Step 4: Understand regulation and the requirements for your profession



Many of Canada’s healthcare professions are regulated professions.  Regulation ensures that the provincial/territorial government’s healthcare legislation is enforced.  Each jurisdiction has its own legislation but it is similar across the country.  Regulation serves the public’s interest by informing them about the profession and providing them with a list of qualified practitioners.  Its main role is to protect the public from any harm that might result from poor practice techniques and/or poorly qualified practitioners.  

There are three levels of regulation in Canada; licensure, certification and registration.

The most restrictive is licensure.
You cannot practice unless you meet all the requirements to secure your license.  These requirements outline the minimum level of education, skills and knowledge that a license holder must demonstrate to apply for a license to practice.   You cannot practice without a license and you may not use the title of the profession until you hold that license.   The regulatory authority establishes continuing education and professional development so that current license holders continue to evolve and adapt to practice changes. The regulatory authority is also responsible for discipline. They investigate any complaint about a practitioner’s practice and if it is proven to be legitimate, a license may be limited or revoked depending on the severity of the complaint.


Certification is less restrictive.
Some professions do not require that you hold a license to practice. Sometimes these professions are referred to as “non-regulated” professions.  A better name would be a “non-licensed” profession.  Employers may prefer that you are certified.  You can apply to become certified to practice through a professional association.  The association will determine if you meet the requirements of education and/or experience.  It provides professional updates, career development opportunities and often links to employment.  Many of the assistive level professionals are served through a professional association.


Registration is the least restrictive.
An employer may ask whether you are on a profession’s registry when you apply for work. They may prefer applicants from accredited education programs.


Many of Canada’s healthcare professions are regulated at the licensure level and most of those are self-regulated professions.


Professions that are self-regulated have been given the right to regulate themselves by the province or territory.  These regulatory bodies are often called “colleges.”  A board of directors governs the college and is made up of elected members of the profession and one or more government appointed public members.

A regulatory college  ensures its members have the necessary qualifications, competence and continuing education to provide safe and ethical care. They must be able to follow the rules and standards of the profession.

Each college has an application process to qualify its members to receive a license to practice.  The college also monitors its members’ continuing education requirements. This ensures that the members maintain their competency so they may continue to hold their license to practice.
Regulatory colleges protect the profession’s title and practice so that only qualified and registered members of the regulatory college may use the title and work in the defined scope of practice.

Regulatory colleges must respond to complaints from the public for allegations of incompetent, illegal or unethical actions from its members.
The regulatory colleges maintain a “registry” of their members' current status for the public to view. The colleges provide accessible information for its members and the public related to their functions, rules (by-laws) and regulations, including complaints and outcomes from investigation.

Professional Associations

Professional associations have a different role.  It is to act on behalf of the members. Professional associations promote and support professional excellence to both their members and the public.  They provide opportunities for continuing education, certification of members and for some professions prior learning assessments of internationally trained professionals. They support the work of regulatory authorities but they cannot award licenses.


National regulatory groups, professional associations and provincial/territorial regulators

Note that some professions are not regulated in every province or territory.

Physicians Registered Nurses Licensed Practical Nurses Midwives Occupational Therapists Respiratory Therapists Physiotherapists Medical Radiation Technologists Medical Laboratory Technologists Paramedics Pharmacy Technicians

Unlicensed professions

Note that you may need to be certified to practice.

  • Occupational therapist assistant  
  • Physiotherapist assistant
  • Medical laboratory assistant
  • Mental health worker  
  • Personal care provider
  • Early childhood development specialist
  • Medical sonographer