Steps to Get Licensed by the Pennsylvania Medical Board

Becoming a doctor can be seen as the ultimate achievement for many people. Doctors are known for their dedication to the craft, as they must endure various educational and training requirements to enter the field. Furthermore, it is not enough just to receive your license, but to consistently hone the skills required in your specific field to become a well-known professional in your area of choice.

If you are thinking of obtaining your medical license in Pennsylvania, then look no further. In this article, we detail a complete guide to obtaining your license and proper standing, whether you are a new candidate, graduate, a foreign applicant or simply migrating your practice across state lines.

Let’s get started.

Why Pennsylvania?

The Keystone State is so named for its economic and geographical position. Pennsylvania serves as a bridge between the northeastern states to the rest of the country. Those who are moving north from the southern states, or wish to do business from the Midwest often need to travel through Pennsylvania to get their unique opportunity.

In the meantime, Pennsylvania has a large center for commerce, business, and trade. Many businesses set up shop here because of the unique amount of diversity and foot traffic that flows through it. The temperate climate is not cold enough to match more northerly states, but not hot enough to only have a few uncomfortably hot seasons. It is also home to Penn state university, which is one of the most sought-after educational experiences in the country.

In terms of physician salaries, surveys say that Pennsylvania is one of the highest compensated states in the country. Because Pennsylvania is such an attractive move, many doctors can choose to leave their practice and join the ranks of a hospital to receive a guaranteed high salary.

This also means that competition is fierce, but you will be amongst the best. Physicians choose to specialize in ever-growing niches and choose to have mentors in different fields so that they can quickly nail down exactly what they want to accomplish.

Due to the meticulous standards, below we will outline the requirements of obtaining your medical license in Pennsylvania, and how every candidate of each level can stand out from the rest.

Learn how to get licensed by other state boards in our Medical Licensing Library.

Physician Requirements

If you are currently looking to attend undergraduate studies, the best first step is to correctly choose where you will complete your bachelor’s program. Although you may choose to major in any field of your choosing, it is best to choose a college or university within the state and complete a four-year program. Make sure to add pre-medicine courses to your workload, as it will favorably benefit you both for knowledge of your selected fields, and on the application to medical school.

Once you have finished your degree, it is time to take the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) in the state of Pennsylvania. There is a fully comprehensive guide here about writing your medical school letter of intent, loans, and how to properly study and prepare for your MCATs.

Once you have received your MCAT grade, it is time to apply to medical schools throughout the state. Of course, you will be looked upon more favorably if you have achieved a higher score, but schools also take a look at your entire profile. This includes how you carry yourself, your passion, your intentions, and if you are a good and moral character.

After your four-year program, you will need to complete a residency program. Depending on your medical school, they will have the necessary resources to recommend you to a proper program that includes your preferred field of study and matches your current skill. Residency programs in Pennsylvania range from 3-7 years. Read on for the full guide on applying to residency programs.

Once you have completed this, you will be able to obtain your Pennsylvania medical license. Below, we will outline what this specifically means for this state.

Accredited vs Unaccredited

The Pennsylvania state board of medicine is the number one resource for providing full transparency for obtaining your medical license.

Pennsylvania allows its candidate to be licensed in two different ways; accredited and unaccredited.


Accredited applicants are those who have graduated from a school that is within Canada and the United States. As previously mentioned, it is favorably looked upon if you have completed a degree in Pennsylvania. This shows dedication and focuses on specific state licensing.


Unaccredited individuals can also be considered under the “foreign” applicant umbrella. This means that the applicant has completed the necessary educational requirements, but obtained their degree from a school that is outside the jurisdiction of the United States or Canada.

Under both licenses, the State of Pennsylvania recognizes MDs, Graduate Medical Trainees, and Physicians Assistants (PA-C) to obtain their Pennsylvania medical license

Considering a move? Read This: How Moving Can Help Physicians Pay Off Student loans

Doctor of Medicine

MDs that are looking to get Pennsylvania medical license under the accredited path have a time frame of 6 weeks. This is broken down into three phases:

  1. Measuring the time it takes between the submitted application and the initial determination of the status of said application by the department staff. Any determination that is supplied to you in this section of the process will outline payment, additional information required, or if you are in need to take further licensing.
  2. The second phase is up to 5 weeks long and is the largest and most important section to complete. During this timeframe, candidates will provide all required information that was asked of them during the first phase. Exams, training, educational requirements, and background checks are not uncommon.
  3. The final phase can be up to a week and can be the most nerve-racking. Candidates wait on the decision of the board to find out if they have been accepted or not and if the license will be issued. At this time, the staff can also ask you to complete further requirements and to clarify educational gaps if necessary.

Unaccredited candidates follow a similar process but have an increased onus to provide necessary documents. This can also mean that the certifications need to be translated, both into English or the subject equivalent. Unaccredited candidates also have a higher likelihood of needing to complete exams and educational requirements. They may also need to perform more training hours under supervision, such as with a graduate medical trainee program.

The website provides various tips and tricks for each category to shorten the time to receive your license. There are also certain specifications you must meet, such as providing approved Child Abuse CE providers if this is your chosen field of focus.

Graduate Medical Trainee

A Graduate Medical Trainee can perform most functions that a medical doctor can undergo, provided that they have received the required approval, and are supervised at all times. This can include health assessments, diagnosis, counsel, regimens, and recommended therapy. They may also take the lead on the patient’s care if they are so approved by their residing physician.

Graduate medical training applications start at the hospital of residency. The hospital will receive an email to log into the PALS licensing system, where they will pre-populate the required fields. They will then submit that application over to the state medical board of Pennsylvania to begin the process.

Application Process

Of course, the Graduate Medical Training program application functions much like the phases of the medical doctorate. The application breaks it down into three phases:

  1. The first week can be considered the first phase, which begins upon submission of the application from the hospital. The board will issue a determination, including the requirements necessary to obtain your licensing, if any. They will provide a checklist of all required documentation and fees.
  2. The next 3-4 weeks are considered the second phase. This is where you will work with the hospital and residing physician to get the necessary proof together to show that you have completed all requirements. Completing exams, needing extra training hours, or submitting to a background check are all common things that are required of candidates.
  3. Finally, the last phase usually takes another week. The timer starts on the final submission of all required documentation and evidence. If the board does not come back with further clarification or requirements, this process is then considered to be approved.

If you are a foreign applicant but have completed the necessary documentation, you are considered an unaccredited applicant. This does not necessarily mean that the process takes longer. However, they may require additional information from your position, especially if the hospital is unbeknownst to the board. This can sometimes go beyond the scope of those who are applying for an accredited position. Don’t let this deter you.

Physician’s Assistant

Finally, the last recognized medical license position by the state of Pennsylvania is a PA-C or a physician’s assistant. Some may feel that this may be the career for them. There is not as much responsibility for the care of a patient, as this would be left to the physician.

This, however, does not mean the process or requirements are any less simple. Physician assistants command a tremendous amount of respect from their clients and staff. They can:

  • Provide various medical services
  • Carry out the treatment provided by the physician
  • Delegate tasks to other healthcare providers
  • Maintain and manage satellite stations
  • … and can even independently practice and provide prescriptions for the scope of their care

The phases are largely the same as the other applications and may be more cumbersome for those who are applying for an unaccredited position. The first phase will start upon the submission of the application, and the second phase will be the board’s decision and further amelioration of your position. This can mean writing exams, providing extra training and educational documents, or completing further training hours.

Once this has been completed, the final phase will determine whether you are approved or not. It is not uncommon for the board to reach out for further clarification. This is  especially  true in regards to confirming test results or professional training and working hours.

To speed up the applications, make sure that you have your criminal history and background check already performed and at the ready. Provide a full list of your licensing and any proof that went into the licensing, especially recommendations. This will greatly reduce the amount of back and forth, which may cut your processing time by a large percentage.

How Applications Are Completed and Reviewed

Now that you are aware of all the licensing categories, it is time to compile what is necessary for your application for a Pennsylvania medical license. Here are the steps to certifying yourself with one of the three categories above:

  • Create your PALS account here. Applications are done online. Make sure to check if you already have an account, as this can sometimes already have been created for you by your residing hospital if they have been in contact with the board.
  • Select the State Board of Medicine – and start your application. There will be a step-by-step guide and questions as to what you need specifically.
  • You will be provided with a checklist and a place to upload all necessary documentation. Make sure that all copies are stored both electronically and in a safe physical space. They are extremely important and should not be misplaced.
  • You will have the opportunity to review all the information before submitting it.
  • All fees associated with the application will now be made transparent. See below for a list of common fees.
  • The PALS system will provide you with updates as they become available, and will also be sent to the email address you have provided.

Costs and Fees Associated With Your Pennsylvania Medical License

  • $35 for accredited applications
  • $85 for unaccredited applications
  • $360 for renewal of a license – charged bi-annually
Once you’re finally licensed, you need to protect your income with disability insurance. Read our Disability Insurance Guide to learn more.


Doctors must command the authority of the room, and provide support to their staff and patient. As a doctor, everyone is looking towards you for your best judgment in regards to when they are most vulnerable in their life. Of course, obtaining your medical license can be difficult, but the reward is far greater. Beyond the compensation, doctors have a complete sense of fulfillment when it comes to improving their patients’ lives.

Although the process can be daunting, the state board of Pennsylvania makes the application process simple and transparent. The Keystone State is one of the best places for physicians to build, migrate or further their practice. This is true no matter what stage of their career they are in.

If you are still not convinced about the location, check out our Top Ten Places To Live and Work as a Physician for information on other great places to set down roots. And if at any time you are unsure about your financial ability to achieve your goals, contact Physicians Thrive, the number one resource for the betterment of your career.

For more information on obtaining your Pennsylvania medical license visit their website or call 1-833-DOS-BPOA (1-833-367-2762).

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