Is family practice right for you? You may have narrowed down your options for specialization, and have decided on family practice. Family medicine practitioners focus medical care on the individual patient, delivering services to a wide variety of demographics, genders, and ages. They are called on to deal with medical problems in their early stages and provide more general and preventative care to their patient. As a general practitioner (GP) you will be your patient’s first point of contact on a medical issue, and a trusted source of guidance on their medical problems.
To become a family doctor in Canada, you must first complete medical school and then become certified with the College of Family Physicians in Canada (CFPC), which requires an additional two years of training. Residents in family medicine programs will learn the ropes in a variety of family practice settings, like general surgery, pediatrics, and emergency medicine, with the intention of developing a generalized medical skillset applicable to a wide variety of situations.
In Canada, the majority of medical students choose to be family doctors – 34% in 2018 according to CIHI. These physicians are often drawn to becoming a family doctor due to the more flexible hours, the work life balance, and the personal relationship available with their patients. There are plenty of non-monetary benefits for this choice. Family doctors are able to spend more time with each patient, enjoy happier lives, and report less workplace stress – 74% of family doctors say they are satisfied with their current professional life, and over half of them are satisfied with their work life balance.
Working as a family doctor also allows you the option of opening your own practice, giving you even more flexibility over how much you will work. Per the Canadian Medical Association, over 50% of family doctors operate out of a group or solo practice, working an average of 49 hours per week.
So what is the average family doctor salary in Canada? The answer depends on which province you live in, the amount of patients you expect to see, and whether you take part in any alternative payment arrangements beyond the fee for services model. Here are some facts about family doctors across the country:
Family Doctor Salaries in Canada
On average, family doctors earn less in Canada than they do in the United States. This is because of our single payer healthcare model, which lets provincial governments set out the fees doctors are able to charge. Doctors in Canada earn fees on a per patient basis, which are then billed to and reimbursed to the respective provincial government. This means the rate that they earn per patient depends on their specialization and the medical issue required. Doctor yearly salary in Canada will be the total amount they bill during each given year.
The average doctor salary in Canada is directly correlated to the number of patients that you see. However, there are other options for family doctors in Canada to earn money from alternative payment arrangements, which are becoming increasingly popular across the provinces. These arrangements are more common for family doctors compared to other professions, and can include salary arrangements or contract work designed to smooth out income in areas with fewer patients or to compensate doctors for procedures that are more time consuming. According to the CMA, 39% of family physicians take advantage of some of these alternative payment arrangements, blended with a fee for service model.
Family doctor salary in Canada is between $211,000 – $281,000, depending on the province where you operate. Family doctor starting salary is around $250,000 and increases with the level of experience and the number of patients that you see. Of course, this number will also increase as you progress in your career, and depend on which province you would like to work.
Family Doctor Salaries in Ontario
The salary of a family doctor in Ontario depends on many of the same factors that influence salary across the other provinces. In Ontario, doctor’s fees are set by OHIP. Doctors will bill OHIP for each patient that they see, and earn money accordingly. Like other provinces, the Fee for Service model is the most commonly used option, however Enhanced Fee for Service systems like Comprehensive Care Models and Family Health Groups are also popular, which provide incentives, premiums, and bonuses for providing services to certain patients.
Ontario also offers doctors the option to be part of a Family Health Network or Family Health Organization, where doctors receive the majority of their income through capitation payments for providing a defined set of services to their patients. These bonuses and premiums are billed through the FFS model and are made available for the provision of certain care options, like prenatal care and chronic disease management.
Similar to other provinces, doctors in Ontario can also take advantage of extra incentives for living in rural areas, like the Northern and Rural Recruitment and Retention Initiative, which provides doctors willing to work in certain communities in Northern Ontario with grants between $80,000-117,000 paid out to doctors over the course of four years. The amount of these grants will depend on how remote the area is, and will be added on to the doctor’s yearly salary.
As of 2018, Ontario had just under 250 physicians per 100,000 people, which is similar to other large provinces. According to CIHI, the average family doctor salary in Ontario is $309,000.
Family Doctor Salaries in Alberta
Medicine doctor salary in Canada will depend on the area you live, and Alberta is no different. Family doctor salary in Calgary will not be the same as a family doctor working in a rural area or further north. Alberta doctor’s fees are set by Alberta Health Services (AHS) and are mainly provided on the fee-for-service model. However, doctors are allowed to earn income from other sources, like the worker’s compensation board or private insurers. Like in Ontario, family doctors in Alberta can choose to be part of alternative payment plans like Primary Care Networks.
Programs like the Rural, Remote, Northern program in Alberta provide premiums for Albertan doctors working in eligible communities; these include flat-fee payments for physicians who practice and also reside in these northern or rural communities. Doctors willing to service these remote areas are able to earn an additional $50,000 more per year than the typical GP doctor salary in Canada, making them an excellent choice for physicians who are just out of medical school – often, these programs also come with student loan incentives that allow you to recoup some of your loan investment by working there.
Family doctor salary in Alberta is over $300,000 according to the CIHI report, and there are just under 250 physicians per 100,000 Albertans.
Family Doctor Salaries in BC
As seen in the other provinces, BC family doctor salary will depend on where you live, how many patients you see, and whether you are part of any innovative or alternative care arrangements to earn additional money. BC doctors can choose between using the standard fee for service model, alternative payments programs, and the rural practice program. The fee for service model is similar to other provinces in that physicians can bill the BC health authority for each patient they see, with payments varying based on the specialization and the service provided.
In the alternative payments program, doctors can choose between service agreements and sessional arrangements. Service agreements are contracts made between the BC Ministry of Health and a health authority, which will retain the physician through salary or contract employment. These are useful when a physician is required for a program operating on a full time basis. Sessional arrangements are based on direct contracts between the physician and the health authority, and allow the physician to bill themselves out at a defined rate in 3.5 hour sessions.
BC physicians can also take advantage of the Rural Retention Program, which is intended to get doctors to service more remote areas of BC. Under this program, doctors are paid 30% of their fee as a flat fee, and the remaining 70% as part of the fee for services model. Like other provinces, these incentive programs will allow rural doctors to earn a higher premium for their services than the general doctor salary in Canada.
Average BC family doctor salary is $217,000. Similar to Alberta, there are 250 BC doctors to every 100,000 residents.
Family doctors are an invaluable part of Canada’s medical system, and medical students who choose this path can expect a great deal of benefits, both financial and otherwise. While the fee for services model appears to be the most popular way to earn a family doctor salary in Canada, alternative payment methods are being increasingly used to increase income for physicians, and are popular ways for family doctors to increase their salary.
Despite provincial differences in income, the salary for a family doctor in Canada remains steady and competitive – making this specialization a popular choice for many Canadian medical students.
This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by RBC Ventures Inc. or its affiliates.