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The Evolution of Functional Medicine Certification

Updated: June 27, 2024

On behalf of The Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) Board of Directors, Executive Leadership, and Team, we are pleased to announce that the new Functional Medicine Certification Program™ is set to launch in 2026!

Over the next 18 months, the current IFM certification program will be replaced by the new Functional Medicine Certification Program™. Developed with input from thousands of functional medicine practitioners, this new program serves as a certification for the field of functional medicine and assesses the competencies of applying functional medicine across various scopes of licensure.

IFM is dedicated to nourishing an inclusive culture of respect and belonging. Your well-being and sense of community remain our top priority, and we are dedicated to ensuring that the new program continues to nurture the strong spirit and culture you’ve come to value through functional medicine and at IFM.

The Need for Change

IFM has been educating clinicians for more than 30 years—and assessing practitioners through our functional medicine certification program since 2009. The need to ensure the rigor, relevance, and reputation of functional medicine has greatly evolved in that time, and as such, the certification of functional medicine must evolve as well.

  • The new functional medicine certification program better reflects the knowledge, skills, and abilities that are necessary to competently practice functional medicine within individual licensures and across different disciplines.
  • This evolution was informed by a comprehensive, formal review of the certification program over several years, which included external credentialing consultants, clinicians, subject matter experts, and collaboration with additional internal and external stakeholders.
  • These changes ensure a separation between medical education and certification testing to maintain the integrity of the functional medicine credentials.

The process for evaluating:

A key component of this evolution work was an 18-month long formalized job analysis, which included a data-driven approach to define and validate the knowledge, skills, and abilities of the functional medicine discipline. A job analysis is a critical component of professional testing that serves as the foundation of any credentialing program.

  • Job analysis findings reflect the clinical expertise, polling, and input of subject matter experts and thousands of functional medicine practitioners and highlight the important differences in the practice of functional medicine, based on scope of licensure.
  • These differences resulted in defining two sets of competencies and thus two certification designations. The key distinctions include practitioners who are trained and licensed to perform physical examinations, order and interpret labs, and prescribe pharmaceuticals within their scope of license and those whose licensure does not typically allow for full scope practicing authority in these activities.

The elevation of the new program:

We are expanding the current IFM certification program into the certification program for the field of functional medicine to better align with industry-leading certification program standards and ensure the rigor, reputation, and relevance of the practice of functional medicine.

  • To support the integrity of functional medicine practice, and in keeping with standards of practice among other medical and health professions, we are developing the Functional Medicine Certification Program™ according to standards published by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), which is the gold standard when it comes to accreditation of programs that certify professionals working in medicine, health, fitness, wellness, and other occupations.
  • Governed by an autonomous and independent certification body, the new functional medicine certification program will be managed by a newly formed credentialing department within IFM. These changes ensure a separation between medical education and certification testing to maintain the integrity of the functional medicine credentials.

About the Functional Medicine Certification Program™

Certification designations:

Findings of the certification program evaluation, job analysis, and validation survey reflect the clinical expertise and input of subject matter experts and thousands of functional medicine practitioners and highlight important differences in functional medicine practice, based on scope of licensure. These differences resulted in defining two sets of competencies and thus two certifications, each with their own designation issued upon successful completion:

  • Functional Medicine Certified Professional – Medical (FMCP-M)™
  • Functional Medicine Certified Professional (FMCP)™

These designations are based on two distinct sets of functional medicine competencies established from the job analysis and formulated by the specific job requirements and assessment of functional medicine for various degree types. These competencies will be shared later this year.

  • With the input of clinical subject matter experts, we determined that the degree types applicable to the FMCP-M™ credential are those with a broad scope of licensure that permits performing physical examinations, ordering and interpreting labs, and prescribing pharmaceuticals. Individuals with questions about their eligibility may contact IFM.
  • The degree types applicable to the FMCP™ credential represent those candidates who may not necessarily be licensed to perform all of these activities but who, as part of a collaborative care team, need to understand and use the results of physical exams, lab tests, and prescribed pharmaceuticals within their scope of licensure and know when to refer patients to providers who are licensed to conduct these activities when needed.

Commonly eligible degree types for the new certifications:

All commonly eligible degree types within the current certification program remain eligible for the new certification designations. International equivalents and designations will be evaluated based on degree, regulatory status, and scope of practice.

  • Functional Medicine Certified Professional – Medical (FMCP-M)™ commonly eligible degrees and/or licenses:
    • Medical Doctor (MD)
    • Doctor of Chiropractic (DC)
    • Doctor of Osteopathy (DO)
    • Naturopathic Doctor (ND)
    • Nurse Practitioner (NP)
    • Physician Assistant (PA)
  • Functional Medicine Certified Professional (FMCP)™ commonly eligible degrees and/or licenses:
    • Acupuncturist (LAc)
    • Dentist (DDS/DMD)
    • Doctor of Naprapathy (DN)
    • Doctor of Optometry (OD)
    • Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM)
    • Mental Health Professionals (e.g., psychologist, LCSW, LPC, LMFT)
    • Nutrition Professionals (e.g., CNS, RD, NT)
    • Occupational Therapist (OT)
    • Pharmacist (RPh/PharmD)
    • Physical Therapist (PT)
    • Registered Nurse (RN)
    • Speech Language Pathologist (SLP)

A few details about the new program eligibility:

The eligibility requirements for both new certification designations (FMCP-M™ and FMCP™) continue to require practitioners to:

  • Hold at least a master’s level degree (for some professions, a bachelor’s degree is accepted) in a health-related field from an accredited university. International equivalents and designations will be evaluated based on degree, regulatory status, and scope of practice.
  • Hold an active healthcare license to practice by the appropriate authority in the state, province, or country of clinical practice.

To successfully earn their designation, candidates will be required to:

  • Complete an application for the new program.
  • Complete a minimum of 100 hours of accredited functional medicine education and training that align with the designation’s functional medicine competencies. At this time, IFM’s core curriculum is the only organization teaching to the functional medicine competencies. Approved accrediting bodies will be announced prior to program launch.
  • Pass either the FMCP™ or FMCP-M™ written examination. Each designation will have a separate written examination based on the respective functional medicine competencies, not specific courses or trainings by a specific educational organization. The written exams will incorporate new, detailed, case-based test questions to assess clinical skills. There will no longer be a separate case study submission.

Recertification/maintenance of certification (MOC) requirements for both certification designations are in development. More information will be communicated as the new program is developed and launched.

Transition Timeline from Current Program to New Program

Final current IFMCP certification testing cohorts:

We are currently planning for two final IFMCP testing cohorts under the current program, which include:

  • November 2024
    • Written test dates: November 1-11, 2024
    • All courses must be completed by: August 30, 2024
    • Case study submission must be received by IFM no later than: August 30, 2024
  • July 2025
    • Written test dates: To be announced
    • All courses must be completed by: May 9, 2025
    • Case study submission must be received by IFM no later than: May 9, 2025

Last chance program dates under the current IFMCP program:

For practitioners wanting to pursue certification through the current program, all courses must be completed by May 9, 2025. The following course offerings that are eligible for completion by the final IFMCP testing cohort in July 2025:

  • Hormone (APM) – July 12-14, 2024
  • Bioenergetics (APM) – August 16-18, 2024
  • AFMCP Online – September 16–December 15, 2024
  • Environmental Health (APM) – September 27-28, 2024
  • GI (APM) – September 29-30, 2024
  • Immune (APM) Europe – November 8-10, 2024
  • Medicina Funcional Módulo de Práctica Avanzada™ Hormona – 17-19 de noviembre de 2024
  • Medicina Funcional Módulo de Práctica Avanzada™ Bioenergética – 20-22 de noviembre de 2024
  • Cardiometabolic (APM) – January 24-26, 2025
  • Immune (APM) – March 7-9, 2025
  • AFMCP Europe – Jan 21 – April 3, 2025; April 4-5 in-person

This list does not include IFM’s full program calendar. IFM continues to offer its high-quality, ACCME-accredited educational programs annually.

Launch of the new functional medicine certification program:

We plan to launch a pilot cohort for the new certification program in late 2025, and we anticipate the full program launch in 2026. More information will be communicated over the next 18 months.

Guidance + Next Steps for Practitioners

Details for IFM Certified Practitioners:

  • On transitioning: In alignment with NCCA certification standards, all functional medicine practitioners who are part of the current certification program and who are in good standing with their clinical licensure will automatically transition into the new program according to their broadest licensed scope of practice at the time of launch.
  • On recertification: For all current certified practitioners, whether you are due for recertification this year or in several years, the current IFMCP recertification is on pause. We will extend your certification date until you are transitioned into the new program, and you will complete recertification going forward under the new program. The recertification process is being developed as a part of the new certification program. We will provide ample time to complete any recertification requirements once they are announced.
  • There are no changes to the IFMCP benefits at this time. More information on updated benefits will be shared prior to the launch of the new certification program.

How to choose between completion under the current IFMCP program or waiting to complete under the new certification program:

When it comes to choosing between the current IFMCP program or the new Functional Medicine Certification Program™, each practitioner must ultimately make the decision that is best for their resources, journey, and study preparation timeline. With more than 3,145 candidates currently on the path to certification and many more on their functional medicine educational journey, we have identified a few scenarios based on where individuals are in the process and time limitations for completion. At the time of this message, at least one more offering of each program is available for completion.

  • For practitioners who have completed three or more programs:
    • IFMCP Candidates: If you have already completed your IFMCP application, been accepted into the current certification program, and have completed three or more courses (AFMCP or APMs), consider working to complete your certification by the final two testing cohorts: November 2024 and July 2025.
    • Practitioners without an application: If you have not submitted your application but have completed three or more courses (AFMCP or APMs), consider submitting your application now if you want to pursue certification through the current program by the final two testing cohorts: November 2024 and July 2025.
  • For practitioners who have completed two or fewer programs:
    • IFMCP Candidates: If you have already completed your IFMCP application and have completed two or fewer courses (AFMCP or APMs), it may be more difficult for you to complete the process but not impossible by the final two testing cohorts: November 2024 and July 2025.
    • Practitioners without an application: If you have completed two or fewer courses (AFMCP or APMs) and have not completed your application, we encourage you to continue your functional medicine education and pursue certification in the new program, which will launch later in 2026.

To help determine if you will be able to complete the program requirements under the current program, please refer to IFM’s program calendar and IFMCP certification process.

For practitioners who are unable to complete current certification requirements by May 9, 2025, and plan to certify under the new program:

  • All completed IFM core curriculum (AFMCP and APMs) will count as eligible hours toward the new certification program.
  • You must apply to the new certification program.
  • Your current application fee will apply toward the new program application fee.

For practitioners whose IFMCP applications have expired or will expire before May 9, 2025:

  • All completed IFM core curriculum (AFMCP and APMs) will count as eligible hours toward the new certification program.
  • If you plan to certify under the current program, we will extend your application time period through July 2025.
  • If you plan to certify under the new program, you must apply to the new certification program. New application fees apply.

For practitioners who may not pass examination components (case study and/or written exam) during the final IFMCP Testing Cohorts:

  • If a practitioner does not pass examination components for the November 2024 cohort, they will have an opportunity to retest in the final IFMCP testing cohort, following our policy and procedures.
  • If a practitioner does not pass examination components for the final July 2025 cohort, they will submit a new application and related fees for the new certification program and test within the new program requirements.

What’s Next & Questions?

Contact IFM’s Customer Relations Team at info@ifm.org or 800.228.0622.

We will offer a live Q&A session in late July to provide you an opportunity to learn more, ask questions, and connect with our team. Additionally, we will continue to provide regular updates via email to ensure a smooth transition to the new certification program.

Thank you for your trust in IFM and your dedication to the competent and confident practice of functional medicine. Together, we’re advancing the transformation of healthcare.

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