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JAMA Patient Page
September 15, 2010

Medical Licensure

JAMA. 2010;304(11):1286. doi:10.1001/jama.304.2.1286

In most countries, doctors must have a license to practice medicine. Licenses are granted after a physician has graduated from an accredited (official) medical school and completed additional training. Background checks, review of medical school grades, and consideration of standardized test scores (such as the Federal Licensing Examination [FLEX] or the National Board of Medical Examiners tests) are all part of the licensing process. In the United States, each state has its own individual licensing board and a doctor must obtain a license for each state in which he or she works.

Students become medical doctors (MDs) or doctors of osteopathy (DOs, for osteopathic medical schools) after graduation from medical school, but to become licensed to practice medicine, physicians must complete at least 1 year of post-medical school education and training. The first year of this training is called internship or first-year residency. Most physicians, and any who practice a specialty of medicine, complete a residency. Residencies are several years of further education and training in a specific area of medicine. The September 15, 2010, issue of JAMA is a theme issue about medical education and includes articles about the education and training of physicians.