With its mix of American and Spanish teaching styles and heritage, the Philippines can not only be a great destination for studying medicine at a lower cost than the United States or Canada, but it is also a great country to work in as a medical doctor. The job is diverse, the people you would be treating are diverse too, and you also benefit from a fantastic place to live.
Moreover, there is high demand for doctors in the Philippines because the cost of medical education is high for the actual Filipino families, which means that many can’t afford this sort of education. There is also significant “brain drain” leading to highly skilled young people leaving the country, which in turn means that the highly skilled jobs are not filled easily.
Having said that, it’s not 100% straightforward to start working as a doctor in the Philippines. This guide is an essential step-by-step set of instructions to help you make the best choices.
1. English Requirement for Doctors in the Philippines
In the Philippines, you can study medicine in English and also work as a doctor speaking English, although speaking Filipino will evidently be a great advantage especially in rural areas.
You will need to prove your fluency in English in order to be admitted to the medical schools in the country or to become a doctor in the Philippines. To prove you are fluent, TOEFL or IELTS test scores can be presented.
2. Study medicine in the Philippines if possible
One of the easiest pathways to becoming a doctor in the Philippines is by studying medicine there. In order to gain admission to the medical schools in the Philippines, the pre-requisites are as follows:
Graduate high school with good results in sciences and a pre-medical focus (e.g. biology, physics, chemistry)
Obtain a bachelor’s degree, either in the Philippines or abroad, preferably in a pre-medical subject. This is usually four years long if you study in the Philippines
Upon graduation from the undergraduate program of your choice, you will be qualitied to take the National Medical Admission Test (NMAT) whose scores are a great part of your medical school application
Apply to and completed medical school, a 4-year program ending with a Doctor of Medicine diploma (MD).
Once you have your diploma, you will move on to a post-graduate internship period i.e. the residency, before you can practice as a doctor in the Philippines.
3. Required tests and residency
If you have graduated from a medical university in the Philippines, you’ll be qualified for the residency period once your final exams are done. Completing this residency will make you one step closer to becoming a doctor in the Philippines.
However, you first need to take the Physician Licensure Examination, administered twice a year. This then allows you to practice as a general practitioner or access the residency period of your training. If you don’t want to do this, you can actually set up a private practice or work as a general practitioner right away.
The residency training is highly prized the Philippines however, as it will allow you to gain a higher income as a specialized physician. Once accepted into the residency program, expect 3 to 6 years of work in the hospital you have been accepted into, depending on your specialization. All residency training programs are regulated by their respective societies in the Philippines, which means that each of these will have their own exit examination at the end of the residency period (e.g. the Philippines Board of Radiology and so on). You will need to pass their exam and then will be able to practice within that specialty.
4. Getting a medical license
The Filipino medical license can be obtained after successfully completing the MD program and passing the Physician Licensure Examination. You do not also need to do the residency training, as this is required for those students who want to specialize beyond general practice.
To get a medical license, find out when the next Physician Licensure Examination exam date is, sign up and complete any medical information required beforehand. This will be an easy next step from finishing your MD degree if you’ve studied in the Philippines and there will be advice within your university as to what to prepare and how to study for it.
5. Getting a work visa
A work visa in the Philippines is called an Alien Employment Permit and is initially valid for one year or for the duration of your work contract under three years (at the end of which you need to apply again).
It is the Professional Regulatory Commission that authorizes work visas for foreign doctors or for foreign students who qualify as doctors in the Philippines. However, it is worth noting that not all citizenships can benefit from access to the Physician Licensure Examination, without which you cannot practice as a doctor in the Philippines. Therefore, to work as a doctor, you need to be either Filipino or from a country that the Philippines have a reciprocal agreement with (this includes the US and ASEAN member countries).
6. Starting your own practice or finding hospitals to work in
In order to find work as a doctor in the Philippines, you can browse multiple job openings on pages such as this one. However, the easiest pathway to finding work will be through the university you have obtained your medical degree in.
MD graduates who have passed the Licensure examination can set up their own practice as general practitioners in the Philippines right away, without needing to go through residency training (which is only applicable to specializations).
To set up your own medical practice, you need to:
Get your medical license
Get a license to practice in the community of your choice – obtainable from the authorities at local level
Set up with the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
You can then practice independently.
7. Procedure for foreign trained doctors to become a doctor in the Philippines
As described above, foreign doctors without Filipino nationality can only practice in the Philippines if they come from one of the countries with which the Philippines have a reciprocal agreement, such as the US and ASEAN member states. These individuals, if they have been trained abroad, need to take the Physician Licensure Exam to be able to practice as general practitioners.
For specialty practitioners, you need to pass the licensure exam and then work under medical supervision for one year before you can practice. This is the equivalent of validating the residency requirement under Filipino regulation, as long as there is a reciprocity agreement with the country you have done your specialized residency in. If there is not such an agreement, you need to re-do your specialty training in the Philippines before being able to practice.
I hope that this article on how to become a doctor in the Philippines was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Medical Schools Category!
The more you understand yourself, the more silence there is, the healthier you are. —Maxime Lagacé