While registered nurses continue to be in high demand in Canada, it’s vital to research nursing jobs and employment requirements before you arrive in Canada. Even within a great job market, it can be difficult to secure a job without the required credentials and licensing to work in this regulated profession in Canada. Knowing what’s required to work as a nurse in Canada before you arrive can save you time, money, and energy.
Nursing is among the most in-demand jobs in Canada due to a labour shortage. And this shortage is expected to persist. So if you’re interested in a career as a registered nurse (RN), find out about nursing employment and job requirements in Canada. If you were trained as a nurse and have nursing experience, you may have many of the requirements. Here you’ll learn about the process to apply for nursing jobs in Canada.
1. Understanding Nursing Job Requirements in Canada
RNs play a vital role in Canada’s health care system. And the need for RNs is increasing due to COVID-19 as it created an urgent need for RNs. As well, the demand for RNs in Canada stems from:
- Canada’s ageing population that will require more health services, and
- Vacancies as nurses retire from the workforce.
As a result, more nursing jobs are available in Canada. Because of these factors, internationally educated nurses (IENs) will play a vital role in filling the nursing job gap. In addition to nursing jobs in hospitals, there are many other settings for RNs such as:
- Community agencies
- Rehabilitation centres
- Private homes, and
- Nursing homes.
Nursing Job Prospects for RNs in Canada
Job prospects were rated as fair to good for RNs in all provinces and territories in Canada. This is according to Canada’s Job Bank resource data as of December 2021.
Further, COVID-19 has widened the gap between the current supply of nurses and the future needs across Canada. Because of this, IENs can expect a strong job market.
Researching the Nursing Profession in Canada
As for any occupation, it’s vital that you carefully research the job market for nursing jobs before you arrive in Canada. This will ensure that you:
- Know what’s required (i.e. provincial license)
- Follow the application process
- Get the support that you need.
Because nursing is a regulated profession in Canada, you need a certificate (or licence) to work as an RN. And the licensing process can be lengthy and costly. So, it’s wise to prepare for this before you arrive in Canada. This can save you time, money, and energy!
Start Your Research with the National Occupational Classification (NOC) Code 31301: Registered Nurses
You can learn more about what you require to work as an RN in Canada by using the NOC 31301. The NOC provides a standard way to describe and understand the nature of work for RNs. While the NOC can be used by different groups, for job seekers like you, it’s a great way to learn about:
- Common titles for RNs which is helpful when job searching (see image below)
- Main duties that RNs perform to compare them to your nursing duties in your home country
- Job requirements, and
- License requirements.
Salary for Nursing Jobs in Canada
Once you have the NOC, you can conduct further research at the Government of Canada Job Bank site. Here you can find helpful information about wages, job prospects, requirements, and skills. It’s also a useful resource to search for jobs.
All of this information is important to know and understand before you arrive in Canada. This information can tell you where job prospects for RNs are the greatest in Canada. It may even influence which city you choose to live in Canada.
Salary information is useful to know as well. With average salaries, you can get an idea of how much you can expect to earn in provinces and cities across Canada. However, when you research wages, it’s equally important to consider the cost of living in the city where you think you want to live.
While average wages may be higher in some cities, the cost of living could also be higher. So, you want to balance both of these factors to ensure your financial success. To get a sense of the cost of rental housing, check out Rentals for Newcomers for up-to-date housing costs in many cities in Canada
An Overview of the Application Process for IENs
Importantly, you must first apply to the National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS) and submit documents that will allow you to register as a nurse in Canada. The NNAS is a national online application service developed by nursing regulatory bodies in Canada.
The role of NNAS is to:
- Receive and store documents that IENs submit
- Verify that documents are real
- Ensure credentials meet Canadian standards
- Confirm that they have all application documents
- Send an Advisory Report to the provincial nursing regulatory bodies.
The Advisory Report will allow you to apply to any province and nursing group including:
- Registered Nurse
- Licensed Practical Nurse
- Registered Psychiatric Nurse.
The NNAS has a helpful step-by-step applicant handbook to guide you through the process.
NNAS 6 Step Application Process
1. Create your online account to start your application
2. Submit two forms of identification (passport, driver’s licence, government-issued id) directly to NNAS. Your ID must be copies of original documents and you must:
- Sign and date all copies
- Have a notary stamp your ID to confirm that they have seen the original documents
- Provide documents that have been translated by a certified translator in either English or French.
3. Submit your Nursing Education form for each post-secondary school you attended outside of Canada. Each school must complete the form and send it directly to NNAS.
4. Submit your Nursing Registration form. You must:
- Print, sign, date and send the form to all nursing licensing authorities where you were licensed outside of canada.
The licensing authority must send the form directly to NNAS.
5. Submit your Nursing Practice/Employment form. You must:
- Print, sign, date and the form to all employers that you have worked for in the past five years.
Employers must send the form directly to NNAS.
6. Submit your Language Testing results. You must:
- prove to the NNAS that you can communicate effectively in English or French
- complete language testing if your first language is not English or French.
English or French Language Testing for Nursing Jobs
If you require an English or French language test, the following are approved testing agencies:
These agencies evaluate your listening, writing, reading, and speaking skills. All Canadian nursing regulators will require proof of your language ability.
You may not have to complete language testing if your first language is either English or French. However, you will have to prove that English or French is the main language used where you live and work. As well, you will have to show that you:
- Received your nursing education in English or French
- Practiced nursing within the last two years where English or French was the main language used.
After You Receive Your NNAS Advisory Report
When you receive your NNAS Advisory Report, you can apply to the nursing regulators in the province where you expect to live.
Apply to Provincial and Territorial Nursing Regulators
It is up to the provincial or territorial regulators to assess your nursing competency. To do this, you will have to go through an assessment process and:
- Complete required exams
- Show knowledge of laws, regulations, standards and guidelines set by the provincial nursing regulators.
With a high demand for RNs in Canada and a good outlook for nursing jobs in the future, now is the time to check out your options. With international experience, passion, and talent, nursing in Canada can be within reach!
Interested in learning more about working in Canada? Check out our Finding a Job in Canada resource page. We can help you achieve your career goals in Canada.
2. Employment and Nursing Jobs in Canada
Finding a nursing job in Canada may be different than in your home country. So you may need help to find jobs, update your resume, write cover letters, and prepare for interviews. This is where settlement agencies can be a valuable resource for you. They can help you with all of these job search activities so that you can find a job in Canada faster. Read more about Services in Canada to Help Newcomers Settle.
The National Occupational Classification (NOC) is Canada’s reference on occupations. It provides job descriptions, occupational statistics and labour market information. The NOC provides a standard description of the RN role as:
Registered Nurses (RNs)
They work independently or in collaboration with others and assess, plan, implement and evaluate care for clients. They coordinate healthcare, deliver nursing services and support clients in their self-care decisions and actions in situations of health, illness, injury and disability at all stages of life.
One of the first things you need to do is learn what you require to work as an RN in Canada. To do this you can visit the provincial or territorial nursing regulatory body where you intend to settle in Canada (see section 5: Provincial & Territorial Regulatory Bodies). You can find information about the documents you will require along with assessment fees. It’s important to take this step before you arrive in Canada so you have a clear understanding of the time and cost to apply.
Once you have an understanding of the licensure process and the expectations of the regulatory body, you can begin your application.
You will also need an education evaluation to see if your education in your home country is equivalent to Canadian nursing education. As well, you may be required to show your knowledge and skills through a competency-based assessment.
The nursing regulatory bodies in each province and territory are responsible for assessing the qualifications of IENs. They also schedule nurses to write the Canadian Registered Nurse Examination (CRNE). You may be allowed to write the CRNE in a province or territory other than the one you reside in. However, you cannot write the exam outside Canada.
Even if you are already licensed to practice as an RN in Canada, employers may request a formal assessment of your academic credentials. This education assessment shows how your qualifications obtained abroad compare with academic credentials obtained in Canada.
Credentials Assessment Services
For other organizations that provide credential evaluation, assessment and qualification recognition services click here.
Best Locations for Nursing Jobs in Canada
Nursing is among the most in-demand professions across Canada and job prospects are rated as good in many provinces. There is a demand for RNs with skills and experience in specialty areas, such as emergency, critical care and operating room, and those who are willing to work in smaller or isolated communities.
One of the main reasons cited for this demand is due to Canada’s aging population that is increasingly in need of health services.
In Canada, RNs are employed in traditional and specialized health care settings or in other community settings. These include settings such as hospitals, nursing homes, extended-care facilities, community health agencies, health centres and walk-in clinics to name a few. Nurses may also be self-employed. There is a movement toward community-based health care, so in the future, there may be fewer jobs in hospitals and more in public health areas.
- Registered psychiatric nurses can be employed in different settings such as:
- Acute care hospitals and clinics
- Child and adolescent psychiatric treatment
- Long-term psychiatric facilities
- Crisis teams and suicide prevention programs
- Substance abuse and addictions programs.
You can visit Canada’s Best Diversity Employers website. This special designation recognizes Canada’s best employers for recent immigrants. These employers offer interesting programs to help newcomers transition to a new workplace and a new life in Canada.
This report draws on data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information’s Nursing Database, which covers the three regulated nursing professions in Canada: registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered psychiatric nurses (RPNs). It provides information about the nursing supply and workforce in Canada.
This annual report provides an overview of health care spending trends. It provides an overview of how much money is spent on health care annually, what areas money is spent on, and where the money comes from.
3. Upgrading Your Skills to Meet Nursing Job Requirements
In addition to accreditation, upgrading your skills through a bridging program is an important part of your journey to becoming a nurse in Canada.
You may have strong nursing skills, but often that is not enough to get a job or maintain it afterwards. You may need more training or skills upgrading, especially in regards to your soft skills.
Having strong skills in one or both of Canada’s official languages – English or French –is extremely important as well for your future in Canada. Whether you choose to focus on learning or improving English or French will depend on which of the two languages most people speak in the area where you live.
You may be eligible for Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program. Otherwise, you can find other free or affordable classes in English as a Second Language (ESL) or French as a Second Language (FSL) classes through the school boards or settlement agencies.
There are even language courses to teach you professional terminology, such as job-specific language training and Occupation Specific Language Training (OSLT) in Ontario. And, if you already speak one of Canada’s two official languages at a high level, learning the other one is a good option, as it may offer you better job opportunities.
Education & Bridging Programs for Nurses
Bridging programs are a good way to transition your international experience and training to the Canadian workplace. Many colleges, universities and immigrant-serving agencies offer bridging programs for nurses.
You can research various bridging programs to see if you’re eligible for a program that meets your needs.
Bredin Centre for Learning
The Centre provides IENs with the tools to become licensed in their Health Care Profession in Alberta/Canada. Participants will be assigned a Career Coach, based on their Profession, that will guide them through the licensure and employment process.
Grant MacEwan University
The university offers courses for IENs to complete the requirements to become eligible to practice in Canada or who wish to upgrade their knowledge and skills.
Mount Royal University
This program helps IENs bring their world of knowledge to the Canadian workforce. It helps IENs to make a smooth transition and to “bridge” the differences between their nursing experience abroad and Canadian practices.
Kwantlen Polytechnic University
This program prepares IENs to work as RNs in British Columbia. It is designed for nurses who are required by the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia to renew and enhance nursing knowledge and skills, and to write the Canadian Registered Nurse Examination.
The program provides IENs with the skills required to meet Canadian standards and language in preparation of achieving their nursing license.
Red River College
This program prepares IENs to work as RNs in Manitoba.
Take the first level if you need to upgrade your English Language skills. Take the second level if the College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba requires you to enhance your nursing knowledge and skills to be eligible to write the Canadian Registered Nurses Exam.
This program helps IENs obtain the credentials to practice as an RN in Ontario. The program offers participants academic training, skills upgrading, language training and clinical experience.
Program graduates receive a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and are qualified to write the Canadian Registered Nurses Exam.
This program helps IENs meet the requirements to become registered nurses and registered practical nurses in Ontario. The program provides participants with academic and occupation-specific language training, registration exam preparation support as well as supervised clinical placements and mentorship opportunities.
This program offers an academic pathway to transfer skills and nursing knowledge to a Canadian setting. The curriculum focuses on developing knowledge and critical thinking, communication, teaching and learning, professionalism, advocacy, research and leadership, and applying these skills in health care settings. This diploma program meets the needs of IENs who want to work as registered practical nurses in Canada.
This program provides exam preparation, nursing-specific language training, counselling, financial advice, workshops, job shadowing, networking opportunities and job shadowing through health agencies in Ontario. CARE now has locations in Toronto, Brampton, Hamilton, Kingston and London.
George Brown College
This program helps IENs to prepare for registration and employment by providing academic coursework, clinical placements, training workshops as well as mentoring and job search support opportunities. Online courses increase the flexibility of the program for participants. Completing the program leads to a nursing graduate certificate.
Hamilton Health Sciences
This program is for internationally trained registered nurses and registered practical nurses working at Hamilton Health Sciences Centre. The program provides services to address training and employment needs from recruitment and orientation to full clinical integration. The program also includes clinical assessment, clinical skills development, problem-solving, communication skills training, team relationships, professionalism and managing conflict in a hospital setting.
This program helps IENs meet the requirements to qualify for the registration exam and to practice in Ontario either as registered practical nurses or RNs. The program includes enhanced occupational-specific language training, in-class academic or simulated laboratory training, clinical placements, cultural competency, workplace preparation and registration exam support.
This program will provide you with the education and clinical experience necessary to meet the College of Nurses of Ontario’s evidence of practice requirements. Upon completion of the program, verification of course completion will be forwarded to the College of Nurses as proof of practice and fluency. This program is available on a part-time basis.
This program delivers training and supports to IENs living in Northwestern Ontario. It prepares IENs to write Ontario’s nursing registration exams and effectively integrate them into Northwestern Ontario’s healthcare workforce.
This 15-week program helps IENs obtain licensure and find work as Registered Practical Nurses. The program includes occupation-specific language preparation, pre-health academic course work and a practicum. Program graduates also qualify for accelerated completion of Conestoga College’s Practical Nursing Diploma.
4. Job Search Techniques for Nursing
The Canadian job market is very competitive and jobs are not easy to find. As well, finding a job in Canada may be very different than in your home country.
You have to be registered to practice as a registered nurse in a province or territory. You must look for jobs in the region where you will be registered. Take your time to research job requirements in that region and develop a plan to find work.
There are many ways to search for nursing jobs, for example:
- Broaden your search and include alternative careers.
- Seek out a mentor in the nursing sector – for example, a retired nurse – who would give you valuable insight and advice and probably introduce you to their professional network. Find out how a mentor can help you succeed.
- Join nursing related job-finding or networking clubs through immigrant-serving agencies.
- Attend nursing related career and job fairs.
Nursing colleges or associations may have a job bank or suggest a commercial job site. As well, hospitals and other health centres post vacancies on their websites.
Most settlement agencies offer help with finding job vacancies, updating your resume, writing cover letters, preparing for interviews and understanding what Canadian employers are looking for.
Click the link to find immigrant services in your area.
Include a “Summary of Qualifications” or “Areas of Expertise” section at the very top. Have a short introduction or objective statement, and then add bullet points to highlight your most impressive nursing accomplishments. This is a great opportunity to use strategic keywords that will help get you noticed by HR software applications.
You can use keywords that are found in the nursing job posting. Some examples are nurse, RN, registered nurse, critical care, emergency department, medical terminology, patient relations, etc.
Include all of your education and training, but don’t go into too much detail. If you just took a nursing bridging program or any other healthcare course in Canada, by all means, mention that as one of your strengths.
Make sure you mention your level of interaction with patients. Most nursing professionals are very patient-oriented so it’s important to discuss the types of patients you’ve worked with in various clinical settings.
Find out more about writing your resume: Types of Resumes that are Common in Canada.
Interview Techniques for Nursing Jobs in Canada
Nursing interviews can be challenging. Mostly they are competency-based in front of a large panel and for many candidates, these can be daunting. However, with proper preparation and effective practice, you can master the interview and walk away with the job offer.
When you interview for a nursing position, you’ll be asked about your skills and experience, training, and interests. Here are some sample questions you can prepare to answer:
- What made you choose nursing as a career?
- How do you keep current with medical findings and nursing practices?
- How do you handle stress on the job?
- Describe how your training and experience have prepared you to work in cardiology/ A&E / (or whatever the job is)?
Get the essential tips for your first job interview in Canada.
While the job outlook looks much better for nurses than many other occupations, landing that next opportunity as an RN in Canada requires extra effort for newcomers.
- Make a list of the hospitals, nursing homes, public health agencies, traveling nurse agencies, and others, as desired, that operate in your area.
- Use your resources including professional organizations and LinkedIn and other networking tools to identify organization insiders, such as nurse recruiters, nurse supervisors, health unit coordinators, and peers at the RN, LPN, CNA or NAR levels to learn about the particular and emerging needs of that organization, at that level, and in that immediate environment.
- Create 5 – 10 open-ended questions that will help you to further understand the nursing profession in Canada.
Unlike some professions, where a 9-5 schedule is standard, nurses have to juggle 12-hour shifts and be “on-call” with their personal lives. This can make it difficult to attend professional or social functions or other networking events. Therefore, online networking sites give nurses the opportunity to connect, get back in touch or simply meet new people, despite those crazy work schedules.
It’s also vital to connect with other people in the profession and other RNs in Canada. Building and maintaining these relationships can go a long way in helping you find a job. If you are a nurse based in an isolated rural area, being a part of a social networking site makes it easier to instantly connect with loved ones back home, while simultaneously staying connected with co-workers around the world.
Professionally, online communities can offer nurses advice, information, encouragement and job leads. By being part of online nursing communities or LinkedIn groups you can interact instantly via group pages, online chat portals, or post questions for others to read and respond via forums.
Get more great tips for successful networking: Build Your Professional Network Before You Arrive.
5. Nursing Associations in Canada
These associations can provide more information about licensure and certification. They also offer professional development, education and networking opportunities for RNs in Canada.
The CNA is the national voice for RNs in Canada. It is a federation of 11 federal and provincial and territorial associations and colleges representing over 146,000 registered nurses. CNA’s website offers information and resources that will help you to understand more about nursing in Canada.
Provincial & Territorial Regulatory Bodies
Prince Edward Island
Newfoundland and Labrador
Other Provincial Associations
The RNAO represents RNs in Ontario. It advocates for healthy public policy, promotes excellence in nursing practice, and influences decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.
ARNBC represents RNs and Nurse Practitioners in British Columbia.
AARNIPP is a specialty practice group for RNs who offer services within a private practice.
Professional immigrant networks are organized, volunteer-run networks created by and for immigrant professionals that seek to:
- create a forum to contribute to and enrich their respective communities
- provide opportunities for their members to find meaningful employment and achieve their professional goals
Activities of these networks include networking events, mentoring, information sessions, professional development opportunities such as workshops, speaker events and training and connections to employment opportunities.
isans: Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia: helps newcomer professionals with their full economic and social integration in the province of Nova Scotia.