curriculum will be optimized for your educational experiences. This includes supervisor patient care, improved responsibilities, clinical teaching, and educational events. 

Fellowship CPRs 

The educational requirements, competencies, and curriculum pertaining to residency and fellowship CPRs have quite a lot of similarities. However, the fellowship program has an independent practice requirement. If you enroll in an ACGME-accredited program for fellowship, then you may be assigned to conduct independent practice during the duration of the program.

Availing this option can help you enhance your competence within your core specialty. This means that you can be a practitioner within your core specialty and a learner in your subspecialty. However, independent practice must not exceed 20% of your time per week or 10 weeks within the academic year. 

How Can You Tell If Your Chosen Program Has ACGME Accreditation?

Now that you have a firm grip on how residency and fellowship programs are accredited let’s look at what you can do to determine if your chosen program is accredited. To find ACGME-accredited programs, you can use the Accreditation Data System (ADS) public search tool. It’s easy to use and available online.

Let’s look at how you can use the tool to find the best residency programs in the US and fellowship options easily. 

Step-By-Step Tutorial To Check For ACGME Accreditation

The public search tool will provide you with the most current and real-time information based on your queries. You can enter search queries based on specialty, state, and city. Once provided with the results, you can view the program and also check its accreditation history if you want. To begin, you must:

1. Visit the ACGME website and click the “Institute and Program Finder” option at the top.

2. When you are redirected to the ADS Public, click on the “Program Search” option.

3. Now, click open the “Search by Specialty” drop-down menu and choose the specialty or subspecialty option you want to pursue. 

4. Click open the “Search by State” drop-down menu and select the appropriate options. 

5. Once you’ve selected the required options, click the “Search” button.

Now, you will be provided with a list of ACGME-accredited programs based on your requirements. In the result section, you’ll be able to see the program’s code, specialty, name, location, and the last name of the director. 

If you hover over a program in the list, you’ll be able to click on the option to view additional details. You can click the “View Program” option to access additional information and contact details for that specific program. 

Here's a quick start guide to preparing for residency applications:

Newly ACGME Accredited Programs

If you’re looking for ACGME-accredited programs, you need to know that the organization reviews and provides accreditation on an annual basis. You can use the ADS public tool to check for ACGME-accredited programs based on your specialty, subspecialty, and location. Once you’ve selected a residency or fellowship program that meets your requirements, you need to start the preparation work. One of the best things you can do is use residency prep books during the study sessions.

You need to know that residency or fellowship programs may have personal statement requirements and an interview. So, going over some residency personal statement examples can help. But that’s not where your prep work should end. You also need to look at how to prepare for a residency interview, as it can greatly improve your chances of being selected for your desired program. 


The ACGME is a non-profit organization that sets and monitors standards for medical education and training. These standards are essential as they can help prepare physicians for delivering safe and quality health care to patients. The ACGME has CPRs for both residency and fellowships. Although the requirements are similar for the most part, the fellowship programs do allow physicians to be involved in independent practice. You can use the ADS public tool to find accredited residency and fellowship programs you want to pursue. 


1. Should you take a gap year before pursuing an ACGME-accredited residency program?

Taking a gap year before residency can have both positive and negative impacts. The decision depends on your situation. However, you can use the time to prepare using methods like a residency mock interview

2. Do residency programs accept old graduates?

The programs prefer recent medical graduates. However, there are some residency programs that accept old graduates if they are suitable for the medical profession. 

3. Which patients do the patient care requirements apply to?

The requirements pertaining to quality and safety are applicable to both inpatient and outpatient experiences. 

4. Does the ACGME provide accreditation for medical schools in the US?

The ACGME does not accredit medical schools. The organization only accredits GME programs and institutes that sponsor them.

5. Are all US residency and fellowship programs accredited?

No. This is a voluntary process that different programs and institutions can choose to complete.

6. What happens to students if a program loses its accreditation?

The students are provided with assistance to continue their education in another accredited program if they so choose. 

7. How often are the CPRs for ACGME-accredited programs updated?

You need to know that major revisions to the programs occur every 10 years, and interim revisions may occur at scheduled times.

8. What is the goal of a personal statement for a residency program?

The goal of this statement is to help you get an interview for a specialty program of your choice. Going over some red flags for a residency personal statement can help.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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