At the heart of Europe with its European institutions and multi-cultural population, Belgium is an interesting country to live in. Despite its small size, it’s very culturally diverse and depending on which area you choose to settle in, you may need to become fluent in either French or Flemish. You will also be within very close range to many of Europe’s best destinations beyond Brussels and Bruges – huge tourist attractions in their own right.
Belgium has one of the highest ranking healthcare systems in Europe, placing 9th out of 89 countries in the 2019 Health Care Index. Moreover, Belgium is consistently attracting a good number of foreign doctors, with one report claiming that Brussels-based medical professionals had increased by more than 50% between 2014 and 2019.
Becoming a doctor in Belgium takes six years if you study full-time before you do residency practice, but there are also ways to work as a doctor in the country if you haven’t studied there. Let’s have a look at the ways in which you may become a medical doctor in Belgium.
1. French and Belgium Language requirements to become a doctor in Belgium
Belgium has two official languages: French and Flemish. Although there is a very culturally diverse population and most people tend to speak English thanks to Belgium also being the headquarters of many international institutions, you’ll need to be fluent in the language to work as a doctor in Belgium. This is all the more applicable to rural areas. Most medical job posts include a requirement to speak French or Dutch.
You will also need to speak fluent French or Dutch in order to attend university in Belgium.
2. Study in Belgian medical schools
The system of medical education in Belgium consists of six years of full-time education, the equivalent of a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. According to the University of Leuven, additional residency training in combination with an advanced master’s education is compulsory in order to get a medical license.
To gain admission into medical school, students in Belgium need to meet the general requirements for attending a bachelor’s degree, on top of passing an entrance exam for medicine, which is done at national level and organized by the Ministry of Education.
Medical school in Belgium is divided into three cycles, including three years equivalent to a bachelor’s degree and three years equivalent to a master’s degree.
At this point, although you will have a state diploma and is a doctor in Belgium, there is a third cycle of “advanced master’s degree” which can last three to six years depending on the specialty chosen. This is when the residency training also takes place, and the third cycle is also compulsory for those who want to work as generalists.
3. Complete the required tests and residency
The Belgian system includes residency as part of the third cycle of studies i.e. the advanced master’s degree that follows the MD program. Each specialization is subject to quotas set by the Federal Government, which makes getting a residency spot very competitive.
Admission to the residency program is done through a selection test – different for each specialty.
4. Obtain a Belgian medical license
Once you have finished your third cycle of medical studies, you will need to apply to a ministerial commission for licensing – this is called a “demande d’agrément”. Once your application is approved, the final step before being able to practice as a doctor in Belgium is to register with the Medical Association in Belgium, the Ordre des Médecins.
As a foreign trained doctor, the steps are largely identical, but the National Council for Medicine reserves the right to request an aptitude test or a training period / trial period in which they assess the person’s knowledge and skills.
5. Get work authorization
If you are a European Union citizen who has studied in Belgium, you will not need any visa to start working as a doctor. This is also true if your degree is not from Belgium, as long as the Ordre des Médecins validates your application to join (see more on proving your study levels below).
However, as a non-EU citizen, foreign doctors must apply for a work permit, which is done via regional employment agencies as described here.
There is a slightly different approach for doctors who want to start their own practice, falling in the self-employed category. In this case, information on the various steps including obtaining a professional card, can be found here.
6. Find work as a doctor in Belgium
Belgium has a system of regional employment agencies where you can look for work as a doctor, once you finish your studies or if you are coming into the country with a foreign degree that has been recognized by the Belgian federal authorities. There is information about looking for jobs here.
In order to be self-employed and start your own practice, you will first need to get your medical licence and go through the steps explained below, to ensure you are recognized as a fully-trained doctor by the Belgian Ministry of Education. With all this paperwork in order, you need to apply for a professional card as a self-employed person. Then, register with social bodies and tax bodies as you would normally.
7. Procedure for foreign-trained doctors to work in Belgium
In order to have your foreign medical degree accepted in Belgium, you need to submit it for evaluation through a network specialized in where your degree has been granted. If you are a European-trained doctor, authentication is much easier thanks to a EU-wide recognition system for qualifications to become a doctor in Belgium. In any case, you can find out more about the process for getting your degree recognized in Belgium here.
Once your degree has been recognized, you may need to go through some additional testing or a trial period before you can be allowed to work as a doctor, based on the assessment from Ministry of Public Health. You will then obtain a medical license equivalent to that granted to doctors who completed their studies in Belgium.
I hope that this article on how to become a medical doctor in Belgium was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Medical Schools Category!