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Physician Education, Board Specialty Certified, and Physician Licensing in the U.S

A. Physician Education: The education of a physician in the United States is lengthy and involves undergraduate education, medical school, and residency (graduate medical education or postdoctoral training). 


1. Undergraduate Education (4 years): at a college or a university to earn a BS or BA degree, usually with a strong emphasis on basic sciences, such as biology, biochemistry, biomedical, and physics (some student may enter medical school with other areas of emphasis and graduate degrees)

2. Medical Education (4 year): At one of the US medical schools accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) or the American Osteopathic Association (AOA). After finishing medical school, students will earn the degree of Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.). They must complete additional training before practicing on their own as a physician. 

3. Residency Training (3-7 years): Newly MDs or DOs graduates (resident physician) enter 3 - 7 years of postdoctoral training under the supervision of senior physician educators (attending physician). The length of residency training varies depending on the chose specialties. For examples, family medicine, and internal medicine, pediatrics requires 3 year of training. General surgery, radiology, and orthopedics requires 5 years. Neurosurgery requires 6-7 years. 

4. Fellowship Training (1-4 years): Additional training in a subspecialty after residency training in particular fields. For examples, there are 9 fellowships after internal medicine residency such as cardiology, gastroenterology, immunology.

In general, it takes 11-15 years to become a full physician in the US.


B. Board Specialty Certified: Almost all physicians chose to become board certified, which is different from licensing. This is an optional and voluntary process (although required by most insurance companies). Certification ensures that the doctor has been tested to assess his or her knowledge, skills, and experience in a specialty and is deemed to qualified to provide quality care in that specialty. There are two levels of certification. Doctors can be certified in 36 general medical specialties (residency) with additional 88 subspecialties (fellowships). Most certification must be renewed after 6 to 10 years, depending on the specialty. 

C. Physician Licensing in the US: After completing undergraduate, medical school, and graduate medical education, a physician still must obtain a from a state or jurisdiction of the United States in which they are planning to practice. They apply for the permanent license after completing a series of exams and completing a minimum number of years of graduate medical education.

A physician must pass USMLE Step 1, Step 2 CK, Step 2 CS, and Step 3 in order to apply for a permanent physician license. For Vietnamese Medical Graduate, they must be certified by ECFMG (pass USMLE Step 1, 2 CK and CS) and pass Step 3 in order to apply for a license.


  1. The American Medical Association

  2. The United States Medical Licensing Exams


Going to US residency is not easy, where you're going to compete with the best doctors all over the world for spots in residency. However, it is not impossible. There are successful stories in our forum about Vietnamese doctors get into US residencies. Here are the basic steps that you'll need you take. It takes 2-3 years for an international medical graduate to match. Please be patient. No matter what the results are, you'll learn a lot in this process. VMGUS is helping you all the way. Applying to residency costs a lot of money. You should have a definite goal and some saving before to go. You have a good chance if you score well on Step 1 and 2, graduated medical school within 7 year when you applied, and have some US (or international) clinical experience. VietMD.Net is working effortlessly to maximize your chance.

Step 1: Prepare and take USMLEs. You do not have to take TOEFL for US residency. USMLE Step 2 CS will evaluate your English and communication skills.  
            - Register with ECFMG for test token 
            - Pass the USMLE step 1, 2 CK in Thailand (high scores recommended). This part will take a lot of time.

Step 2: Get a letter of approval from the Vietnam Ministry of Health for abroad training. This is considered one of the most difficult step. 

Step 3: Send your official transcript from medical school, along with approval letter from Ministry of Health, and USMLE Step 1, 2 scores to ECMFG in the US for ERAS token for residency. Once you're approved, you'll go to US to take USMLE Step 2 CS. VMGUS recommend you'll also take USMLE Step 3 and become licensed.

Step 4: Prepare your resume and personal statement. VietMD.Net will help you to revise your resume and personal statement.  You can do both step 3 and 4 at the same time.

Step 5: Ready to apply for US residency

Step 6: Preparing for Your Interview. VietMD.Net will do mock interview and practice your interview skills.

Step 7: The Match and Scramble. VietMD.Net will suggest on ranking in the match, scramble, or sign contract outside the match.

Step 8: Congratulations, You Made It!

Please note that there are commercial services available for applying US residency online. You'll have to pay for their service and there is no guarantee that you'll match. VMGUS offers this kind of service for you for free. All we need is your help others in return.

- VietMD.Net Team, Division of VMGUS.

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