6 steps: How to become a doctor in US if you are non-American?

Posted by

I have searched information about working in USA as a doctor since I get my acceptation letter from medical faculty. My big dream is to live in California and work as an aesthetic plastic surgeon. I already have a personal trainer license and it would be interesting to mix these element together somehow.

People (in Finland) love to tell me how hard or impossible is to move to US and do career there if you are foreign doctor. In fact, it is just a bit bureaucratic process with some exams and paperwork but I find it quite easy (at least in theory).


Picture from Google (search: Doctor Exams)


Here are step-by-step introductions to become American doctor:

  1.  Study courses of pathology, pharmacology, physiology, microbiology, biochemistry, anatomy and behavioral sciences in your home university (and of course study medical English if you don’t already have medical English skills).
  1.  Take USMLE 1 exam, after passing those courses (step 1) you’re ready to take USMLE exam part one, without these exams you cannot work as a doctor in states. USMLE 1 is computes-based exam with over 300 multiple-choice questions. That takes eight hours and costs about 850 USD. (Don’t worry if you are already graduated, you can do this before or after graduation. I think that it’s better to do the exams separately just to decrease stress. 😉 )
  1.  Graduate
  1.  Take USMLE 2 exams: 2-CK and 2-CS. 2-CK includes question of clinical sciences. 2-CS tests your skills with patients (they are actually actors acting patient but I think you get the point). These cost about 850 USD and 1450 USD.
  1. Get ECFMG certification. Without this you cannot work as a doctor in US. This is also one of requirements if you want to enter residency or fellowship programs in US (programs that are accredited be ACGME). For this certification you have to pass USMLE 1, 2CK and 2CS within 7-year period.
  1. Complete an accredited residency program in U.S. or Canada – this process will take at least three years (according to AMA). You can find these programs through the National Resident Matching Program.
  1. Get license from State Medical Board. Generally you have to complete 1-3 years of residency or years of practice outside of the U.S or Canada before applying for license (well, I think that studying and taking the USMLE 2 steps after graduation will take at least an year, so I don’t see a problem here)


If you want to enter residency programs (if you for example want to became a surgeon or obstetric) you need to take USMLE step 3 but that’s another story. 🙂

Is there something missing? Please let me know if you find any incorrect information or lack of important issues. Thanks!


My plan is to improve my language skills during next summer holiday (I’ll be working in Wisconsin from May to September) and spring 2015 when I’m an exchange student in Ohio. I’m very clad that I can improve my medical vocabulary during that spring.

I’ve though to take USMLE step 1 in Ohio or anyway in next two years. I’m not sure is it possible to the exam during my stay and how easy or difficult the questions will be. These are definitely things that I need to figure out asap! If it’s impossible to do USMLE then, I have a good reason to have a nice holiday in US. 😉 (It’s possible to do computer based USMLE also in every Promestic Test Centers).

I’ve also though that I could do some language test after returning from the exchange. I’m not sure is it necessary if I have worked and studied in US. I think that those experiences are enough to make sure that I can communicate, read, etc. in English but I always want to make sure that I’m well prepared. So if someone still mistrust my skills I can prove that I really am able to communicate in English.


Links for more information:






I’d be grateful if you tell me your experiences about this process, USMLEs, etc! 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s