Becoming a doctor is no small feat, and it takes a combination of talent, drive and commitment to achieve. It also offers the lifelong reward of being able to help those in need throughout an engaging and stimulating career.
If you want to become a physician, the path starts with the right education. This short guide will explain the required education and licensing involved in becoming a medical doctor in Canada.
After high school, students often have a tough time deciding which undergraduate schools and programs they should apply to in order to reach their career goals. For students who dream of becoming a doctor, the obvious choice is a pre-med bachelor’s degree.
But did you know that matriculating into this type of undergraduate program is not an absolute requirement for acceptance to a medical school?
All medical schools have their own list of admission requirements and prerequisite courses, most of which are in science. But if a student can demonstrate strong academic performance in science courses, such as chemistry and biology, it shows medical school admissions committees that they have the skills to succeed in medical school, even if they didn’t focus on pre-med as an undergrad.
An undergraduate degree from an accredited university with a focus on science is the best foundation for prospective medical students to build from.
Medical school consists of a four-year program that exposes students to all aspects of medical practice. Medical school has two distinct stages; the first two years are quite different from the second two years.
Specific curricula vary between medical schools, but the first two years are not much different in structure than pre-med or other undergraduate programs. Students divide their time between the lab and the classroom to advance their scientific understanding, while learning the fundamentals of patient care and medical practice.
During their third and fourth years, medical students work on rotations in clinics and hospitals to learn how the major medical specialities work in practice. During the later stages of medical school, students have more freedom to pick the rotations that are of interest to them and determine what kind of residency fits with their long-term interests and goals.
Canadian Medical Schools
Within Canada, there are only 17 medical schools to choose from. Each year, there is intense competition for places, so applications to Canadian medical schools require a very high GPA and Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) score if they hope to be accepted.
As recently as 2019, there were 14,644 applicants to Canadian medical schools, but only 2,640 places were filled. This still means that over 80% of the applicants were rejected, creating a situation that leaves many excellent Canadian students without a local medical school option.
Caribbean Medical Schools
Top-tier Caribbean medical schools, such as the American University of Antigua College of Medicine, are an attractive destination for Canadian students because they offer an excellent level of education and significantly higher acceptance rates.
In general, Carribean medical school requirements are comparable to those in Canada. But, the AUA College of Medicine uses a more holistic approach to help ensure fairness and diversity in their admissions process. This approach includes the use of a situational judgement test, called the Casper Test, to help identify the interpersonal qualities that are needed to become a doctor. Also, medical school applicants from Canada are exempted from MCAT score requirements for admission.
The next step on the journey to become a doctor in Canada is the licensing component.
Each Canadian province and territory is governed by its own regional health authority:
- Collège des médecins du Québec
- College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta
- College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia
- College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba
- College of Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick
- College of Physicians and Surgeons of Newfoundland & Labrador
- College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia
- College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario
- College of Physicians and Surgeons of Prince Edward Island
- College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan
- Government of Northwest Territories
- Government of Nunavut
- Yukon Medical Council
More than a simple licensing exam, this process involves several different stakeholders, each playing a role to make sure that anyone who becomes a doctor in Canada is held to a high standard of education, training, practice and care.
As stipulated by the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada, the requirements to be eligible for full licensure in all Canada provinces and territories are as follows:
- Obtaining a medical degree from an international institution listed in the World Directory of Medical Schools;
- Obtaining a degree from an American medical school accredited by the American Osteopathic Association Commission;
- Obtaining a degree from medical school in the U.S. or Canada accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education or Committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools;
- Becoming a Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada;
- Following the completion of a postgraduate residency program and obtaining a successful evaluation by a regional health authority;
- Receiving certification by either the the College of Family Physicians of Canada, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, or the Collège des médecins du Québec; or
- Passing the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examinations
Completing a residency program is the last step required to prepare new doctors for independent practice. These programs help recent graduates learn from more experienced physicians and transition from medical students to medical doctors.
Depending on the particular field, and potential sub-specialty, residency training can last as little as two years for family medicine or up to six years for highly specialized research doctors.
Anyone who plans to complete a residency program in Canada will need to have legal residency status (permanent resident or citizen), complete the National Assessment Collaboration (NAC) exam, and potentially relocate to meet the eligibility requirements of the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS).
Becoming a fully licensed doctor in Canada is the result of many years of commitment, but it is only the beginning. A career in allopathic medicine is one of life-long learning, so it might be some time before you find the medical practice that aligns with your ultimate goals.
But along the way, you will get the chance to help patients in need and contribute to the health of your community by overcoming challenges and solving important problems.
If You Want to Become a Doctor in Canada, Consider Medical School in the Carribean
For young Canadians who dream of a career in medicine, AUA’s MD program offers a high-quality education that will make them eligible for residency and licensing in Canada.
Canadian students at AUA are also eligible for Canadian scholarships, loans and bursaries. These resources, along with manageable tuition fees and a holistic admissions process, are why AUA is an accessible and affordable way to start your path to becoming a doctor in Canada.
Click here for more information about AUA’s MD program