Why Doctors Should Choose to Practise Medicine in Canada

Al Zizek
Apr. 10, 2024
8-minute read

Choosing where to practise medicine is a significant decision for doctors. It impacts career trajectory, lifestyle and overall work-life satisfaction. In recent years, the unique features of the Canadian medical landscape have made Canada an attractive destination for international physicians seeking rewarding medical opportunities.

Medical career opportunities in Canada

Whether you are already a licensed physician in the country you currently reside in, are still in medical school or just beginning to explore a career in medicine, Canada is a great place to consider as it offers a wide range of medical career opportunities across various specialties and healthcare settings.

There are a number of key advantages of Canada’s healthcare system for physicians. Medicare, Canada’s healthcare system, is renowned for its universal coverage, providing access to essential medical services for all residents, regardless of income or insurance coverage. This commitment to healthcare for all citizens helps ensure that physicians can focus on delivering quality care without concerns about a patient’s ability to pay. The government-funded healthcare system itself is stable and guarantees doctors reliable income. Compared to the U.S., malpractice lawsuits are less common and the cost of malpractice insurance is significantly cheaper due to government subsidies.

Demand for doctors is exceeding supply

Whether in metropolitan areas or rural communities, there is an increasing demand for skilled physicians to address healthcare needs across the country. From primary care to specialized fields such as cardiology and oncology, doctors in Canada have the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on patients’ lives while earning a substantial income and advancing their professional growth.

Although the growth rate of the physician population outpaced Canada’s general population from 2003 to 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic, a growing population and aging demographics has affected healthcare resources across the country. Hospitals are nearing capacity, some surgical procedures are being delayed, and many Canadians are having challenges accessing a family doctor.

The Ontario College of Family Physicians (OCFP), has a few key recommendations to improve access to primary care, including increasing family medicine residency spots, lessening the burden of administrative work and fast-tracking foreign-trained doctors to practise in Ontario.

Quality of life is another reason to choose Canada for your medical career

Canada’s reputation for safety, stability and high quality of life makes it an attractive destination for doctors seeking a supportive and welcoming environment to work and live.

Canada was ranked as the second-best country in the world in 2023 according to a study conducted by U.S. News., WPP and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. The rankings involved 17,000 citizens in 87 countries and was based on several factors, ranging from a country's economy, cultural influence, social impact and the quality of life experienced by its residents. Canada also continually ranks high as one of the safest and most peaceful countries in the world with low rates of crime.

More Canadian advantages for physicians

Another notable advantage for physicians seeking a fulfilling career in Canada is the country’s diverse and multicultural population, providing doctors with opportunities to work with patients from various backgrounds and cultures. This exposure enriches the practice of medicine, enhancing doctors’ professional development and personal growth. Conversely, Canada’s vast geography offers opportunities for doctors to practise in urban centres, rural communities or remote regions, catering to various personal preferences and career aspirations.

Canada’s progressive healthcare policies and investments in medical technology, research, education and training ensure best practices to deliver high-quality healthcare and ongoing professional development and career advancement opportunities for physicians.

Canada offers leading compensation packages, including competitive salaries, comprehensive benefits and favourable work-life balance arrangements. Along with lower insurance and operational costs, the gap between doctor salaries in Canada and the U.S. has gradually been narrowing. According to the Government of Canada Job Bank, the median annual salary for a General Practitioner (GP) in Canada is $233,726 (CAD).

Achieving work-life balance is also becoming more important. In fact, Canadian doctors are working less now than they did 30 years ago. According to a study from the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), the decline is due to married male physicians who are putting in fewer hours. The paper found that male physicians accounted for 83 per cent of the reduction in physician work hours that occurred between 1987 and 2021.

Physician relocation benefits in Canada

For doctors considering relocating to Canada, there are numerous benefits and incentives available to facilitate a smooth transition and support healthcare workers with education, expenses and relocation allowance to establish their careers. These benefits, which include streamlined immigration processes for physicians to obtain work permits and permanent residency, can vary by province and organization, so it is recommended to check with the provincial health authority or specific organization for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

The Canada Loan Forgiveness Program offers loan forgiveness to eligible recent graduates, family doctors and residents in family medicine who work in underserved rural or remote communities that lack primary healthcare. For example, permanent and temporary placements may be eligible for financial relocation assistance in return for two years of service.

Organizations that support International Medical Graduates (IMGs) include Health Force Ontario (HFO), Alberta International Medical Graduates Association (AIMGA), Association of International Medical Doctors of British Columbia (AIMDBC) and the Society Of Canadians Studying Medicine Abroad (SOCASMA). They are also helpful resources for physicians relocating to Canada who do not have Canadian citizenship or permanent residency status. The Department of Health and Wellness in Nova Scotia has incentive programs that help doctors transition into a new life in Nova Scotia. Family physicians and specialists may be eligible for a relocation allowance of up to $10,000 and can earn up to $125,000 in incentives over a five-year period.

Unique features of the Canadian medical landscape

The Canadian medical landscape is characterized by several unique features that contribute to its attractiveness for international doctors. IMGs make up about one-quarter of Canada’s doctors. For some provinces, this ratio is even higher — 46 per cent in Saskatchewan and 38 per cent in Newfoundland and Labrador (Canadian Institute for Health Information).

Responsible for ensuring a high standard of medical care in Canada, the Medical Council of Canada (MCC) validates medical credentials from around the world, delivers assessments to assist medical graduates on their pathway to licensure and gives medical regulators confidence to make licensing decisions based on candidate examination results.

Part of the process in becoming a physician in Canada is completing a residency position. IMGs can apply for a limited number of residency positions (around 400 positions each year) through the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS). CaRMS is a national, independent, not-for-profit, fee-for-service organization that provides an objective and transparent application and matching service for medical training throughout Canada. Since residence spots are very competitive, completing your medical training in your home country may be more advantageous to gaining employment.

Support and resources for physician transition

As Canada’s healthcare sector continues to face labour challenges, federal and provincial governments are taking steps to address them by investing in projects that will help provide internationally educated professionals with support and resources to help doctors transition to and establish their careers in Canada.

While it can take 12 to 18 months or more to receive Canadian citizenship or permanent residency documents, there are new programs offering accelerated licensing for internationally trained doctors and specialists. In September of 2022, the federal government announced that it would introduce measures to facilitate the entry of foreign national physicians as permanent residents through Canada’s Express Entry system. The Government of Canada is also working with provinces and territories, and other key partners, to address healthcare workforce challenges. Budget 2023 outlined the government’s plan to invest close to $200 billion to improve healthcare for Canadians.

To help with a healthcare labour shortfall, Employment and Social Development Canada approved up to $86 million in 15 projects for the Foreign Credentials Recognition (FCR) Program.

The SMART Initiative from Alberta Health Services aims to provide employment support and develop system improvements to address the challenges associated with the integration of Internationally trained health professionals (IEHP) into the healthcare system, with a goal to place IEHPs into healthcare positions aligned with their career goals and skills. The Alberta International Medical Graduates Association is trying to improve labour market integration of IMGs by integrating with job platforms like Indeed to promote Canada-wide job placements, increasing mentors through employment engagements and adding additional career options.

Alberta aims to fast track licensing for international medical graduates from recognized institutions. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) announced a five-year pilot in 2023 to bring more doctors to the province faster. The pilot program will waive certain requirements, such as clinical review exams and the first three-month assessment for IMGs who have comparable training to that obtained in Canadian universities. Those who qualify will then go directly to their identified communities and begin practising independently while completing their supervised practice assessment. Approved jurisdictions for internationally trained family doctors and general practitioners include Australia, Ireland, United Kingdom and the U.S. For specialists, the list of countries is broader and includes Singapore, Switzerland, Hong Kong and South Africa.

To address the current shortage of primary-care practitioners, the government of Ontario has allocated $9 million in the 2024 provincial budget to create a new medical school dedicated to training family doctors.


From getting accredited and licensed as a doctor in Canada to finding job opportunities and applying for them, getting a job as an international doctor may seem daunting. However, Canada offers an abundance of medical career opportunities, advantages and benefits that make it an attractive destination for physicians worldwide.

From a universal healthcare system and competitive compensation to a multicultural population and commitment to innovation, Canada provides a supportive and rewarding environment for doctors to thrive professionally and personally. And with physician relocation benefits and other resources to facilitate career establishment, Canada stands out as a premier destination for doctors seeking a fulfilling and impactful medical career.

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Al Zizek, Senior Content Writer and Marketing Strategist
Al Zizek is a senior content writer and marketing strategist with experience in healthcare, financial services and technology. A creative dreamer, driver and doer who has worked with some of the most recognized brands in Canada, Al is a passionate storyteller, results-driven communicator and pop culture enthusiast.
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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 RBCx or its affiliates.

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