How Does a Physician Obtain a Medical License?

To obtain a medical license, a physician must complete an application, an exam and background verification from the medical board of the state in which he wishes to practice. Each state maintains its own licensing requirements, and in most cases, a license is only good in the state of issue.

The licensing process involves a lengthy background verification, including checking the applicant's educational history, post-graduate studies, work history and any claims of malpractice or criminal charges. The process also usually involves one or more exams, and an applicant with a problem in his past may require additional examinations. Once a license is granted, the physician must periodically re-test and re-certify to maintain a licensed practice. Some physicians' organizations have their own certification procedures, and passing those tests allows a physician to add the organization's seal of approval to his practice.

As of 2015, there is no federal licensing for physicians. A physician with a valid medical license from any state may practice in a federal facility, including prisons and Indian reservations. In addition, some states allow out-of-state physicians to consult via telepresence, interpreting images or medical data over a video connection in conjunction with a licensed doctor in the state where the patient resides.