Working as a Doctor in France

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At the start of the year 2007, the French government estimated the total number of practicing doctors was 208,000. It was projected that this count would reduce by almost 10% over the next decade. Anticipating a paucity of medical practitioners, the government has raised its numerus clausus (permissible number of students to be admitted in the second year of medical course) to about 8,000 for 2011. In contrast, this number was just 4,100 in the year 2000-2001.

In France, medical studies require eight years to complete in general medicine and eleven years for medical specialties. However, you do not have to necessarily pursue medical education in France to work as a doctor or physician there. Foreign doctors can practice in France due to the accreditation system.

Glance through the detailed description of the steps to be a doctor in France:

Medical Education in France

The course of medical education in France follows a three-stage structure.

First Stage

The first stage comprises a two-year cycle called Premier Cycle d’études Médicales (PCEM). This can be opted by the French students with qualifications equal to a baccalaureate. Each faculty or department of medicine can admit a maximum of 8% international candidates from outside the EU. In PCEM, students of all medical departments study the same subjects.

By the close of the first year, almost 20% of students clear the examination. The students who flunk the exam can repeat their first year once more. In the following year, students are required to get an internship in the nursing field.

Second Stage

The next stage of medical studies commences with a four-year course called Deuxième Cycles des Études médicales (DCEM).  To complete DCEM, students have to pursue three years of internships in different specialties at hospitals, attend compulsory seminars, and get on call 36 times in a duration of three years. In the last three years of this stage, students receive a monthly stipend of some hundred euros.

If the student can clear theoretical course tests at the end of DCEM, he/she can proceed to the specialized course. Further, the specialty and residence location of students depend upon their grades in the exams.

Third Stage

Students can select general medicine or one specialty out of the given 30 branches of medicine in the third cycle. They are also required to carry out full-time duties that include six-month terms in different medical departments. For this work, a doctor’s salary in France per month is in the range of 1,336-2,052 euros per month and additional payment in case of ‘on-call’ duties. Post-completion of the three-year course, general medicine students get a Diploma of Specialized Studies (DES). However, the duration of this course is 4-5 years for students of other specialties.

Further, the residents need to register at France’s national medical association (Ordre des Médecins) to start their practice.

Alternate Route

You can continue with the medical course in France, even if you have initiated your studies in a country outside the EU. You are required to clear the first year of PCEM along with the related exam. After passing this exam, the students from abroad are allowed to take admission for the next level equivalent to their native country level. The last passed academic exam determines this.

Medical practitioners from outside the EU can go for DES. The relevant eligibility exams are taken at the French embassies or Paris. You can download the application forms from the website of the CNG (Center National de Gestion). But this is not an easy route as the statistics showed that only up to 20 such positions were available in the year 2010-11.

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How to be a doctor in France?

For practicing medicine in France, you need to adhere to PAE (Procédure authorization d’ Exercise). This procedure involves presenting your academics and work experience, clearing a skill exam, and demonstrating your French expertise. The majority of foreign doctors arrive from Africa. These practitioners are collectively known as PADHUE (Praticiens à Diplôme Hors Union Européenne). They have organized an association by SNPADHUE (Syndicat National Des Praticiens A Diplôme Hors Union Européenne).

However, PADHUE faces some troubles as they are regarded as ‘second class’ physicians. This continues despite the amendments to their position made in the 2006 law. For instance, the French hospitals have permission to give them less than doctors with European or French diplomas.

In France, doctors are highly demanded in remote areas and small towns. For these towns, foreign doctors are usually recruited from Eastern Europe. This is generally because the French doctors are likely to practice in South France or the country’s big cities.

Daniel Smith

Daniel Smith

Daniel Smith is an experienced economist and financial analyst from Utah. He has been in finance for nearly two decades, having worked as a senior analyst for Wells Fargo Bank for 19 years. After leaving Wells Fargo Bank in 2014, Daniel began a career as a finance consultant, advising companies and individuals on economic policy, labor relations, and financial management. At, Daniel writes about personal finance topics, value estimation, budgeting strategies, retirement planning, and portfolio diversification. Read more on Daniel Smith's biography page. Contact Daniel:

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