Given that doctors from Canada have the same preferred status in Australia as doctors from the United Kingdom, Ireland and the US. It’s really surprising that there are not more Canadian doctors in Australia. The same rules apply for Canadian doctors as per doctors from the above mentioned other countries. And employers are generally very open to an application from a doctor from Canada. Whether this is for a short-term working holiday or a permanent move.
So how can Canadian doctors work in Australia? The short answer is that if they are a trainee doctor they should apply for a vacant post under the competent authority pathway and if they are a recognised specialist in Canada they should first apply to the relevant college for recognition. Of course, no doctor coming from another country is absolutely guaranteed to be able to work in Australia. But if you are from Canada you have a very good chance.
Because the Canadian medical training system is recognized by the Medical Board of Australia as being on par or what is termed “competent”, Canadian doctors have good success with either becoming generally registered through the competent authority pathway or being recognized as a specialist through the specialist pathway. In the year 2019 (the latest year we have figures for) 33 trainee doctors from Canada applied for registration in Australia with 31 of those applications granted. In addition, from the years 2015 to 2021, 94 Specialist doctors from Canada have applied for assessment in Australia with 82 being granted comparability.
So the prospects for Canadian doctors working in Australia are generally positive. But it’s important to have a bit more detail. As I have highlighted there are two main options for getting registered. So we will talk about these first and then go into some other common questions.
Number of Canadian Doctors Granted Provisional Registration (2019) 31 (out of 33 applications)
Number of Canadian Doctors Granted Specialist Comparability (2015-2021) 82 (out of 95)
Number of Canadian Doctors Granted Specialist Recognition (2015-2021) 56 (out of 59)
The Competent Authority Pathway. The Option For Trainee Canadian Doctors in Australia.
If you are a trainee doctor in Canada. Then you are most likely looking at the competent authority pathway for working in Australia.
The competent authority pathway assigns a preferential status to any doctor who has completed their primary medical training in one of the following countries: the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States and the Republic of Ireland.
There is largely a historical rationale for this situation. It is based on the premise that all these jurisdictions have similar approaches to medical school training and similar standards.
New Zealand is not included in the list above as its medical schools are accredited by the same body as Australian medical schools, the Australian Medical Council. So doctors from New Zealand in Australia are generally treated identically to those from Australia. Or are more competent!
If you are an international medical graduate (IMGs) and you have achieved general registration in the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom (but not the Republic of Ireland) you are also eligible for the competent authority pathway.
So for doctors from Canada who did their primary medical degree elsewhere, this involves completing all steps of the Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada and completing 12 months of postgraduate education or residency training in Canada, either as part of the LMCC or otherwise.
In essence, this is identical to the requirements that you would need to demonstrate if you had just graduated from a medical school in Canada.
What are the steps involved in the competent authority pathway?
You can find out more about the competent authority pathway on the Medical Board of Australia website.
The key steps are as follows:
- Securing an employment offer
- Applying to the Australian Medical Council for primary source verification
- Applying for registration to the Medical Board of Australia
- Completing 12 months of supervised practice
- Applying again to the Medical Board of Australia for general registration.
Eligibility for Competent Authority
You can do a “self-assessment of your eligibility for the competent authority pathway on the Medical Board of Australia website here.
The essential requirements are:
You need to have completed the LMCC
be able to demonstrate 12 months of postgraduate education or residency training in Canada.*
(*it is also possible to undertake supervised training in another competent authority country to meet this requirement).
Competent Authority Pathway Course
A Free Course For Trainee Doctors
This course covers all the required steps for working as a doctor in Australia if you are a trainee doctor from Ireland, the UK, US or Canada.
What Types of Jobs Can I Apply for as a Canadian Trainee Doctor in Australia?
You can pretty much apply for any sort of trainee job. There are often a number of postgraduate year 2 or 3 general jobs on offer. They are normally termed Resident Medical Officers in most States and Territories, but may also be called House Officers or Hospital Medical Officers in some places.
Above these sorts of posts, come the specialty training positions. These are usually referred to as Registrar posts. Australia’s specialty training system is a little different to Canada’s in that Australian doctors do not immediately enter specialty training. You tend to enter specialty training around postgraduate year 3. You might also see advertised as Senior House Officer or Trainee or Advanced Trainee.
One key thing to look out for is that most jobs you come across will not accept an overseas applicant.
A key thing to look for is the phrase “eligible for registration” in the selection criteria.
It is very important to try and secure an employment offer. Whilst you can apply to the Australian Medical Council to check your primary medical degree at any stage. You won’t be able to gain registration until you have an offer of employment. This is because the Medical Board needs to see a supervision plan from your employer.
Outside of general practice, the majority of employment opportunities for trainee doctors occur within public hospitals. So your best places for finding suitable job postings are on the State and Territory health department recruitment sites. We have a listing of these on our international doctors’ resource page.
What Type of Supervision Do I Need Or Get?
The Medical Board of Australia is very vigilant about supervision standards for IMG doctors. The sort of supervision you receive will depend on a number of factors, including:
- your qualifications
- your previous experience, especially in the type of position for which you have applied
- whether you have practised recently and the scope of your recent practice
- the requirements of the position including the type of skills required for the position
- the position itself, including the level of risk, the location of the hospital or practice and the availability of supports (supervisors)
- the seniority of the position, for a hospital position
In general, you will either be approved for Level 1 or Level 2 Supervision. If you are quite a senior trainee doctor in your own right you might be granted Level 3. There are 4 Levels and the higher up you go the less direct oversight you require.
Level 1 Supervision.
Level 1 Supervision requires your supervisor (or alternative supervisor) to be present in the hospital or practice with you at all times and you must consult with them about all patients. Remote supervision (e.g. by telephone) is not permitted. This type of supervision is generally recommended when you are very junior yourself or entering a junior role with which you are not very familiar. In Australian major public hospitals, there are many layers of other doctors from who you can get supervision. So Level 1 is not too much of an issue in these circumstances.
Level 2 Supervision.
Level 2 Supervision, which is what most competent authority trainees receive is a step up from Level 1 Supervision. Supervision must primarily be in person but your supervisor can leave you to do work on your own and you can discuss it by phone. You should discuss with them on a regular (daily) basis what you have been doing with patients. But do not need to discuss every case.
Level 3 Supervision.
Level 3 Supervision, is what you might receive if you are working in an Advanced Trainee role in Canada and transferring to something similar in Australia. In this case, you have much more primary responsibility for the patient. Your supervisor needs to make regular contact with you but can be working elsewhere and available by phone or video.
What happens after I commence my position?
Once you are approved for registration and you have your visa issues sorted you will be able to commence work. Generally, your employer helps you out with these things. You will be working under what is called “provisional registration” by the Medical Board of Australia.
Generally, all you need to do for these 12 months is to pay attention, show that you can learn and grow and get regular feedback from your supervisors. Your supervisors will need to complete regular reports for the Medical Board of Australia and it is your responsibility (not theirs’) to see that they are completed and returned on time. If all the reports go well you will be able to be recommended at the end of the 12 months for general registration.
You will probably be starting to look for another job or negotiating an extension around this time. With general registration, you may be able to apply for a skilled visa, as well as be looking at applying for permanent residency.
Permanent residency is crucial for applying for some specialty training programs. See below.
The Specialist Pathway. The Option For Canadian Specialists
For qualified specialists from Canada, your option for working in Australia is what is called the Specialist Pathway.
Actually, it’s a combination of the Specialist Pathway and the Competent Authority Pathway. More on that in a bit.
Once again your process starts with becoming verified as a doctor with the Australian Medical Council and should again coincide with an active search for a position.
You may be lucky enough to be in a targeted specialty area where you might successfully be approved for what is called an Area of Need position, in which case the employer or recruitment agent will provide you with a lot of support and will likely pick up the costs of being assessed.
For most International Doctor specialists however these days you will be approaching the college directly to be assessed for specialist recognition. This is not something to be trifled with. The paperwork requirements and the cost (generally around $10,000 AUD or more) is considerable.
On the plus side, the colleges all have reasonably helpful information on their websites, including the application forms and a little bit about their criteria for assessment.
Specialist Pathway Course
You can enrol now in this free course that will step you through all the requirements for working as a specialist doctor in Australia
Finding Out What You Need To Do.
We have saved you the trouble of finding those pages by putting them on our International Doctors resource page here.
The majority of Canadian specialties (but not all) map to a similar college or specialty in Australia. So working out which specialty goes into which Australian college is generally not too confusing. We have put together a summary of the Australian specialist medical colleges here.
After you go through your specialist assessment you are given an outcome.
In the majority of cases for Canadian specialists, you will be deemed substantially comparable. This essentially means that you will need to work under some form of peer review for up to 12 months and so long as your reports are satisfactory you will be recommended for specialist registration at the end.
Occasionally specialists from Canada are deemed to be partially comparable (a situation where this may occur is if you have just recently finished specialty training but have not worked as a specialist for very long). In this situation, you will need to work under supervision for longer and may well also face some formal examinations.
Rarely are specialists from Canada deemed not to be comparable by the college. This has only happened to 12 out of 94 specialist doctors from Canada from 2015 to 2021. If you are deemed to be not comparable, this means you cannot directly become a specialist in Australia. You will probably have to go through the competent authority route and re-enter training in Australia.
Alternatively, if you are just looking for a short period of time in Australia you may want to consider the Short Term Training in a Medical Specialty Pathway.
How to Maximize Your Chances of Getting a Substantially Comparable Outcome.
To ensure that you are seen as substantially comparable by the relevant college I would recommend the following:
- You should be recognised as a specialist in Canada and be a Fellow of the RCPSC or CFPC
- You should ideally have worked substantively at a Consultant level in your field for 2 years or more
- You should be able to demonstrate good standing with the Medical Council of Canada, your College and your employers
- You should be able to demonstrate ongoing continuing professional development
- You should prepare for your interview with the college as if it were an important job interview
Can you enter training in Australia if you are a doctor from Canada?
To undertake formal specialty training in Australia you need to be accepted into a college training program. In all circumstances, you will need general registration and in many cases permanent residency or citizenship.
After receiving their general registration doctors from Canada can apply for specialty training in the same way that Australian trained doctors do. And if accepted will go through the exact training program and experience. Some colleges may offer recognition of prior learning for training you have done already. But this varies and may at best normally shave one or two years off from your training.
An Alternative But Limited Option.
There is an alternative but time-limited pathway for Canadian doctors who are just seeking a short-term experience in Australia to add to their training in Ireland. This is called Short-Term Training in a Medical Specialty Pathway. To do this you must be offered a training position first and you must have either completed your training in Canada or be less than two years from completion. So this is a program mainly for early-career specialists or advanced trainees.
In this pathway, you go through the same steps with the AMC as per the competent authority pathway to gain registration. You will not, however, be able to apply for specialist assessment as part of this pathway. But if you gain general registration you may then be able to apply for another position and then apply for specialist assessment.
Generally Canadian doctors do not opt for this pathway as they have the option to get registered for these posts under the Competent Authority Pathway.
How many doctors from Canada are working in Australia?
There is no one public data source to tell us how many Canadian doctors are currently working in Australia.
From data collected by the Australian Government, we know that for 2018 and 2019 (the latest available years):
- In 2018, 21 applications were made for registration under the Competent Authority Pathway with 20 being granted.
- In 2019, 33 applications were made for registration under the Competent Authority Pathway with 31 being granted.
So the best estimate is that there are probably a few hundred Canadian doctors working in Australia.
It should also be noted that quite a few students come from Canada to Australia to study medicine.
Costs of Moving To Australia and Working As a Doctor.
There are lots of costs to consider when thinking about moving to Australia to work as a doctor.
There are some direct costs to consider. Most of which relate to the bureaucratic process of being assessed and gaining registration.
Some of the costs you may be up for, include:
|AUD (unless otherwise noted)|
|Establish a Portfolio with the Australian Medical Council||$600|
|Registering with EPIC and having one primary degree checked||$125 USD + $80 USD|
|Medical Board Application Fee for Provisional Registration||$430|
|Medical Board Application Fee for Specialist or General Registration||$860|
|College Specialist Assessment Fees||$6,000-$11,000|
|College Placement Fees (for the period of supervision)||$8,000-$24,000|
Further, if you are required to undertake further exams there will be a cost for this as well. As an example, RACS charges an exam fee of $8,495.
The Cost of Your Time and Effort.
For all of this financial cost, you will also need to factor in the cost of your own time. It takes a lot of effort and persistence to deal with the paperwork and track down the records you need.
In addition, you are probably going to have to pay costs in your own country for things like records of schooling and certificates of good standing.
There are also visa costs.
And then there is the cost of airfares and transporting your belongings halfway across the world.
Depending on where you work in Australia you may find that the cost of living is higher or lower than you are used to. House prices and therefore house rental rates have gone through the roof in Australia in the last decade or so but are starting to come down.
You will probably have to factor in some initial extra hotel or short term rental charges whilst settling in and you may find if you have children that you have to pay to enroll them in school as public schooling is only generally free if you are a citizen or permanent resident.
If you are lucky and in one of the specialty areas of demand your employer may offer to pay for some of these costs. Its certainly worth asking about it.
We hope that you found this summary about how Canadian doctors can work in Australia useful. If you have any questions or queries or just want to relate your experience. Please feel free to leave a comment below. We would love to hear from Canadian doctors who have made the journey to Australia.
Do I Need to Sit An English Test?
Doctors from Canada are amongst a select group of countries for which the Medical Board does not expect an English proficiency test. However, there may still be some circumstances where you do need this. If, for example, some of your schooling was in another country. You should always check the requirements.
Are there any other options for working as a Canadian doctor in Australia?
Some doctors just want to come to Australia for a limited period of time as an opportunity to train in another country.
As we have highlighted above there is an alternative but time-limited pathway for Canadian doctors who are just seeking a short-term experience in Australia to add to their training in Canada. This is called the Short-Term Training in a Medical Specialty Pathway. To do this you must be offered a training position first and you must have either completed your training in Canada or be less than two years from completion. So this is a program mainly for early-career specialists or advanced trainees.
Most Canadian doctors do not use this pathway as the Competent Authority Pathway is more accessible and able to be used for the same purpose.
Should I use a medical recruitment company if I am considering working in Australia?
It is possible to deal directly with employers in Australia. In general, however, when moving from one country to another most doctors find it useful to engage with a medical recruitment company as they can tend to take some of the stress out of the planning for you and help with all the paperwork and negotiating with prospective employers. Some medical recruitment companies also provide migration services and relocation services as well. We have written more on this subject here. And a list of medical recruitment companies is available here. Feel free to contact us first for recommendations.
How hard is it to become a specialist in Australia if you are from Canada?
Specialist doctors from Canada are not automatically granted specialist recognition. However, most are. Canada has generally one of the highest rates for doctors being seen as substantially comparable.
Are there any particular specialties that are easier to apply for?
The majority of specialties have some vacancies and will provide opportunities for Irish and other IMG doctors from time to time. This is particularly the case if you are prepared to go outside of the major cities. Some areas of medicine are more popular and so finding jobs in areas such as most surgical fields, as well as other fields such as cardiology can be quite difficult.
On the other end of the spectrum general practice, psychiatry and most parts of critical care medicine are often always looking for doctors.