Family Physicians

You, like many healthcare professionals, may be challenged to find work in your profession when you first arrive in Canada.  The healthcare job market is very competitive and you must hold a valid license to practise in a regulated profession before you can work. The application process to assess your credentials, work experience and language proficiency can be expensive and lengthy.  It is especially so if you require additional language training or academic upgrading.  Consider a related career or “career option”.

If you decide that your skills do not align with your primary career of choice, the Health Career Options Guide provides information about career alternatives.

These career options may allow you to find meaningful employment in Canada.

*Note: Healthcare professions are not static.  They evolve as new technology, research findings and care models affect the delivery of healthcare.  The scope of practice of each professional is subject to change.  Changes may demand further education, certification and possible licensure for assistive levels.  Users of this guide should know that the qualifications listed for some of these career options may change.

Who are Family Physicians and what do they do?

Family physicians are members of a regulated profession in Canada and hold a license to practise family medicine.  They are trained medical specialists who provide expert healthcare to patients of all ages, sexes and cultures. They work in a variety of settings such as private offices, clinics, hospital, long term and other healthcare facilities as well as patients’ homes.  Family physicians are highly valued as care givers by their patients and may develop long term physician-patient relationships. This allows the physicians to advocate on behalf of their patients and provide optimal care. The patient centered care may involve health promotion or diagnosis and treatment for physiological disorders and diseases as well as emotional problems.   The severity of the problem may range from chronic to life threatening. Family physicians consult with other health specialists and refer patients to them when necessary. The family physicians usually provide the follow up care.

What are the minimum or “entry to practice” requirements for this profession in Canada?

In most Canadian jurisdictions, candidates usually complete a university undergraduate degree before they can apply to enter an approved medical school program.  After graduation from a 3 or 4 year medical school program, candidates complete a 2 or 3 year residency program in family medicine. When they have completed their  residency program, they must write and pass the qualifying examinations of the Medical Council of Canada and the certification examination of the College of Family Physicians of Canada. Only then are they are eligible to apply for licensure in the province where they wish to practise as family physicians.  

Continuing education to maintain professional competency is part of their practice.

Can I work if I was trained outside of Canada?

The Medical Council of Canada (MCC) encourages all international medical graduates (IMGs), or those trained outside of Canada, to apply to the regulatory body in the province or territory where they wish to work and to a IMG program(s) in that province if one exists.  The website “” offers detailed information about the application process.  Note that fees apply and the process can be lengthy.  Obtaining a medical license is very competitive.  Residency placements are limited for IMGs and so are placements in bridging programs. Not all IMGs are successful in gaining licensure. Success rates vary based on the applicant’s education from the country of origin and their language ability.  

Can I plan for my professional life in Canada before I arrive?

Before you decide to come, view the Practicing in Canada Portal of the Medical Council of Canada to learn about the steps you can take in the application process before you decide to immigrate.

The Job Search Process in Canada: Ten Steps Tool describes the skills and processes you will need to find a job.  It describes language assessment, resume writing, interview skills, and the role of volunteering and finding a mentor.

Settlement agencies in Canada provide many services for newcomers.  These include both pre-arrival and post arrival information about language assessment and classes, career preparation, job search and other general information.  Click here to find a settlement agency in the area where you plan to settle.

What should I do if I can’t find work in my field?  Do I have options?

Yes, you have many options.  The job market fluctuates for many professions so the demand for trained specialists is never constant.  Many Canadians, who were trained for one career, may work in a number of related fields before they retire.  For example, a physician may write healthcare policy, a nurse may work as a private healthcare consultant or an occupational therapist may translate health related documents as a full time career.  They transfer their skills and experiences from one career to another.  A career option, or an “alternative career”, allows you to focus your skills, abilities and work experiences in a different direction.  Ideally, you might choose a new career with fewer restrictions such as one that does not require a license, certification or extensive retraining.

If your skills and abilities do not match the Canadian standards, consider one of the following career options. You can work in this new field temporarily while you upgrade your education or language skills, or longer if the work is satisfying to you.  These options were identified through consultation with regulators, the professional association, and/or educators and profession experts. They recognize many of the skills and abilities you already have.

Consider one or more of these options. Click on each link for career option fact sheet information. References and links.


Produced by the Health Care Human Resource Sector Council with funding from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. © 2017 Canada. All rights reserved.