How does one become a full-fledged physician in the Philippines? This is a simple infographic that will show you what one must undergo. Not everyone will go through the same stages especially if one is in a special program, for example, INTARMED, if one opts not to go into specialization and “take the road less travelled,” or if one decides to practice abroad.

Road To MD


Step 1: PRE-MED (4 to 5 years)

A pre-medical student may be taking a Bachelor of Science (BS) or a Bachelor of Arts (AB) degree or their equivalent, with a required number of units. If one wants a boost, he or she is suggested to go into a health- or a science-related program. Common four-year pre-medical programs in the Philippines are BS in Medical Technology, Nursing, Pharmacy, Biology and Psychology. Common five-year pre-medical programs are BS in Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Clinical Pharmacy.

Step 2: NMAT (1 day, limited takes)

Center for Educational Measurement, Inc. (CEM) mentioned on its site, “Pursuant to the Medical Act of 1959, the Board of Medical Education (BME), under DECS Order No. 52 series 1985 and in consultation with the Association of Philippine Medical Colleges Foundation, Inc. (APMC), required the NMAT as a prerequisite for admission in all medical schools nationwide beginning school year 1986 – 1987.”

A medical student aspirant can take multiple NMATs, but each medical school has a different requirement. Most medical schools accept the recent three or four NMAT scores one has prior to application, and medical schools have a different required minimum percentile rank. A high percentile rank cannot guarantee one a slot in his or her chosen medical school, but only increases his or her chance of entering it. Some still require entrance tests and interviews aside from the NMAT and pre-medical school records.

For more information on the NMAT, visit CEM, Inc.

Step 3: MED + CLERKSHIP (4 years)

Medical school proper is the bulk of academic preparation to become a doctor. The basics will be taught in the early years and the clinicals in the later years. Medical schools have different curricula. On the last year (fourth year), one will be exposed to the hospital and clinical setting by having duties. This is called the Clerkship (Junior Internship in some schools). Clerks will be rotated to the different departments of the hospital and the community. Some will even have the opportunity to have electives abroad. Prior to graduation, few medical schools require the Written and Oral Revalida. A graduate of the four-year medical proper may already put “M.D.” after his or her name, because he or she has already earned the degree Doctor of Medicine. The only thing that distinguishes the residents or general practitioners from the clerks and interns (next step) is the license.

Step 4: INTERNSHIP (1 year)

Before board exam, it is required that one must undergo one year of Internship (Senior Internship in some schools). One will be matched to a hospital (among his or her top three choices) and will serve duties with or without stipend. Other institutions even offer free meals or free white coats. But one must remember to choose the hospital he or she will gain experience in, and will help him or her in future practice. If one decides to enter in a teaching hospital, he or she will have duties with the clerks (junior interns) and will have an opportunity to teach them. This is also the time to shadow with the residents and the time to brush up for the licensure examination.

For more information on the Internship Matching, visit the Association of Philippine Medical Colleges Foundation, Inc. site.

Step 5: BOARD EXAM (4 days per take)

This is the all-important examination to gain a license to practice in the Philippines. This is conducted twice a year, with a peak season on August or September.  The Physician Licensure Examination (PLE) is a four-day test separated into two weekends, with three 100-item subjects in one day, one hour apart. Currently, it is a shading type of written examination, whereas before, there were essay items. In order to pass, one must have no grade below 50 in all subjects, and the average of all subjects must not be below 75. After three to four days, the results will be published on the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) site, as well as in other authorized websites. The batch will be scheduled to attend an oath taking ceremony and there, the newly licensed physicians will receive their PRC license cards, certificates and printed board exam scores. An applicant has to pass the boards within his or her first three attempts, otherwise, he or she must take a one year refresher course before taking it again.

For more information on the PLE, visit the PRC site.

Click here to know more about my experience when I took the PLE.

Step 6: RESIDENCY (3 to 6 years)

This step may not be experienced by all, but this is the most common path of doctors.  Unlike in the US, there is no matching system in the Philippines. One must apply “manually” to the hospital/s he or she is interested in. There are several specializations to enter in, some of which are Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Surgery, Anesthesiology, Neurology and Psychiatry, Radiology, Pathology, Dermatology, Emergency Medicine, Otorhinolaryngology (ENT), Ophthalmology and Rehabilitation Medicine. These residency programs have different required minimum number of years to complete. One has a choice to train in a private or a public setting, or both. Once a resident passes the specialty boards, he or she is called a diplomate.

There are really many career opportunities for licensed physicians aside from going into residency. Others may decide to undergo the Doctors to the Barrios program, train abroad and take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), or venture into research. Others may want to take a year off, travel and go into moonlighting, then apply for residency.

Step 7: FELLOWSHIP (1 to 3 years)

After residency, other doctors will still seek higher learning, go into subspecialization and be a fellow. For example, a Pediatrician may train to become a Pediatric Hematologist, or an Internist may go into Cardiology. Some doctors have their fellowship outside the country.

Step 8: CONSULTANCY (For Life)

A consultant is a doctor who is extensively knowledgeable on the specialty or the subspecialty he or she is in. He or she is the one advising doctors-in-training regarding difficult patient situations. Usually, consultants become go back to the academe and teach future doctors. Others start their own businesses or put up a hospital.


I know guys, I know. Learning never stops in Medicine.