Regardless of where you come from, pursuing a medical career has never been a simple task. In addition to talent, practicing medicine requires numerous years of hard work, dedication, and sacrifices. One of the countries where this holds especially true is China. In light of recent medical events, such as the Ebola outbreak or the Covid19 pandemic, the interest in medicine has substantially risen. Thus, medical programs have become focal points of Chinese universities for both national and foreign students.

Nevertheless, a medical degree is not the only necessity for pursuing a medical career in China. Here, as in most other countries, individuals are required to complete several years of residency training as well as pass a national medical exam before obtaining a medical license. For foreign medical practitioners, the rode to medical practice in China holds even more steps, ones requiring language proficiency and work visas.

However, equipped with the right information and a strong desire to practice medicine, both national and foreign medical practitioners may do so in China. To find out all the detailed requirements for becoming a medical doctor in China, make sure to carefully read the article below!

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How to Become a Medical Doctor in China

1. One of the first prerequisites for medical doctors in China concerns their language competence.

To build a life and career in any foreign country, a person must learn its native language – this is true of medical practitioners as well. The first step to becoming a medical doctor in China is to improve communicative competence. For doctors, communication is a vital part of the job. For one, when diagnosing a patient, doctors have to understand the symptoms and ailments that their patient describes. Furthermore, once they reach a final diagnosis, medical practitioners must be able to communicate it back to the patient – explain the issue, treatment options, and further steps.

In other words, without language fluency, medical workers will not be able to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. The former is especially true in smaller cities and rural areas in China. Thus, while English may be an accepted medium of communication in cosmopolitan areas, doctors in smaller cities and towns will have to learn Mandarin Chinese to practice medicine.

2. In addition to language, another requirement for medical doctors is an appropriate education.

A medical degree is a necessity for all aspiring medical doctors. However, when pursuing a medical career in China, a degree from that country’s university may carry several benefits. For one, a Chinese medical degree may be considered more credible to patients, as they will be familiar with most Chinese universities and their reputation. Conversely, less prominent international universities will not be as easily recognized and will thus not build the patient’s trust as quickly.

Therefore, unless planning to graduate from an Ivy League university, it may be better to pursue a five-year medical degree in China. In recent years, China has made it possible for foreign students to administer and complete their education at numerous Chinese universities. In addition to their medical degree, this is also a way for students to acquire Mandarin Chinese before seeking employment.

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3. The third requirement for aspiring medical practitioners concerns their residency.

Upon graduation, all future medical practitioners will have to complete a residency program. This is the next step to be a medical doctor in China. During their residency, students select the medical area they wish to specialize in. As an example, students may choose an area such as neurology or dermatology. Regardless of their choice of specialization, this portion of their education is crucial, as they refine their medical skills and qualitative medical services.

The length of the residency will depend on the students’ choice of specialization and may last between two and three years. When selecting their residency program, students may choose either their undergraduate university or another research institute in China. Regardless of the university, all residency programs require students to complete an entrance exam. This means that securing their residency of choice will depend on their exam performance as well as on their academic history and work ethic.

4. Once all the previous steps have been met, all aspiring medical doctors must acquire their medical license.

To become a medical doctor in China, the next step includes a medical license. All individuals must complete the National Medical Licensing Examination, conducted by the Chinese Ministry of Health. It is conducted to determine whether the individual possesses the knowledge and medical competencies needed to practice medicine. During their studies and residency programs, medical students will be adequately prepared for the exam.

To qualify for the examination, an individual must have completed their residency program at a Chinese university. In addition, doctors from foreign nations seeking to practice medicine in China are also eligible to take the exam. In other words, the Ministry of Health allows only residency doctors and foreign medical professionals to sit the examination. To acquire a medical license, each individual must pass the exam.

5. The last step for medical doctors to consider is the necessary work requirements.

Once they complete their residency programs and pass the National Medical Licensing Examination, Chinese university graduates are ready to start working in the medical field. The final step to be an official medical practitioner in China is to comply with the work requirements.  Although most decide to start in public medical institutions, others opt for opening their own medical practices. However, unlike Chinese graduates, foreign medical professionals will have to complete one extra step before they begin to practice medicine in China. Namely, after they have completed the National Medical Licensing Examination, foreign medical doctors are required to apply for a work visa.

Once the visa has been approved, foreign practitioners will need to contact the Health Administrative Department that has jurisdiction in their state of residence. Through this process, the Chinese Department of Health will judge an individual’s competencies and readiness to pursue a medical career in China.


I hope that this article on Steps on How to be a Medical Doctor in China was helpful. To know more information on studying abroad, check out the Available Programs for International Students.

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