Complete Your Medical Study in the United States

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Complete Your Medical Study in the United States


In the United States, the residency is the essential final step in preparing physicians to practice medicine independently. It can also be the perfect opportunity for international physicians to gain experience in the United States.

Before undertaking a residency, U.S. students complete undergraduate study, then spend four more years in medical school, earning the Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree. Unfortunately, because of relatively small enrollments and high competition for admission, international students have little chance of being admitted to M.D. programs in the United States. Such programs often only enroll residents of particular U.S. states or regions, and even those that are open to international application typically only admit a handful of international students, generally with U.S. bachelor’s degrees. However, many international medical graduates (IMGs) do complete residency programs in the United States.

Residency programs are designed to allow participants to gain expertise in a medical specialty and to gradually take on increasing responsibility for patient care within a supervised clinical environment. Programs typically last three to seven years, depending on the medical specialty chosen. Advanced medical technology and facilities, expert faculty, and the wide variety of programs available (approximately 8,300 educational programs in 126 specialty and subspecialty areas are currently accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education), can make U.S. residency an exciting opportunity.

You should be aware that the route to residency is not easy and that openings tend to be highly competitive. Before beginning, realistically assess your medical knowledge, English language skills, educational background, ability to travel for required testing and interviews in the United States, and how well your educational plans match home country needs (the ministry of health will be expected to support your final residency visa application). If you then decide that you are ready to join the thousands of IMGs who enter U.S. residencies each year, the outline provided here can guide you in achieving that goal.

Steps to a U.S. Medical Residency

The first essential is to obtain certification from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). Testing required for this certification may be begun while still in medical school, though the IMG must receive their final medical diploma and medical school transcript before being actually certified. Here are ECFMG’s requirements (see also

At the same time that IMGs are completing the ECFMG certification process, they can begin investigating residency options and applying to programs. IMGs must be ECFMG-certified before actually starting a residency.

Finally there is the visa application. IMGs must be ECFMG-certified and accepted to a residency before they can receive a visa for residency study.

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