Becoming Board Certified in Medical Affairs (BCMAS): The new standard in Pharma

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Anyone working in medical affairs understands that it’s a highly specialized area. And often, medical affairs executives get so engrossed in their day to day activities that it’s challenging to gain a deep understanding of how other departments and functions operate, let alone train another colleague on these functions. But as medical affairs’ strategic value continues to increase, executives need to be conversant about other vital aspects of the life sciences industry, such as pharmacovigilance, digital technology, or compliance and regulatory implications.

But comprehensive, accredited, educational programs for medical affairs professionals are few and far between. And there’s certainly no programs offering board certification. The Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs’ (ACMA), however, offers a Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist (BCMAS) program for medical affairs professionals across the career spectrum. The BCMAS curriculum is comprehensive spanning 20 modules covering all areas of medical affairs. The BCMAS program is the most comprehensive educational program for medical affairs professionals and unlike other training programs that may be available; it is the only one that is accredited.

Structured Learning and a Deeper Understanding of Industry Functions

Beyond internal training within their companies, medical affairs executives simply don’t have structured options for learning how the different functions within the life science industry interact with each other. The ACMA’s goal is to establish a common language – a standard – that medical affairs executives can converse in. With a curriculum that includes best practices across the organization, the ACMA’s aim is to reinforce an integrated, cross-functional approach to medical affairs that makes medical affairs to be viewed as a true partner by other departments. And this has proven to be valuable to many who are now board certified thanks to the ACMA.

Having a professional certification creates a uniform standard of competency and excellence for industry professionals who are responsible for providing critical information to doctors which impacts patient lives.


Everyone approaches the board certification process for different reasons. Some are looking to add to their personal understanding of medical affairs’ role in the life sciences industry. Others seek to differentiate themselves from their peers. Still others are looking for a challenge to learn what they don’t know. According to individuals who have gone through the curriculum and earned their BCMAS, the program meets all of those goals.

But the BCMAS program appeals to younger professionals for very concrete reasons. They feel that having the board certification attached to their names gives them a leg up in both hiring and career development. Anecdotally, BCMAS graduates have noticed more momentum in their recruiting activities. That’s not their only reason for getting a BCMAS certification, however.


More important than setting themselves apart from other job seekers or attaching the BCMAS letters to the ends of their names, graduates of the ACMA’s program want to demonstrate their commitment to medical affairs. That’s becoming more difficult to do as medical affairs becomes increasingly strategic, increasingly larger as a function within the industry and increasingly competitive. Career-minded medical affairs professionals want to show senior leaders that their role is not just a job for them. They want to exhibit their dedication to the task with something tangible.

“The BCMAS helped me to tie together my story as a candidate.”

–A recent program graduate


Medical affairs departments throughout the industry have thousands of executives with medical or pharmacy doctorate degrees, along with their associated credentials. But the BCMAS credential has a unique appeal for medical affairs executives, many of whom don’t have a formal medical doctorate.

And those with pharmacy doctorates sometimes feel that while a PharmD credential shows off one’s scientific research chops, it’s not specific enough to medical affairs to demonstrate the industry knowledge necessary or the ability to excel within a pharmaceutical or medical device company.

Those are some of the reasons why executives with more than a decade of industry experience have turned to the ACMA to earn their medical affairs credentials. And some of the more seasoned industry veterans have found so much value in the BCMAS program, that they’re championing it within their companies. As more medical affairs executives undergo the certification program, they’re seeing the value in it and recommending it to their peers.


The Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs is meeting the daily challenge of expanding and level-setting the knowledge base of medical affairs professionals throughout the industry. The Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist is quickly becoming the industry standard for medical affairs professionals to attain.

In its nearly four years, the ACMA has laid many in-roads into the industry and continues to do so. But the trend has unmistakably been a steady increase in moving the BCMAS toward the industry standard. With increased scrutiny on pharmaceutical industry practices, ensuring that pharmaceutical companies are validating the knowledge of their field teams in medical affairs and sales is imperative. More and more medical affairs professionals sign up to undergo the certification process each month. And as that trend continues, medical affairs professionals throughout the life sciences industry will no doubt be better prepared, more confident and, most importantly, more knowledgeable as they approach their roles.

For more information and recent students’ testimonials, click here.

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