Considering a career in medicine? Becoming a doctor in Canada can be a daunting—yet exciting—prospect. Amidst the multitude of career options, medicine stands out as a profession that combines the pursuit of knowledge, a sense of purpose, technical skill and the rewards of making a tangible difference.
For those considering medical school as a potential next step, here we explore ten of the top reasons why becoming a doctor can be a rewarding career choice—both personally and professionally.
1. You enjoy helping others
Whether providing treatment, offering support and advice or doing academic work that contributes to medical breakthroughs, physicians can make a real difference in the lives of individuals, communities and beyond.
The desire to help people is a common motivator for aspiring medical professionals—and a critical one, too. Doctors carry a heavy responsibility throughout their careers and maintaining joy in medicine by helping others can help provide lasting job satisfaction.
2. Canada needs more doctors
Job security is not an issue that keeps physicians up at night! While some specialties are more in-demand than others, the vast majority of Canada’s residents and fellows are able to secure jobs quickly—and this high employment rate shows no signs of slowing. In fact, predictions indicate that Canada could be short 44,000 doctors by 2028, so you can count on staying sought-after as a physician even if completing your medical degree is still years away.
Beyond our borders, doctors are also in great demand globally with 132 countries also facing shortages of medical professionals. As a graduate of a Canadian medical school, physicians can transition their skills to many countries worldwide, either permanently or as a locum (temporary) doctor.
3. High earning potential
The average salary for a medical doctor in Canada is approximately $344,000 (gross) per year according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. It should be noted that average earnings vary considerably between provinces. For example, a cardiologist earns $599,000 on average in B.C. versus $508,000 in Ontario.
Factors such as expertise and specializations perhaps have an even greater impact than location on a doctor's earning potential. Doctors who specialize in specific fields like neurosurgery or cardiothoracic surgery have the potential to earn higher incomes. Those with more experience in their field and who hold additional certifications or qualifications can also earn more. For example, psychiatrists and family physicians in Canada typically earn in the low $300,000 range, while some specialized surgeons can earn $600,000 or more.
4. Continual learning
If you’ve always had a passion for school as well as learning and applying new concepts, pursuing a career as a physician could be a great fit. The field of medicine offers continuous learning opportunities and the pace of new information is astonishing. In fact, back in 1950, it was anticipated that medical knowledge would double within 50 years. Today, medical knowledge is estimated to double every 73 days!
5. To have purpose in your work
A sense of purpose is a key motivator for many who choose a medical career, however, purpose can take many forms. While some may find meaning in helping people and saving lives, others may feel driven by advocating for healthcare policy change or improving public health at large through medical research.
It’s important to tie your work in the medical profession to your core values and purpose. Having meaning in your work will keep you grounded and inspired even in difficult times as well as contribute to your personal sense of fulfillment in your medical career.
6. You crave stimulating work
In most medical specialties, each day is unique. Medical doctors encounter a wide range of conditions, symptoms, personalities and medical histories. Strong creative problem-solving skills, an analytical mind and a naturally curious personality are great assets for a career in medicine.
It makes sense to put a lot of thought into the best-fit specialty for your personality and preferred working style so you will always feel challenged and engaged by your work in the medical field. Some physicians even have multiple specialties, which keeps work varied throughout a long career and allows for a greater breadth of ongoing learning.
The medical field is also continuously evolving. Advancements in technology, new research, and the emergence of new diseases mean that doctors are always learning new things throughout their careers.
7. To contribute to medical breakthroughs
One of the most rewarding aspects of being a doctor is the opportunity to contribute to medical breakthroughs that can positively impact patients. Canadian doctors are responsible for a multitude of recent groundbreaking findings in heart and stroke care, cancer, diabetes, neurology and more.
By staying up to date with changing medical technology and pursuing research positions in research hospitals, doctors have the ability to discover new treatments and understandings of complicated diseases that can help future generations.
8. Opportunities to travel
Travel isn’t one of the more obvious reasons to become a doctor, however, medicine happens to be the perfect career path for those who wish to explore the world or make a difference in a country with dire need. The process is fairly straightforward for Canadian physicians wishing to live and work in several countries, including the U.S., the UK, Australia, New Zealand, the UAE and more.
A less permanent way to dip your toe into working as a physician abroad is working as a locum tenens doctor. A locum is a physician who works for a temporary period to fill a gap in a medical practice (typically 6 months to 2 years for international roles). This type of work is ideal for doctors who are looking to gain experience in a variety of practice settings while seeing the world.
READ MORE: The Top In-Demand Locum Specialties
9. A variety of career opportunities
When you hear the word “doctor,” a somewhat predefined picture might spring to mind—complete with white coat and stethoscope. The truth is that there is a long list of medical specialties and subspecialties you can choose from. Sports medicine, pediatrics, cardiology, genetics and dozens more… it’s not difficult to find a specialty you may even take a personal interest in.
Beyond hands-on patient roles in healthcare services, you might choose to become a medical researcher, commit yourself to healthcare advocacy or transition to a teaching, leadership or government role. The demand for healthcare professionals is strong and physicians have more choices today than ever before.
Beyond a primary job, Canadian doctors are also increasingly interested in side hustles that may or may not be connected to their medical education and work at all. A full one third of Canadian physicians engage in side hustles according to Medscape.
10. You feel “the calling”
The least tangible reason to become a doctor may just be the most important. Chat with physicians about why they chose medicine and it won’t be long before you hear several refer to the job as an undeniable “calling.”
While physicians are typically evidence-based thinkers, this abstract “calling” to become a doctor is actually a profound and powerful motivator that goes beyond mere career aspirations to tap into a deeper sense of purpose. Doctors who do feel a calling often find that it serves to fuel ongoing dedication as well as provide the resilience needed to navigate the challenges and demands inherent in the role.
Dr. Nour Khatib left medical school for a finance career, but a persistent calling encouraged her to return years later and become an emergency physician.
Is becoming a doctor right for you?
Did you see yourself in the majority of these 10 reasons? Pursuing a career in medicine is a significant commitment that requires time, dedication, skill and passion. It can be an incredibly rewarding profession if the work is a good fit with your personality and goals.
If you’re still questioning whether to apply to medical school following your undergraduate degree, see if you can sit in on some classes, shadow a resident or speak with the program professors. Seeing “a day in the life” of a medical student, resident or doctor is a great way to get more certainty that you’re making the right decision for your future.