A Brief Guide to Medical Licensing for Locum Tenens Physicians


medical licensing

Medical licensure is the process by which a state or other jurisdiction grants permission to a physician to practice medicine within its borders. Each state has its own requirements for licensure, but in general, it involves completing an approved medical school program, passing all three parts of the United States Medical Licensing Examination ( ), paying a fee, and meeting any other specific requirements. However, the process may vary slightly by location.

A medical license is an essential part of becoming a physician. Licensure helps ensure that doctors and other clinicians have the necessary qualifications, abilities, and knowledge to provide quality care. It also protects the public from unqualified practitioners.

Once you’re licensed, you may need to complete additional requirements to maintain your status. These may include completing continuing education courses, renewing the license periodically, or adhering to specific ethical codes of conduct. Additionally, you may be required to pass recertification exams if you wish to practice in certain specialties. You’ll also be required to have a license for each state in which you practice.

Because of the complexities involved in becoming licensed and the ongoing requirements for maintaining licensing, it’s important to understand all the relevant regulations. Working with an experienced locum tenens consultant can help you navigate the process correctly so that you can practice medicine without any issues, no matter where you’re located.

Types of medical license

States offer various types of medical licenses depending on the type of practice. Although not all states offer every type of license, some common examples are:

  • Permanent medical licenses — These licenses can take several months to a year to obtain, and they last for 2 or 3 years but are renewable. A doctor with a permanent medical license can practice medicine anywhere in the state where they hold privileges.
  • Temporary medical licenses — A state may issue a temporary medical license when a permanent application has been submitted and is pending. Applicants can then start practicing immediately. Temporary medical licenses are usually issued for 3 to 12 months and are not renewable.

Other types of medical licenses include:

  • Limited or special purpose
  • Retired
  • Resident
  • Volunteer Administrative
  • Emeritus
  • Institutional practice
  • Faculty or educational
  • Camp doctor license
  • Military

The licensing process

Understanding licensing boards and statutes can be complicated, and each has its own laws and regulations governing licensing requirements. Although there is some uniformity of requirements among licensing boards, typically, there is no automatic reciprocity between them. Therefore, physicians must complete individual applications for each state in which they plan to practice.

An exception to this is with states that have adopted the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC). The Compact is an expedited pathway to licensure that allows physicians to obtain multiple state licenses with one application. More than half of U.S. states now participate in the Compact, and the list is continuously growing. No matter the state, the process of becoming licensed usually involves applying for the license and submitting documentation such as medical school transcripts, and certifications, and completing applicable examinations.

Your education and graduate training will be reviewed, including exam scores, references, hospital privileges, and any current or past licenses. Because licensing processes are often similar, you can usually use the same set of documents for each application, thereby reducing the time and effort involved.

Plan for at least 60 days from submitting a complete and accurate application to receiving your license. The time frame can be longer if there are any issues with the information you provide or concerns raised during the review of your application.

State licensing boards

It’s advisable to contact the medical board of each state in which you plan to practice and understand their specific requirements. Most have a website outlining physician licensing information, including application forms and fees.

Here is a list of state medical and osteopathic boards.