Prepare to practice

Abrar Alam, medical student

As you begin your medical career, you may have questions about your future role in our health care system.

The Alberta Medical Association has gathered some resources about embarking on a medical career and becoming part of our country’s health care system as a practicing physician in Alberta.

So you want to be a doctor

The Canadian Medical Association has developed the Transition to Residency Guide specifically to help students through the three major stages of residency:

  • Stage 1: Getting through medical school
  • Stage 2: Preparing for residency
  • Stage 3: Being a resident

Check out the CMA’s Transition to Residency Guide

Our health care system

Medicare is Canada’s publically funded universal health care system. It was established by legislation passed in 1957, 1966 and 1984 to “ensure that all residents have reasonable access to medically necessary hospital and physician services, on a prepaid basis” (Canada's Health Care System [Medicare]. Government of Canada website).

The responsibility for health care in our country is shared between the federal and provincial levels of government. Thirteen provincial/territorial health insurance plans are responsible for managing and delivering health services for their residents. These plans must meet the criteria and conditions in the Canada Health Act in order to qualify for federal funds:

Choosing a specialty

The CMA's Physician Data Centre provides research that promotes the appropriate supply, mix and distribution of physicians to meet the needs of the Canadian population.

The updated pages also contain profiles of 39 specialties that you can use to help make your career decisions.

The profiles include

  • Practice setting
  • Income
  • Satisfaction levels

Visit the CMA Physician Data Centre

View the specialty profiles

Practicing in Alberta

Understanding Alberta’s health care system, and your place in it as a physician, begins with understanding the players.


To practice in Alberta, you must be licensed by the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta.

The CPSA also:

  • Registers professional corporations.
  • Verifies licensure and issues Certificates of Standing.
  • Handles inquiries from physicians and the public.

Get more information on CPSA eligibility requirements


As a practicing physician in Alberta, you will have regular contact with a number of government bodies:

  • Alberta Health – Alberta Health is the government department responsible for implementing, and ensuring compliance with, health care policy for our province.
  • Alberta Health Services – AHS is responsible for delivering health services to Albertans. Currently, the province is divided into five health services zones.
  • Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan – AHCIP provides health care coverage for Albertans.


Most physicians in Alberta, like most physicians in Canada, do not receive a salary. Instead, they bill the AHCIP on a fee-for-service basis.

Your membership in the AMA gives you access to billing advice and support, including billing seminars and the Uninsured Services Guide, which provides guidance for services not covered by the AHCIP.

Alternate Relationship Plans

An ARP is an alternative to the traditional fee-for-service method of physician payment. ARPs provide physicians with set remuneration amounts in exchange for delivering:

  • Services to a specific patient population.
  • Services in a specific location.
  • Services for a specific block of time.

Individual physicians, physician groups or health authorities may initiate ARPs:

Medical staff bylaws

The Medical Staff Bylaws and Rules were implemented in March 2011.

The Bylaws govern:

  • Professionals who provide medical care to patients.
  • Scientist leaders who provide medical administrative leadership, in relation to an AHS Medical Staff Appointment.

At the same time, the AMA, Alberta Health and AHS agreed on a new, all inclusive provincial structure for physician representation and advocacy: Zone Medical Staff Associations. Your ZMSA will interface on your behalf with both the AMA and the AHS:

  • To have input to, advocacy from and representation within the AMA.
  • To have a voice in all bylaws-related activity required in the zone.

All physicians practicing within your zone are eligible to become members of the ZMSA. You become a member of the ZMSA when you apply and pay your ZMSA dues – you do not have to have an appointment with AHS.

Featured Items

Alberta Medical Association Mission: Advocate for and support Alberta physicians. Strengthen their leadership in the provision of sustainable quality care.