When you’re deciding on the specialization you will eventually choose, it’s important to consider the demand for doctors in Canada. While the supply of doctors is at a record high, mismatches in physician skills and locations leave certain areas and specializations underserved, while others are oversupplied.
Are there enough positions in the area where you want to work? Is your specialty in high demand in a particular area? Whether you have a specific specialty in mind or you’ve just got an idea of what you might like, we’ve pulled together 20 of the most in demand specializations, using a recent study by the Ontario Medical Students Association on the demand for doctors in Canada, combined with salary and retirement data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
1. Family Medicine
The most popular specialization for Canadian medical students is family medicine. This comes as no surprise, given that family medicine is one of the shorter routes to clinical practice, it comes with flexible work hours, and lets you get one on one with your patients, helping them in their day to day lives.
Family doctors have the largest supply per capita, with 122 family doctors per 100,000 of population. However, despite this large supply, they are one of the most in demand specializations. The reasons for this are fairly simple – not everyone needs a specialist, but virtually every patient needs at least occasional access to a family doctor. There are also plenty of different work opportunities for doctors who want to work in family medicine – you could choose to open your own practice, work for a large hospital or institution, or work in a remote area to take advantage of student loan forgiveness programs. The demand for doctors in Canada who practice family medicine will likely remain steady over the years to come.
The average family doctor earns a gross salary of $281,000 per year.
Similar to family medicine, pediatrics represents a large field of patients, as most children will eventually have or require a good pediatrician. Generalized pediatricians in particular will have no trouble finding a position that matches their skills, as they are usually generalized and transferable. A very small number of pediatricians require additional training before going out into the workforce.
The average pediatrician earns a gross salary of $299,000 per year.
General pathologists are laboratory specialists who manage laboratories and work with clinical physicians to focus on the causes and manifestations of disease. They might be autopsy specialists, surgical pathologists, medical microbiologists, or transfusion specialists. These specialists select and interpret diagnostic tests, and manage laboratory settings. This specialty is retiring in large numbers and as they are integral to the medical profession, will always need new supply.
The average pathologist earns a gross salary of $308,000 per year.
4. Cardiothoracic Surgery
According to CIHI, almost half of cardiothoracic surgeons are over 65 years old, which means plenty of job openings for new graduates, although residency programs are competitive and employment often requires additional training. Cardiothoracic surgeons deal with surgeries of the heart, pericardium, and vessels. They help patients with congenital and acquired diseases of the chest wall, heart, trachea, and esophagus.
The average cardiothoracic surgeon earns a gross salary of $599,000 per year.
5. Occupational Medicine
Occupational medicine focuses on prevention – through both a clinical and administrative focus, occupational medicine specialists deal with the health and well being of individuals and groups when it comes to the occupational dangers associated with work. They work to prevent health problems caused by poor working conditions and protect the mental and physical health of employees.
Occupational medicine is a relatively new sub-specialty – it was introduced in 2006 – however, almost half the existing specialists in this field are over 65, making it the perfect discipline for a new doctor to choose.
The average doctor in occupational medicine earns a gross salary of $350,000 per year.
Anesthesiologists are another in-demand branch of medicine in Canadian medical centres, as the role of anesthesiologist is increasingly required for surgical procedures. Anesthesiologists find work in hospitals in both a research and community setting, and almost 40% of doctors already working in the field are nearing retirement.
The average anesthesiologist earns a gross salary of $431,000 per year.
Dermatologists handle a wide range of disorders of the skin, mouth, hair, and nails. They handle a variety of medical situations and often combine their clinical practice with surgery or other forms of specialization. It is an attractive specialization in terms of work-life balance, and although residency positions have become more difficult to obtain in recent years, employment prospects seem especially good.
The average dermatologist earns a gross salary of $385,000 per year.
8. Emergency Medicine
Although there has been steady growth in the number of physicians who choose emergency medicine, there is still a great need for specialist trained emergency medical professionals in recent years. Emergency medicine professionals work in the ER, taking care of a wide and ever changing range of patients and medical scenarios.
The average emergentologist earns a gross salary of $281,000 per year.
9. Internal Medicine
Like family medicine or pediatrics, internal medicine is in demand because of its broad use. Internal medicine specialists can diagnose and care for any of the organ systems, and although residency positions have been competitive in recent years, employment prospects remain good.
The average internist earns a gross salary of $404,000 per year.
Neurology has been a popular choice for graduates, especially for physicians who want to work in an academic, rather than a clinical, setting. These positions have become slightly more competitive in recent years, owing to a much younger physician mix than other disciplines. Nonetheless, the demand for doctors in Canada who specialize in neurology is growing and most students will find work after graduation without further training.
The average neurologist earns a gross salary of $311,000 per year.
11. Allergists and Immunologists
Employment prospects for allergists and immunologists are good. This is not expected to change, especially given the recent health crisis, and they may see considerable growth in upcoming years. Allergists and immunologists also have about a third of their population approaching retirement age, which means there is plenty of room for new openings in the future.
The average allergist/immunologist earns a gross salary of $404,000 per year.
As one of the highest paying medical specialties, ophthalmology is one of the most competitive residency positions. This is not likely to change any time soon. However, once residency has been completed, there is plenty of demand for doctors in Canada coming in the next decade for the profession, especially with an aging population and the rising demand for procedures like cataract surgeries.
The average ophthalmologist earns a gross salary of $761,000 per year.
13. Rehabilitative Medicine/Sports Medicine
Job prospects for doctors working in rehabilitative medicine or sports medicine are excellent. This is expected to continue going forward, especially because these specialties typically do not require hospital resources to operate. Graduates in these programs seldom have trouble finding work after graduation.
The average sports medicine doctor earns a gross salary of $278,000 per year.
14. Geriatric Medicine
With an aging population, doctors who specialize in geriatric medicine are needed more than ever in Canada. These positions typically operate in a health sciences setting rather than a clinical one, and face not only an increased job market but also less competitive residency positions. They will see a growing job market in coming years and growth in the profession is expected to continue as demand for doctors in Canada grows.
The average geriatric medicine doctor earns a gross salary between $230,000-395,000 per year.
Rheumatology is concerned with the treatment of autoimmune diseases and diseases of the joints, muscles, and skeleton. About half of rheumatologists work in academic positions, with the other half operating in the healthcare field. They are currently experiencing a boom in the job market, and this is likely to continue in future years as demand for doctors in Canada continues to expand.
The average rheumatologist earns a gross salary of $404,000 per year.
16. Pharmacology/Toxicology Medicine
Pharmacologists study drugs and their origins, and often work in a laboratory management setting. There are plenty of job openings in this specialization, especially since the bulk of practitioners in these fields are over 55, which means many job openings may open up in the coming years.
The average pharmacologist/toxicologist earns a gross salary of $308,000 per year.
Hematology is a subspecialty of internal medicine and is concerned with the treatment and prevention of diseases of the blood. This is an increasingly popular specialty, with plenty of job openings becoming available. However, residency positions remain competitive, so new doctors should be prepared to seek additional training.
The average hematologist earns a gross salary of $404,000 per year.
The demand has been steadily increasing for doctors who choose obstetrics/gynecology in recent years, however this is another area where residency positions are competitive. Most OB/GYN specialists work in the private practice setting and often choose to pursue additional training following graduation.
The average OB/GYN earns a gross salary of $392,000 per year.
19. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Plastic and reconstructive surgeons work on repairing major burns, cosmetic procedures, or correcting congenital defects. Employment prospects in the plastic and reconstructive surgery field are good according to the OMSA study, although the vast majority of physicians will choose to do further training and study in the field before finding employment. Most plastic surgeons work out of private practice.
The average plastic surgeon earns a gross salary of $386,000 per year.
Over half of existing psychiatrists are over 55, which means many of them will be retiring in recent years. Psychiatry is a popular discipline both in private medicine and in a hospital setting, and residency positions are less competitive than in other disciplines.
The average psychiatrist earns a gross salary of $287,000 per year.
For more on choosing a specialty check out our guide on How to Choose your Specialty (and its earning potential).