Doctors (lääkäri) in Finland mainly work in municipal hospitals (sairaala) and health centres (terveyskeskus). Many doctors – especially in cities – also offer private health care, often alongside their public employment. The Finnish Medical Association ‘FMA’ (Suomen Lääkäriliitto) represents the professional interests of currently more than 24,000 doctors (2013) being its voluntary members, corresponding to 94% of all physicians living in Finland. Historically reliance on foreign doctors has been relatively low comparing to other European countries. However, global trends such as urbanization, ageing of population and fast technical progress, resulting in undersupplies of medical staff in certain geographic areas, primary healthcare and medical specialties (e.g. psychiatry, respiratory medicine and allergology, internal medicine, radiology), have been on the rise reportedly also in Finland. Since 2000, foreign doctors have been increasingly immigrating, in particular from neighbouring countries such as Russia and Estonia, but also from many other countries worldwide.
How to become a doctor
Studies of medicine – with clinical work being an essential part – are offered at five universities: Helsinki, Kuopio, Oulu, Tampere and Turku. The minimum duration is 6,5 years. Graduated doctors are entitled to practice under the guidance and supervision of another doctor. The right to practice as a licensed doctor is granted upon application by the National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (Valvira). Postgraduate specialty training of 5-6 years is necessary in order to receive the full authorization and work independently as general practitioner or other specialist. In total, there are 49 specialties, and almost two thirds of all Finnish doctors are specialists.
Hurdles to take for foreigners
The time and effort needed to acquire the necessary Finnish language skills to practice medicine and communicate with patients should not be underestimated. Finnish has not much in common with other languages (except for Estonian), and there are big differences between the written (kirjakieli) and spoken form (puhekieli). So you better like learning languages and have firm plans to spend a longer time of your life up here. Courses of the general language are offered by various institutions such as universities, adult education centres (aikuisopisto), employment offices (työvoimatoimisto) and private language schools. In addition, dedicated language courses are now available for doctors.
In order to have your foreign qualifications recognized and obtain a licence to practice medicine in Finland, you should turn to Valvira. EEA doctors benefit from automatic recognition based on EU Directive 2005/36/EC. Doctors from outside EEA have to complete a practical training and pass a three-part examination to obtain an initial temporary licence to practice medicine in hospitals; the exam includes a theory part, a practical section and a language test. For more detailed information from Valvira on the requirements to obtain a licence to practice medicine as a foreign doctor click here.
Furthermore, non-EEA citizens generally need a residence permit before taking up employment in Finland. The permit should be applied for at the Finnish diplomatic mission in their country of origin/residence or the local police department in in Finland. EEA citizens only need to register their right to reside in Finland for longer than three months with the local police department.
Where to get further info / support
- The National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health – Valvira
- Finnish Medical Association ’FMA’ (Suomen Lääkäriliitto)
- Finnish Medical Journal
- General job portal of the Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy
- Contact Us
Last update 9 August 2014