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Career Options for International Medical Graduates

medical research
Valerie Saunders/

The Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), through its program of certification, assesses whether physicians graduating from medical schools outside the US are ready to enter programs of graduate medical education in the United States ( The examination requirements for ECFMG Certification include passing a three-step United States Medical Licensing Examination. The process is grueling and expensive. However, passing the exams is just the beginning. Securing residency is the ultimate challenge. Some have waited for years without acceptance into a residency program. Furthermore, those who get accepted have to come to terms with the 80-hour work week (for salaries less than some 40-hour work weeks) for non-degreed positions. This has led many international medical graduates (IMGs) to look into other career options. Even if your goal is to ultimately practice medicine in the US (a process that may take up to 8 years), the suggestions offered in this post can still benefit you. So where do you start?

Start by browsing the jobs posted on this website ( Make a note of positions that interest you and learn more about these positions. There are several websites that offer a full description of careers in healthcare. (Go to .) There are opportunities in allied health and non-clinical healthcare professions that are often a good fit for IMGs. Careers as a physician assistant, occupational therapist, or speech language pathologist are just a few of several well-paying career options that require minimal training (when compared to years of uncertainty you may spend in getting ECFMG certified). Trained as a clinician (an IMG), I opted for a career in biomedical research here in the US. If you are research-oriented, one of my recommendations is that you familiarize yourself with Responsible Conduct of Research. Learn the research lingo. Most research positions require that you present your data to an audience that sometimes consists of your peers, medical students, staff, and even Nobel Laureates. There are weekly meetings where you discuss your data and current articles of interest, so good communication skills are vital. If you are not a native English-speaker and communication is a barrier, work in a cell culture lab preparing specimens for research may be ideal. If you don’t mind working with mice, there is always a great demand for persons with a medical background who can work with mice. Remember that preclinical studies that lead to the early phases of the drug development process start with animals (especially rodents). If this is an area in which you might be interested, start by viewing the information on this website: They offer training in rodent microsurgery.

Apply for a career training grant. There are many grants available for educational expenses and career training. There is so much to choose from. Become familiar with funding agencies. Find out whom they fund. Look beyond government and federal grants. There are foundations and private sources that give grants for research and educational purposes. Most career training today can be done online, so you can essentially pace yourself. Trained as a clinician, I opted for a career in the biomedical sciences at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and The University of Pennsylvania. I became a recipient of several awards (grants), including NIH’s National Research Service Award for training in Molecular and Cellular Biology. (This is one of the most prestigious awards in the sciences.) In this position, I acquired skills in writing scientific manuscripts and grant proposals. After my academic career, I transitioned to the pharmaceutical industry, where I contributed to new drug applications and other FDA correspondence. Now an entrepreneur, I currently offer a full range of services, including career coaching services, through my service-based business Consult To Aspire ( ). A career training grant opened the door to many opportunities.

Another option I have shared with a client (who was also an IMG), is taking a course in Introduction to the Principles and Practice of Clinical Research (IPPCR). The IPPCR course is offered yearly at NIH’s Clinical Center in Maryland. A certificate is awarded upon successful completion. It is of interest to physicians training for a career in clinical research ( ) Whether you decide to get into residency and train as a Physician Scientist or to explore a career in industry, the IPPCR training will still be of benefit.

In summary, the path from an international medical graduate to a successful career in the US is not an easy one. However, with planning, self-motivation, and persistence, it can be done.


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About Christiana Davis, MD

As an International Medical Graduate (IMG) Consultant, I offer career advice that only an IMG can give. I know of your stories and your struggles. When I immigrated into the United States, I did not know where to start. I knew of no blogs, no career consultants, and no mentors. Looking back, there were roadblocks, but I did not give up. Today, the web and social networks have made our world much smaller. You can learn everything there is to know about succeeding in the United States without leaving your house. Some of the services I offer include:

  • Help defining your career vision
  • Expert advice on alternative career paths
  • Help with standardized testing
  • Advice on making the best of your residency and fellowship training
  • Help with writing career documents, including personal statements, CVs, and resumes

Email me at Read more of my articles and leave a message at Tell me your story and connect with me on LinkedIn Call me at 267-233-7926.

51 Responses

  1.' ???? ??????? says:

    Please sign the petition asking to allow medical graduates to work in medically underserved areas:

  2.' Qamar subhan says:

    Hi,I am permanent resident here.looking for my future career here in USA. Beside USMLE what’s are other options for me to continue? ? Please help

  3. Hi Qamar, thanks for reading our blog post. The other required steps for you to practice medicine are ECFMG certification, U.S. residency training, and state licensure. You can more info and a few other resources here;

  4.' Janine says:

    Hey Qamar,
    Have you ever given Pharmacovigilance and Drug Safety or Clinical Research any thought? Lots of IMG’s take this option as it is second best to becoming an actual physician, and it is a very lucrative career. Look it up! I took a Drug Safety Course at Sollers Institute, they helped me a lot and also helped place me. I took it online because I do not live in New Jersey, but it was a live interactive class so I still felt comfortable taking it.

    Many organizations self-certify and many are not recognized outside of a specific geographical area, but I liked Sollers because they are certified by the Council on Occupational Education. Also, they were the only school that had actual hands on training with the software Argus. I think this may have given me the edge when I was looking for placement after being certified as a Drug Safety Associate.

    Oh btw you can call their advisers I think this is the right number: 331-999-0061 or check out their website!

    Hope you find your perfect future career. I found mine! Don’t stress!:)
    Good luck!!

  5.' rovidso says:

    i am an IMG, i have just appeared for the step1 exam and am awaiting the results. i would like to gain some work experience be it clinical or research oriented while i prepare for step 2.
    i have a B1/B2 visa valid until 2026
    what kind of jobs can i apply to as a non-resident of usa?
    thank you for your help, i appreciate it.

  6.' mitul says:

    HI i am IMG,Non US citizen can i find a job without ECFMG certification?

  7. Hello Mitul,
    Thanks for reading our blog.
    In order to practice medicine in the U.S. you will need to first obtain ECFMG certification, then complete post-graduate medical education in the United States. It may be possible to work in other areas, such as medical research, without ECFMG certification, but not to practice medicine.

  8.' mitul says:

    Thanks for your valuable response

  9.' Manan says:

    Hey Mitul.
    Is this Mitul Modi ?

  10.' TL says:

    Hi there,
    Your post is very encouraging because I am a recent foreign medical school graduate currently applying for residency, but matching looks very bleak so far.
    I would love to get to know more about the program. Was it easy finding a job once you received the certification in this course? Any details you can provide are greatly appreciated!!

  11.' TL says:

    Also, what’s the average salary earned for this field?

  12.' peter hanna says:

    what jobs are open for IMG in medical research and where to find them. please

  13.' Mary d says:

    Need help with any hints on how to get a residency after I quit my first one when I had medical problems that I had to take care of. Now all I get are rejection letters despite having decent scores on step one and two. I am american but went to foreign medical school. It’s like I have the plaque! Mary d

  14.' Val Louve says:


    I will be moving to the US from France soon to join my husband and might want to apply for a job in healthcare (not as a physician) but for example as a medical assistant or go back to school to learn medical coding.
    I have taken STEP 1 so I am registered with ECFMG but do not intend to take the further steps for now I need to work soon…

    I am looking for a way to get my credentials/education recognized in the US to be able to apply for a job in healthcare or to a college course.
    Can I use ECFMG / EPIC which has already communicated with my university? Do they deliver without going through with the steps some kind of credential information that is valid in the US (EPIC?)
    Or should I go through a service suche as World education services or ECE Education credetial evaluation?

    Thank you

  15.' Yym says:

    Hi Janine,
    Did you get a job after getting certified from them. Does Sollers PV training really helps?

  16.' INGRID says:


  17.' tahira saleem says:

    Hi i am an img and have been in us since last 4 yrs as a permanent resident. I am a housewife with two kids so adding these responsibilities makes the process of pursuing my career quite slow. I have taken step 1 and ck and now preparing for cs. Despite the fact that getting residency will be very tough and competitive i still dont wanna give up on my career. I am really interested in pathology. I am doing observership at the moment at a clinic with an endocrinologist and looking for more medical related opportunities to add up to my resume. I am already lacking because its been five years since i graduated and its still a long process ahead and what i really need is someone to advise me what suits me best given my circumstances and limitations that i cannot do any full time job due to my resposibiloties at home. I have been asked to look for certain jobs for an ekg tech or a research assistant but again due to lack of networking and guidance i am finding it really hard even how to start looking.I will be very obliged if you can give your expert advise regarding my queries.

  18.' Jeannette Lopez says:

    Hi I am an IMG recently graduated with also a BS in Biology realized in US territory. I recently move to Houston and I am looking for job in terms to continue studying for my USMLE exams and finally getting ECFMG certification done. What do you suggest me to do? I have apply to many jobs…

  19.' naw says:

    Hi, I am an IMG. I have graduated two years back. I have been looking for job oppurtunities in the USA. I am currently preparing for USmle step 1, but not gaining confidence at all. I have minimal clinical knowledge .I would like to take up any job or do research work. Please kindly guide me . Any help would be appreciated .

  20.' Lh says:

    Sollers make so many promises to get you to enroll. After getting the certificate, you’re on your own. They don’t help you in job placement. Talking from experience.

  21.' Abhisek Sahoo says:

    Hello maam… I am an IMG preparing for USMLE…. I have in the back of my mind regarding the match process… If I don’t get matched in my 1st attempt can I get any JOB like parttime or something to meet my ends till the next match… are there any jobs for img which pay (even if minimal) and provide a boost to my CV…..

  22.' yazmin says:

    Hi! I am an IMG and I got an Registered Medical Assistant certification, RMA, I know it is very basic but it can provide you with some income while you wait.

  23.' Marina Andrade says:

    Hi. I am a certified cardiologist in Brazil, and I’m considering becoming an echo or stress test tech there. I already perform there on a daily vasos, as Brazilian law only allows doctors to perform those exams, but I might need some kind of certification in America. I don’t think I’m willing to go through residency again, so becoming a cardiologist there is out of the question. Do you have any ideas for me? Can I hire you to give me assistance on this matter?
    Thank you

  24.' Emilie Wang says:

    Hi, I immigrated to the US more than 3 years ago. I am a permanent resident here in the US, but I am a licensed medical doctor from the Philippines. I realized the path to becoming a practicing medical doctor here is long and I graduated 2003, therefore I am an old IMG. I am thinking to give up the USMLE journey which I started taking USMLE 1 last year. I am thinking of becoming a researcher instead. Give me the guidance so I will not anymore waste money and time passing all my USMLEs and wait for residency match which is sometimes nil because I am an old graduate. Do I need to be a US citizen first and acquire further education to become a clinical researcher which I think I am eligible now?

  25.' Adeyemi Oluwaseun John says:

    Good day. I am an IMG and I have a B1/B2 visa. I am interested in undertaking a medical assistant training in Knoxville TN or close to that location so that I can be closer to family. Can you kindly guide me please? Thanks…

  26.' Ira Noreen Tampus-Taalim says:


  27.' Ira Noreen Tampus-Taalim says:

    Hi, Im from the ?? too. Can i ask for your email so we could chitchat in private?

  28.' janice benny says:

    hi , am an Img from India . Hasn” t given my usmle steps yet.
    I want to know if one can be a physician assistant and then train for usmle ..I am a permanent resisdent and live in pennsylvania.

  29.' me you says:

    hello janice benny. im in the same situation as you. please share what ever you options and help you get.

    im from nepal and im also a permanent resident.
    havent given any usmle steps.

    thank you and all the best.

  30.' mary says:

    Hi, my name is Mary, an IMG. I failed step 1 in my first attempt (score 190). I’m completely disappointed. Studied FA two times, Caplan Video, more than 10,000 tests. UWORLD/NBME score>250+ but failed! no idea why ;(
    I’m on H4 visa right now. please any idea or help to get a research position w/o step 1 🙁

  31.' Victoria says:

    Hi Yazmin. How did you get the medical assistant certification and how long did it take?

  32.' Erda says:

    Did you get some info about research position?Please share any information.

  33.' Erda says:

    I am in the same situation like you

  34.' Christiana Davis, MD says:

    Contact me directly at

  35.' Christiana Davis, MD says:

    Contact me at

  36.' Christiana Davis, MD says:

    Email me at

  37.' Christiana Davis, MD says:

    See my message above

  38.' Christiana Davis, MD says:

    Great question.

    Contact me directly at

  39.' Christiana Davis, MD says:

    See my message to Janice

  40.' Christiana Davis, MD says:

    I think you contacted me. If not feel free to email me.

  41.' Christiana Davis, MD says:

    Great question. I’ll be glad to answer that question.

    Contact me directly at

  42.' Christiana Davis, MD says:

    Definitely count the cost before leaving Brazil. Life for most IMGs in the US is anything but comfortable; at least for the first few months, if not years.

    To learn more, contact me directly at

  43.' Christiana Davis, MD says:

    Abhisek: Hope by now you are working; better yet, matched.
    If not feel free to contact me directly at

  44.' Christiana Davis, MD says:

    Circumstances vary.
    Contact me directly at

  45.' Christiana Davis, MD says:

    Tahira: Hope by now things have settled down some. Stay
    motivated. As the kids get older you’ll have the opportunity to pursue a
    satisfying career. To learn more about options you can pursue, or just to
    brainstorm, feel free to contact me directly at

  46.' Christiana Davis, MD says:

    See my comments above; contact me directly at

  47.' Christiana Davis, MD says:

    Val: I think you’ve contacted me in the past; if not I look
    forward to hearing from you. You can start working on your job application
    package even when you are in France. Contact me directly at

  48.' Christiana Davis, MD says:

    Mary: Hope things are better by now. Regardless, I’ll still
    love to hear from you. Contact me
    directly at

  49.' Christiana Davis, MD says:

    To learn more about specific options and how to prepare for
    these feel free to contact me

  50.' Christiana Davis, MD says:

    To learn about specific options and how to prepare for
    these contact me at

  51.' Christiana Davis, MD says:

    Contact me directly at

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