Should I go to Australia or the UK for medical school after high school?

A very common question I get from students and their parents is “I am graduating from Grade 12 this year and really want to be a doctor. Should I stay in Canada for my undergraduate before applying to medical school here? Or should I apply for Australian/UK medical schools now?”
The answer is somewhat simple: it all depends on if you intend to return to Canada to practice medicine.

The foremost benefit of attending an international school after graduating high school is the difference in degree structuring. Medical degrees are obtained in six years at these schools, versus eight years here in Canada. In addition, it is relatively less competitive – and therefore, less stressful, in the application process internationally. Despite the high tuition fees ($50,000-$60,000 CDN equivalent per year), those international schools are popular choice among those with the financial means. In comparison, a Canadian medical school costs $20,000 per year to attend.

Okay. You have your medical degree. You are a doctor. But, are you really a doctor?

Medical graduates must obtain post-graduate training (or residency) before being granted medical licenses to practice independently. If you intend to practice abroad, then it is great that you attended medical school exactly where you wanted to practice. If you wish to return to Canada, then it is not so simple. Statistics have shown that roughly 2000 International Medical Graduates (IMG) apply for usually less than 200 residency spots in Canada per year (that’s less than 10% success rate). In comparison, a Canadian Medical Graduate (CMG) has a success rate of 90% of matching to a residency spot. In my opinion, applying for residency is much more stressful than applying to medical school. Being an IMG means that sometimes you may have to compromise and you might not get an ideal match for a specific location or specialty based on your personal or academic reasons. Imagine not being able to obtain a residency spot after you and your family have invested so much time and money in the process. Not a situation that anyone wants to get into.

If you plan to stay in Australia or the UK after medical school, then congrats! I have lived in both of these amazing countries and I may consider obtaining further training in either of these places. The residency training is usually 3-7 years after medical school depending on your specialty (compared to 2-5 years in Canada), with a slightly higher salary. In the grand scheme of things, it takes roughly the same amount of time to become a practicing physician after graduating from high school whether you are in Canada or abroad. Having a post-secondary education before medical school (ie. in Canada) will make you a more mature and skillful candidate during medical school when interacting with patients and colleagues.

Does money matter?

Cost of medical school and compensation as a resident and/or physician are some factors to consider. My only advice is this: in the grand scheme of things, your debt will be paid off first year into practice. Your pay will be commensurate for the value you provide (most of the time), and it will be able to sustain a lifestyle that you are content with (or your lifestyle will adjust based on your pay). In any case, medicine is for those that are passionate to make a difference in others’ lives, and not so concerned about comparing the differences in compensation for international colleagues.