Members of the American College of Osteopathic Emergency Physicians (ACOEP), had established residency training programs in osteopathic emergency medicine. This was approved by the actions of the Council on Post-doctoral Training of the American Osteopathic Association. These representatives then prepared the Basic Documents and applied for jurisdiction in emergency medicine to the Advisory Board for Osteopathic Specialists (currently named the Bureau of Osteopathic Specialists) of the American Osteopathic Association. These documents were approved, and forwarded to the Board of Trustees of the American Osteopathic Association. The Board of Trustees in June, 1980, approved the creation of the AOBEM, and thus, the AOBEM was established in 1980.

The initial Board of Directors included: James Budzak, D.O., FACOEP; Donald Cucchi, D.O., FACOEP; James Grate, D.O., FACOEP; Robert L. Hambrick, D.O., FACOEP; and Bruce Horton, D.O., FACOEP. The number of directors expanded by 1990.

The first certification examination in emergency medicine was given in 1980. The activities of the AOBEM increased over the years. The re-certification process was established in 1994, and all certificates issued after January 1, 1994 are time-dated, for a ten year period. In 1995, the AOBEM became a member of a conjoint Board in Sports Medicine. Also in 1995, the AOBEM was given jurisdiction in Emergency Medical Services. The first examination for a Certification of Added Qualification in Emergency Medical Services was 1996. In 1997, the AOBEM was given jurisdiction in Medical Toxicology. The first examination for a Certification of Added Qualification in Medical Toxicology was in 1999. Diplomates may achieve subspecialty certification in the following disciplines: Emergency Medical Services, Medical Toxicology, Sports Medicine, Underseas and Hyperbaric Medicine, Hospice and Palliative Care Medicine, Medical Critical Care, and Surgical Critical Care.

Certification and Subspecialty (formerly CAQ) Certification are recommended by the AOBEM to the Bureau of Osteopathic Specialists (BOS). The BOS has the final authority on behalf of the American Osteopathic Association to grant these certifications.

In 2003, the AOBEM initiated the Continuous Osteopathic Learning Assessment (COLA), which consists of annual on-line testing of assigned articles from the literature, and is required annually to qualify for the Cognitive Assessment every ten years.