CME Requirements


Continuing medical education (CME) is a cornerstone of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), and has been a requirement for continuing membership since the founding of the AAFP in 1947. CME for the family physician is emphasized because the responsibility for providing comprehensive and continuing health care to patients carries with it the responsibility to continue learning. The need to keep abreast of the rapid expansion of medical knowledge necessitates CME.


Members may earn CME credit via a wide range of educational opportunities, in both formal and informal categories. Formal CME includes CME activities that have been certified by the AAFP for Prescribed or Elective credit. Informal CME includes self-directed learning activities that are not certified for credit. Options and limitations are summarized in the following table. Additional detail on each of the items follows. 

Formal CME:

Activity Type

Credit Designation Possible

Credit Maximum per Re-Election Cycle

AAFP Certified CME Activities in the following formats:




Live (Group)




Enduring Material




Medical Journals




Performance Improvement



20 per activity

Point of Care



0.5 per search or 60 per 3-year cycle

American Medical Association PRA Category 1 Credit™




American Osteopathic Association Certified




College of Family Physicians of Canada Mainpro Certified Credit




Formal CME Definitions: 

Live Activities take place in real time, involving two or more physicians. These activities provide the opportunity for real-time interaction between learners and faculty.

Enduring Material activities are based on independent learning materials designed primarily as self-study activities. These independent learning materials must, in themselves, constitute a planned CME activity.

Medical Journals are a regularly published collection of articles intended for medical professionals. The participant reads an article, engages in a self-directed phase stipulated by the CME provider that may include reflection, discussion, or debate about the article, and completes a pre-determined set of questions or tasks related to the article content.

Performance Improvement (PI) CME activities are structured long-term processes, by which physicians learn about specific performance measures, retrospectively assess their practice, apply performance measures prospectively over a useful interval, and reevaluate their performance. Five Prescribed credits may be awarded for the completion of each of the three stages, and participants must begin with Stage A. Physicians completing, in sequence, all three stages of a structured PI activity may receive an additional five AAFP Prescribed or Elective credits, for a maximum of twenty credits.

Point of Care is practice-based learning that takes place in support of specific patient care. The physician uses a computer-based clinical decision-making support tool at the point of care to ask a clinical question, search evidence-based sources for practice recommendations, and apply a recommendation appropriately to the patient. Even in cases when the evidence-based recommendation is not appropriate for the patient, the physician still learns something in the process.

AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™ -- Educational activities that have been approved as AMA Category 1 Credit™ for the American Medical Association Physician’s Recognition Award and that have not been certified for AAFP Prescribed credit may be self-reported by members as AMA Category 1 Credit™. This counts toward re-election as AAFP Elective credit.

AOA CME -- Educational activities that have been approved for credit by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) and that have not been certified for AAFP Prescribed credit may be self-reported by members as AOA credit. This counts toward re-election as AAFP Elective credit.

CFPC Activities -- Activities approved by the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) for Mainpro+ CME credit and that have not been certified for AAFP Prescribed credit may be self-reported by members as AAFP Prescribed credit.

Informal CME:

Self-directed Learning Activities



Credit Maximum Per Re-Election Cycle

ABFM or AOA Certification




Advanced Training








Scholarly Activities




Professional Enrichment




Informal CME Definitions:

ABFM or AOA Certification -- Credit may be claimed for the certification or recertification examination through the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM) or the American Osteopathic Association (AOA).

Advanced Training -- Credit may be claimed for the completion of a medically-related master’s degree or a fellowship/mini-fellowship program beyond Family Medicine residency training.

Teaching -- Credit may be claimed for instruction of health professions learners in formal individual (e.g., preceptorships) or live educational formats.

Scholarly Activities – Credit may be claimed for the following types of scholarly activities:

  • Publishing original scientific or socioeconomic research pertaining to patient care, public or community health, published in a state or national peer-reviewed Medline indexed journal.
  • Participation in clinical research studies (participation in research studies conducted by pharmaceutical companies, device manufacturers, or other proprietary entities or in industry sponsored drug trials does not qualify)
  • Scientific paper preparation and publication
  • Scientific exhibit preparation and presentation
  • Peer review of manuscripts for journals (journal must be listed in Medline)
  • Test item writing for the NBME, ABMS member board or for peer-reviewed, published, self-assessment educational activities from a national medical specialty society.

Professional EnrichmentCredit may be claimed, commensurate with participation, for partaking in other medical educational experiences and activities, such as independent exam preparation and informal self-learning activities. These activities may or may not be documented, and are not certified by the AAFP, AMA, AOA, but are of a nature of professional enrichment to the family physician.

Activities Ineligible for Credit:

The following learning activities are not eligible for AAFP CME credit:

  • CME activities produced by a commercial interest, i.e., any entity producing, marketing, re-selling, or distributing health care goods or services consumed by, or used on, patients. This does not include providers of clinical service directly to patients.
  • Enduring materials with expired term of approval.
  • Activities on therapies determined by the COCPD as dangerous or proven ineffective.  

CME Requirement for Members


(Established by the Commission on Membership and Member Services)

  • Active members must complete 150 credits of CME every three years. Of these:

A. A minimum of 25 credits must be obtained from live learning activities*, AND

B. A minimum of 75 must be Prescribed credit. The remaining credits may be Prescribed, Elective, or a combination of both.

*An exemption to the 25 live activity credits will be allowed for AAFP Active members who submit evidence that they are providing medical care in a missionary/charitable practice setting in an overseas practice for more than a 12-month period.

  • Each AAFP Constituent Chapter has the option of requiring its members to obtain a portion of their CME credit from that chapter's produced or approved activities. In such case, no more than 25 credits may be required from these activities. It is the responsibility of each chapter to inform the CME Credit Systems and Compliance Department which activities should be designated in the CME database as chapter- approved.


(Definitions established by the Commission on Continuing Professional Development)

Activity Level
The CME activity must fully comply with the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) Standards for Commercial Support and the American Medical Association (AMA) Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs (CEJA) Gifts to Physicians from Industry Opinion 8.061.

The CME activity must be relevant to the scope of family medicine.


The CME activity must be primarily designed for physicians and have an AAFP Active or Life member directly involved in the planning of the activity to ensure the relevance of the content to the specialty of family medicine.


The CME activity may be primarily designed for health care professionals other than physicians. Direct involvement of an AAFP Active or Life member in the planning of the activity is not required.

Content Level

All clinical content presented in the activity must be evidence-based and/or customary and generally accepted (CGA) medical practice, OR, if some or all of the clinical content within the activity appears to be neither evidence-based or CGA, it must not appear to the COCPD to be dangerous or ineffective. In this case, content must offer a balanced explanation of potential benefits and risks, AND be presented in a manner that is intended to inform the physician, rather than train the physician in the practical application of the content.

The provider must also demonstrate that at least 50% of the educational content meets one or more of the following criteria:

(1) The activity content has a direct bearing on patient care.

(2) The activity content is related to selected non-clinical topic(s) that support the physician's professional role in patient care, including, but not limited to the following:

(a) Medical ethics
(b) Medico-legal
(c) Patient-centered advocacy
(d) Physician-patient relations
(e) Professional and/or academic leadership
(f) Teaching and faculty development

(3) The activity content has a direct bearing on family physicians' ability to deliver patient care. These topics include, but are not limited to, the following:

(a) Health care system/practice management
(b) Laboratory regulations
(c) Utilization review techniques/quality assurance

The Commission on Continuing Professional Development (COCPD) is charged with exercising its professional judgment in the interpretation and application of the AAFP CME Credit System Eligibility Requirements in order to ensure that AAFP CME credit is awarded to activities that are appropriate for AAFP members. The COCPD has the authority to deny any activity or portion of activity that does not appear to align with the intentions of the requirements.

(September 2019 BOD)