Doctor Starting Salary in Canada by Specialty

Kristen Campbell
May. 6, 2020
10-minute read

Your doctor starting salary will be very different depending on the area you choose to specialize in, so if you decide family medicine isn’t for you, it might be worth looking at other specialties and considering what you’ll earn. Here are some of the different doctor starting salaries in Canada by specialty, and the things you might want to keep in mind when choosing them.

1. Emergency Specialties

Emergency room doctors need to be quick on their feet and ready for a challenge – this specialty is great for doctors who want to diagnose and assess a broad variety of clinical cases, ages, and illnesses. Emergency room doctors (emergentologists) need to possess a wide range of clinical knowledge and skills, and be ready to apply them in all kinds of unexpected situations.

Doctors who want to work in the ER or the ICU can choose between two paths. ER doctors looking to work in a community ER environment can choose a one year certificate program following their two years of residency training in family medicine. Doctors looking to work in a larger facility with more academic or research involvement can choose a five year program with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

The diagnosis and treatment of ER patients and illnesses will differ on a case by case basis, and doctors treating them must have a high level of interpersonal skill, level headedness, and quality of care. They should be willing to do shift work, and will earn a salary similar to family doctors.

ER doctor salary and ICU doctor salary are around $390,195 per year, but this doesn’t include any overhead or taxes. ER doctors can expect to pay around 13% in overhead.

2. Surgical Specialties

If working in the clinic or the emergency room isn’t your thing, you might choose to pursue one of the surgical specialties. These specialties are often higher paid, although they do come with more hours and more pressure. Surgical specialists vary, with doctors in rural areas performing a wider variety of surgeries, and doctors in more academic centres working on only one.

Although there are some differences and a wide variety of options to choose, the surgical specialties as a whole do earn more money than the more generalized disciplines like family medicine or emergency medicine. These specializations typically require an additional five years after residency in a Royal College approved training program.

Different surgical specialties will typically vary in their doctor starting salary. For example, eye doctor salary is $791,000 per year in Canada, making them the highest paid doctors in the medical profession. General surgeons also rank near the top of the list, earning an average salary of $490,000 per year, with other surgical professions, like orthopedic doctors, who earn a salary of $438,000, coming in lower down the list.

Some surgical specializations can be part of a mixed clinical/surgical practice, where you will both see patients and perform surgeries. These include specializations like obstetrics/gynecology or pediatric oncology, where you will not only perform surgical procedures but also see patients in a clinical environment. Obstetricians (baby delivery doctors) earn a doctor starting salary of $392,000 per year, and pediatric oncologist doctors earn a salary around $299,000.

3. Medical Specialties

If you are looking to specialize but don’t want to be a surgeon, there are lots of medical specialties that will still allow you to spend plenty of time in a clinical setting. These specialties, like internal medicine, neurology, and pain management, are more specialized than family medicine or emergency room doctors, but still involve a mainly clinical setting.

After completing medical school, most medical specialties require a three years of additional training in their specialty, with an additional two years of subspecialty training. The average doctor starting salary by specialty for medical specializations is $363,000, which covers many medical specializations, like pain management doctors. There are also other specializations included in that field, with different salaries. Internal medicine doctor starting salary is $404,000 per year, and neurologists earn an average $311,000 per year.

4. Psychiatric Specialties

Another one of the medical specializations is psychiatry – psychiatrists need to be compassionate and good at connecting to their patients. They should also have a keen interest in biochemistry and enjoy the social and psychological aspects of the practice.

While the average psychiatric doctor salary is on the lower end in terms of billing, it is possible to earn a higher doctor starting salary in the field of psychiatry through positions in academic settings or as salaried employees of hospitals and other institutions. Psychiatric doctor salary is an average of $311,000 per year.

5. Academic Specialties

If you are finding that you enjoy school, you might consider working in a more academic or research driven practice instead of in a clinical setting. You could choose this because you enjoy teaching students, have a strong research interest in a specific area, or because you simply enjoy learning at a higher academic level.

If you choose this route, you will likely follow your residency period with a fellowship in the research area of your choice. Fellowship doctors earn a salary of $50,000-70,000 per year, although this can vary considerably based on how many years it has been since you were in medical school. If you’re right out of your medical training, you will likely earn on the low end of this scale. Resident doctor salary is around $60,000 per year, so if you do extend your research time, you won’t have too much of a jump from your first year doctor starting salary.

However, if you’ve been training in your specialty for many years, supplementary income like research grants could provide you with an amount over and above your normal clinical salary when you are further on in your career.  Broadening your academic knowledge base can open up new career paths outside of the clinical setting as well – for example, public health doctors work with institutions like governments to help design policy to keep populations healthy. Public health doctor salary is around $350,000.

6. Alternative Specialties

If none of the main medical specialties interest you, don’t worry – there are plenty of other options available for you to put your medical degree to good use! These include areas you might not have considered, like naturopathy or functional medicine.

Mainstream medicine doesn’t have to be at odds with these alternative methods. In fact, blending your medical degree with accreditation from alternative bodies like the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine could be a good way to differentiate your practice from other doctors. Naturopathic doctors emphasize preventative medicine and the ability for the body to heal itself.

Naturopathic doctor salary in Canada is around $50-100,000 per year, although they do not typically have medical degrees. If you have been to medical school you should expect to earn income more typical of a family doctor – around $280,000 per year – as many doctors blend their traditional and naturopathic practices to provide a wider range of services to their patients.

Functional medicine doctors perform a similar role, offering this blended practice to patients looking to optimize factors like diet, supplementation, and exercise as alternative methods to traditional medicine. Functional medicine doctor salary is similar to other forms of natural medical practice at a salary of around $100,000 per year.

7. Physical and Rehabilitation Specializations

If you’re in medical school but are finding yourself especially interested in how the body and its muscles function, you could set yourself up in a career like chiropractic medicine, physiotherapy, or sports medicine.

Like naturopaths, chiropractic doctors do not usually go to medical school, and so typically have a lower salary. However, like the other alternative forms of medicine, chiropractic doctor salary can be blended with traditional medical practice. For example, you could earn a typical family doctor salary and do chiropractic work as part of your practice. Chiropractic doctor salary in Canada is between $85,000-100,000 per year; a portion of this could potentially be added to your clinical salary to increase your earnings.

Another avenue you could pursue as a new medical school graduate is physiotherapy or sports medicine. This form of medical practice requires medical experience in many different subjects and subspecialties and is an area you could get involved with more academic research. It is a broad field focused on managing neuromusculoskeletal disorders for patients of all ages.

Like other medical specializations, focusing on physical and rehabilitative medicine will require about five years of residency training after medical school. There are plenty of non-financial benefits to this career choice – 82% of doctors focusing on physical and rehabilitative medicine are satisfied with their professional career.

 The average sports medicine doctor salary or a doctor of physiotherapy will depend on whether you work for a larger organization or in private practice. The majority of doctors practicing physical and rehabilitative medicine work in a hospital setting, and over half of them report satisfaction with their work life balance. Sports medicine doctor salary gross is around $318,000 per year. Overhead in hospital settings is around 19%, putting sports medicine doctor starting salary at around $222,400.


As you can see, the specialization you choose will have a big impact on what you can ultimately earn from your career in medicine. While a doctor’s starting salary is important, so are other factors like work-life balance, on-call time, and the amount of enjoyment you have from the job. Specialties with a higher doctor starting salary often require more years of schooling, so you’ll need to balance the opportunity cost of these extra years of school with the future financial benefit. Remember, whichever specialty you choose, a medical career is a great choice for your financial future!

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Kristen Campbell
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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