Considering your Options

Becoming licensed as a physician can be a long and challenging process. IMGs often struggle to meet licensure requirements, pass regulatory exams and/or obtain residency placements while enduring application related fees. However, it is common and understandably natural for many to pursue licensure despite some of these challenges.

Whether you plan to pursue licensure and work, or explore a new career, it is critical to have all the information to make this important decision. In this section, you will be able to familiarize yourself with the licensure process and associated costs, statistics on likelihood of getting a license and what other career pathways are available to you as an IMG in the Alberta workforce.

Attaining Your License
(also known as "Independent Practice")

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To practice medicine in Alberta, you are required to successfully complete a series of academic and competency-based assessments and attain either an Independent Practice Permit, or a residency. With either option, you must begin this process by opening an account with physiciansapply.ca and submitting your documents to the Medical Council of Canada (MCC) Physician Credentials Repository. You should do this before you leave your home country. 

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) is responsible for licensing physicians in the province of Alberta. A step-by-step process can be found on the CPSA's website: HERE

You may find low or no-cost support through community programs and associations to guide you through your journey to licensure. See our Resources tab to learn more.

 

Independent Practice Permit

  • Eligibility
    Information regarding eligibility criteria for licensure can be found on CPSA's website (see "Step 1 - Make sure you meet CPSA's eligibility requirements"). The Alberta International Medical Graduates Association (AIMGA) has prepared detailed flow chart for IMGs to help understand and navigate the assessment and licensure process.
     
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  • Application Process
    The CPSA works with the Medical Council of Canada (MCC) to assess your education and skills for the purposes of licensure; the first step is to open an account with physiciansapply.ca and submit your documents. You should do this before you leave home. For more information, visit the CPSA website (see "Step 2 - Create an account with physiciansapply.ca").
 
  • Other Requirements
    You have to prove English Language Proficiency (ELP) as part of the assessment process. Information on requirements, examinations, passing grades and exemptions are provided HERE. Currently, CPSA accepts IELTS, OET and CELPIP exams.

    You need to pass the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examination Part I (MCCQE Part I). The Medical Council of Canada (MCC) administers national qualification examinations (MCCQE Part I & II) for individuals looking to practice medicine in Alberta. More information on related costs, content and timelines can be found on their website HERE and HERE. Note, in 2018, 62% of first-time IMG test takers passed the MCCQE Part I 1; only 24% of IMG repeat test-takers passed.

    You may also have to pass the Therapeutics Decision Making (TDM) exam (applies to IMGs interested in Family Medicine). To be eligible to sit the TDM exam, first you need to receive an Eligibility Letter from CPSA. For more information on the process and requirements, review the sources below:
    • CPSA's website HERE.
    • MCC's website HERE

  • Review of Qualifications
    The Review of Qualifications is a pre-screening process of candidates seeking an Alberta practice permit. It is conducted by CPSA and it is a separate process from the MCC credential review. More information can be found on the CPSA website (see "Step 3 - Submit a review of qualifications").
    Upon a review of qualifications, you will be notified whether you are eligible or not to register for the Provisional Register, Conditional Practice or General Register. If you have been deemed eligible, you will be required to meet additional requirements. If you do not meet full requirements for General Register, you must pass the Practice Readiness Assessment (PRA-AB) which consists of Preliminary Clinical Assessment and Supervised Practice Assessment. 

  • Sponsorship
    A period of residency, also known as “Alberta Health Services (AHS) sponsorship” must be completed before an Independent Practice license is conferred. The position must be secured within 1 year of an issued eligibility letter; otherwise the application of your Independent Practice is closed. For more information, visit the CPSA website (see "Step 4" section).

  • Provisional License
    Once your sponsorship has been confirmed and you have passed the TDM exam (if applicable), you will be able to begin the process of applying and registering for CPSA's Provisional Register. Requirements and resources are provided on the CPSA website (see "Step 5 - Apply for independent practice").

  • Practice Readiness Assessment (PRA-AB)
    You must successfully complete this 2 part assessment of your clinical competence, chart management and professionalism to join CPSA's temporary Provisional Register. Additional information is provided on the CPSA website (see "Step 6) and HERE, as well as AIMGA's website HERE.

  • Results
    After your application is complete and all the requirements are met, CPSA will review your application and will determine whether you qualify for registration in Alberta.

Residency

  • In Alberta
    The Alberta International Medical Graduate (AIMG) Program is a provincial program that was created in 2001 and uses a competitive and merit based assessment protocol. The program helps to identify International Medical Graduates (IMGs) who reside in the province and have the clinical skills, knowledge and behaviours needed to enter an Alberta postgraduate medical residency program. Applicants are required to provide proof of Alberta residency in addition to their medical degree, and participate in a number of national and provincial assessments. Successful applicants have the opportunity to apply to a defined number of IMG-designated, postgraduate residency positions (year-one entry) in a number of disciplines at both the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary. These residency positions are funded by the Alberta Government and align with recognized provincial physician resource needs. More information can be found here AIMG Program.

  • Canada Wide
    The Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS) helps approximately 6,000 medical students and residents each year who are seeking the training positions and puts them on the path to practicing medicine in Canada.

    Canada’s postgraduate medical training application, selection and matching system is founded on the principle of merit-based selection. CaRMS was created in 1970 by medical students and faculty as an independent, objective body to facilitate this process. Information their Matching Algorithm can be found HERE.

    CaRMS reported that in the 2019 cycle 2,881 out of 2,984 Canadian Medical Graduates who participated in the full match process were successfully matched (96%). By comparison, only 391 out of 1,725 IMGs were successfully matched in the same time period (22%). See the report HERE.

 

Costs associated with having your credentials assessed and applying for licensure may include some or all of the following:

  • Fees to obtain educational documents (i.e. transcripts, diploma certificates)
  • Fees for document translation and certification
  • Account registration with Physiciansapply.ca 
  • Credential assessment and verification (MCC)
  • Language assessment fees (IELTS, OET or CELPIP exam)
  • Examination fees (MCCQE1, NACOSCE, MMI, MCCQE2, CCFP)
  • Examination fees (TDM Exam: MCC and CPSA)
  • PRA-AB fees (CPSA)
  • Application fees, Review of Qualifications fees and Registration/Practice permit fees (CPSA)

Clients of the BredinWorks for Internationally Educated Professionals program in Edmonton may be eligible for support in paying some of these expenses. Another option may be to seek financial assistance with a Servus-Bredin Microloan.

Other Career Options

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Upon arrival to Alberta, IMGs often take on a “survival” job while pursuing licensure. This route can be challenging and overwhelming especially in cases where the licensure process is taking some time. However, there are fulfilling career options available and can be explored during the licensing process or as a new, permanent career. It is important for IMGs to stay in the health care field in which they are able to transfer and make use of their skills, knowledge, education and work experience. Once you have arrived in Alberta, a Career & Employment Coach can support you through this decision process. Connect with Bredin Centre for Career Advancement.
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This site includes 11 career pathway Fact Sheets specifically created for IMGs exploring employment opportunities in health care. They are as follows:

  • Respiratory Therapy
  • Paramedicine
  • Public and Environmental Health Inspection
  • Medical Education
  • Medical Sonography
  • Heath Services Support
  • Biotechnology
  • Health Information Management
  • Medical Research
  • Biological and Environmental Science Research 
  • Technical Sales

These career options were selected and developed by a group of experts comprised of educators, physicians, government representatives, career counsellors and IMGs.  These career options were chosen based on a number of criteria including:

  • Use of skills and knowledge similar to medicine
  • Positive labour market conditions (or jobs in demand)
  • Limited upgrading or retraining required
  • Fulfilling work/environment with opportunities for advancement
  • Proven successful career pathway for IMGs

To choose a temporary or permanent job other than medicine or know when it is the right time to pursue a new career can be a daunting task. It is critical to consider a pathway that matches well with your needs and interests and/or is a viable option based on your current situation and priorities. To assist you with finding a career pathway that is right for you, try the Career Navigator in our Career Pathways tab.