Every physician who wants to practice medicine in the U.S needs a license granted by a State. Each state has its regulations and requirements when it comes to medical licenses. Some of the states have a pretty simple process, while others make it extremely hard and expensive.

Navigating U.S. medical licensure is complex, with each state presenting unique hurdles. Some states process applications quickly, while others take months. Requirements like criminal background checks and FCVS profiles vary, causing inconsistencies. Handling incomplete applications is another frustration, as some states hold them while others reject them outright.

This article clarifies the U.S. medical licensing process, highlighting states that make it easier or harder. Whether you’re new to the field or planning to practice in multiple states, understanding these differences is key.

The Easiest States to Get Medical License

An application’s processing time varies by state. The following are the five U.S. states that give medical licenses the quickest:

1. New York

New York is one of the quickest states for obtaining a medical license. It does not require verification of employment, malpractice history, hospital privileges, or previous medical licenses. This streamlined process typically takes about six to twelve weeks.

For international graduates, the process can be slightly longer due to the requirement of submitting an FCVS profile along with the standard application. This often extends the licensing timeline.

Required Verifications:

  • Medical School Credentials
  • Postgraduate Training
  • Affiliated Training Hospitals
  • Examination Scores

Generally, New York medical licenses are issued within one and a half to three months. For international graduates, the timeframe can extend due to the additional scrutiny involved with the FCVS requirement.

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2. Indiana

In Indiana, obtaining a Physician or Osteopathic Physician license requires graduation from a medical school recognized by the Medical Board. Those who did not attend an accredited medical school can apply for a waiver, which is reviewed individually by the Board.

The licensing process in Indiana can be completed in about ten weeks. After submitting the necessary documentation, the Board typically takes four to six weeks for an initial review. Applicants are then notified by email about their application status and provided with an itemized list of additional documents needed.

Required Verifications:

  • NPDB-HIPDB report
  • Medical school transcripts
  • Exam scores
  • Background check
  • State license verifications

Indiana also offers a Temporary License that can be issued within two weeks if all necessary documents are complete. A ninety-day temporary permit may be granted to applicants who hold a valid license to practice medicine in the U.S., its territories, or Canada. Applicants must submit:

  • A notarized copy of a current license with an expiration date
  • An additional temporary permit fee of $100

This permit expires ninety days from issuance or when a final decision on the full license is made. Additionally, the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact has been implemented in Indiana since 2023, offering an expedited pathway for qualifying physicians.

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3. Michigan

Michigan offers a reciprocity medical license for physicians with an active U.S. medical license within the past ten years. To qualify, applicants must have held an active, good standing medical license in another U.S. state or Canadian province for at least ten years. The licensing authority must send verification directly to Michigan’s licensing office, confirming no pending disciplinary actions or sanctions.

Applicants Must:

  • Submit the designated application fee and completed form
  • Provide evidence of a current and unrestricted medical license
  • For Canadian-trained doctors, show they met the educational requirements for medical licensure in Canada or the U.S.
  • Demonstrate passing scores on the USMLE or Part I of the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examination (MCCQE)
  • Show proof of completing at least one year of postgraduate clinical training

For those needing a limited license, applicants must graduate from an accredited medical school and secure a position in a postgraduate training program. A temporary license, valid for up to six months, can be applied for while the full license is processed.

Michigan typically issues medical licenses within one and a half to three months. The review process takes about four to six weeks from receipt of the application. After submitting all necessary documents and meeting all requirements, it takes about 7 to 10 business days to receive the license by mail.

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4. Colorado

To get a license in Colorado, doctors must meet several key requirements:

  • Graduate from medical school
  • Pass national medical exams
  • Complete the necessary postgraduate training
  • Provide references from previous medical practice locations

The board’s staff checks each applicant’s past licenses and looks for any disciplinary actions. Typically, licenses are granted within 60 days after all documents are received. For malpractice disclosures, only active cases or those settled in the last five years need to be reported.

Colorado also offers a physician training license, allowing doctors to practice under supervision before getting their full license. This training license is valid until August 31st, three years after issuance, and can be renewed once for another three years. After six years, doctors need to apply for a full license.

Additionally, the Colorado Medical Board is part of the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC), allowing qualified physicians to obtain licensure in other member states. A compact license may be granted in less than 30 days. Each year, Colorado licenses around 800 to 1,000 new physicians. The board does not consider the timing of an applicant’s exams as a barrier, making it easier for experienced doctors moving to Colorado.

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5. Ohio 

The Ohio Medical Board offers a Reciprocal Licensure Path for professionals from other states under specific conditions:

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Hold a substantially similar out-of-state (OOS) occupational license or a government certification in the same profession, maintained in good standing for at least one year before applying
  • Hold a private certification for at least two years in a state without OOS licensing or government certification, maintained in good standing with the certifying organization
  • Actively engaged in the field in a state without OOS licensing or government certification, or serving in uniformed services

This reciprocity route is open to all license types except for training certificates, limited permits, and special certificates, with fees matching traditional licensure paths. However, individuals with revoked or surrendered licenses due to misconduct or negligence are not eligible.

The State Medical Board of Ohio (SMBO) has joined the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC) as the 35th member state. This allows Ohio physicians who meet the Compact’s standards to obtain licensure in other member states.

For those holding a special activity certificate, it is restricted to medical practice related to a specific event or program and is valid for no longer than thirty days or the event’s duration. These certificates cannot be renewed.

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Hardest States to Get Medical License

Conversely, avoid these states known for their difficult medical license applications:

1. Massachusetts

Massachusetts requires all verification documents to be collected and submitted together with the application, causing delays. The state has one of the highest rejection rates for verification items. Applicants must provide detailed malpractice claim histories from all past carriers, making the process time-consuming.

Additional Requirements:

  • Supervisory Form from a supervising physician
  • Certificate of Moral and Professional Character, notarized
  • Training in opioid and pain management
  • Proficiency in electronic health records
  • Training in child abuse and neglect recognition
  • Education on domestic and sexual violence
  • MassHealth enrollment
  • Compliance with Commonwealth laws
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2. Texas

Texas has a demanding medical license application process with comprehensive requirements. The Licensure Department verifies graduation from accredited educational programs, passing national and Texas-specific jurisprudence exams, and demonstrating good professional character.

The process typically spans six to eight weeks. Key steps include submitting fingerprints, detailing any prior criminal or disciplinary actions, and disclosing any allegations of medical malpractice. Texas law mandates that all applications be processed within an average of 51 days once all initial documents are submitted and the application moves from Pre-Licensure to Licensing status. A licensing analyst is then assigned to process the application.

Challenges:

  • Slow communication with responses taking up to seven days
  • No direct phone communication with licensing specialists
  • Complex forms for verifying postgraduate training, employment, and staff privileges
  • Mandatory background check and jurisprudence exam
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3. New Jersey

New Jersey’s medical licensing process can take up to five months due to the comprehensive verifications required. Applicants must provide numerous documents, including verifications of medical education, employment history, personal references, background checks, and profiles from the American Medical Association (AMA) and the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). Additionally, transcripts from exams and postgraduate year (PGY) verifications are necessary.

Requirements for Those with a Criminal Record:

  • Detailed personal explanation
  • Relevant police reports
  • Reference letters
  • Legal documents (e.g., judgments of conviction, sentencing orders, proof of rehabilitation)

Application Components:

  • Verification of medical education and transcripts
  • Completion of requisite examinations (USMLE, COMLEX, or NBME)
  • Verification of all postgraduate training
  • Background check
  • Proof of education, certifications, and detailed work histories

New Jersey faces a significant healthcare demand due to a shortage of physicians, compounded by population growth, an aging population, and an increase in chronic illnesses.

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4. Nevada

Obtaining a medical license in Nevada is notoriously challenging and can take three to four months if everything is perfectly in order. The process is exhaustive, involving the submission of detailed credentials, extensive background checks, and comprehensive personal information. Applicants must declare veteran status and verify all previous licenses and medical practice details, with academic qualifications meticulously documented.

Nevada’s stringent requirements include three years of progressive postgraduate training, a demand only a few states impose. Additionally, the state’s medical board has faced severe criticism for its lengthy complaint resolution process, which can extend up to 800 days.

Physicians in Nevada also face the threat of complaints being filed years after an incident, and even dismissed civil cases can be pursued for formal discipline by the board. This approach can deter doctors from practicing in the state due to the potential for prolonged legal disputes.

Nevada’s healthcare system is under immense strain, ranking near the bottom nationwide for available primary care doctors and general surgeons relative to its population of over 3 million. The state urgently needs an additional 2,561 physicians to meet national healthcare standards.

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5. California 

California’s stringent medical licensing requirements often involve longer timelines and exhaustive documentation, especially for international medical graduates (IMGs).

All physician applicants must complete 36 months of accredited postgraduate training in a residency program recognized by the ACGME, RCPSC, or CFPC. This extensive training is mandatory for both domestic and international graduates, reflecting California’s high standards.

California also requires a Postgraduate Training License (PTL) for all residents in ACGME programs who haven’t completed 36 months of training. This license must be obtained within 180 days of starting a Board-approved program and is valid until 90 days after completing the required training.

IMGs must meet California’s specific clinical training requirements, often needing U.S. clinical experience as a prerequisite for licensure. This highlights the state’s emphasis on maintaining high standards in patient care and medical practice.

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What to Expect When Applying for a Medical License in the US

Securing a medical license in the U.S. is rigorous, ensuring only qualified individuals provide healthcare. Candidates must graduate from medical school, complete postgraduate training, and pass the USMLE.

Applicants must provide proof of their educational and professional background, including academic credentials, work history, and any potential issues like health problems, malpractice settlements, or criminal convictions.

State-specific laws strictly regulate medical practice, requiring proof of passing all three phases of the USMLE. Physicians must renew their licenses every one to two years, demonstrating ongoing professional development through continuing medical education to maintain their practice rights.

Medical Education Requirements for Physicians

To get an unrestricted medical license, you must complete at least one year of postgraduate training. Some states require two or three years of residency training. Additionally, over a dozen states require passing the licensing exams and getting a full license before moving to certain stages of residency, like PGY-2 or PGY-3.

This postgraduate training is often the first formal interaction between future physicians and state medical boards. Most boards issue a resident or training permit, allowing practice within the supervised environment of residency programs.

Postgraduate Medical Training Requirements

To qualify for an unrestricted medical license, candidates must complete at least one year of postgraduate training across all states. Some states have more stringent requirements, necessitating two or three years of residency training for licensure. Additionally, over a dozen jurisdictions require physicians to pass the licensing examination sequence and secure a full, unrestricted license before advancing to certain stages of their residency, such as before entering their second or third postgraduate year (PGY-2 or PGY-3).

This stage of postgraduate training often serves as the initial formal interaction between prospective physicians and state medical boards, as most boards issue a resident or training permit. This permit allows physicians to practice within the structured and supervised environment of their residency programs, ensuring that they gain necessary experience under professional oversight.

Evaluating Fitness to Practice Medicine

When applying for a medical license, you must share your personal and professional history, including work experience and any health conditions. Most states also require criminal background checks.

State medical boards verify your credentials, including medical degrees and training records. They check that you’ve passed the USMLE or COMLEX-USA, review the FSMB’s disciplinary data bank, and look for any discrepancies in your application. You may need to attend a formal interview with the board.

The license allows you to practice general medicine. In the U.S., physicians aren’t licensed by specialty. While not required for licensure, specialty certification is often important for hospital privileges. Most U.S. physicians choose to get specialty certified through organizations like the ABMS or AOA BOS.

How We Make the Medical Licensing Process Easier

While some of the procedures may sound scary, there is a solution. MedicalLicensing.com will manage the licensing procedure in every state in the United States for you.

It’s certainly beneficial to be familiar with the state medical licensing process; however, we understand that, especially for physicians who decide to work locum tenens or via telemedicine, staying up with the specifics of licensure in every single state is simply impractical.

Our team of industry specialists will carry out the application and all verifications on your behalf, allowing you to focus on what is most important to you and avoid unnecessary worry. Fill out the form below to schedule a free consultation now.