The Netherlands is a relatively small continental nation situated in Western Europe. Conversely to its size, the Netherlands encompasses a multitude of cultures and traditions. This culture kaleidoscope comes both from the country’s vibrant history and its open-door policy for foreign students and workers. Thus, Dutch universities regularly welcome students from all corners of the world, who presently account for almost half of the country’s student population. Partly because of its international nature, the Netherlands has been recognized as one of the most progressive countries in the world.

In addition to its social engagement, the country has also paid great attention to its scientific fields. Thus, medical and engineering programs at Dutch universities are among the most sought out in the world. However, a Dutch medical degree is not necessary if you wish to work in the Netherlands. Rather, there are various options for those who wish to practice medicine in this Western European country.

The necessary steps to become a doctor in the Netherlands have been outlined in our guide below.

Steps to Become a Doctor in the Netherlands

1. Before relocating to the Netherlands, the first thing you will need to know is the language.

Although most Dutch people are fluent in English, the Netherlands recognizes only one official language – Dutch. Therefore, even though English proficiency is valued and welcome, it is insufficient for both future and present medical practitioners planning to work in the Netherlands. Learning Dutch is an essential step to become a doctor in the Netherlands.

In the Netherlands, the minimal level of language proficiency you will need is B2. However, obtaining a C1 or C2 diploma is highly recommended. Remember that knowing a language is more than just being able to communicate in everyday situations – medical doctors will need to be versed in medical Dutch vocabulary as well. However, do not be discouraged, as Dutch is a relatively easy language to master. It comes from a Germanic family and is a mixture of English and German. For those determined to learn, it will take a year or so of your time.

Afterward, to prove your language skills, you will need to pass the AKV test, an examination designed to test both your Dutch and English language proficiency. In addition to language mastery, this exam will also test your knowledge of the Dutch medical system. Thus, further knowledge than just holding a conversation in Dutch or English is required.

2. In addition to language proficiency in a specific language, medical doctors also require a medical degree.

As has been mentioned, the Netherlands pride itself on both their medical programs and medical system. However, because of their stellar reputation, Dutch medical programs are quite competitive. As there is a limited amount of places, Dutch students often opt to study medicine abroad and come back after obtaining their degrees. The application process is not any bit easier for international students, as they are held to the same rigorous standard and must also pass the language proficiency exam.

Nevertheless, those who are accepted should know that the first cycle or BSc in medicine lasts for three years. A few Dutch universities teach this first cycle in English, making it a bit easier for foreign students to apply and follow along. However, the second three-year cycle or MA in medicine is taught completely in Dutch. Thus, language proficiency is an unavoidable requirement. During the last year of their MA studies, students must complete a one-year residency at a national Dutch hospital or medical center, after which they are free to apply for their medical licenses.

3. After earning your medical degree, there are a few more steps to your medical license.

All future graduates will first need to register in the BIG register. This will require submitting a few documents, the first one being your diploma. In addition to this, proof of language proficiency is also required. These are necessary to become a doctor in the Netherlands.

All international graduates, especially those coming outside of the EU/EEA will need to complete a few additional steps before applying to the BIG register. This will include certificate validations as well as exhibiting exceptional medical knowledge and skill.

After registering with BIG, medical doctors must also register with the Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG). This institution will issue your medical license for five years. After five years, all medical doctors will need to reapply.


I hope that you found this article on the steps to become a doctor in the Netherlands informative and helpful. Make sure to also check out the Available Programs in Europe!