Steps to Get Licensed With the California Medical Board

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Getting licensed with the California medical board is a complicated, yet necessary task if you plan to pursue a career in health care in the Golden State.

However, this process often feels long and drawn out for first-time applicants.

The good news is that the California application process isn’t nearly as difficult as those in other states. You just have to make sure that you’re following the guidelines precisely to complete the entire process in a timely manner.

That means it’s better to start this process sooner rather than later. The last thing you want to do is rush around at the last second.

To have your California medical license application approved by the Medical Board of California (MBC), you’ll need to gather up a good amount of paperwork and documentation to prove you’re qualified to practice medicine.

Keep in mind: This process is not going to be fun or exciting in the least. But, it’ll be worth it once you have that pocket card and wall certificate in hand.

What we’re about to go over is everything you need to know about getting licensed in California. Follow along closely, and you’ll have your license in three months or less.


What Do You Need?

There’s a list of prerequisites that you must meet before you apply for a license with the Medical Board of California.  Otherwise, you should expect your application to be denied immediately upon submission.

First and foremost, you need to have graduated from an accredited medical school in either the United States or neighboring Canada.

This medical school must be accredited by the Liaison Committee for Medical Education (LCME). If you’re unsure if this organization accredits your current or future medical school, you can refer to this directory.

Here’s everything you need to know.

For Foreign Applicants

If you’re a native of a foreign country, the medical school you attended must be approved by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) prior to submitting your application.

Your medical school also must be listed on the World Directory of Medical Schools.

Some Additional Requirements

Attending an accredited medical school is just the bare minimum when it comes to applying for licensure.

In addition, you also must supply the California Medical Board with relevant tax information like your social security number.

Most importantly, you need to demonstrate to the Board that you have the appropriate training to apply for licensure. That includes 36 months of postgraduate training, with 24 months being within a resident program.

This training program must be a part of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) in California.

Don’t even apply unless you have all of this documented and accounted for.


Completing Your Application

When it comes to submitting your application, you have two options.

You can either submit it by mail or through the online portal known as BreEZe, which can be found on the mbc.ca.gov website.

Submitting your application online allows you to bypass any delays that might occur when sending it via mail.

However, you will have to send a notarized signature page and a professional headshot of yourself via mail regardless.

Related: Steps to Get Licensed With the Texas Medical Board


What’s On the Application?

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The most important thing about filling out your application with the California Medical Board is accuracy and completeness.

Failure to remain honest or complete your application fully might lead to denial or a need to complete it again.

Here’s an overview of what’s on the application.

Your Basic & Personal Information

The first section of the application is perhaps the most important.

You need to make sure that you’re appropriately checking the type of application that you’re sending in. That includes Medical School Graduate, Physician licenses, etc.

The first bit of information on the first page of your application is pretty standard. It includes identifying and personal information.

That includes:

  • Full legal name & aliases
  • Social security number
  • Date of birth
  • Gender
  • Telephone number
  • Email address
  • Current physical address
  • Military status

If you’re sending in a written application, be sure to write legibly, so there’s no dispute over the accuracy of information submitted.

This will help to speed up the entire approval process and avoid having to complete the application again.

An online application is a better choice if you don’t have good handwriting.

You must also identify whether you’ve applied for or been licensed in the past.

Noting Your Education & Examinations

Pages two and three of your application are more focused on your medical school experience and the examinations you’ve taken.

The information you’ll be required to input includes:

  • Medical examinations (and pass date)
  • Medical school attended (and attendance date)
  • Degree type
  • Postgraduate training programs (including your facility and specialty)
  • Information about past licenses held

You’ll be asked “yes” or “no” questions based on your experience in medical school or your training programs.

If you answer “yes” to any of the questions, you’ll have to submit an Explanation Form explaining your “yes” response.

These questions typically refer to being expelled from a program, being terminated, malpractice, or disciplinary action.

Your Past Criminal History

Most applicants won’t have to worry about this section, but a lack of complete transparency in this section will result in an immediate denial of your application.

Keep in mind that there are stringent rules that you must adhere to in this section.

For example, you’ll be asked if you’ve ever pled guilty or been convicted of an offense.

While you might assume that this is strictly in reference to drug-related or violent crimes, this section includes everything. That means anything ranging from a traffic violation to a misdemeanor/felony.

This also includes any offenses that were expunged from your record in the past.

If you’re unsure if one of your past offenses would fall into any of these categories, it’s better to list it than have an automatic denial of your application.

Over-disclosure shouldn’t hurt you, but under-disclosure definitely will.

Guaranteeing Accuracy in Your Application

On the final page of your application, you must have the application notarized by a notary public. This helps to guarantee that you are the person submitting the application.

A 2×2 picture of yourself also must be submitted with your application. These pictures cannot be filtered or altered and must be headshots.

Did you know that as a resident or new doctor, there are ways to save money on insurance or even your mortgage? Read about Disability Insurance for Residents and Fellows and A Medical Resident’s Guide to Mortgage Rates.


Extra Documentation to Pursue

Additionally, you must submit extra documentation to prove the statements you’ve provided on your application.

If you’re a foreign applicant, you must submit an ECFMG Certification Status Report to guarantee that the certification you received is completely valid in the State of California.

Keep in mind that most of the documentation you submit will have to be from the official body or organization involved. This is to guarantee accuracy in data and avoid altered information.

TIP: Gather up this information before you apply to avoid delays in the process.

Here’s a glance at the other documents you must supply.

Sending Your Exam Scores

To submit your exam scores, the official exam history report must be sent from the agency administering the exams.

Accepted exams include those from the LMCCNBME, and USMLE.

From Your Medical School or Training Program

The medical school you attended must provide the Certificate of Medical Education, also known as Form MED. This document must be stamped by your medical school to verify authenticity.

You also must request a transcript from your medical school. It must be printed on official letterhead and include a signature from the dean of your department.

Your medical school diploma is obviously necessary too.

Form PTA-PTB must be completed by your postgraduate training program director. This will help to verify the information that you’ve already included in your application.

If you’re still enrolled in a postgraduate training program, you’ll have the Current Postgraduate Training Verification form (Form CTV) completed by your program director instead.

This will guarantee lower fees upon applying (see the next section for more information).


The Cost of Becoming Licensed in California

As if medical school wasn’t expensive enough, you also have to pay additional fees in order to become fully licensed to practice in the State of California.

This does not take into consideration the fees to take exams that you’ve completed up to this point.

Here’s a look at each cost that comes with licensure.

A Breakdown of Cost

Most important is the actual cost to submit your application — an astounding $491.

Keep in mind that this fee also includes the fee for processing your fingerprints, but there’s no fee at this stage if you’re transitioning from PTL to complete licensure.

There’s also a fee for fingerprinting with Live Scan. The cost usually depends on the facility fingerprinting you, but you should expect to pay between $20 and $30 out of your own pocket.

Once the MBC approves your application, you’ll have to pay the initial license fee of $808. The good news is, you can cut this cost down to $416.50 if you’re still enrolled in a postgraduate training program.

Last but not least, there’s an optional $25 fee that you can send over to the Song-Brown Family Physician Training Act. This act provides greater funding to the underserved regions of California.

Once again, it’s not required, but appreciated!

What else can you do with your license? Read 7 Alternative Jobs for Physicians.


The Timeline for Getting Your License

Given there’s a “first come, first serve” system at the MBC, it’s in your best interest to submit your application as soon as possible.

Remember that the speed of approval is dependent on how diligently you supply the appropriate documents.

Here’s a breakdown of each step of the process in terms of time.

Processing Your Application

The MBC states that your application will be reviewed within 60 days of receiving it. Keep in mind that this is 60 working days (doesn’t include weekends or federal holidays).

However, if the MBC isn’t overloaded with an excess of applications, yours might be reviewed within just a few weeks.

Once your application is reviewed and approved, don’t expect a license in hand.

There’s a good chance that the Board will ask you for additional documentation to supplement your application. The faster you submit these documents, the quicker you’ll get your license.

Actually Receiving Your License

Once your application is formally approved by the MBC, it does take a little bit of time for your license to arrive via mail.

Plan to have these items in hand within two weeks of your official approval.

Abandoning Your Application

There’s always the chance that life gets in the way when applying for licensure.

If that’s the case, you need to know that you have one year to complete your application for submission with the Board.

Failure to complete the application within this period will set the status of your application to “abandoned.” An abandoned application is something you’ll have to complete an Explanation Form for next time you apply.

Keep your paperwork handy. Learn why by reading Hospital Credentialing and Privileging — What Physicians Need to Know.


Renewing Your License

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As much of a hassle it was to actually get approved by the California Medical Board, this isn’t the last time that you’ll interact with this organization.

You will have to renew every two years to maintain your medical license in California.

Just like your original application, license renewal can be done online or through the mail. This process must begin within 180 days of your license’s expiration date (approximately six months).

Here’s what you need to know about renewal.

The Fees for Renewal

A majority of the renewal process involves paying the appropriate fees set by the Medical Board of California.

In total, the renewal will cost you $820.

This total includes the cost for license renewal, $25 to the Physician Loan Repayment Program, and an extra $12 to the Controlled Substance Utilization Review.

Pursuing Continuing Medical Education

You’ll have to keep up with continuing medical education (CME).

These are additional courses that you can register for between license renewals to stay up-to-date on new advances in the medical field.

As a physician in California, there’s a 50-hour requirement every two years for CME. Twelve of these hours must be related to pain management.

You might have additional CME requirements depending on your specialty.

Note: Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, there is an extension for CME if you’re approaching your renewal date. This is a six-month extension as of right now.


Nobody said that getting your license to practice in California would be easy. At the same time, the speed at which you actually get your application approved is entirely dependent on you.

Be sure to submit your application and additional requested documents as soon as possible. Remember, the applications are reviewed on a first-come, first-serve basis, so give yourself more than enough time to receive your approval.

If you follow each of these guidelines, your entire application process should only last you a few months or less.

For all pertinent documents and information, refer to the Board’s website.

As a physician, you’ll be a high-income earner. To learn more about how to protect yourself at tax time, through job changes, in the event of a disability, at retirement, and more, explore our website or contact Physicians Thrive for personalized information and advice.

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