The medical profession in Italy is highly respected and valued, which is why becoming a doctor in Italy is very difficult and competitive. Students focus on the required subjects to get into medical school at an early age, which allows them to prepare for the admissions exams. Moreover, a high level of knowledge of sciences is a pre-requisite to be able to do well in medical school once you’ve been admitted.
Once you do get the right to practice as a doctor, you’ll have a very diverse pool of workplaces to choose from, assuming you have done well in your testing. Whether you choose to practice in big urban hospitals or move to a more rural area, Italy has a wonderful atmosphere and great communities who welcome their doctors with open arms. You’ll be living in great settings and taking advantage of the best the Mediterranean has to offer. But first, let’s see what the requirements are to make it as a doctor in Italy.
1. Italian proficiency requirements for doctors in Italy
There is no doubt that you will need to speak fluent Italian in order to work as a doctor in Italy, especially in rural areas. However, this can be developed in parallel to your medical studies, as long as you have acquired a good level of language knowledge before you enroll in medical school.
Speaking Italian isn’t a prerequisite for all medical schools, however. For example, the University of Milan has an International Medical School where you can study in English. This doesn’t mean you’ll be able to work full-time as a doctor in Italy afterwards though.
2. Study medicine in Italy if possible
Going to medical school in Italy is the easiest way to qualify for work as a doctor in the country. The medical program is six years long and you can apply right after high school, even after studying away from Italy. You’ll need to be able to prove your level of Italian language (except if applying to an international program) and pass the admissions test. If studying in English, there is a test called the International Medical Admissions Test, IMAT.
If you apply to study medicine in Italian, then you will need to pass a national admissions test valid for all medical schools in the country, as well as demonstrate a good knowledge of the English language.
Italy offers the option of studying in the better ranked state universities as well as in private universities.
3. Pass the required tests and complete residency
Once you have completed six years of medical school successfully, you will need to complete a six-month clinical placement and pass a national exam to become a registered generalist. You can then start practicing right away, after registering with the medical professional association.
However, for specialists, you will need to do a three- to six-year residency program following on from the national medical exam. Admission to the residency program of your choice is contingent on your test results and overall academic scores. There is a capped annual number of residency positions, determined by the Ministry of Education, which makes getting into residency even more competitive.
4. Getting a medical license
As a generalist, you will have a medical license at the end of your studies, after registering with the Ordine dei Medici upon successful completion of your clinical placement and passing the national state exam for doctor certification.
For specialists, you will also need to do 3-6 years of residency before you can work as a specialist. However, your registration as a doctor is successful once you’ve passed the state exam at the end of medical school, so you can begin to work as a generalist. Because the number of specialist residencies is capped annually, some graduates choose to work and then apply a year or two later to join a residency placement.
If you are looking to get a medical license with a degree from outside Italy, European or Swiss medical universities have a reciprocal agreement whereby this degree should be recognized easily and you will simply be able to register for the medical association and be allowed to practice. The specific medical association you register with is entitled to test your level of Italian and your knowledge of regulations covering the medical practice in Italy.
However, if your degree is from a different country, you will need to first prove that you are licensed in that country to become a doctor in Italy. Additionally, you need to provide a professional good standing certification and a check on your criminal record. Your degree will be assessed by the Ministry of Health and they may either accept it outright or accept it on the condition of carrying out an aptitude test or taking certain exams in an Italian university.
5. Work Authorization for Doctors
If you are a EU/EEA/Swiss citizen, you will not need a work visa to practice as a doctor in Italy and your medical degree, even if from a different country (as long as it is part of the EU/EEA/Switzerland), will be recognized in order to obtain a medical license. In this scenario, you’ll just need to register with the Ordine dei Medici.
If you are from outside the EU/EEA space, then you will need to apply for a highly skilled visa to work as a doctor. Usually, a work visa is contingent upon having a contract/offer of employment already from a hospital. You also need to obtain a residency permit which is given for a limited time and can be justified by work, family or study reasons as outlined here.
6. Finding Work
It is much easier to work as a doctor in Italy if you are a citizen of the EU/EEA/Switzerland having obtained a medical degree either in Italy or in one of the countries from the European economic area or Switzerland. Your degree and right to stay in Italy will be recognized more easily and you can then set up as a sole trader, registering with the relevant tax office of the area you will be working in, and with the national insurance body.
As a non-EU doctor, you won’t be able to practice in your own business unless you follow all the rules above under “Getting a work visa”, but you will have a more difficult time obtaining a resident permit given that it will be more complicated to prove what income you are expecting to make.
If you are looking for a job in a hospital, this can be done via the Italian job search websites. As a resident in Italy, you will most likely be able to see the vacancies in the hospital you are currently working in and apply for some of those, or remain in your position once you have finished your residency. If you are applying from abroad, however, you will need to rely on the job boards online.
7. Procedure for foreign-trained doctors to become a doctor in Italy
Foreign trade doctors who have a medical degree and are licensed to practice in the EU/EEA or Switzerland can have their degrees validated by the Ministry of Health quite easily and then they will just need to register with the medical association in order to work as a doctor in Italy.
If your degree has been granted outside the EU, it will need to go through a rigorous validation process as described above, and you will furthermore need to apply for a resident permit and a work visa for highly skilled migrants before you can work as a doctor in Italy. If you already have a job offer from a hospital or clinic, this will help with your visa application and obtaining a resident permit.
I hope that this article on how to become a medical doctor in Italy was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Medical School Category!