Nurses are highly regarded for their work—it is a necessary job, and we rely on nurses as an integral part of the healthcare system. In Canada, there are over 430,000 nurses who work in a variety of locations from hospitals to clinics to long-term care homes. Nurses also work in public health and education spheres as well. Overall, being a nurse is a good career that pays well. The best provinces to work as a nurse in Canada are Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia if you are to take salary alone.
Job satisfaction depends on more than just salary, and so it’s possible that other provinces are better places to work, but those factors like work-life balance are hard to measure and make conclusions on.
Let’s look at the nursing career as a whole, how to become a nurse, and then break down some statistics by each province to determine which province is best for nursing in Canada.
The nursing profession in Canada
Nurses are generally a highly regarded career and enjoy good salaries and a variety of exciting career opportunities. Yet, it can also be a challenging job with long hours and emotional difficulties working with people in ill-health or facing injury and disease.
Here are some interesting facts about nursing in Canada, according to 2019 statistics from the Canadian Nurses Association:
- There were 439,975 regulated nurses with an active license.
- There was a growth rate in the nursing population by 1.9%.
- The nursing workforce is becoming younger, on average, due to older nurses retiring from the profession.
- Nursing is a female-dominated profession, with 91% of regulated nurses being female. However, there was a quicker rate of growth amongst male nurses.
- 58.5% of nurses work in a hospital, by far the largest employer for the profession.
While it can be difficult to pinpoint an exact number, it is estimated that the average salary of a nurse in Canada is $70,797/year, but varies per province or city in addition to the type of job.
How to become a nurse in Canada
Despite there being nearly half a million nurses in Canada, there is a current nursing shortage. Due to recent events of the COVID-19 pandemic and many nurses ageing out of the profession and retiring, there is a shortage. So, there is a great opportunity to become a nurse in Canada with plentiful job opportunities.
There are different kinds of nurses that have different responsibilities. A licensed or registered practical nurse requires the least amount of education. A registered nurse (RN), which is the largest group of nurses, generally requires a full Bachelor’s degree. Finally, there are nurse practitioners that represent the smallest group of nurses and require the most education.
Becoming an RN requires a bachelor’s degree to practice, except in Quebec. There are many RN programs at universities and colleges across Canada. While programs can be competitive, they are not on par with other professional schools like medical school, which are very difficult to get into.
Nursing programs are rigorous and intensive, requiring both practical and theoretical learning. Most programs include rotations and hands-on experience so that nurses can apply their classroom learning to real-life scenarios. Nurses also have to pass board exams to become certified to practice.
Nursing by province in Canada
We’ve seen that nursing is a good profession in Canada with many opportunities for new nurses due to a current labour shortage. But what is the best province to work as a nurse in Canada? Since it is hard to capture data for all of the factors that determine job satisfaction, we will look at salaries to determine the answer.
This article collected data and provided a breakdown of the average salaries of nurses in each Canadian province:
- British Columbia: Nurses make between $27.20/hour at the low end and $53.14/hour at the high end. This is an annual salary between approximately $56,000-$110,000.
- Alberta: Nurses earn between $27.68-$55.93/hour, or $57,574.40-$116,334.40/year.
- Saskatchewan: Nurses earn between $31.07-$58.69/hour, or $64,625.00-$121,451.00/year.
- Manitoba: Nurses earn between $30.58-$67.13/hour, or $63,606-$139,630/year.
- Ontario: Nurses earn between $32.21-$46.11/hour, or $66,996-$95,908/year.
- Quebec: Nurses earn between $20.73-$53.49/hour, or $43,118-$111,259/year.
- New Brunswick: Nurses earn between $31.32-$52.21/hour, or $67,204-$108,596/year.
- Nova Scotia: Nurses earn between $20.15-$55.47/hour, or $41,912-$115,377/year.
- Prince Edward Island: Nurses earn between $32.48-$56.38/hour, or $67,558-$117,270/year.
- Newfoundland: Nurses earn between $31.82-$56.50/hour, or $66,185-$117,520/year.
These figures represent ranges, and the actual salary can really vary based on education, position, and the number of years of experience. It’s interesting to note that some of the provinces with higher costs of living (i.e. British Columbia and Ontario) actually have lower salary ranges than some of the other, more affordable provinces.
We can see from the list that Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland had some of the highest salary ranges. However, the highest paying cities in Canada are in the provinces of Alberta and Ontario, with Edmonton, Alberta having the highest average hourly rate. This goes to show that salaries vary significantly based on where you are working.
Overall, being a nurse in Canada is an excellent profession. The salaries are good and there are many opportunities for good jobs in the country. Provinces vary significantly in how much they pay nurses, with some of the top salaries being over $50/hour or over $130,000/year in provinces like Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, PEI, or Newfoundland. Salaries are based on experience and credentials, so going back for further schooling is a good way to get a pay increase if you don’t want to move to a high-paying city.