7 Things International Doctors Should Know About the Canadian Job Market

Kristen Campbell

October 21, 2021

9-minute read

Are you considering practicing medicine in Canada? We know starting or continuing your medical career in Canada requires research, education, and a good understanding of what to expect when you move. Many doctors start their research by asking the following questions:

  • What’s the job market is like for doctors in Canada?
  • How hard is it for doctors to find work in Canada?
  • Will it be easy to advance my career once I’m here?

While the prospect of moving to another country can seem daunting at first, Canadian doctors enjoy a wide variety of opportunities across provinces, locales, and clinical settings. If you’re considering a big step, here are seven things to keep in mind about the Canadian medical job market:

1. Demand Depends on Your Specialization

The demand for doctors in Canada largely depends on what kind of medicine you practice, and this is especially true for international graduates. The need for international doctors is highest in more generalized specialties like internal medicine and family medicine, which is where the majority of international graduates end up practicing. However, there are also opportunities for doctors of all specializations across the country, especially in areas like emergency medicine, psychiatry, pediatrics, and anaesthesiology. Similar to doctors who are working in Canada already, the demand for your services will depend on the nature of your work and the types of patients you typically see. 

Keep in mind that other work opportunities besides typical clinical practice – such as community or family health organizations, pain management clinics, or academic work opportunities – exist in Canada that might not exist in your home country, so take this additional demand into account when you begin to apply. With a new country, you might find a new area of practice that you enjoy. 

2. Location Matters

92% of Canadian doctors work in and around major cities – which means there are only 8% of doctors remaining to serve Canada’s rural population. The demand for doctors in rural or underserved areas is so high that international medical graduates are often sought out to fill the roles, sometimes at a higher salary or with other added incentives. Provinces with the highest level of internationally trained doctors include Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, where international doctors are highly recruited (and incentivized) to fill gaps in the workforce. Demand is also steady for international doctors in larger provinces like Alberta, Ontario, and BC – and although plenty of demand exists in larger cities, working in a more remote or rural community could earn you some additional income and make it easier to find a job. 

3. Moving Can Take Time

Despite having publicly funded healthcare across the country, each Canadian province has its own rules and regulations in regards to how it chooses to regulate and pay its doctors. Depending on where you want to work, you might find differences in the qualifications you’ll need, the paperwork you’ll have to provide, and the process you’ll go through when you are applying. These differences are also true for doctors working within the country – for example, if you start your career in British Columbia and move to Ontario for a different opportunity later on, you’ll still need to register your medical credentials with Ontario’s medical body in order to work, and these paperwork requirements can sometimes take six months to a year.

These requirements are important to keep in mind when you’re looking at Canada’s job market as an international doctor – it’s a good idea to look at the demand for doctors in your specialization in the province as a whole, since making a move later on can potentially mean a delay. 

4. Residency Spots are Competitive

If you’re still a medical student – or if you’re a trained physician coming from a country other than Australia, Ireland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, the UK, or the USA – you might need to complete a residency period in Canada before being certified as a doctor. As an international doctor, you’ll only be competing against other international applicants for residency spots, but spots are restricted and competition can be steep. Medical students from the United States should consider doing their residency in the US, but other specializations should take this into account before they come as well. In many provinces, alternative pathways exist for medical doctors from approved countries to bypass the residency requirement, but for doctors without it, securing a spot can be difficult. It’s best to do your research ahead of time, and be prepared for any sudden changes in plans. 

5. Unemployment is Low 

The unemployment rate for doctors in Canada is significantly lower than the national average – which is a good thing for international doctors looking for work. Although you’ll still need to be careful to find a province and role that’s a good fit for your practice style and specialization, once you’re registered as a doctor in Canada there’s generally no shortage of demand. In some specializations – like psychiatry – this shortage of doctors can mean long wait times for patients, and in some provinces, a shortage of family doctors can mean that over one fifth of the population does without. Depending on your specialization, you’ll find no shortage of demand for your services – so there’s never been a better time to start looking. 

6. Income is Steady

Depending on the type of medicine you practice and the country where you’re coming from, it’s possible for you to earn more in Canada than you would back home. For example, some specializations – like family doctors, psychiatrists, and pediatricians – earn more in Canada than in the United States, and the same is true for doctors in other parts of the world. Although there are some salary positions open, almost all doctors in Canada bill the government for their time and services using the fee for services model, where they are paid per service on the basis of how many patients they see and the types of services they perform. Although how much you earn will fluctuate based on how much you work, the types of patients you see, and your location, Canadian doctors as a whole earn a steady income – and this is increasing in recent years. 

7. The Population is Aging

Canada’s population of seniors is expected to grow by over 68% in the next 20 years, and has more than tripled in the last 40. This is an unprecedented challenge for the Canadian government and the medical system as a whole, and one of the reasons why the demand for doctors in Canada is projected to keep increasing until at least 2028 – and with many doctors also scheduled to retire, the supply could decrease as well. Since Canada has over a quarter of its doctors trained outside the country already, this number will likely increase in recent years – making it a better time than ever for internationally trained doctors to think about making the move. 

In summary, the Canadian job market for doctors is steady and reliable. Whether you’re a surgical specialist or a pediatrician, looking to work in a rural hospital or a busy city, there’s plenty of options for you in Canada. With low unemployment, high demand, and a wealth of opportunities you might previously not have considered, Canada’s job market for doctors is a great way to take your medical career abroad – and with a little research, you’re sure to find the perfect fit. Happy job hunting!

Extra: Download the free Canadian Immigration Guide for Doctors eBook

If you’re a physician interested in making your way up to the Great White North, you’ll need to understand some basics about practicing medicine in Canada first. In the free Canadian Immigration Guide for Doctors eBook, you will learn about the steps you’ll need to take to get registered as a doctor, the requirements for practicing in your chosen province, and the way doctors in Canada get paid… and more!

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Kristen Campbell is a content writer with experience writing for technology, real estate, healthcare, and higher education. She holds a BA from McMaster University and a B-Comm. from the University of Calgary, and is passionate about creating content that’s both educational and engaging.
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