Categories of discipline recognition

The Royal College defines the requirements for specialty education in areas of medical, surgical, and laboratory medicine. Recognized Royal College disciplines fall under specialties, subspecialties and Areas of Focused Competence. Another category of recognition is the Fundamentals Program.

Committee on Specialties (COS)

The Royal College's Committee on Specialties (COS) is the body responsible for defining the requirements for each discipline category, evaluating applications for the recognition of new disciplines, and reviewing disciplines on a six year cycle.

The COS considers the following criteria to determine the appropriate category for new disciplines:

Find out more about the Royal College’s Governance Structure.

InformationSpecialtiesSubspecialtiesAreas of Focused Competence (AFC)
DefinitionAn area of medicine with a broad-based body of knowledge that is relevant in both community and tertiary settings and serves as the basis for additional competencies (such as subspecialties).An area of medicine with a more focused or advanced scope that builds upon the broad-based knowledge defined in a parent specialty.An area of specialty medicine that addresses a legitimate societal and patient population need that was unmet by the system of primary and subspecialty disciplines. An AFC builds upon a physician’s certification through supplemental or advanced training/practice as defined by the Royal College national standards.
ScopeBroad, foundationalMore focused, builds on primary specialtyNarrow or broad, enhances existing competencies
AdmissionFrom medical schoolEntry from a fundamentals program or primary specialtyDepending on the AFC program, entry is possible from a specialty, subspecialty, or conjoint program with the College of Family Physicians (with primary certification from either college).
RelationshipBasis for subspecialties and Areas of Focused Competence diplomasBasis for Areas of Focused Competence diplomasBuilds on a base discipline
Length of TrainingTypically four to five yearsOne or two yearsTypically one or two years, competency-based
ExamplePsychiatryChild and Adolescent PsychiatrySleep Disorder Medicine