by MD Financial Management

Your path from pre‑med to medical school, residency and into practice.

These steps will give you an overview of your journey. They do not apply to international applicants.

Begin your journey

Pre-med

Some pre-meds start researching medical schools in their second year, but the timing varies. You can apply to medical school during your third or fourth year of university. If you complete a Diploma of College Studies in CEGEP, you can apply directly to some Quebec medical schools (requirements may vary).

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Explore the possibilities

  • Start exploring healthcare career options early and find out what you need to apply.
  • For medical schools, visit Browse for your application requirements.
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Polish your resumé

  • Assess which Canadian medical schools you qualify for and what requirements you still need to meet.
  • Find out if your school has a pre-med undergraduate society. They may help you prepare your application.
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Apply to medical schools

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Get accepted and make your choice

  • Attend medical school tours and research the lifestyles in different cities/schools to help with your decision.
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Need more money? No problem!

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Be prepared to move for medical school

  • If you move at least 40 kilometres to attend medical school, keep your moving receipts for tax time. You may be able to deduct moving expenses against employment or taxable scholarship income.
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Get involved! Join your associations.

  • Join the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and the Provincial and Territorial Medical Association (PTMA) where you are a medical student.
  • The CMA and PTMAs advocate on behalf of physicians and offer a number of clinical and non-clinical resources, discounts and services to help you on your medical journey.

Med Student - Year 1

Most medical school programs are four years, with the exception of McMaster University and the University of Calgary, which are three years, and Laval University where you can complete the program in five years. For McMaster University and the University of Calgary, the time frame for medical school may be compressed, with pre-clerkship in Year 1 and clerkship in years 2 and 3.

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Attend medical school orientation

  • It’s official. You’re in—yes! It’s a huge moment, so enjoy it!
  • Be sure to get your CMA backpack at orientation!
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Get your MINC number

  • You’ll receive a medical identification number (MINC), a unique number assigned to each person in the Canadian medical education and practice systems.
  • The MINC will be used throughout your medical career.
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Get involved!

  • Join your local student medical associations, and consider joining the Canadian Federation of Medical Students to get involved in healthcare advocacy and other issues pertinent to medical students.
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Need more money? We’re here to help!

  • Stop worrying and make a plan—with help!
  • Consider taking a financial seminar at your medical school to learn how best to manage the financial challenges of the next few years.
  • Work with an advisor to create a budget. You’ll get a plan to ensure you can fund your medical school education and live your life. And it may make you feel better knowing you’ll be okay.

Med Student - Year 2

Most medical school programs are four years, with the exception of McMaster University and the University of Calgary, which are three years, and Laval University where you can complete the program in five years. For McMaster University and the University of Calgary, the time frame for medical school may be compressed, with pre-clerkship in Year 1 and clerkship in years 2 and 3.

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Be selective with your electives

  • Some programs require that you apply up to a year prior, so start early. Talk to your network and research your options.
  • Talk to your network and research your options, including The Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada’s Student Portal. This hub lists visiting electives opportunities in Canada, and has an online application to submit and track your applications. Searching electives is free, but there’s a one-time fee to apply.
  • Gather documents such as your police record check, resumé and immunization records, etc. Requirements vary by institution.
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Get to know the Canadian Resident Matching Service

  • All graduating medical students must participate in the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS) to secure a spot in residency.
  • You’ll submit application packages (reference letter, resumé and letter of interest) to academic teaching hospitals throughout the country for programs you’re interested in.
  • In the final year, you’ll rank your institutions of choice, and the residency programs will rank their students of choice.
  • The CaRMS Match Algorithm compares applicant and program rank order lists and matches applicants to a program. Results are provided on Match Day in February/March.
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Figure out how to get to and from your electives

  • Electives start next year, and you may need to purchase or lease a car to get around.
  • Chat with an advisor during your financial health check to find ways to fund your new wheels or any international travel required for electives.

Med Student - Year 3

Most medical school programs are four years, with the exception of McMaster University and the University of Calgary, which are three years, and Laval University where you can complete the program in five years. For McMaster University and the University of Calgary, the time frame for medical school may be compressed, with pre-clerkship in Year 1 and clerkship in years 2 and 3.

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Start your rounds

  • The last two years of medical school typically involve “clerkship” —a combination of core rotations and electives varying from four to six weeks in urban and rural locations throughout Canada. Some programs offer stipends for electives, but it varies across provinces.
  • These electives may help you decide on your specialty.
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Get ready for CaRMS!

  • Budget for CaRMS applications and interview tours (this step can get expensive!).
  • Research specialties, including their potential income and job outlook. Try the Specialty Navigator to compare specialty options.

Med Student - Year 4

Most medical school programs are four years, with the exception of McMaster University and the University of Calgary, which are three years, and Laval University where you can complete the program in five years. For McMaster University and the University of Calgary, the time frame for medical school may be compressed, with pre-clerkship in Year 1 and clerkship in years 2 and 3.

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Collect your application requirements for CaRMS

  • Start preparing your CaRMS application early. Gather letters of reference and transcripts, update your resumé and prepare a letter of interest. Some of your documents may also need to be notarized.
  • Connect with the CMA’s Prep Program to practise interviewing, and get tips from current residents.
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Prepare to become a frequent flyer

  • CaRMS could have you travelling all over the country during a two-to-four week period to interview for residency programs.
  • Submit your final ranking order to CaRMS in time for Match Day—the day everyone finds out if and where they have been matched to a residency.
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Experience CaRMS Match Day

  • At noon on this day, all final-year medical students will find out if they have been matched to a residency.
  • Those who do not have a match will have an opportunity to apply for the second round of CaRMS matching; to take another year of medical school and try again next year, or to choose another path.
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Get prepared for exam time!

  • Study, plan and prep for the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examination (MCCQE) Part I.
  • The MCCQE Part I is a one-day, computer-based exam that assesses your critical medical knowledge and clinical decision‑making ability. You must register early for a location and date to write this exam.
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Take the big exam

  • Take your MCCQE Part I exam—a stressful day in a stressful year, but you’ve got this!
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Celebrate! It’s graduation day!

  • Congrats! You worked so very hard, and you did it! Yay you!
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Make time to look at that debt

  • In residency, some student loans may require repayment and begin to charge interest.
  • Consolidation may be an option, but you should evaluate your eligibility for loan forgiveness programs. These programs are available for those who haven’t consolidated their loans. Get informed before making a decision.
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Move for residency

  • Keep your moving receipts for tax time if you move more than 40 kilometres to get closer to work. You may qualify for a tax deduction if you meet the criteria.
  • Inform the CMA, your PTMA, MD Financial Management and other relevant associations of your change of address.

Resident - PGY1

The length of residency varies depending on your specialty. It’s two years (up to post-graduate year 2, or PGY2) for family medicine and typically four to seven years for other specialties.

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Get licensed and insured

  • Once you pass your MCCQE Part I exam, apply for licensure with the College of Physicians and Surgeons in the province where you’ll be completing your residency.
  • Medical liability insurance is mandatory for residents, for protection in case of a medical-legal issue. It’s offered by the Canadian Medical Protective Association. Costs vary by province/region. Check with your employer to determine how to apply.
  • Disability insurance provides protection in case of an accident, illness or death. It can protect your future income and/or give loved ones the financial support they need if you can no longer work. PTMAs offer disability insurance for an additional cost.
  • Check out the CMA’s Transition to Residency Guide for more information and relevant courses in your area.
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Start your residency

  • Attend resident orientation, meet your new colleagues, and get ready for a new adventure!
  • Also, you can now add MD to your title.
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Manage your money (and your debt)

  • Although you get paid in residency, you’ll need to plan for living expenses, final year exams and loan repayment.
  • Lots of financial questions may come up, including:
    • What do I need to know about incorporation?
    • Should I invest or pay down debt?
    • Should I rent or buy a home?
    • How can I minimize my taxes?
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Surgical residents: Apply for your surgical exam

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Prepare for another exam?! You’ve got this.

  • Complete the MCCQE Part II written exam.
  • The MCCQE Part II is a two-day exam that’s required to obtain the Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada. It’s one of the prerequisites for licensure and entry into independent practice in Canada.
  • Family medicine residents write this exam early in their second year; residents in other specialties write it at the end of their first year or early in their second.

Resident - PGY2+

These steps are completed in the final year of your residency.

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Get certified!

  • All residents must complete their respective certification examinations.
  • Once successful, you’re invited to become a fellow of the Royal College, which means you can use the designation FRCSC (surgical specialties) or FRCPC (non-surgical specialties).
  • Family medicine residents earn a CCFP from The College of Family Physicians of Canada.
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Job-hunt, and research continuing education opportunities

  • Chat with your network to research job, locum, additional certification or fellowship opportunities.
  • Research practice options including fee arrangements and clinic models. Check out the New in Practice Guide and JouleTM Practice Management Curriculum for relevant courses in your area.
  • To practice in Quebec, you’ll need a PREM. Research regions, available positions authorized in your region, and submit a compliance notice application between October 15 and November 15 of the year prior to when you wish to practice.
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Make your choice!

  • Choose fellowship, additional certification, locum or practice.
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Make arrangements for “no income” months

  • You may need to increase your line of credit to cover a few months of no income before you start your practice, start a locum or complete additional certification.
  • Review your debt repayment plan to find how much to pay back while minimizing tax once in practice.
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Celebrate! It’s time to graduate from residency.

  • You did it! Well done!
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Move for practice?

  • If you move for work, keep your moving receipts for tax time—you may qualify for a tax deduction if you meet the criteria.
  • Inform the CMA, your PTMA, the Royal College, MD Financial Management and other relevant organizations of your address change.

New-in-Practice

There’s still lots to learn as you begin to practice. Here are a few steps to help you get started.

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Prep for your practice or locum

  • Apply for:
    • hospital privileges
    • a physician billing number
    • a workers’ compensation board billing number in your province
    • licensure in your province or territory of practice
    • membership in your PTMA (a requirement in some provinces)
  • Talk to an insurance specialist to evaluate professional insurance needs (such as liability) and personal insurance needs (such as life and disability).
  • Chat with your network or MD Advisor to find an accountant and lawyer to help you in practice (even if you’re not incorporated).
  • Review employment contracts and other legal documents with a lawyer.
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Work, work, work!

  • You did it! You’re now in the world of practice!
  • Learn about the electronic medical records systems (if applicable), billing systems and other administrative tools.
  • Check out Joule’s Practice Management Curriculum for courses on patient care, leadership and practice management.