In health professions, the certification/licensure procedures for foreign-educated professionals are somewhat centralized. In most cases, you must pass a national board examination or a national certification program and meet other uniform requirements like academic and professional training. Although procedures are usually the same, specific requirements vary from state to state.
(for example, states may require different amounts of clinical or internship hours, different passing scores for exams, etc.)
Physician: As a foreign-graduate, you will be asked to obtain the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) Certification. Once you complete that process, you will have to fulfill a minimum clinical training requirement in an accredited residency program, which lasts for a minimum of 2 or 3 years depending on the state. Finally, you will have to pass one or
more national board examinations. Eligibility and conditions can vary from state to state. Contact your state board for more information. You can also visit the International Medical Graduates
page developed by the American Medical Association (AMA).
Pharmacist: Depending on your foreign pharmacy education and state requirements, you will likely need to use your previous education to gain entry – perhaps with advanced standing - to an accredited 5-year pharmacy program in the U.S. and/or complete the Foreign Pharmacy Graduate Examination Committee (FPGEC) Certification program. Additionally you might have to fulfill minimum hours of clinical training, and pass other board examinations. Contact the board of pharmacy in your state for more information.
Nurse: For RN (Registered Nurse) license eligibility, some states require you to complete the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) Certification program. For any of the RN or LPN (Licensed Practical Nurse) licenses you will have to pass the national board examination NCLEX. In some cases, you might be required to have your foreign credentials verified by a specific agency. For details contact the nursing board in your state.
Dentist: In order to obtain a license in the U.S. you need to graduate from a U.S. accredited academic program. There are several dental schools that offer advanced standing programs for foreign-trained dentists. In order to enter these programs, you might need to pass the National Board Dental Examinations (NBDE) Part I. After graduation, you will have to pass advanced levels of the NBDE. Finally, you will have to fulfill minimum hours of clinical training before becoming eligible for license. For more details,
see the U.S. licensing guide for international Dentists at the American Dental Association (ADA).
You can also contact the Dental board in your state.
Physical Therapist: Along with academic requirements, you will be asked to take either the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) or a separate state exam, or in some cases both. For more information, review the directory of state regulations on licensing prepared by the American Physical Therapy Association.
Occupational Therapist: After satisfying academic requirements, you will have to pass the national examination of the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). Additional requirements, such as minimum hours of clinical training, may apply in some states. Contact the licensing board in your state.
Physician Assistant: You must be a graduate of a U.S. accredited physician assistant (PA) program, and then take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). Even if you have earned a medical degree from another country, you must still graduate from a U.S. accredited PA program to be eligible for the examination. In some states, you will also need to get the NCCPA Certification.
Clinical Laboratory Scientist and Medical Technologist: The regulations for laboratory personnel profession vary more than for most other health care professions. Some states do not require a license to practice, but in those cases employers will require a professional certification from a private association as a condition of employment. The following associations grant certifications: American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) and American Medical Technologists (AMT).
For more information, contact the licensing board in your state.
The Welcome Back Initiative aims to help foreign-trained health professionals re-enter their careers in the U.S. Welcome Back Centers assist participants in developing a career pathway plan that builds on their education, experience, and skills. They currently have ten active centers nationwide and plan to expand into new states. You can find their locations at the Welcome Back Centers page.