Nursing in Canada: Eligibility, Costs, Top Colleges, Jobs, Salaries and Registration Process for Foreign Nursing Graduates

Nursing has emerged into the most critical role in the medical profession. With such physically demanding tasks, nurses need to be on their feet to provide an anchor in the tumultuous waters of medical treatments. Besides, it’s also one of the best recession-proof professions. So, one must research in-depth before choosing this career and be acquainted with the endless opportunities it brings along. This service is a true calling, and what better place than Canada to nurture this dream. Yes, Canada has been one of the leading choices to study and practice nursing for international students and nurses.

Nursing in Canada

Eligibility, Costs, Top Colleges, Jobs, Registration Process for Foreign Nursing Graduates, and Salaries

Co-authored by Parinita Gupta

Why Nursing in Canada?

Canada itself is a country of countless opportunities. Being one of the first worlds, it offers a variety of ways to ensure its citizens and residents of achieving their potentials and be the best they can be in their chosen path. Nursing is also one of the top subjects to study in Canada for foreign students.

High Quality of Education and Training

Canada is among the best of nations that provide high-quality programs in the field of nursing. After all, it provides you with a globally acknowledged degree, and have ample hands-on expertise. Apart from this, BSc Nursing in Canada provides you with an industrial internship, which boosts your job versatility by offering you a wide range of positions in the sphere of nursing.

Excellent Job Prospects

Nurses in Canada can be (registered/licensed) practical nurses, registered nurses or nurse practitioners. Also, there are specialty nurses (foot care nurses, community nurses, etc. ) which gives them more options to choose from depending on which goal an individual wants to attain. Given these types of nursing fields, salary ranges differently and employment options (which include self-employment) vary.

As an international nurse, Canada provides an ambitious salary starting from $75k per year for just 40 hours per week of work with an annual increment in the payroll. Moreover, another benefit is health coverage, which kicks in after three months of living in the country. Further, many hospitals and institutions provide the ease of child care for nurses serving at odd hours.

Stability and Security

The nursing profession in Canada is protected by unions (job security, benefits), various organizations (liability protection and assistance), and you can earn to choose your accommodation (roof on the head). Additionally, once employed, pension contributions are being started. This is another way to invest in the future.

Eligibility for Nursing Programs in Canada

Eligibility Criteria for BSc Nursing in Canada

A diploma or undergraduate program (BN or BSc) in nursing in Canada after 12th expects students to have completed high school having at least an average of C grade in English, mathematics, biology, chemistry, and physics. Many schools offer a pre-nursing year for those not meeting these benchmarks.

Eligibility Criteria for MSc and PG Nursing Programs in Canada

A recognized Bachelor’s degree with an average of B grade or a minimum of 70 – 76% is the eligibility criteria for Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Canada. For PG Diploma, you will need a minimum of 60 – 65% in Bachelors.

For aspirants from a university outside Canada, you require at least the following scores:

  • TOEFL: 88 and above
  • IELTS: 6.5 and above
  • PTE: 59 above

Alternatively, foreign students could also opt for CELBAN.

Eligibility for Clinical Programs or Nurse Practitioner in Canada

  • Applicants seeking admission to the Nurse Practitioner field must also have a minimum of 3,900 clinical hours (equivalent to two years of experience) as an RN completed by August 31 in order to begin the program in September (clinical placements in the BScN/BSN program cannot be counted).
  • Applicants must hold current registration as a Registered Nurse or equivalent.

Duration of Nursing Courses in Canada

BSc programs are for Four years, and they prepare you to work as a Registered Nurse, whereas the postgraduate programs last for 1-2 years. The duration of these courses differs across universities in Canada.

Costs of Studying Nursing in Canada

When you choose to become an Internationally Educated Nurse, it is imperative to select the right nursing program based on your desires and competencies. The fee structure depends on the university you decide to apply for, and the nursing program you desire to pursue.

In general, BSc Nursing in Canada would cost approximately CAD $40,000 per year (fees and living). So, total cost would be around INR 80 – 90 Lacs for 4 years.

An approximate annual fee is $18,806 for an Undergraduate and $12,183 for a Graduate.

The essential cost of living will range from $10,000 – $16,500 annually.

Best Universities and Colleges for Nursing in Canada

Top Universities for Nursing in Canada

  1. University of Toronto
  2. University of British Columbia
  3. University of Alberta
  4. McMaster University
  5. McGill University
  6. Queen’s University
  7. University of Calgary
  8. University of New Brunswick
  9. Ryerson University
  10. Dalhousie University
  11. University of Ottawa
  12. Western University
  13. Trinity Western University
  14. Memorial University of Newfoundland
  15. University of Manitoba
  16. Memorial University
  17. Thompson Rivers University
  18. Université de Montréal
  19. University of Victoria
  20. Université Laval

Top Colleges for Nursing in Canada

  1. Centennial College
  2. NorQuest College
  3. St. Lawrence College
  4. Fanshawe College
  5. Camosun College
  6. Georgian College
  7. Conestoga College
  8. Northern Lights College
  9. Langara College
  10. Durham College

Registration for Foreign Nursing Graduates to Work in Canada

Aspirants attempting to grow their nursing career in Canada need to be knowledgeable of some crucial points. The first is that you should know the nursing education you obtained in India or other countries will not be enough for you to practice as a Registered Nurse (RN) in Canada. Your international credentials will be assessed, and you’ll need to become licensed to practice in Canada. This involves a bunch of paperwork.

1. Start with NNAS

You will need to apply to the National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS) if you are seeking nursing jobs in Canada for roles of a Registered Nurse (RN), a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or a Registered Psychiatric Nurse (RPN). This organization provides a smooth process for foreign Nurses to apply for nursing registration in Canada.

You have to pay a fee of $765 to register with the NNAS and send notary signed copies of your identification documents and other application forms that are provided by NNAS. Within a year, you have to submit the forms to NNAS to get an approval. Once approved, you will have permission to apply for licensure.

Just like the state board in the US, Canada has Canadian regulating bodies per province. You can always refer to google if you wanted to find out the requirements and steps of how to be a nurse in your province of choice. Except for Québec, nursing applications start with NNAS.

2. Determine the Type of Nursing Practice

Upon application, you will determine which nursing practice would you like to be assessed to. I understand that as a registered nurse in your country, you can either choose to apply as a Registered Psychiatric Nurse (RPN), Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) or Registered Nurse (RN).

Registered/Licensed practical nurses handle patients with less complex conditions. When the complexity of a client’s case increases they either make a consultation with registered nurses or the RN’s take charge. Also, if you have the qualifications, you can apply as a registered psychiatric nurse.

3. Appear for the Written Exams

If you were assessed and was determined by the regulating body that you can write exams, you have two nursing-related exams that you have to pass: the National Nursing Exam and the Nursing Jurisprudence Exam.

On top of the NNAS, each province in Canada requires you to write the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). The national nursing exam can either be an NCLEX-RN or CPNRE (for practical nurses) depending on your nursing group. Both exams are computer-based. As of this writing (December 2016), NCLEX RN can be retaken without limit but CPNRE gives three chances (in Ontario, please see other provinces for specific information). Both exams have test centers.

After successfully clearing this exam, you can practice as an entry-level RN in Canada. It is best if you write this exam right after graduation as you are customary to the commitment required by exams.

Moreover, the nursing jurisprudence exam is another exam, which focuses on legal and ethical nursing responsibilities. In Ontario, once eligible to take the exam, the link will be sent via email and can be taken online. There is no limit of retakes on this exam and you can choose your own place and time to write it, just ensure good internet connection.

4. Language Proficiency Exams

One of the requirements to be a certified nurse is a proof of language proficiency either in English or French. English exam such as CELBAN or IELTS with the required marks is sufficient enough to send for the proof.

The main difference between them is the context of the exam, wherein IELTS/TOEFL covers general knowledge, CELBAN focuses on nursing concepts.

CELBAN’s main objective is also to assess the knowledge of the use of English. It is not required for you to answer a certain question completely right, in speaking and writing, but it is how you deliver an idea. Any idea will do, however, being confident with your answer will give you more boost on sentence construction, cohesion, and framework.

5. Get the Assessment done through OSCE

OSCE (Objective Structured Clinical Examination) is another assessment tool to gauge nursing competence. It is an evaluation procedure, a two-part process of written and demonstration of skills in a simulation. Some international educated nurses whose credentials show not enough or non-comparable nursing skill set is advised to take OSCE. There are free and paid tutorials for this exam.

Read FAQs: Internationally Educated Nurses Competency Assessment Program.

6. Leverage Social Media to Increase Job Opportunities

Meanwhile, you can update your resume on LinkedIn and Indeed and apply for administration jobs within the health care setting. Once you are working within the field, you will get to speak to nurses and doctors of all different specialties and backgrounds, which can significantly help navigate your career path once you have your license.

Types for Nursing Programs for International Nursing Graduates

As an Internationally Educated Nurse (IEN), it is very important to choose the right nursing program based on your previous nursing education and competencies. Not only does it decide your future in Canada, but it also makes sure you study relevant topics and modules that can enhance your knowledge and foundational nursing skills in your specialized area. You can choose from the following graduate certificate courses:

Palliative Care Nursing

A graduate certificate course in Palliative Care aims to impart knowledge and training to Internationally Educated Nurses (IENs) who are willing to cater to patients with life-limiting diseases. Nurses must make sure that all doctors are on the same page and are well coordinated for the well-being of the patient. The Palliative Care team understands the personal goals of the patient completely and treats terminally ill patients with diseases like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD), Congestive Heart Failure, Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s, to name a few. The duration of this program is one academic year.

Community Mental Health

Community Mental Health is a specialized area and during this graduate certificate program, nurses are educated about the current mental health issues and trends in Canada. Nurses are trained to rehabilitate long term mental patients in the community under this program along with providing optimal care to clients with diverse mental health disorders. The duration of this program is one academic year.


If you’re an Internationally Educated Nurse (IEN) who wants to study nursing abroad and serve the ageing community in a country like Canada, then a graduate certificate program in Gerontology is the best option for you. During this course, you will study ageing and the multi-faceted problems of the older population. This program is not for meant everyone in healthcare but only for specific foreign nurses who want to explore the ageing demographic. It is a multi-discipline study, the duration for which is one academic year.

Nursing Leadership and Management

A graduate certificate program in Nursing Leadership and Management is meant for those nurses who are currently employed or wish to be employed in leadership and management roles within healthcare settings. This program builds on foundational roles and management content, preparing nurses to assume the roles of nurse administrators and nurse managers. The duration of this course is also, one academic year.

A similar program, Graduate Certificate in Healthcare Leadership and Management is also offered in Ontario where imparting administrative and leadership skills are the prime focus so that nurses could land up in managerial roles in a healthcare setup.

Nursing Salaries in Canada

A nursing career is not only remarkable but it also personally and financially remunerating too. Here are some of the roles and the average salaries that you can expect in Canada after the Masters in Nursing.

  • Nursing Manager – $85k per year
  • Certified Nurse Midwife – $114k per year
  • Nurse Practitioner (NP) – $94k per year
  • Forensic Nurse – $80k per year
  • Clinical Informatics Specialist –$75k per year
  • Clinical Research Manager –$89k per year
  • Nurse Educator – $90k per year

About Parinita Gupta: Parinita is a full-time banking professional. Additionally, she is also a passionate blogger and digital marketer.

She mostly writes about the Banking & Finance, Technology, and FinTech sector. But, she also enjoys writing on other topics as well.  You can follow her on Twitter.

Featured Image Source: Moving2Canada

References: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

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