Getting a Job as an International Doctor in Canada

Kristen Campbell
Oct. 28, 2021
10-minute read

For international doctors, the Canadian job market can seem daunting – especially when you’re applying, interviewing, and finding job opportunities from outside of the country. If you’re an international doctor wondering how to be a physician in Canada, you’ve probably already thought about the process of getting accredited and licensed as a doctor. But what about finding a job? Here are some things you’ll need to keep in mind about how to be a physician in Canada:

Start the Process Early

Whether you’re looking through a recruiter or job hunting on your own, eliminate some of your stress by starting well in advance of when you want to move. Even if you get a job right away, the timeline of how to be a physician in Canada and get your citizenship or permanent residency documents in place can be around 12-18 months, so commitment and a good attitude is essential. Keeping your eye on the end goal can help you through frustrating delays and give you something to work towards – after all, good things take time!

Finish Your Residency

If you’re a physician from an approved country, your residency period after medical school might be considered equivalent to Canadian physician’s – so if you’re still in school, this is something to keep in mind. Part of how to be a physician in Canada is completing a residency position, and Canadian spots are competitive – especially for international doctors, who may compete for only a small portion of the total residency spots available. Even if you know you’d like to practice in Canada well in advance of your medical school graduation, Canada is one country where completing your training in your home country is a good idea. 

For doctors outside of the approved countries, this process can be considerably more difficult – some international medical schools suggest taking Canadian elective placements, getting fellowships, and spending time networking with other doctors before you apply. Keeping specialization in mind as well – internal medicine residencies make up 41% of the total residency slots offered, with family doctor residencies taking up another 29%, with other specialties offering much smaller slices of the pie. If you’re an international medical graduate in a highly specialized medical field, you might want to do extra preparation or research before entering the country – look into job opportunities, connect with other doctors, or apply for fellowships in order to give yourself the best possible chance of success in finding a role. 

Pick a Province

Canada is a large and diverse country, and some provinces have more opportunities for international doctors than others. Where you settle will also depend on your specialization – some provinces, like Nova Scotia or British Columbia – have programs in place to recruit international family doctors. Other provinces, like Ontario, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan, have a number of universities and a large population (Ontario and Quebec have the largest number of family doctors), in addition to their own recruitment programs for international graduates. Where you will end up will depend on both your lifestyle preference and the need for doctors with your skills and training. 

Although demand for doctors in Canada is high no matter where you are, more highly specialized physicians might have better luck in larger city centres, while more generalized specialties may want to take advantage of rural opportunities, which can be plentiful (and highly paid). 

If you’re not sure where to start, taking a look at the job opportunities in different provinces – for example, family doctor roles in BC and Ontario – can help you get a sense of how the salary might change from province to province. Doing some additional research into cost of living and rent will give you an even clearer picture of what you’ll take home. 

Shop the Job Boards (or Hire a Recruiter)

Depending on the time you have available and your willingness to jump into the job hunt yourself, it’s entirely possible to finish the process without hiring anyone to help. However, if you’re finding it frustrating, you’re short on time, or you don’t know where to begin, it never hurts to have a professional around.

In general, medical jobs can be found on provincial recruitment sites, as well as on medical job boards (like CaSPR or MDWork) or even sites like LinkedIn or Indeed

Keep in mind that in some provinces, like Alberta or BC, the provincial government body (and not private clinics or companies) are the only ones who are eligible to sponsor candidates for immigration. This means that it can be more difficult to find a job in these provinces if you’re applying straight from your home country. 

There are two ways to get around this – the first one is proving your skills are specialized and in-demand, which means applying to Immigration Canada for a Labour Market Impact Assessment. This is an application filled out by your potential employer, demonstrating that no Canadian residents suitable for the role could be found. If you’re very specialized – or if you’re seeking out a rural job opportunity – this could be an option. The other option is applying through one of the regular immigration streams (like Express Entry and the Federal Skilled Worker Program) and looking for jobs after you’ve received your permanent residency status. This way, you can start off on equal footing to other applicants. Otherwise, you’ll need to see if you can find a position through the provincial recruitment sites linked above. 

Ace the Interview

Depending on where in the world you’re coming from, the interview process can have its own ups and downs. You might be working with a time difference – which could mean interviewing late at night or early in the morning – or juggling multiple interviewers over video chat software, all while navigating a cultural environment that might look different from the one in your home country. 

If you’re getting ready to interview, it’s a good idea to review the job posting (or any notes or emails that went between you and the recruiter describing the role) beforehand. This can give you a better idea of what the job is looking for. Every interview will be different, but in general, you should be prepared to talk about your medical/clinical training, the things that interest you about the job, your achievements as a doctor, and your work within your specialty. You should also consider some answers to questions about working alone vs. working in a group, your least favourite part of the job, or an example of a tough professional situation. And don’t be afraid to ask questions of them as well – as an international doctor, you will likely want to know about the practice environment, the types and numbers of patients you will see, and any questions you might have about sponsorship (like whether the company, clinic, or hospital will help you apply for residency) or any other specifics about the role. 

Use Your Network

You don’t have to do it alone! Even if you’ve never met another Canadian doctor, someone in your professional network – whether it’s a University professor, a colleague, or a friend – might have some information about what it’s like to live and work in Canada as a doctor. People in your network can connect you to good recruiters, make recommendations for work opportunities, or help you choose the province where you’d like to live. 

As a physician, you probably have a more developed network then you realize – all those years of medical school, conferences, and clinical practice could come in handy when it comes to a professional network that will help you navigate the process of moving to Canada. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other doctors who have made the move – having a firsthand account of what it took to be a physician in Canada, where they chose to live, or what they liked about the country can all be helpful to you in making decisions along the way. They might also have information that can help you in the interview or application process – so don’t be shy about asking for help!

Even though starting the job hunt can seem daunting, doctors are a highly in-demand profession in Canada, and there are no shortage of opportunities for physicians from coast to coast. With a little research and some time, you could be well on your way to your dream job in Canada – and it might even be easier than you think.

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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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