Continuing Medical Education - Options Available to You

California law requires all licensed physicians to complete not less than 50 hours of approved continuing education during each two-year period immediately preceding the expiration date of the license as a condition of license renewal.

A number of educational activities that meet the content standards set forth in Business and Professions Code §2190-2191 approved by the Licensing Program for continuing education credit include: programs accredited by the California Medical Association (CMA); the American Medical Association; the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME); programs which qualify for prescribed credit from the American Academy of Family Physicians; and other programs offered by other organizations and institutions acceptable to the Division.


It is your obligation to fulfill your continuing medical education requirement and maintain documentation for audit purposes.

The following summary, provided by the Institute of Medical Quality, lists just some of the many educational activities which can qualify for CME credit. This information is provided to assist you in finding those options which best meet your needs and should not be considered exhaustive. You may contact the organizations listed above should you wish to obtain more specific information about other qualifying educational activities beyond the following listed by the CMA. Please note that the hourly limitations below are those of the CMA and not the Medical Board.

  • Self-Study Programs — Recorded, videotaped, or televised enduring educational material sponsored by an accredited provider for home or office listening or viewing. Category 1 credit is granted for completing and passing a written test on the material presented. Studying for tests does not count for Category 1 credits.
  • Courses, Seminars or Meetings — Educational activities designated as Category 1 approved by the CMA or an ACCME-accredited provider. These include: local, national, and foreign activities sponsored by accredited hospitals, medical specialty societies, or medical schools. These courses include hospital standing activities such as grand rounds and tumor boards. Credit is granted on an hour-per-hour basis. Foreign courses must be offered by an ACCME-accredited organization or endorsed by a specialty society.
  • Residency and Fellowship Programs — Residents and fellows are allowed six hours of Category 1 credit for each month of residency or fellowship, with a maximum of 72 hours each year.
  • Audiovisual Programs presented by accredited institutions and organizations may be offered for credit provided they meet all of the CMA's criteria of a Category 1 program.
  • Research — A maximum of eight hours of credit per year is allowed for clinical research activities. (Meritorious Learning - effective 2005, Meritorious Learning included research has been discarded and will no longer be recognized as legitimate Category 1).
  • Advanced Degree — Hours may be accumulated in activities directed toward a master's degree or Ph.D. degree in fields related to medicine, specifically oriented toward patient care, community and public health or preventive medicine. A maximum of 25 hours can be claimed for completing these degrees.
  • Preceptorship — A preceptee may receive a maximum of five Category 1 hours per day. The preceptor must have a faculty-teaching appointment of comparable credentials. Documentation/verification must be provided by the preceptor. (Preceptorship which was also included under Meritorious Learning has been discarded).
  • Teaching/Presentations/Published Papers — These activities, combined, can have a maximum of thirty-two (32) hours over a four year period at eight (8) hours per year. They include proctoring, i.e., serving as a preceptor.

The Medical Board of California by regulation allows:

  • Any physician who takes and passes a certifying or recertifying examination administered by a recognized specialty board credit for four consecutive years (100 hours) of CME for relicensure purposes.
  • A maximum of one-third of the required hours of continuing education may be satisfied by teaching or otherwise presenting a course or program approved under this section.

As you can see, there are numerous ways that you can obtain CME credit. Some of these educational activities do not even require that you leave your home. The New England Journal of Medicine and other prominent medical publications have available to their subscribers examinations which can be taken to earn CME credit. For specific details related to those CME opportunities, contact the journals directly.