Working in the Netherlands as a doctor

The time has finally come! After years of studying, endless exams and internships, you finally have your BIG registration and you can start working as a doctor in the Netherlands. But how do you find a job as a doctor in the Netherlands?

First, a little information about how basic medicine training in the Netherlands is organized

Until a few years ago, medicine training in the Netherlands was a lottery study. This means that, based on your average of your high school profile subjects, you were divided into different draw classes, with the higher averages being more likely to be drawn.

However, for a few years now, a decentralized selection method has been in place: this means that every student who meets the conditions, through various admission rounds, is ultimately accepted at the university in question. Procedures that are used in the admission are: sending your application with motivation for application and in detail why you are suitable for the study program. You can then be invited to a second round, in which knowledge tests or interviews can be taken. Each university has its own admission procedures and / or exams.

Due to increasing criticism of the inequality that this system entails, the draw will probably return from 2021. A number of universities have at least committed to use part lottery and part entrance exams.

The medicine training itself consists of 2 parts: the first 3 years are mainly theoretical in nature. The internships have been done for the last 3 years. So in total you will be working for 6 years before you can call yourself a basic doctor. You are not yet specialized.

After graduation

Unlike in other countries, medical doctors in the Netherlands do not immediately start training to become a specialist immediately after graduation. They first work as ” ANIOS ” for a while . ANIOS stands for “ Physician Assistant Not Specialist Training ” and it is a position in which primary physicians usually work 1 to 3/4 years to gain clinical experience and expand their network within their desired specialty before applying for an ” AIOS ” (Physician Assistant in Specialist Training)position, namely a training place. Although it is technically possible to apply for an AIOS position immediately after obtaining your BIG registration, in practice it does not make sense to do so without relevant ANIOS experience for most hospital specialisms (outside the hospital, this is often possible easier). In addition, in this competitive labor market for doctors in the Netherlands, doctors without relevant work experience often have little chance of a training place. Not sure yet which way you want to go? Then work for a while as ANIOS in a broad specialism such as internal medicine, which forms a good basis for many specialties both within and outside the hospital.

So, your first step is to find a job as ANIOS. There are several ways to apply for an ANIOS position. The easiest and also the way with the greatest chance of success is to respond to a vacancy. A second option is to do an open application. In other words, send an application letter and express your interest in a position without an official vacancy being open in that specific specialty. Most Dutch doctors find their first job during their semi-arts internship or oldest internship – the last internship that you do as a medical student, which often lasts 4 months and is within your preferred specialty. During this internship the doctors show their interest, they prove that they are suitable for that specialism and often arrange an ANIOS position before they graduate. That is why you rarely see vacancies in some hospital specialisms: the multitude of positions are already being claimed by the oldest interns during their studies. If your dream specialism is one of those specialties, there is almost no other way to find an ANIOS position than through an open application. Let’s take a closer look at how both application methods work.

Apply for an ANIOS position through a vacancy

There are a few large vacancy websites in the Netherlands where you can view most ANIOS vacancies. In addition, hospitals also regularly publish vacancies on their own websites, which sometimes do not appear in the national vacancy websites. We therefore recommend that you look at both the major vacancy websites and the own websites of the hospitals in your region. There are also webpages of the professional associations in which vacancies for both specialists and medical doctors are posted. Finally, as VBGA we also occasionally publish vacancies on our website.

Here are a few examples of such websites: s: //

Apply for an ANIOS position via an open application

An open application is a long and intensive process that does not necessarily have a higher chance of success. To submit an open application, you first need to know who to contact for your application (usually the department hiring manager). You can start by determining for yourself in which specialisms in which hospitals you want to work. Then contact the secretariat of that specialism by telephone, express your interest and ask if they currently have a vacancy for an ANIOS position and who you can contact. After such an interview you will almost always receive an e-mail address to which you can send your application letter and resume. The most important thing is to apply to as many places as possible at the same time. It is therefore possible that you apply for a vacancy that is not there, so you are more often rejected than invited for an interview. It sometimes happens that you end up with a pile of “resumes” and that people contact you as soon as the next vacancy presents itself. If you come for an interview, it is often with the head of the department (doctor) and / or the (personnel) manager. Either way, it is a process that requires a lot of patience and energy. Open applications are therefore for the real enthusiast!

PhD place

All tips for looking for a job as ANIOS (both through vacancies and through open application) also apply to a PhD position.

Cover letter & CV

With both an open application and when responding to a vacancy, a good cover letter is the decisive factor for being invited for an interview. Your cover letter not only reflects your interest in the job, but also your language skills as a foreign doctor. A good cover letter should show your interest in a concise and clear manner and demonstrate why you are suitable for the position. It must be without language errors! We recommend that you have your application letter checked by a native speaker of Dutch for any errors before applying. There are many examples available on the internet for cover letters. Gaining inspiration is allowed, but you have to pay attention to make it into an original letter in the end!

Tip: most universities offer something like ‘Career Services’, a kind of career guidance. The universities therefore also offer workshops on how to apply for a job in general. Make use of your position as a student, because usually such workshops are free or discounted for you as a student!

If you are not a student, with a little search you can also find enough providers of job application training online or you can register for the same workshops of the universities, but then it is for a fee.

SPECIALIZE / AIOS (assistant in training to become a specialist)

Am I ready to apply for a training position? (AIOS)

The Netherlands has a competitive labor market for doctors. Training places for most hospital specialisms are scarce and there are more medical doctors than the number of available training places. More information about the different specialisms and courses can be found on this page of the KNMG:

There is also a file with all recognized training places and their contact details (note: some information seems a bit outdated ..):

Passion for the profession is a must for applying for a training position, but there are more things that are expected from a good candidate:

  1. Experience as ANIOS (assistant not in specialist training)

Although it does not apply to every specialty, experience as ANIOS is highly sought after in almost all specialties, from general practice to surgery. It is an unwritten rule to ‘ aniossen’ for a while before applying for a training position. In addition, it is relevant to gain experience in those specialisms where you want to study later. For general practice, these are often the specialties where you gain clinical (emergency) experience (internal, surgery, A&E, neurology, geriatric medicine, etc.).

  • Research experience

Research experience is very much appreciated in the Netherlands. In most hospital specialties it is almost impossible to get a training place without a PhD title (Bontje, 2018).

  • Good references

A good atmosphere within the department is very important in the Netherlands. As a result, trainers usually choose residents between candidates they already know from an ANIOS position or choose candidates with good references. Work experience as ANIOS is therefore not only important for your clinical skills as a doctor, but also for building a network.

As mentioned earlier, competition for most specialisms is fierce, but there is also good news: there are also specialisms where there is a shortage of doctors and where foreign doctors have a good chance of a training place. These specialties include:

  • Elderly Medicine outside the hospital (work in nursery homes)
  • Pediatrician outside of the hospital, called ‘jeugdarts’ in the Netherlands. Clinical pediatricians however are called ‘kinderarts’. A ‘jeugdarts’ works in the public health sector. Clinical pediatricians training positions are however much harder to obtain than the ‘jeugdarts’ positions, so don get these two confused.
  • Consultation department doctor: in the first 4 years of infancy, Dutch babies and toddlers get regular checkups (growth, weight, neurological development) by these doctors, called ‘consultatiebureau arts’ in Dutch. This position is also in the public health sector.
  • Addiction Medicine
  • Psychiatry
  • Insurance doctor
  • Occupational physician
  • General practitioner in the countryside

Chances of a training place also differ per region in the Netherlands. Competition is stronger in the Randstad than in the rest of the country.

We advise you to think carefully about what your wishes are and what the possibilities are within your region. If you want to read motivational stories about successful foreign doctors, check our “Role Models” page regularly .

How can I apply for a training position? (AIOS)

In the Netherlands there is no central application system for further education as in some other countries. The requirements for a training place, structure of the study program and the way of applying for a study program differ per specialism. For example, in broader specialties such as internal medicine and surgery, the number of training places are determined per year and per region and there are two regional application rounds per year. The residents do their training partly in a peripheral hospital in the region and partly in the UMC of that region. In other specialties such as lung medicine or neurology, training places are opened per hospital.

The same applies to specialisms outside the hospital. For the general practitioner training there is a central application round twice a year, while for psychiatry and geriatric medicine it is arranged locally (ie locally). For more details on how to apply for a degree, check the websites of the professional associations of that particular specialty.


We recommend that you keep a close eye on the websites of the professional association of your specialty for vacancies as a specialist. Keep in mind that there is also fierce competition for positions as a specialist. In recent years, there has unfortunately been a trend in which young surgeons are increasingly receiving a temporary contract for a longer period compared to the past  (Brinkman, 2017) .