How to Become a Doctor in Canada

Published November 3, 2023.

Primary care physicians and family doctors are urgently needed across all parts of Canada. The healthcare system is facing a significant staffing shortage which means that patients are not getting the support that they need. Internationally-trained doctors have so much to offer and are ready to step in to help. However, the cost of getting licensed as a doctor can be time-consuming and costly. We will discuss the steps to become a doctor in Canada and how Windmill can help internationally-trained doctors get licensed.  

How long does it take to become a doctor? 

If you have no medical qualifications, it can take between 10-14 years to become a doctor in Canada. It starts with completing a four-year undergraduate degree. After that, you must successfully pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). This is a standardized test to determine if you meet the criteria for attending a medical school. If you pass the test, you must then complete 4 years of medical school.  

Medical school is where you’ll get the hands-on experience that trainee doctors need. The first 2 years take place in a classroom and laboratory setting and the final 2 years involve clinical experience treating patients under the supervision of a licensed doctor. After medical school, the next step is to take a licensing exam – The Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examination (MCCQE). This four-hour exam is very difficult so lots of preparation is needed in order to successfully pass. It’s important to note that the licensing process differs in each province, so you will need to research the specific requirements that relate to where you live and/or where you wish to practice medicine. 

After passing the MCCQE, the last requirement is to complete a residency program with a healthcare facility in Canada. Residencies vary between 3 and 7 years depending on the specialization chosen. For example, family medicine takes just 3 years while neurosurgery takes up to 7 years to complete. Once a residency program has been completed, you are then licensed to practice in your specialized field anywhere in Canada.  

How can internationally-trained doctors work in Canada? 

The first step to becoming a doctor in Canada is to check whether your medical degree meets Canadian requirements. The World Directory of Medical Schools (WDMS) is an excellent resource for checking if your medical school is listed in their directory. If your degree is not recognized, you’ll need to complete the steps above to start your career as a doctor in Canada. If your degree does meet Canadian requirements, you’ll need to take the MCCQE exam in order to get your license. The Medical Council of Canada offers excellent exam preparation resources for candidates. Their website also discusses another path to help internationally-trained doctors get licensed – the Practice-Ready Assessment (PRA) program. Not all internationally-trained doctors will be eligible but the program involves completing a workplace-based assessment over a 12-week period in order to get a ‘provisional license.’ This license enables you to work as a doctor in Canada under certain conditions.  

Currently, there are thousands of internationally-trained doctors not working in their profession. A microloan from Windmill Microlending, of up to $15,000, can be used to pay for the cost of licensing. If you have permanent status in Canada and have immigrated as a doctor, why not use a Windmill loan to utilize your much-needed skills and experience?  

We created a free Educational Pathway to help internationally-trained doctors determine the most cost-effective route to getting licensed. Apply today for a Windmill microloan and return to your profession. 

Categorized in: Career Success and Planning, Accreditation and Licensing,