Study Medicine in Canada: 7 Things You Should Know

Canada is one of the most popular countries for international students. About 67,000 foreigners from 167 countries are enrolled in 96 Canadian universities – and hundreds of colleges too.

While the Canadian educational system is more than open to international students, admission is limited to Doctor of Medicine programs. Not a lot of medical schools accept foreigners, and when they do, the available slots are only a handful.

Despite this challenge, it is indeed possible to study medicine in Canada as an international student. Here are the 7 things you need to know to do so successfully:

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1. What language is the medical programs taught in Canada?

Canadian medical programs are offered in either English and/or French. Francophone universities such as the Université de Montréal and Université de Sherbrooke have their medical curriculums in French. Most of the other universities teach their students in English. So, you can study medicine in Canada in French or English.

A particular exception is McGill University, which offers an English curriculum in its Montreal campus and a French curriculum in its Outaouais branch.

2. Can you study medicine in Canada as an international student?

Yes. However, there are only a select number of medical schools that accept international students. These include:

  • Dalhousie University
  • Laval University
  • McGill University
  • McMaster University
  • Memorial University of Newfoundland
  • Queen’s University
  • Université de Montréal
  • Université de Sherbrooke
  • University of Toronto

These universities have limited slots for foreign applicants, with intake limited to 2 for McGill and 1 for McMaster. In some cases, these usually contract seats, which are provided by a school in agreement with a certain foreign government.

The limited intake is due to most schools being funded by provincial governments. As such, they prioritize their residents first and other Canadians second.

3. What are the requirements to study medicine in Canada?

Foreign applicants need to have finished a bachelor’s degree equivalent to a four-year course in Canada. GPA is considered too, with the University of Toronto requiring a grade of 3.6 for applicants.

While a bachelor’s degree is an outright requirement to study medicine in Canada, the application process can be started during the student’s third year of undergraduate schooling.

Pre-requisite courses, including two full-course equivalents (FCE) in life science and one FCE in social science, are required by some schools such as the University of Toronto.

Canadian medical schools also look at the Medical College Admission Test results for admission. The preferred grades vary according to school, with McMaster University requiring 123 and the University of Toronto requiring 124-125.

At schools such as McMaster University, applicants need to complete their requirements through the Ontario Medical School Application Service (OMSAS).

International students also need to show proof of English proficiency by presenting passing grades in either the IELTS, TOEFL, CAEL, or MELAB exams.

Another particular requirement for foreign applicants is permanent residency or Canadian citizenship. While Canada does issue student visas, this is not granted to medical students.

4. How many medical schools are in Canada?

There are 17 medical schools in Canada. There are 1 each in Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland & Labrador, Manitoba, and British Columbia. There are 2 in Alberta, 4 in Quebec, and 6 in Ontario.

5. What are the components of the medical curriculum in Canada?

Compared to other countries, Canada does not offer a Bachelor in Medicine/Bachelor in Surgery degree. All students need to finish a 3- or 4-year undergraduate program to enter medical school. Some schools, however, may admit students who have completed a 2-year (60 credit hours) program.

The Canadian MD program usually runs for 4 years, except McMaster and Calgary University, both of which offer an uninterrupted 3-year program.

McGill, for example, offers two tracks for international students wishing to study medicine in Canada. This includes the IMG 2-year pathway, where foreign residents of Quebec can enter the medical school with advanced standing. Another option is the competitive IMG 4-year pathway, which is open to foreigners regardless of residency.

The usual Canadian MD curriculum covers 2 years of pre-clinical studies. These tackle the fundamentals of medicine, including anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology, to name a few. The next 2 years involve clinical training, which is commonly known as rotation. As medical clerks, students are dispersed in various hospital units. Here, they are taught and monitored by staff physicians and residents.

Other universities offer a joint MD program, where students can pursue M.Sc. or Ph.D. studies in between their pre-clinical and clinical studies. These schools include Sherbrooke (MD/M.Sc.) and McGill (7-year MD/Ph.D.)

6. How difficult is the Canadian medical schools?

Getting into a Canadian medical school is already difficult, given the prevailing low admission rate. Even with a high GPA and MCAT score, there is no assurance that you can get into your school of choice. This competition is seen in the admission rate of Canadian schools – a lowly 10%.

Many Canadian doctors consider the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examination (MCCQE) another major hurdle. This test, which is taken during the last year of medical school, helps the Canadian Resident Matching Service assign the student to a training program he/she can pursue after graduation.

7. What is the drop rate in Canadian Medical Schools?

Despite the challenges, the dropout rate in Canadian medical schools is quite low. It’s only about 0.5%, which translates to 53 students a year. Of these, 21 quit early – during the first year of medical school. Medical school administrators attribute this low drop-out rate to these factors: the strict admission process and the academic guidance & mental health support offered to students.

8. What do you need to become a doctor in Canada?

After studying medicine in Canada, how can you become a doctor? The road to licensure starts in the last year of medical school, where students take the first part of the MCCQE. This is done for residency matching.

After a year of training, the student will need to take the second part of the MCCQE. Passing this renders the student a Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada.

After this, the new doctor has the option to complete his/her residency program and take a board exam. This will make the physician eligible to apply for a full license under the medical regulatory authority of his/her province or territory.


I hope that this article on studying was helpful! If you are interested, visit the Canada Scholarships Page!