By IELTS Expert

06 June 2023 - 11:15

Nurse making adjustments to hospital equipment
In this article:

If you’ve decided to work as a nurse in Canada, you’ve made a good choice. Canada is a top destination for many people who are looking to move to a new country. Canadians are known worldwide for being friendly with a good sense of humour, while the landscape is beautiful and the economy is rapidly growing.

There is also a big demand for qualified healthcare workers in Canada, and the government often looks to immigrants to fill these roles. For these reasons and more, Canada is a great choice for any nurse.

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Why work as a nurse in Canada?

For people who decide to work as a nurse in Canada, there are many benefits.

Welcoming of immigrants 

As a nation, Canada is very welcoming of immigrants and relies heavily on foreign workers and immigrants to fuel population growth. In 2022, Canada’s population grew by over 1 million people for the first time, largely due to immigration.

As a nurse, you may qualify to work in Canada as a skilled worker and then be able to apply for permanent residency. This relatively straightforward path to immigration is a definite advantage to choosing Canada over other countries where it may not be so easy to obtain residency.

Diversity and standard of living 

Canada is very culturally diverse and offers a vibrant way of life with a high standard of living. The idea of ‘multiculturalism’ plays a big role in how Canadians see themselves. With two national languages, English and French, and a population that is nearly one quarter immigrants, Canada celebrates and welcomes different cultural influences.

The high standard of living in Canada also means that nurses and other healthcare practitioners are paid a good living wage relative to where the communities in which they serve.

Equitable access to healthcare 

Canada has a national publicly-funded healthcare system which is administered at a state level, meaning that healthcare in each of Canada’s thirteen provinces and territories works slightly differently. While that may sound complicated, things actually run very smoothly. Healthcare practitioners, including nurses, are highly regarded in the community and play an important role in delivering life-saving care to all Canadians.

Canada also offers the unique opportunity to work as a nurse in remote or isolated First Nations communities. These are often communities facing unique challenges in some of the most remote parts of the country. Due to the need for more access to healthcare, working as a nurse in one of these communities comes with added benefits.

Other benefits 

If you choose to become a Canadian resident, you will qualify for access to healthcare as well as other social security benefits. Each province or territory also provides their own benefits, such as a pension plan for healthcare workers, according to the local system.

Canadian nursing registration for international nurses

If you are an international nurse wanting to work in Canada, you will need to meet the requirements of the nursing association in your province or territory.

 As a general guide, you will likely require:

  • A four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing, with the exception of Québec, which instead requires a three-year Diploma of Collegial Studies in nursing or recognition of equivalence
  • A nursing license for the province or territory you wish to practice in
  • The NCLEX exam
  • Proof of English (or French) language proficiency
  • A valid visa to work in Canada

Nursing associations in Canada

To work as a nurse in Canada, you need to be licensed by the local regulatory body. Canada has ten provinces and three territories, each of which have their own nursing association(s) that conducts assessments and licenses nurses. Some provinces only have one association, while others have several depending on the kind of nurse practitioner you are. 

You can find a list of the relevant nursing associations below. If you need more guidance on understanding how nursing regulation works in Canada, the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) may be able to offer more support.

Provinces

British Columbia

Alberta

Saskatchewan

Manitoba 

Ontario

Québec

New Brunswick

 Nova Scotia 

 Prince Edward Island 

 Newfoundland and Labrador

Territories

Northwest Territories 

 Nunavut 

 Yukon 

If you’re deciding where in Canada you want to live, there are a few factors to consider.

  • The climate: While Canada is well-known for being a cold and snowy place, there’s actually a lot of variation in the climate across the country. The southwest coast, such as Vancouver and Victoria, is the most temperate part of the country with mild winters and lovely summers, but it also gets a lot of rain. The interior of the country, known as the prairies, has pronounced seasonal changes, as does the east coast, such as Toronto and Montreal – in these spots you’ll find cold, snowy winters and hot, humid summers. The territories are located in the north of the country, and have some of the coldest weather overall. Knowing what kind of climate you prefer will help you find the right place to look for a job as a nurse. 
  • The culture and language: Canada has two official languages, English and French, however these are not spoken in all parts of the country. The dominant language is English except in the province of Québec where many people speak French. In some of the territories, such as Nunavut, indigenous languages such as Inuktuk are also spoken.
  • Travel: Canada is a very large country, so depending on where you’re moving from, your journey may take longer or shorter. If you plan to travel a lot to another country (such as your home country) or have people visit you, then it might be worth considering the overall distance and if there are direct flights. For example, you can travel direct from Hong Kong to Vancouver in 13.5 hours – but travelling from Hong Kong to Yellowknife can take over 26 hours with stopovers!

Step-by-step guide to becoming a nurse in Canada

Step 1: Choose which province or territory you want to work in

You will need to be licensed by the local regulatory body, so the first step is deciding which province or territory you want to live in. You may want to spend some time researching the different parts of Canada, as it’s a very big country with different climates and personalities from coast to coast. You’ll also want to think about whether you prefer to live in a big city like Toronto or Vancouver, or a smaller community, as this can help you decide which province or territory is the best choice for you.

Step 2: Register with the National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS)

The NNAS is the national assessment service for both Canada and the USA. You must register with them in order to work as a nurse in Canada, which involves supplying documentation including identification and information about your nursing education and employment history.

Step 3: Obtain proof of language proficiency, such as IELTS for nurses in Canada

In order to practice as a nurse in Canada, you must be able to demonstrate your proficiency in English (or French if you wish to move to Québec).

There are two types of assessments commonly accepted to show proof of English language proficiency for nurses: CELBAN (Canadian English Language Benchmark Assessment for Nurses) and IELTS

To take IELTS for nursing in Canada, you’ll most likely be applying for a Federal Skilled Worker visa (see below), which means you’ll need the IELTS General Training test. The IELTS test can be taken on paper or on computer. To be accepted as a skilled worker, you must have an overall IELTS score of at least 7, with a minimum of 7 in the Speaking and Writing sections, 7.5 in Listening and 6.5 in Reading.

Step 4: Complete the provincial or territorial assessments

Once you’ve decided where you want to work, you can contact the relevant nursing association for guidance and support in completing the required assessments to get your license to practice in that province or territory. You can find a list of regulatory bodies above or on the CNA website.

Step 5: Take the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX)

To become a Registered Nurse (RN) in Canada, you need to pass the NCLEX. The nursing association for your province or territory can tell you what you need to do before applying for the exam, as eligibility requirements may vary.

Step 6: Apply for a work visa

There are three ways to apply to work in Canada as a nurse:

  1. Federal Skilled Worker Program (Express Entry)
    If you have at least one year of continuous experience working in nursing, you may be able to apply for a work visa under the Federal Skilled Worker Program (Express Entry). If you’re successful, you can then apply for permanent residency.
  2. Québec’s Regular Skilled Worker Program (QSW)
    If you wish to work in Québec, you can check to see if you are eligible for the QSW program.
  3. Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP)
    Depending on which province or territory you wish to work in, you may be able to apply for a PNP which can sponsor you to come work in that area.

If none of the above options are suitable for you, you might want to consider furthering your education by studying in Canada. There are additional immigration streams for students in Canada, so if you’ve been thinking about further studies then this may be a good option for you.

Step 7: Arriving in Canada

Once you have your visa and qualifications in place, you can prepare to travel to Canada and begin looking for a job. Your nursing association can give you guidance on how to apply for jobs in your province or territory. In general, you’ll need to prepare a resume (CV) and cover letter for each job application.

IELTS for nurses in Canada

IELTS is the world’s most popular English language proficiency test, and the IELTS General Training test is the preferred IELTS test for Canadian immigration.

To take IELTS for nursing in Canada, you will need to find a test centre near you. There are over 800 official British Council IELTS test locations across the globe, so you should be able to find one that is conveniently located. You can also choose how to take your test – wither on paper or on a computer, both at a test centre.

When you book your IELTS test with the British Council, you also get access to a wide range of IELTS study materials and resources to help you do your best on test day.

A few final thoughts on Canada

Did you know that nearly 96% of Canada’s population growth in 2022 came from immigration - and that Canada regularly leads the G7 countries in population growth due to their positive stance on immigration?

Part of the reason Canada is so welcoming to immigrants is that they have an ageing population, relatively low birth rate and labour shortages in many key sectors of the economy – including healthcare. Foreign workers are in high demand, with lots of jobs available for immigrants.

In addition to the high demand for skilled foreign workers, Canada offers a good quality of life. It is a very safe country with low crime rates, excellent educational and professional opportunities, and progressive social values.

Canada is also a very large country with different landscapes, climates and lifestyles from coast to coast – so it’s worth learning a bit about the different parts of the country before deciding where you might want to live.

Don’t forget to book your IELTS for nursing in Canada to get started on the path to your new career! 

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