Training Requirements

Training programs in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery in the United States are evaluated by the Residency Review Committee for Otolaryngology (RRC), which consists of representatives from the American Medical Association (AMA), the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and the ABOHNS, and are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). Information concerning approved educational programs can be found in the Graduate Medical Education Directory published by the American Medical Association.

Individuals who enter otolaryngology-head and neck surgery training on or after July 1, 2016 must satisfactorily complete a minimum of five years of training, as specified below, in an ACGME-approved program(s):
Year must include six months of structured education on non-otolaryngology rotations designed to foster proficiency in the peri-operative care of surgical patients, inter-disciplinary care coordination, and airway management skills within the first year;
Six months of otolaryngology rotation designed to develop proficiency in basic surgical skills, general care of otolaryngology patients both in the inpatient setting and in the outpatient clinics, management of otolaryngology patients in emergency department, and cultivation of an otolaryngology knowledge base. This must include an intensive care rotation.
The total time a resident is assigned to any one non-otolaryngology rotation must be at least four weeks and must not exceed two months.
Rotations must be selected from the following: intensive care (required), anesthesia, general surgery, neurological surgery, neuroradiology, ophthalmology, oral-maxillofacial surgery, pediatric surgery, plastic surgery, radiation oncology, emergency medicine, and vascular surgery.
PGY 2-5 years – at least 48 months of progressive education in the specialty. This training must include a final year of senior experience. This final year must be spent within the accredited program in which the previous year of training was spent, unless prior approval is obtained from the ABOHNS.


A resident wishing to transfer from one residency program to another must notify the ABOHNS in writing at least six weeks prior to the date of transfer, and must explain the circumstances of the proposed transfer.

Letters from the current and prospective directors of training must also be submitted:

  • The letter from the current Program Director must verify the exact amount of training successfully completed in the program and explain the reason for the transfer. A PGY-1 Rotations List must also be submitted.
  • The letter from the prospective Program Director must verify that sufficient residency positions, accredited by the Residency Review Committee for Otolaryngology of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), exist in the program to provide the transferring resident with the training necessary to meet the requirements of the ABOHNS for certification.
Failure to comply with the transfer requirements may result in loss of eligibility to participate in the ABOHNS certification process.

Leave of Absence

Leaves of absence and vacation may be granted to residents at the discretion of the Program Director in accordance with local rules. The total of such leaves and vacation may not exceed six weeks in any one year. If a circumstance occurs in which a resident’s absence exceeds the allotted time outlined by the ABOHNS, the program director must submit a plan to the ABOHNS for approval on how the necessary training will be achieved, which may require an extension of the residency.

Core Surgical Procedures

The ABOHNS and the RRC for Otolaryngology have identified certain procedures that represent basic skills all otolaryngologists should learn during residency. Although not a comprehensive list of procedures performed by otolaryngologists, the skills needed to perform the core procedures can be used to perform other procedures. Residents are evaluated by their faculty and when a resident reaches a level of proficiency with the procedure, the Program Director will indicate this achievement on the resident’s evaluation form on the ABOHNS website.