Can Non-EU Citizens Work as Doctors in Europe?

Upon obtaining a degree from any European Union member state as a non-European Union student, would I be eligible to work in any European country without the requirement of undertaking a licensing examination?

Working as a doctor in Germany

In Germany, non-European Union graduates are required to undergo a specialized language exam known as the “Fachsprachprüfung” (FSP). This examination assesses proficiency in communicating with both medical professionals and patients in the German language. While German doctors often use Latin or English terminology, effective communication with the general public necessitates familiarity with common German medical terms. For instance, explaining a thrombosis in the common carotid artery to a neurosurgeon may involve different language choices than conveying the same information to the concerned family of the patient.

Upon successfully passing the Fachsprachprüfung, individuals are granted the authorization to practice. The examination is comprehensive, encompassing simulated patient interviews, the composition of a doctor’s letter, and dialogue with fellow medical professionals. Proficiency in spoken and written German significantly enhances the likelihood of success in this examination. Once successfully completed, candidates are eligible to practice medicine in Germany.

Medicine in EU

Currently, non-European Union citizens possessing an EU diploma are exempt from the requirement to take the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) examination. However, additional assessments, such as language proficiency examinations at the B2/C1 levels, may be necessary. Additionally, some regions may implement a residency examination where candidates compete with local applicants for available positions. The outcome of this residency examination, reflected in the candidate’s ranking, influences the breadth of choices available for selecting a preferred specialty or city.

Medicine in Switzerland

Becoming a doctor in Switzerland as a non-EU citizen involves several steps. Here’s a general guide, but please note that specific requirements may vary, and it’s essential to verify the latest information with Swiss authorities:

  1. Educational Equivalence:
    • Ensure that your medical degree is recognized in Switzerland. Contact the Swiss Medical Association (FMH) or the responsible Swiss authorities to assess the equivalence of your qualifications.
  2. Language Proficiency:
    • Demonstrate proficiency in one of Switzerland’s official languages: German, French, or Italian, depending on the region. This is crucial for effective communication with patients and colleagues.
  3. Work Visa:
    • Obtain a work visa. Contact the Swiss Embassy or Consulate in your home country to understand the visa application process and requirements for non-EU citizens.
  4. Residency Permit:
    • Secure a residence permit. Once you have a job offer, you’ll need to apply for a residence permit. Your employer may assist you in this process.
  5. Medical License:
    • Apply for a medical license from the relevant cantonal medical board. Licensing requirements may vary by canton, so check with the local health authorities. You may need to pass language exams and demonstrate your medical knowledge.
  6. Job Search:
    • Look for job opportunities in Switzerland. You may find positions in hospitals, clinics, or other healthcare institutions. Networking and connecting with Swiss healthcare professionals can also be beneficial.
  7. Specialty Training (Optional):
    • If you plan to specialize, inquire about additional training requirements. Some specialties may require additional qualifications or exams.
  8. Continued Professional Development:
    • Stay informed about continuing education and professional development opportunities to maintain your medical license.
  9. Health Insurance:
    • Ensure you have comprehensive health insurance coverage, as it is a legal requirement for residents in Switzerland.
  10. Cultural Integration:
    • Familiarize yourself with Swiss culture and healthcare practices. Adapting to the local norms will help you integrate into the medical community more effectively.

Always check with the relevant authorities and organizations in Switzerland to get the most accurate and up-to-date information on licensing requirements, work permits, and other essential details for non-EU citizens pursuing a medical career in the country.

If your residency training is completed in Germany in accordance with German standards, it will be promptly acknowledged in Switzerland without the necessity for an additional three years of work experience. The requirement for three years of work experience applies only to individuals who have undertaken their residency training in a non-EU country.

Medical degree in Netherlands

There’s also a medical degree program in Netherlands where first 3 years are in english, last 3 in dutch, but I don’t know too much about it. Can you elaborate which university offer it?

One of the well-known universities in the Netherlands that offers medical programs in English is Maastricht University. They have a bachelor’s program called the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (BMBS), which is taught in English. It’s always a good idea to check the official websites of Dutch universities for the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding their medical programs, admission requirements, and language of instruction.

If you are interested in this specific program structure, you may want to directly contact the relevant departments at Dutch universities, such as the admissions office or the medical faculty, for the most accurate and current information.

Among non-EU graduates, where is the predominant practice location for those in the field of medicine?


Do any European countries offer higher post-tax compensation for medical residents compared to Germany? Switzerland might be a contender, but its comparative advantage is offset by the considerably higher cost of living, ranging from 80% to 100% more than that of Germany.

While other competitive countries, notably the Nordic ones, aren’t known for low taxes, it’s noteworthy that even in the United States, recognized for its elevated attending salaries, a PGY-1 receives a take-home pay equivalent to €3075 per month (converted from USD) for a demanding workload of 60-80 hours per week and a limited vacation period.

Furthermore, a fellow (PGY6-10) in the United States takes home approximately €3775 per month, without the provision for overtime pay. From my perspective, Germany provides competitive compensation for its residents and even Fachärzte, especially when factoring in the cost of living and associated benefits.

Other countries

Switzerland, often referred to as “Germany on speed,” stands out as an appealing choice due to its superior income, favorable tax conditions, and reduced workload for medical residents. This preference holds particularly true for EU graduates, given the substantial challenges non-EU graduates face in gaining entry to Switzerland. Notably, the rate of foreign graduates in Switzerland is three times higher than that in Germany. For individuals willing to acquire proficiency in German, opting for Switzerland over Germany, when a spot is attainable, seems compelling. The primary drawback may be the absence of a metropolitan environment comparable to larger German cities, with Zurich, the largest Swiss city, not ranking among the top 15 German cities.


The United Kingdom, while undergoing changes in admission rules for EU graduates, presents an alternative. However, the requirement of 1-2 foundation years and an initial residency salary that is half of the German equivalent make it a distinct choice. Although long-term income for hospital consultants aligns closely in both countries, general practitioners and many outpatient specialists earn notably less in the UK. The rate of foreign graduates in the UK is twice that of Germany.


The United States, with higher income and lower taxes, is another option despite its less favorable working conditions and comparable or lower residency salaries. The application process involves significant financial investment, including exam retakes (Step 1-3), elective rotations, and letters of recommendation. The rate of foreign graduates in the U.S. is twice that of Germany.

Denmark and Norway

Nordic countries, particularly Denmark, offer comparable residency salaries but with significantly improved working hours. However, living costs are higher, and long-term attending salaries may be similar or less favorable. The rate of foreign graduates in Nordic countries exceeds that of Germany, with Norway having a notably high percentage.


The Netherlands, characterized by a low rate of foreign graduates (approximately 3%), experiences intense competition among domestic graduates in various specialties, often leading to a prevalence of Ph.D. pursuits.

Australia and New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand provide further alternatives with comparable or slightly higher long-term incomes and similar working conditions. Australia tends to direct foreign graduates toward rural, underserved areas, unlike Germany, where stronger foreign applicants can apply for urban regions. Both countries exhibit a significantly higher rate of foreign graduates compared to Germany (32% in Australia, 42% in New Zealand).

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