Transition from Resident to Attending

5 licensure tips every resident should know


Navigating the medical licensure process can be daunting, but proactive planning can help you save time and ease stress. Follow these top tips when you apply for your medical license.

The licensure process requires physicians to complete individual applications for each state in which they seek to practice medicine (including telemedicine), according to the AMA’s Succeeding from Medical School to Practice resource, a must-have guide for AMA members that features credible advice and resources to successfully prepare physicians in training for practice. It recommends these licensure tips:

  • When contacting a licensing board for the first time, ask for a copy of its current licensing requirements and the average time it takes to process applications. “This will provide you with a solid idea of when to consider closing an existing practice and/or plan a move, as well as information about the potential problem areas in completing an application,” the guide states. Also provide the licensing board your resume or curriculum vitae. This will allow the board “to evaluate potential problem areas early in the process,” the guide states. Initial contact with your board “should be used to develop a set of reasonable expectations about the direction and complexity of the licensing process in [the] state to avoid frustration about the time required to obtain licensure.”
  • Stay current on policies and legislative decisions in your state that impact licensure. Following state-specific policies will keep you informed on major legislative decisions that may impact your medical board or the time required to approve your license. For example, “the passage of a medical  [liability] cap in Texas led to significant delays in processing of licensure applications due to an increase in the number of physicians seeking to practice in the state,” according to the guide. Monitor state media sources, and look to other physicians and physician recruiters for valuable licensure updates.
  • Prepare your documents early, and track your progress in training. Licensure requirements for U.S medical graduates differ by state, but all states will require proof of certain documents to demonstrate your credibility as a physician.  “Direct primary-source verification of education, graduate training, exam scores, references, current and past licenses, additional queries, profiles, and reviews will be expected,” the guide notes. As you continue through residency, track and prepare these materials to avoid last-minute scrambles for information when it’s time to apply for your license:
    • Proof of prior medical education and graduate training 
    • Proof of successful completion of all three steps of the United States Medical Licensing Examination.
    • Any additional materials your state medical board requires for licensure 
  • Be honest with your medical board about information that may negatively impact your application. “A physician should never try to hide derogatory information from a licensing board,” the guide states. “It is much better to come forward with the information, assist the board in obtaining records and other necessary data, and provide information about mitigating circumstances that would prevent license denial. Full and frank disclosure of all information requested is by far the best approach to successful licensure.
  • Practice patience. “Exercise patience and courtesy in the licensing process. State licensing boards and their staff, in most cases, do the best job possible to protect the public with the resources provided [to] them,” the guide states. “This requires taking the necessary time to fairly evaluate each application for licensure.”

The guide also explains that physicians should plan for a 60-day period from the time they submit a complete application for license and the actual date licensure is granted. In addition, April through September is generally the peak period for volume of licensure applications, so if you’re applying for a license at that time, temper any hurried expectations and properly prepare.

For more tips on licensure and board requirements, review the AMA’s Web page on medical licensure.

The AMA’s Succeeding from Medical School to Practice resource offers practical insights into many essential topics for residents, including board certification, financial management, and ethical and legal considerations in the patient-physician relationship. If you’re not an AMA member, join today to access this helpful guide.