The AANEM was founded in 1953, and incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1959, to increase and extend the knowledge of electromyography and electrodiagnostic medicine, improve the quality of patient care, and promote the professional association of physicians interested in electromyography and electrodiagnostic medicine.

The concept of a credentialing examination was discussed by the AANEM as early as 1963. The first examination was administered on an experimental basis in 1967 to a group of 26 candidates. The committee that organized the effort was chaired by Dr. Joseph Goodgold and included Drs. James A. Bastron, Ernest W. Johnson, George H. Koepke, and Juergen E. Thomas.

The association perceived the examination primarily as an educational experience for candidates. Successful candidates were transferred to the association membership category of active membership by examination. The association devoted substantial time and effort to develop an evaluation process which included an examination designed to assess the knowledge, skills, and experience required to provide quality patient care in electrodiagnostic medicine. From 1967 through 1988, 1,148 candidates successfully passed the examination. Of this number, 1,098 were active members by examination in the association as of December 1988.

In 1987, the AANEM established the ABEM. The maintenance of certification program for physicians was added in 1994 to assure that the ABEM followed the requirements of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). The first examination was offered in 2003, the ABEM added technologist certification in 2011. The oral examination for physicians and the practical examination for technologists were both eliminated following the 2014 examination. 

Dr. Austin J. Sumner was selected as the first ABEM Board Chair. Drs. Jasper R. Daube, Andrew A. Eisen, Ernest W. Johnson, George H. Koepke, Ian C. MacLean, John L. Melvin, and Jack H. Petajan were appointed as certified Board members. Dr. John H. Mitchell was selected as the first noncertified member of the Board.

Subsequent to Dr. Sumner, physicians who have served as ABEM Board Chairs include Drs. Ernest W. Johnson, Michael J. Aminoff, George H. Kraft, Asa J. Wilbourn, James A. Leonard, Jr., John C. Kincaid, Lawrence R. Robinson, and Kathryn A. Stolp.