The medical profession is highly respected and offers a great deal of autonomy in France. As a medical doctor, if you choose to work in your own practice, there are numerous options to do and a relatively high level of demand.
In 2007, the French government reported 208,000 practicing doctors in a country whose population is c. 70 million. Despite expectations for this figure to decrease, 226,000 doctors were active in 2018. This shows a keen interest in developing the medical workforce and a steady demand.
Becoming a doctor in France, or settling and working as a doctor coming from abroad, is a complex process which takes time and a lot of very specific studies. Moreover, you will need to be fluent in French to work as a medical doctor in France.
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1. French language requirements for becoming a doctor in France
Becoming a medical doctor in France is nearly impossible without fluent French language. To this end, you will need to ensure you speak a good level of French before you enter medical school. Even ahead of medical school, studying in any French university as a full-time student can only be done after you have provided proof of the DELF, DALF or TCF tests that evaluate your level of French knowledge.
Moreover, speaking fluent French will be essential to practice as a doctor in France. From speaking to patients and being able to communicate freely with people of all ages and backgrounds, to the ability to collaborate with your colleagues and other medical professionals when you are working on someone’s case, fluency in French will be essential to your everyday work.
2. If possible, study medicine in France
It goes without saying that gaining your training and knowledge in the country where you want to practice is essential and very helpful indeed. Nowhere is this more relevant than in France, where the community feeling is really strong and there is a great level of pride in the country’s educational system.
In order to become a doctor in France, you should aim to study at French medical schools. You can apply for entrance exams to a university dedicated to medical studies. Medical studies vary between 9 years long for a general medical degree and 11 years, for specializations. Students will enter three cycles of study, starting with the first one which lasts three years, right after finishing the equivalent of high school. In order to gain admission to the university of medicine, students have to present their baccalauréat results (having graduated from a French high school) or equivalent from other countries. Subsequently, you need to pass an entrance exam.
Once you are in the French medical education system, you will finish your studies with a residency period to which you have access following exams which are taken at national level, allowing you to obtain a ranking with which you can then choose where to do your residency.
If you are interested in studying medicine in France, check out this article!
3. Passing the required medical exams
The key requirement to become a doctor in France is to pass the exams at the end of the second cycle of studies, which then allow you access to residency. This option is available to students who have completed the first two cycles of the medical school in France.
4. Residency to become a medical doctor in France
The residency or third cycle of studies is also open to students coming from the European Union, Switzerland, Andorra or other states which are part of an agreement with France to this end.
During residency, expect 6 different rotations alongside theoretical seminars, depending on your specialty. At the end, you will prepare a residency thesis which is focused on research, and which you will have to defend before a journey. In order to actually practice as a doctor in France, you need to both obtain a DES (diploma of specialized studies) at the end of your residency and pass your thesis defense. At the end, you receive a diploma in medicine.
5. Getting a French medical license
Once you have your DES and you have successfully defended your thesis, you will not be qualified to work as a medical doctor in France until you register with the “Ordre des Médecins.” Only once accepted within this order, do you receive a medical license and can practice as a doctor.
Students who have finished their studies and obtained their diploma can apply to receive their license from the national council of the Ordre des Médecins.
6. Getting a work visa
If you require a visa to work in France as a medical doctor, you will need to first obtain an authorization to practice by following the “Procédure d’autorisation d’exercice” and meeting the requirements fitting your situation (i.e. EU citizen, doctors whose degrees were awarded outside the EU etc.). There are different procedures for recognizing your degree depending on where this was obtained, but you will need to present your academic and work records as well as prove your proficiency in French.
To get your visa, if you have a work offer from a hospital, the head of the institution looking to recruit you can apply for a work permit in your name. Please note that if you are a EU citizen you will not need a visa – you just need to get your authorization to practice once your degree has been recognized and then apply to join the Ordre des Médecins.
7. Starting your own practice or finding hospitals to work in
The easiest way to start working as a medical doctor in France is to become an employee of a hospital. However, there is high demand for work in big city hospitals and rural areas tend to be underrepresented, so you will have more chances to find jobs in more remote places. Look for institutions in this French directory: https://www.hopital.fr/annuaire.
If you prefer to start your own practice, be aware that you need to go through the steps of validating your degree and obtaining a French license first. The fact of setting up your own practice is considered “s’installer en libéral” i.e. becoming a liberal professional in France. More information about the steps required can be found here and include additional requirements such as registering with the national insurance board and setting up as a self-employed liberal professional with the relevant tax and social security bodies, in addition to registering as a doctor and being allowed to practice.
8. Procedure for foreign trained doctors to become a doctor in France
The key step to becoming a doctor in France if you have obtained your medical degree outside of the country is to get your degree recognized and become authorized to work in the medical profession. This is done by following the “Procédure d’autorisation d’exercice” – process for authorization to practice. Depending on the country of your studies, different requirements are stated, but overall you need to present proof of your studies and career pathway (if you have work experience). In some cases, you will be required to pass a skills test and, in all cases, you will need to make proof of being fluent in French.
Once you have been given this authorization to practice, the next step is to register with the Council of Doctors (Ordre des Médecins) and obtain a French medical license before presenting yourself as a candidate to work in hospitals or clinics, or starting your own practice.
I hope that this article on how to become a doctor in France was helpful! If you are interested, visit the Medical School Category!