Medical School in France – The Ultimate Guide


It is a fact that studying medicine in France represents a great opportunity for those who study this discipline. Indeed, France is a popular destination for more than 18,000 students of different nationalities every year.

In addition, medical studies in French universities emphasize both practical and theoretical studies.

We will provide you with several details about studying medicine and dentistry in France. Follow the guide!

How many years does it take to study medicine in France?

In France, it takes 9 years to study general medicine. On the other hand, it takes between 10 and 12 years to study specialists such as surgeons or pediatricians.

The system of medical studies in France

Essentially, medical studies in France are divided into three parts (the basics of medicine, the external, and the internship). They lead to a State diploma (DE) of doctor of medicine.

First cycle (DFGSM)

The first cycle consists of two academic years after the PACES (First Common Year of Health Studies). It should be noted that during this preparatory year, the same program is given to all students in medicine, pharmacology, odontology, nursing, and physiotherapy.

You will enter the first cycle after passing an entrance exam to the faculty of medicine to enter the second year. It is important to note that only half of the first-year students will have the chance to enter the second year.

In addition, the maximum percentage of foreign students from outside the European Union admitted to the competition is limited to 8% of the total number of students.

The condition is that the student’s diploma is equal to or higher than that of the last French student admitted. At the end of the first cycle, the student obtains a Diplôme de Formation Générale en Sciences Médicales (DFGSM).

Second cycle (DFASM)

The second cycle lasts 3 years and leads to the Diplôme de Formation Approfondie en Sciences Médicales (DFASM). To enter the third cycle, medical students have to pass the ECNi (computerized national tests) which determine the specialty and the city where they will do their internship.

Once they have passed these exams and depending on their grades, students can follow the specialty they have chosen.

Third cycle (DE and DES)

In the third cycle, called “internship”, you have the choice between general medicine and other specialties. At the end of your studies, you will obtain a DE (Diplôme d’Études) in medicine and a DES (Specialized Studies Diploma) in the specialty you have chosen.

It takes 3 years of internship to become a general practitioner and 4 to 6 years for other specialties. At the end of the internship, it is possible to “super specialize” and obtain a DESC (Diploma of Complementary Specialised Studies) after 2 additional years of study. At the end of his studies, the student will have to defend his thesis in order to obtain his doctorate in medicine.

After the different cycles of medical studies in France and their respective durations, here are the conditions for access to these studies.

Requirements to study medicine in France

Have you met the requirements to study medicine in France?

See for yourself…

The procedure for registering to study medicine in France depends on the student’s country of origin. Citizens of the European Union or the European Economic Area do not need a visa to study. Students can enroll directly in the university or college of their choice.

However, students from outside the European Union need a visa, which means they have to go through Campus France.

During their first year of study, international students only have to present their visas to justify their presence on French territory.

However, they have to register at the Immigration Office within 30 days of their arrival and undergo a medical examination to complete the administrative procedures related to their visa. From the second year of study, they have to apply for a residence permit.

In addition, the student must have a high school diploma and be fluent in French. For the second point, the student can, if necessary, enroll in French courses offered by private centers.

In addition, the student who wishes to study medicine in France has to learn the French language before going to France.

Exams to take before enrolling in a French university

Students have to pass one of the following exams to enroll in a French university:

Diplôme d’Études en Langue Française (DELF) and Diplôme Approfondi de Langue Française (DALF)

These diplomas attest to the student’s competence in the French language. They are valid for life and are recognized throughout the world.

In addition, they are necessary to find a job in France or in a French-speaking country (level B2, for example, is the level generally required in French universities).

French Knowledge Test (FKT) / Test of French Evaluation (TFE)

Essentially, these tests assess the candidate’s level of proficiency in the French language. Unlike the DELF and DALF diplomas which are valid for life, the TFE certification is only valid for two years.

Let’s now move on to the best universities/faculties in France for medical studies and how to apply.

The best universities to study medicine in France

Now that you know the study requirements, it is time to find the best universities to apply to.

You will find here a list of the best medical schools in France with their official websites.

Paris Descartes University

The Paris Descartes Faculty of Medicine is one of the leading medical training and research units in France. It shines by the number of students, teachers, research units, and results.

The main mission of the Paris Descartes Faculty of Medicine is to train, research, disseminate and exchange knowledge. Indeed, each teacher encourages the emergence of curiosity, critical thinking, and creativity in students throughout their curriculum to improve their skills.

Register at the Paris Descartes Faculty of Medicine

Sorbonne University

This medical school aims to address health problems by encouraging research in various disciplines. It also trains future doctors and many other health professionals.

To register at the Sorbonne University

University of Western Bretagne

This faculty trains health professionals, including physicians and biologists.

Apply to the University of Western Bretagne

Faculty of Medicine of Montpellier-Nîmes

Founded in the 13th century, the Faculty of Medicine of Montpellier is the oldest active medical school in the world.

It offers its students a wide range of medical disciplines, including orthoptics and speech therapy, as well as other scientific and medical disciplines.

Studies take place in Montpellier or Nîmes, on a well-equipped campus that combines tradition and modernity.

The faculty issues 132 universities (DU) and inter-university (DIU) diplomas. In addition, it offers medical students 11 disciplines grouping together some thirty specialties leading to a DES.

Registering at the Faculty of Medicine of Montpellier-Nîmes

Strasbourg Faculty of Medicine

The faculty has more than 40,000 students and more than 4,000 researchers in several fields. The percentage of foreign students at the university is approximately 19.4% of the total student body.

Apply to the Faculty of Medicine of Strasbourg

Faculty of medical and paramedical sciences Aix-Marseille University

Since October 2018, the Faculty of Medicine of Marseille has become the Faculty of Medical and Paramedical Sciences (SMPM). It offers training in medicine, maieutics, rehabilitation sciences as well as nursing.

Research is also one of the strong points of the faculty. It has 16 accredited research units in various fields. These include infectious diseases with its University Hospital Institute (IHU). There are also genetics, oncology/immunology, public health, humanities, social sciences, medical imaging, and anthropology.

The faculty plans to add a neuroscience research unit. It plans to have a single structure, in one location, close to the hospital centers.

Apply to the Faculty of Medicine of Marseille

Can I study medicine in English in France?

Unfortunately, medical studies at public universities in France are taught in French only. Therefore, language proficiency is the main obstacle for international students who wish to study in France.

On the other hand, to attract international students from all over the world, a group of private universities and medical schools offer programs in English.

However, the cost of study varies from one university or faculty to another, depending on the specialty or level of training.

Examples of such universities include

The Faculty of Medicine at the University of Tours.

The cost of studying medicine in France

According to a study by the National Association of Medical Students of France (A.N.E.M.F), students enrolled in PACES pay an average of €6,000 in tuition fees.

The ANEMF also estimates that expenses amount to more than €5,000 in PACES and €4,000 for third-year students.

To this must be added the costs related to the studies, about 260 euros. This budget includes books and all materials approved for medical studies. In addition to these costs, social security charges are about 500 euros per year. Student housing and other expenses are to be calculated.

Scholarships to study medicine in France

Do you require support to finance your studies in France?

A lot of different students will tell you yes…

You can apply for scholarships to study medicine in France, including excellence scholarships offered by medical schools. In general, these scholarships are dedicated to postgraduate (specialization) or post-doctoral studies.

These scholarships are awarded on the basis of merit and after examination of the students’ files by the evaluation committee.

Again, you have to think about this in advance. Keep in mind that these scholarships are difficult to obtain, especially for international students. However, the higher your level of study, the more likely you are to get one.

The student visa

After registering at a French university, you have to apply for a student visa in France.

Studying dentistry in France
Do you want to become a dentist?

The duration of dental surgery (or dental medicine) studies in France is 6 years. However, it takes 9 years for those who want to specialize further (for example in orthodontics).

Dental surgery studies in France begin with PACES. On average, 30% of students are accepted after the competitive examination.

As of the start of the 2019-2020 academic year, the number of available places is 1320.

First cycle: second and third year

During the first cycle of studies, the training program focuses on the basic knowledge necessary for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases of the mouth, teeth, and jaws: dental anatomy and infectious dental diseases. In addition, the program includes courses on public health, hygiene, prevention, and medical imaging.

Students benefit from practical simulation work to develop their manual skills. A 4-week nursing internship allows students to become familiar with nursing techniques, first aid, and the functioning of a medical team.

At the end of this cycle, students obtain a DFGSO (diploma of general training in ontological sciences).

Second cycle: fourth and fifth years

From the fourth year onwards, the basic courses are deepened and completed by other subjects such as dental public health, forensic odontology, and anesthesiology.

In principle, the student spends the major part of his or her training in an internship. Many of these internships take place in the health center or the dental services of the university hospital with which the university is in partnership.

At the end of the cycle, the student obtains a DFASO (diploma of advanced training in ontological sciences).

Third cycle: after the fifth year

At the end of the fifth year, students have two possibilities:

  •  Continue with a short one-year cycle at the end of which they obtain a Diploma of Studies (DE) of Doctor of Dental Surgery. This is the choice of 90% of students.
  •  They choose the internship by passing a national competition. They then have access to a choice of 3 specialties depending on their ranking in the competition: orthodontics (in 3 years), oral medicine (also in 3 years), and oral surgery (in 4 years).
    This long training allows, in addition to the national diploma of dental surgery, to obtain a DES (Diploma of Specialized Studies).

It is obvious that medical studies in France are among the most popular specialties for students. This is due not only to the advantages offered by the country but also to the quality of the universities and educational institutions.

It is important to know that only 15 to 20% of first-year students (PACES) go on to the second year. This is why perseverance and hard work are the keywords if you want to finish your studies properly.