Singapore is a city-state island, smaller than Lexington, Kentucky. It is nestled between Malaysia and Indonesia and is home to 5.7 million people. English is the main language of communication, though there are three other official languages: Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil. Singapore’s tropical climate, multicultural hub with a large expatriate population, excellent education system and quality of life, makes Singapore an enticing destination for American physicians wanting to practice medicine overseas.
Here is a guide on how to transition to practicing medicine in Singapore including medical registration, finding a job, and immigration. For general information on practicing medicine in Singapore see the Ultimate Guide to Practicing Medicine in Singapore – Part 1.
The Singapore Medical Council (SMC) maintains the register of medical practitioners. All physicians need a medical license to practice medicine. American-trained physicians wanting to practice medicine in Singapore must first obtain a Conditional Registration and then advance to Full Registration. American credentials – either ABMS board certification or attendance at certain medical schools are accepted – and you don’t have to repeat training or take additional exams.
Most American physicians looking to work in Singapore will obtain Conditional Registration. This requires a medical degree from a medical school listed in the Second Schedule or an approved post-graduate qualification such as American board certification. International medical graduates will work under the supervision of a fully registered physician, a mentor to help navigate the healthcare system. Conditional Registration is required prior to applying for specialist or family medicine accreditation as below.
Specialist Registration is required for a physician to practice as a specialist in Singapore. Foreign trained doctors must first have conditional registration and an employment offer with a healthcare institution in Singapore to apply for accreditation with the Specialist Accreditation Board (SAB). They must also be board certified by ABMS for a specialty or subspecialty recognized in Singapore and have had specialty training equivalent in duration to that in Singapore.
If you meet the criteria above you can obtain specialist accreditation from the SAB and simultaneous apply to add your name to the register of specialists by applying online to SMC. After you are successfully accredited by the SAB, the SMC will process your application for Specialist registration. Specialist registration can take about 4 weeks to a few months.
Family Physician Registration
A Family medicine physician must have either conditional or full registration and must be accredited by the Family Physician’s Accreditation Board (FPAB). As long as you hold board certification by ABMS in family medicine you can register with FPAB, and simultaneously register with SMC to be listed as a Family Physician. Processing time is around 4 weeks to a few months.
Full Registration allows a doctor to practice independently. Specialists are eligible for Full Registration after completing at least two years of full-time clinical practice with supervision. Family physicians who are not Singapore citizens or permanent residents, are eligible for full registration after a minimum of 4 years of supervision.
Public or Private Sector?
Most conditional registrants will work in a SMC- approved public healthcare center.
Private practice physicians are most successful when they are well established in the Singapore healthcare system and have developed a large referral base. New physicians in Singapore will therefore have fewer opportunities in the private sector.
American specialists applying for a conditional license and desiring to directly enter the private sector will need at least 5 years of specialty clinical experience after ABMS board certification in a recognized specialty. Foreign-trained family physicians applying for conditional license can enter private practice if they have at least 5 years of experience in Family Medicine after obtaining American Board Certification in Family Medicine.
Finding a Job
Singapore is enjoying the fruits of their investment in their own post-graduate medical education. Locally trained qualified physicians are meeting the needs of Singapore’s healthcare system resulting in less demand for foreign physicians. There are still job opportunities for physician researchers and physicians with a niche in a subspecialty that Singapore would like to develop such as transplant nephrology or neuro-radio-interventionalists.
The best way to obtain a job is to utilize your network of local colleagues. Jobs are rarely listed on a site and the Ministry of Health needs to approve employment of foreign-trained doctors.
Below you will find our partner recruitment organization. For complete transparency, this organization is providing a referral award to Hippocratic Adventures to cover the costs of building and maintaining this website as well as eventually providing an honorarium to our member-authors-speakers who have shared their time and insights with the community. If inquiring with the organization, mention that you are with Hippocratic Adventures and send us a message via Contact Us. You will support our community, website, and blog post authors.
Head Medical is a leading specialist in international medical recruitment, having helped 1,000s of physicians find new roles in amazing locations including UK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, China, the Gulf, Canada and Caribbean. So, if you think you might be interested in a new challenge and a change of scene, visit the Job Board for opportunities and reach out to one of their recruitment specialists. Their expert team will support you with your licensing and immigration paperwork and provide practical advice to ensure your relocation goes as smoothly as possible.
An American physician wanting to work in Singapore will need a job offer in hand to apply for an Employment Pass, a work permit for foreign professionals. Physicians need to earn at least $4500/month to be eligible. Your employer will apply for the Employment Pass on your behalf.
American credentials are recognized, and immigration is straightforward making it easier for an American physician to practice medicine overseas in Singapore. Singapore is benefiting from its investment in its own medical education system, cultivating more local qualified doctors, decreasing the need for foreign doctors. Physicians with a highly specialized niche or with research experience are still in demand. For general information on practicing medicine in Singapore see the Ultimate Guide to Practicing Medicine in Singapore – Part 1.
Dr. Ashwini Bapat is a palliative care physician who attended medical school at Tufts University and completed residency and fellowship training at Yale-New Haven Hospital. She resides in Portugal and provides clinical care through telemedicine.
Many thanks to an Anonymous Member of our community who shared their experiences practicing in Singapore.