Many see Canada as the land of milk and honey as the quality of life is high, and importantly, they possess one of the leading health care systems in the world. Nurses form the backbone of this important industry and due to their renown, studying nursing in Canada is highly competitive. Many universities give admission priority to local students as there is such a high influx of applicants. But as an international student, you are still able to enter into programs at some of the country’s leading schools. Applicants that can show that they are well-rounded with a high GPA can secure one of these highly coveted spots.

Almost 8.5% of the total registered nurses in Canada are foreign nationals and they earn upwards of $150 000 per year. But the application process can become costly with registration fees and other hidden costs that you might not plan on. Therefore it is crucial to do your homework well in advance and consider all the pros and cons of studying nursing in Canada before making up your mind.

How Many Years Does it Take to Become a Nurse in Canada?

For most students and in most universities, it takes four years to become a registered nurse in Canada. International students in Canada qualify to pursue a career in Nursing provided that they meet certain criteria. For the most part, as an international student, you have plenty of opportunities and scholarships to study nursing in the country, so follow this guide and apply to the university of your choice.

1. Know the Basic Structure of Nursing Programs in Canada

Nurses in Canada fall under 3 groups. The first of these is Registered Nurses (RN). To become an RN you will need to complete a 4-year bachelor’s degree at an institution that grants degrees. This includes degrees such as Nursing and Bachelor of Nursing. There are exceptions to this 4-year rule. The University of Toronto offers a 2-year course, but to qualify, you should have completed at least 10 credits at a university previously. This is called “Second Degree Entry” or “Compressed BScN”. These credits need to include courses in subjects such as physics or humanities. After studying nursing in Canada for 4 years, you can specialize even further to become a Nurse Practitioner (NP).

The second grouping is LPN, Licensed Practical Nurses. This only requires you to complete 4 semesters (2 years) of school and you will only be equipped to handle patients with uncomplicated matters. You can assess more complicated matters and evaluate which higher professional they would need to seek help from.

Thirdly, Registered Psychiatric Nursing (RPN) is a specialized course that is only available at a hand full of schools around the country.

For the purposes of this summation, we will focus on standard Registered Nurses programs as this is the most common course.

2. Examine Canadian Schools and Different Regions in Canada

Since Canada is separated into 10 provinces, you will need to look closely at the regulations for each state. Most students look to study nursing in Canada because they would like to pursue a career after completing their studies. The regions in Canada all have different legislation regarding working permits, and you need to see where it would be best suited for you.

Canada also has extreme weather conditions in many areas, and you need to be sure that you can adapt to climate change effectively. Studying nursing in Canada is demanding, and the last thing you need is an onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Canada also has many French-speaking areas, and this might benefit you if French is a language you are familiar with. If you are already fluent in French, you should then look into heading to a more French-dominated region like Quebec.

Check Also: Canada Programs for International Students

3. Meet English Proficiency Requirements for Nursing in Canada

At a high-school level, you are expected to have taken English and mathematics but you will also need to prove your proficiency in English with IELTS or TOEFL test results. University of Saskatchewan’s College of Nursing requires a score of at least 90 on your TOEFL. Their IELTS requirement is equally demanding, you need a 7.0. Some schools have lover IELTS requirements to study nursing in Canada. Dalhousie University and the University of Ottawa only require a 6.5. Similarly, the TOEFL requirements are vastly different. The University of Toronto requires a score of 100 while McMaster University only requires 86.

The University of Alberta has a bilingual program where you can study in French and English. For this, you would need to write an additional French proficiency test provided by the University. Also, if you need any tips regarding English proficiency tests, you can visit either the TOEFL Guide or the IELTS Guide for more information.

4. Prepare to Pay Tuition Fees

The cost of tuition in Canada is notoriously high and might often exceed that of your native country’s tuition. That being said, the quality of education is superb and the practical experience in their hospitals is second to none. Their tuition ranges from around $40 000 up to $150 000 for the whole program, and the cost factor depends on the location of your school as well as the size of the classes.

McMaster University has some of the lowest tuition fees and for international students, the price is around $1000 per unit. Nursing students also have extra costs such as uniforms that need to be taken into account. At the upper end of the spectrum is a school such as Western University in London, Ontario. Here tuition is $45,500 per year.

5. Prepare Your Application

It is vital to prepare your application with great care to be able to study nursing in Canada. There are thousands of students applying for the same spot and at many schools, Canadian nationals are given preferential treatment. The University of Toronto has one of the top nursing schools in the world and offers webinars and information sessions to guide you through the strenuous application process.

There is a long list of documents you will need to prepare and failing to do due diligence may result in your application being denied. This includes necessary high school transcripts, immunization forms, police checks, and N95 mask fitting numbers.

6. Apply to Nursing Schools

It is important to get your applications in early and avoid any last-minute blunders. Canadian school years run from September to June and you will apply well before spring to start your studies in the fall. At the University of Calgary for example, applications for fall open in October. There are often multiple deadlines for applications, supplementary exams, and interviews.

This process also comes at a cost that needs to be paid along with your application. McGill University has an application fee of $92, and this fee is also non-refundable. Thus, the application process itself can become costly as you will pay on average $100 per application. Budget for the application process over and above your studies.

7. After Admission, Apply for Student Visa

To study nursing in Canada, you will be granted a Canadian study permit. Upon being accepted, you will need a letter of acceptance from your university to accompany your application. If you are going to study nursing in Quebec, you will also need a CAQ (Quebec Acceptance Certificate) from the local government. The Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) website supplies a full list of required documents that need to be submitted. You can apply by paper or online but the online method is much faster and also recommended. The cost of this permit is $150 and in some cases, you might need to do an in-person interview at your local Canadian embassy. All of this needs to be taken into account as it can get costly and take some time to get everything arranged.


We hope that this article on how to study nursing in Canada was helpful. Make sure to also check out the Available Courses in Canada!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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