Get through every step of the process, from understanding the requirements and application stages to navigating background checks and disciplinary actions.

Navigating the California medical licensing landscape requires a proactive and informed approach—understanding specific criteria and successfully navigating the administrative intricacies of the California medical system. Whether you are an experienced physician assistant, a dedicated registered nurse, or an international medical graduate bringing a wealth of global experience, this guide is tailored to ensure you have the insights and guidance needed to streamline your path to practicing medicine in California.

California Medical Licensing Requirements

Understanding the essentials of California medical licensing requirements is the first step before diving into the application process. It involves fulfilling educational and training benchmarks, passing the necessary exams, and proving your competence in the field of medicine. Achieving these prerequisites is essential for a smooth and successful licensing journey.

Once you’ve got a handle on these core elements, you’re on your way to becoming a fully licensed physician in the state of California.

Education and Training

The bedrock of any thriving medical career is a robust educational and training foundation. To secure a medical license in California, you must graduate from an accredited medical school, complete your postgraduate training, and engage in ongoing medical education. This comprehensive training is what will equip you to provide top-notch care to your patients.

Licensing Requirements

Here’s a checklist of what you need for your licensing application:

  • Verification of your medical school education and transcripts
  • Scores from the USMLE or COMLEX
  • Verification of your postgraduate training
  • Passing the California Law and Ethics Exam
  • A clean criminal background check
  • Compliance with Continuing Medical Education (CME) requirements
  • For international graduates, ECFMG Verification

Expect the processing time for your application to be around 4-5 months.

You should be aware of the specific training requirements, such as a limit of four attempts at the USMLE Step 3, with no limits for the COMLEX. Additionally, international medical graduates must complete a minimum of one or two years of postgraduate training, with limited acceptance of FCVS.

Renewing your license will require proof of 36 months of Board-approved postgraduate training, which must include 24 consecutive months within the same program. California mandates that MDs accrue 50 hours of Category 1 approved CME credits each licensure cycle. As of January 1, 2022, DOs are also required to complete 50 credit hours per cycle, with 20 hours from AOA Category 1A or 1B.

california medical licensing

New Protocols Effective January 1, 2024

Starting January 1, 2024, the Medical Board will only accept the following documents electronically through the DOCS system or other Board-approved third-party services:

  • Certificate of Medical Education (Form MED)
  • Official Transcript and its Official English Translation, if applicable
  • Postgraduate Training License Enrollment Form (Form EF)
  • Certificate of Completion of ACGME/RCPSC/CFPC Postgraduate Training (Form PTA-B)
  • Certificate of Completion of CODA Postgraduate Training (Form CODA1-CODA2)
  • Current Postgraduate Training Verification (Form CTV)
  • Explanation of Application Question (Form EXP)

Take note that mailed submissions will no longer be accepted for these documents, to streamline the application process.

The Latest from the California Medical Board: Updates You Need to Know

Governor Newsom’s signature on SB 815 on September 30, 2023, heralded significant updates to the Medical Board of California’s procedures, affecting applicants, current licensees, and stakeholders.

  • Upcoming Changes in Physician Licensing Fees

Starting January 1, 2024, the Medical Board of California will implement new fee structures for initial licensure and renewals. Here’s what you need to budget for:

NameFee Amount
Effective 1/1/2024
Fee Amount
Effective 1/1/2027
Physicians & Surgeons Initial License Fee$ 1,151.00$ 1,255.00
Initial License Fee – Special Faculty Permit$ 1,151.00$ 1,255.00
Physicians & Surgeons Biennial Renewal$ 1,151.00$ 1,255.00
Biennial Renewal- Special Faculty Permit$ 1,151.00$ 1,255.00

  • Postgraduate Training License (PTL) Duration Extension

All postgraduate training licenses issued henceforth will carry a 36-month validity. Current PTL holders as of January 1, 2024, will also see their licenses extended to meet this 36-month period if necessary.

  • Modifications to the Physician’s and Surgeon’s License Training Requirements

A notable change is the removal of the four-month general medicine requirement from board-approved postgraduate training, streamlining the path to full licensure.

  • Guest Rotation Training Flexibility

A welcome expansion of Board regulations now allows residents in out-of-state postgraduate programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education to undertake medical training in California for up to 90 days without a state license.

  • Mexico Pilot Program (MPP) Extension Provision

For MPP license holders impacted by specific circumstances that prevented practice, the Board now has the authority to extend the three-year license expiration date.

Obtaining a Temporary License in California

california medical licensing

Securing a temporary license in California offers a pathway to practice while completing the full licensing process. If you’re aiming for a Physician’s and Surgeon’s (P&S) License, here’s what you need to know to apply for this interim credential.

Eligibility Criteria for a Temporary P&S License

  • Postgraduate Training: You must have completed either 12 months (for U.S. and Canadian graduates) or 24 months (for international graduates) of board-approved postgraduate training, as detailed in BPC section 2096.
  • Examination Success: You must have passed all the examinations required by the Board.

With a temporary license, you can practice medicine in California and continue to compile the necessary documents for your full P&S License.

A temporary license is valid for 12 months or until your full P&S License is granted, whichever comes first.

To be considered for this provisional license, you must:

  • Be affiliated with the U.S. Armed Forces, either through marriage, domestic partnership, or another legal union, with an active-duty member stationed in California.
  • Possess a current, unrestricted license to practice medicine in another U.S. state, district, or territory.
  • Maintain a clean record, free from any actions that could have led to license denial, suspension, or revocation under the California code.
  • Have no disciplinary actions by any licensing entity in other jurisdictions and no pending complaints or disciplinary proceedings.

The California Medical Board requires fingerprint results from both the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) before issuing a temporary license.

Licensing for Physician Assistants, RNs, LVNs, and APRNs

The journey to licensure is a critical step for a range of professionals, including Physician Assistants (PAs), Registered Nurses (RNs), Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs), and Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). Each of these roles carries distinct licensing requirements, reflecting the specialized skills and responsibilities of the respective fields.

For Physician Assistants (PAs)

  • Earn a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  • Graduate from a California-recognized PA program.
  • Pass the PANCE.
  • Complete a fingerprint background check and a controlled substance education course.
  • Submit the licensure application with the necessary documents and fees.

For Registered Nurses (RNs) and Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs)

  • Obtain an accredited nursing degree.
  • Pass the NCLEX.
  • Apply for licensure with the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN).

For Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs)

  • Acquire a master’s degree in nursing or a related field.
  • Gain specific certifications for your specialization.
  • Hold a current RN license.

Each category requires adherence to California’s educational and regulatory standards to ensure quality patient care and professional accountability.

California Medical Licensing for International Medical Graduates

International Medical Graduates (IMGs) looking to practice medicine in California must navigate a specific set of licensing requirements to ensure their medical education aligns with the state’s high standards.

To begin, IMGs should verify if their medical school is recognized on California’s substantial equivalence list, which includes institutions meeting the California Medical Board’s medical education standards. If your school is on this list, you’ve cleared a significant hurdle in the licensing process.

International medical graduates should have completed their education at a foreign medical school that the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), or an agency authorized by the ECFMG, has rigorously reviewed and approved.

Utilizing the California Medical License Lookup Tool

california medical licensing

The California Medical License Lookup Tool is a valuable online resource provided by the California Medical Board for verifying the license status of healthcare professionals in California. 

This tool allows you to confirm the licensure status of:

  • Physician and Surgeon
  • Postgraduate Training License
  • Licensed Midwife
  • Psychoanalysts and Student Research Psychoanalysts
  • Fictitious Name Permit
  • Special Programs – Individual
  • Special Programs – Organizational
  • Special Faculty Permit
  • Polysomnographic Trainees, Technicians, and Technologists

To use the California Medical License Lookup Tool, follow these steps:

  1. Visit the website
  2. Enter the name or license number of the healthcare provider you’re considering.
  3. The tool will display the licensure status as registered with the California Medical Board.

How Professional Licensing Services Can Assist You

Navigating the California medical licensing process can indeed be daunting. Yet, with clear guidance and expert support, you can successfully complete the process and claim your license. Understanding the nuances of requirements, fees, and procedures for obtaining and maintaining a medical license in California is paramount. Whether you’re applying for the first time, renewing an existing license, or seeking to practice across multiple states, a service like can offer you step-by-step assistance. Our team of seasoned professionals is dedicated to providing the expertise you need to navigate this journey smoothly.

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California medical licensing is a comprehensive endeavor that spans the spectrum from educational prerequisites to exam completions, from demonstrating clinical skill to maneuvering through the application intricacies. This process transcends professional backgrounds, demanding a thorough grasp of the required steps from all applicants. With the insights from this guide, you’re now equipped with the essential knowledge to confidently chase after your California medical license. And remember, you’re not alone in this quest—professional licensing services are at your disposal to provide support throughout this exciting professional pursuit.

FAQs about California Medical Licensing

  • What are the new California medical licensing fees for 2024?
    Beginning January 1, 2024, the Medical Board of California is updating its fee structure. Physicians and surgeons, as well as those holding special faculty permits, will see the initial license fee set at $1,151, with an increase to $1,255 planned for January 1, 2027. Biennial renewal fees will follow the same pricing structure. Stay informed about these changes to budget accordingly for your medical licensing in California.
  • How have recent legislative changes affected the California medical licensing process?
    Recent changes due to legislation like SB 815 have introduced updates to fee structures, extended the validity of postgraduate training licenses, and modified training requirements, among other things. These changes streamline the process and may affect the timeline and requirements for obtaining and renewing a medical license in California.
  • What should international medical graduates know about California medical licensing?
    International graduates must ensure their medical school is recognized by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) or a similar authorized agency. They should also verify that their school is listed in the WFME and FAIMER directories or approved by the California Medical Board to meet the licensing requirements.
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