Home to 1.3 million people, Estonia is a small but aspiring Baltic country in the northeast of the European Union. It has close cultural and economic ties with its neighbours: The other two Baltic countries Latvia and Lithuania to the south; Russia to the east; Finland and Sweden to the north and west, on the other side of the Gulf of Finland and Baltic Sea respectively, with a lot of ferries running to Tallinn, Estonia’s beautiful capital. The country is also proud of its IT know-how, with the world-famous skype software as one of its flagships.
There are currently a bit more than 6,000 licensed medical doctors in Estonia. Foreign medics have come to work in particular from Russia, and to study medicine for example from Finland. Reversely Estonian healthcare operators reach out increasingly to foreign clients.
How to become a doctor
A doctor’s training in Estonia takes an average of 10 years. Basic medical studies at the renowned University of Tartu take 6 years; courses in English are also offered. More information – especially on application deadlines and tuition fees – can be obtained from the University’s website. The subsequent post-graduate specialty training takes between 3-5 years; residency places are very competitive.
To practise medicine in Estonia, doctors need to register with the Health Board, which is the country’s central authority to check and monitor professional medical qualifications.
Hurdles for foreign doctors
Language competence in Estonian is a practical prerequisite for working in the country’s hospitals. Estonian is closely related to Finnish language. It takes a considerable effort to learn it well.
For EU/EEA doctors automatic recognition of professional medical qualifications applies in the frame of Directive 2005/36/EC. Language competence is verified by the employer.
For non-EU/EEA doctors the Health Board assesses equivalence of their qualifications with Estonian standards. In addition, an examination or probationary period may be required. In case of less than 3 years of prior work experience, the admission requirements are understood to be tougher. Language skills are also checked.
Further to this, general immigration requirements (visa, residence permit, registration of place of residence, etc.) apply.