Becoming a doctor in France is a long and arduous process but very worthwhile. Doctors are highly respected in France, and as their population steadily increases, the demand for doctors increases as well. According to their statistics, there were 3.36 doctors for every 1000 people in France in 2019—with the boom of COVID-19 across the country since the demand for doctors has only surely gone up.
Medical studies in France can be quite tricky because it’s different from that of other countries. It is also super competitive, and if you’re not familiar with the process you may just end up at a disadvantage. It’s very important to know what you’re getting into before starting your journey to become a doctor.
Below are eight detailed instructions on how to become a doctor in France!
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Steps to Become a Doctor in France
1. Master the French Language
This step is primarily for those who are not fluent in French like foreign students and French nationals who grew up abroad. If you are a French national raised in France, you can skip to the next step.
Mastering the French language is highly important as a future doctor because you need to be capable of communicating well with patients of all ages all ethnicities from all walks of life. Being fluent is also important because you’ll need to collaborate with colleagues and other medical professionals—medical jargon, technical terms, and other important information may get lost on you if you do not have a good grasp of the language.
All medical schools in France will require proof of B2 (i.e., intermediate) French language proficiency for admission requirements. These can be fulfilled by passing DELF, DALF, TCF, or any other accepted equivalent.
2. Enter Your First Cycle, First Year of Medical Studies
Unlike in other countries around the world, high school students in France can jump straight to medical school. Tahat is the first step toward becoming a doctor in France. This is called PCEM 1, and there are no limits to how many students can enroll in this particular course. As long as you submit your baccalaureate degree (or equivalent), your French language proficiency test, and other admission requirements, you can enroll.
PCEM 1 students will learn the basics of many of medicine’s core disciplines such as physics, chemistry, biology, and more. Medical schools are also required by law to teach other related courses like epistemology, psychology, ethics, foreign languages, and philosophy.
PCEM 1 is the starting course not only for medical students, but for dentistry, midwifery, and pharmacy students as well. By the second semester of your first year, you will be choosing courses specializing in any of the four disciplines.
3. Pass Your PACES Exam
While anyone can enter medical school, not everyone will be fortunate enough to continue past the first year. This is because the second year is limited by a numerus clausus, which allows only the top 15-20% of all first-year students in. Students will be deemed eligible by a test called PACES (Premiere Annee Commune aux Etudes de Sante), a highly competitive and rank-based exam you will take by the end of your first year.
According to a recent article written by Campus France, around 15000 slots were available for second-year students in 2019. There were 9,314 open spots for medicine, 1,320 for dentistry, 1,033 for midwifery, and 3,261 for pharmacy. As there are thousands and thousands of students who enroll in PCEM 1 each year, you can understand just how important it is to study well and obtain good grades during your first year to stand out among the rest.
4. Enter Your First Cycle, Second Year of Medical Studies
If you were lucky enough to pass PACES, the next step to becoming a medical doctor in France is to enter your second year of PCEM. You will be starting with a mandatory 4-week nursing internship in a hospital. This will happen in the holiday season before you start PCEM 2, and you will usually be assigned to hospitals partnered with your school.
After that’s been completed, you continue your general training from PCEM 1. Now that you’ve chosen your desired track, your lessons will be more specialized and more advanced. By the end of PCEM 2, you will receive a diploma in general medicine.
If you’d prefer to continue your medical education, you must take another entrance exam at the end of PCEM 2 to move on to the second wave.
5. Enter the Second Cycle, First Year of Medical Studies
The second cycle of medical studies is referred to as DCEM and will start integrating your fundamental sciences lessons from PCEM to more practical approaches in hospital settings. Your first year (DCEM 1) will be spent primarily in the classroom. It is one of the essential steps that you need to take to become a doctor in France. You will advance your training in bio clinical courses like bacteriology and pharmacology, as well as learn new disciplines like medical imaging and computer sciences in medicine too.
6. Enter the Second Cycle, Second, Third, and Fourth Year of Medical Studies
The second, third, and fourth years of DCEM is known as the externat. These three years will be spent primarily outside the university in hospital settings. You will be involved in a series of internships (four each year) with each internship dedicated to a certain medical specialization (e.g., anesthesiology, obstetrics and gynecology, etc.). You will be working under a senior resident or an attending physician and will be receiving a monthly salary for your work.
While conducting your internships, you will also be taking courses. At the end of the second and third year, you will be evaluated by the results of your academic exams and feedback from your supervising doctors. Your fourth year will end by taking a national ranking exam (ECN) to give you access to residency.
7. Enter the Third Cycle of Medical Studies
Once you have passed ECN and have been ranked accordingly, you can choose a university hospital center to work in and a specialization. To become a doctor in France, you have to enter the third cycle of medicinal studies. The third wave of medical studies is residency, and you are required to complete several six-month internships in your chosen specialization. It generally lasts three years for general medicine and four to five years for more specialized areas.
At this point, you will already be authorized to prescribe medications and work alongside senior doctors. You will also be receiving a higher monthly salary and bonuses for your work. While doing your residency, you will continue to receive academic and practical instruction while start gaining professional experience in your chosen specialty.
At the end of your residency, you will receive a diploma in specialized studies (DES). You will also have to submit and successfully defend a practical thesis—once you’ve accomplished that and obtained your DES, you will receive a diploma in specialized medicine (DESC).
8. Get Your Medical License
Now that you’ve become a doctor in France, the final and the most awaited step is to get your medical license. Thankfully, this process is very easy and can be done online. Simply visit the website of the National Council of the College of Physicians and follow their detailed procedures there.
I hope that this article on Steps to Become a Doctor in France was helpful. To know more information on how you can study in Europe, visit the Europe Scholarships Page.