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How to Become a Traveling Doctor

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Doctors are valued around the world, especially in locations with little or no access to medical services. When you finish your medical education, training and licensing, the considerable demand for your services allows you to decide where you want to practice. Traveling doctors enjoy the benefits of experiencing different geographies and cultures without having to commit.

Locum Tenens Doctors

Derived from a Latin phrase that translates as "one who holds the place," many traveling doctors find locum tenens positions or temporary replacements for an absent peer. This provides an opportunity for doctors to sample life in different places around the United States and the world. Traveling doctors also appreciate the extra control they have over their career and the ability to provide health care to regions that need it most.

Traveling Doctors in the U.S.

Working anywhere as a doctor in the United States requires that you complete a national licensing exam and meet the requirements of the state in which you practice. Medical magazines, professional journals, the American Medical Association and state medical organizations post openings for doctors willing to travel. Recruitment services that link doctors with employers reduce the amount of work you have to do for locum tenens positions in the US, taking care of important considerations such as specific state licensing requirements and malpractice insurance. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics states the average yearly pay for primary care doctors is $220,942 while those who practice in medical specialties average $396,233 per year. Many locum tenens positions pay slightly more than a comparable position in a group practice.

International Locum Tenens Positions

The demand for doctors around the world allows you to choose from a variety of locations. Begin the process by directly contacting recruiters like foreign government offices and international staffing agencies. These organizations review your licensing and credentials to match your skills and preferences with the appropriate positions. Depending on the location you choose, obtaining a work visa and meeting medical licensing demands may take several months. The agency you work with helps you through these and other details like tax returns. The average salary working outside the United States varies based on the location and your specialty.

Practicing Medicine With Traveling Groups

Another type of opportunity for traveling doctors involves practicing medicine with groups that visit locations where help is needed. Organizations such as Doctors Without Borders provide medical services in places that staffing agencies or government programs never visit. Due to the atypical nature of these jobs, specific requirements are needed for these positions, such as experience supervising others and familiarity with working while traveling. The unique challenges of practicing with a group in unfamiliar environments may require cultural, language and leadership training, as well as further medical instruction. Salary for traveling doctors with groups, especially with charitable organizations, may be significantly less than other opportunities.


Kent Tukeli has been writing for business and media organizations since 2007, including Valnet Inc., Top Affiliate Publishing and Mirvish Productions. He honed his skills at the University of Toronto, earning a Bachelor of Arts in English literature.

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