Study Medicine in France: 6 Things to Know

France is one of the few countries with a long tradition of medical excellence. About 80 medical breakthroughs/firsts were done in this country, which has resulted in 13 French citizens bringing home the most-coveted Nobel Prize for Medicine/Physiology.

That being said, France has become an attractive destination for foreigners who wish to become doctors. If you’re one of them, then here’s everything you need to know about how you can become a physician in the ‘Hexagon’.

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1. What are the requirements to study medicine in France?

The basic requirement for aspiring medical students is a high school diploma. An official diploma showing French language knowledge is also required, although this is waived if the applicant has a French baccalaureate.

Other requirements may include good grades in certain subjects. At the University of Nantes for example, applicants need to have good marks in Life Sciences, Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, French, and Languages.

Other documents that may be needed include letters of motivation or recommendation, and related experience if applicable.

As requirements vary according to school, you need to access the complete list per university through the Parcoursup website.

2. How difficult is it the medical curriculum in France?

French medical education is quite selective. As mentioned, at the end of the first year, local and foreign students need to pass an exam called PACES. This can be quite difficult, as only about 10% of the students pass the test and proceed with their second year of medical studies.

There is another chance to take the PACES, however. Of the second-chance takers, about 20% pass the exam.

3. In what language is the medical curriculum in France?

You need to be fluent in the French language to study Medicine in France. As such, medical schools require applicants to have a DELF or DALF diploma. This is given by the French Ministry of Education to students who show proficiency in the language. The common level required for foreigners is C1 (proficient speaker).

4. Can you study medicine in France as an international student?

Yes. However, different policies apply to International students who wish to study Medicine in France. There are 46 countries covered by the Etudes en France procedure and those who have such nationalities may apply via the Parcoursup website.

Foreigners not covered by the Etudes en France procedure need to secure a preliminary admission request called the Demande d’Admission Préalable (DAP) before they can register and apply through the website.

5. What are the components of the medical curriculum in France?

The study of Medicine in France is divided into three cycles and takes a minimum of nine years.

The first is Premier Cycle d’études Médicales or PCEM. This covers the first two years of studies. The PCEM curriculum is the same for medical, dental, pharmacy, nursing, and physiotherapy students.

After the first year, medical students need to pass the PACES exam to move on to the second year of the general education diploma in medical sciences (DFGSM) studies. Enrollees are only given two chances to pass this test.

The next/second cycle is the DCEM. This lasts for four years. During this phase, the student must complete all his/her academic requirements. In the University of Montpellier Medical School, for example, the second cycle covers lessons in Oncology, Hematology, and Dermatology, to name a few.

Apart from passing all the subjects, seminars and hospital internships must be completed as well. At the end of the fourth year, the student must be able to pass another round of theoretical exams to reach the third phase of studies.

The DES or third cycle offers two tracks: General Medicine and Specialized Medicine. The duration for these programs is 3 and 4-5 years respectively. After completing any of these, the individual will be given a Diploma of Specialized Studies.

After this, an aspiring doctor can take another 2 years’ worth of subspecialty training. With this experience, he/she will be awarded the DESC or certificate for complementary specialized studies.

To get a Ph.D. in Medicine, the student must present and successfully defend his/her research thesis. Afterward, he/she can register with the Conseil National de l’Ordre des Médecins for a license to practice Medicine.

6. What do you need to become a doctor in France?

To practice as a doctor in France, the applicant must present proof of his medical degree or the State Diploma of Doctor of Medicine to the National Council of the Order of Physicians. He/she must meet the citizenship requirements too to practice anywhere in France.

After this initial registration, the applicant may also apply for specialist status. The doctor’s qualifications will then be evaluated by a Committee, which will make the necessary recommendation to the Council.

Doctors who have graduated from universities in the EU and EEA may practice within France without the need for licensing/registration. Non-EU graduates can also do so once they meet the eligibility requirements and pass the Epreuves de verifications de connaissances.


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