How to Get a Physician License in New York

doctor holding red stethoscope

It’s no secret that the medical profession involves a complex series of training and exams before a doctor can enter the medical field. However, getting a physician license in the Big Apple tends to present a whole new set of challenges on its own.  

The process requires you to pass multiple Medical Licensure Examinations, complete a residency program, collect certain certificates and meet other eligibility criteria before you can even apply. It goes without saying, there’s a hefty amount of paperwork involved too.  

The following article covers the basics of what you generally need to know.

Regulation of MDs in the State

The New York State Board of Medicine governs the rules and regulations for licensing and practicing medicine in the region.  

However, the Office of the Professions, a part of the New York State Education Department also plays an important role. In fact, it is the main body that maintains the records and licensing information, in addition to issuing the permit itself.

The application and fees for the license need to be submitted to the Office of the Professions.

General Requirements

According to the State’s Board of Medicine, anyone interested in working as a physician in New York must:

  • Be aged 21 or above
  • Have a good moral character
  • Fulfill the academic, examination, and experience criteria (discussed in detail later)
  • File an application along with the specified fee in full 

Licensing Fee

Currently, the application fee for obtaining a physician license in New York is $735. 

Note that this is separate from all the test registration fees which ought to be submitted at the time of appearing for the respective exam. 

The licensing fee is subject to change, so make sure to check if it has been revised at the time you apply. 

Applicants can pay the fees via money order or a personal check. Cash is not acceptable. 

The check/ money order, along with the application form needs to be mailed to:

New York State Education Dept
Office of the Professions
P.O. Box 22063
Albany, NY 12201

If you are a foreign practitioner applying from outside the U.S., make sure that you make the payment on a U.S. bank and in U.S. currency.

Education and Experience Requirements

Based on the education and experience required, the eligibility criteria for becoming a licensed physician in New York can be divided into four main parts:

  1. Get an ECFMG certificate (for foreign candidates only)
  2. Register with FCVS
  3. Complete a residency program
  4. Pass USMLE Step 3 Exam

Completing each of these steps is a long and hard journey and can constitute a lengthy guide of its own. Here, we have highlighted the major aspects of each article that can provide you with a good idea of what’s involved.

Get an ECFMG Certificate

If you have received your degree from a medical school located outside the U.S., you will need an ECFMG certificate.

The Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) is a governing body that helps international candidates find and pursue a career in medicine in the U.S.

In order to get certified by the ECFMG, you will need to submit an identification form along with your final medical school transcript.

You can submit your documents in hardcopy although they have an online portal to make things more convenient. 

You will also need to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 and Step 2 exams. The total fees for each of these exams is $790. The Step 2 exam has a second module that costs an additional $1,375.

Register with FCVS

The Federation Credentials Verification Service (FCVS) provides a standard for the relevant authorities in all states to view and verify the medical credentials of any physician practicing in the country. 

You can register online or send your application by mail. The documents required for this step include photocopies of your:

  • Medical degree
  • Clinical clerkship
  • Training certificate
  • ECFMG certificate
  • Proof of identification 

The charges for this step range upwards of $325.

Complete a Residency Program

Once you have created a profile at FCVS, you need to find a residency program, sometimes also called a fellowship program. These medical training programs must be endorsed by the Accrediting Council on Graduate Medical Education. 

Generally, residency programs take 3 to 7 years to complete. But in some cases, you can apply for the next step while still serving as a resident.

Pass USMLE Step 3

The last requirement for receiving a physician license in New York is to clear the USMLE Step 3 exam.

To save time, you can fill out the application form before appearing for this module. However, the license will not be issued until you have submitted proof of passing this exam.

According to the USMLE board, it’s best to take Step 3 after competing (or when you are close to completing) the first year of your postgraduate training in a U.S.-accredited medical education program.

End Note

We hope this gives you a general idea of what’s involved regarding acquiring a physician’s license. We suggest you follow up with researching the processes and exams mentioned. If we were to provide all the information here, it would probably extend to over 100 web pages. 

With that said, here is a general summary. There is a required completion of a residency program of a minimum of three years (in any state) as well as passing Step 1 to 3 of the USMLE test. Your eligibility for becoming a licensed physician is also subject to various additions certifications but all in all, it is well worth it. According to the data collected by Indeed, physicians in New York have an average annual income of at least $230,000 – which is a whopping 15% above the national average!

Attracting and Retaining Physicians in New York State

The Center for Health Workforce Studies reported recently that the in-state retention of new physicians has gradually declined from a high of 54% in 1999 to the lowest since the survey began of 44% in 2012.

This is particularly troubling as demand for physician services continues to outpace physician supply, particularly in ophthalmology, urology, psychiatry, pathology, general internal medicine, general/family medicine, and otolaryngology.

Member Physicians of the Medical Society of the State of New York protest in Albany

There are areas of the state and populations that are already underserved by the current physician supply. The implications of the forecasts for these areas and populations are dire. New York must do more to attract and retain physicians.

New York Must:

• Reduce the overhead burden shouldered by physician practices through meaningful civil justice reform;

• Assure fairness in contracting by leveling the playing field for physicians in their negotiations with health insurers;

• Continue an adequately funded Excess Medical Liability program to assure that physicians will have the coverage needed to protect them from personal financial exposure to escalating medical liability awards;

• Prevent the imposition of costly and burdensome CON requirements on physician offices and equipment purchases;

• Put additional resources toward the Doctors Across New York program to allow for more awardees and modify eligibility to assure a more equitable balance of awards between institutionally based and private practice physicians;

• Create income tax credits for physicians who practice in specialty shortage areas;

• Continue Medicaid reimbursement of primary care rates at Medicare levels beyond 2015;

• Defeat any proposal to directly or indirectly tax medical services, medical devices or products or sites of service; and

• Defeat any proposal to increase the biennial physician registration fee.

New York State currently has the worst malpractice environment and there is legislation that would allow the statute of limitations of malpractice litigation to increase from the current limit of 2.5 years.

This would result in medical liability premiums to increase by nearly 15%. A cost that would subject physicians to an additional financial burden and subsequently cause more physicians to retire early or leave the state. Sometimes called the “Chase Your Doctor out of New York Act”, this bill must be opposed.