I think it's time someone put up a post with some updated and consolidated information. I know I had some difficulties in finding this information, so here's hoping it helps out some future applicants (and saves the regulars from having to answer the same questions continuously).
Please comment if anything I've posted is incorrect, if you have anything to add, or if you have some questions! I'm most familiar with the UK and Ireland processes, so if someone has additional information about Australia or the Caribbean, that would be much appreciated.
I didn’t include USMD as that isn’t really going abroad in the same sense as the UK for example. USDO is included as starting in 2016, Canadian USDO graduates are considered IMGs by CaRMS. This means you are limited to the specialties that Health Canada will issue a Statement of Need for in the US, unless you want to apply as an IMG to Canada.
My personal rankings for international schools:
1. UK **where I’m going, so bias alert**
You apply to UK schools through UCAS, picking a maximum of 4 medical schools. There are also two private medical schools (Buckingham and UCLan) that you can apply to separately, bringing your total up to 6. Each school has varying requirements, so you’ll need to contact each school you’re interested in to see if you meet their requirements. Graduates, some schools will look at your high school marks as well as your degree, so that’s an additional thing to watch out for. Your degree will also be classified differently depending on the school; all medical schools want a British 2.1 equivalent and different schools will assign different minimum GPAs corresponding to that (ex. school 1 will accept applications if you have at least a 3.4 whereas school 2 wants at least a 3.6). There are programs for both high school students and graduates, with most programs accepting graduates.
There are two admissions tests that you can take in order to apply to UK schools: UKCAT and BMAT. The UKCAT is an aptitude test whereas the BMAT is similar to the MCAT. Different schools require different tests. I only took the UKCAT because most schools accept it, but the BMAT is used by a select few like Oxford, Cambridge, etc. These test scores are only valid for the year you are applying.
A maximum of 7.5% of seats can be given to international students in UK schools, so it can be very competitive. The private schools are different; Buckingham doesn’t care about nationality and UCLan is only for international students. I advise playing to your strengths when applying. For example, my degree came out to a 2.1 but my UKCAT score was well into the 90th percentile. This definitely gave me a leg up compared to other internationals and I primarily applied to schools that gave a lot of emphasis to UKCAT scores.
There’s a separate Scottish-Canadian program, which I think is good. It’s 6 years long and allows rotations in Alberta but it doesn’t give you the backup of the UK and isn’t open to graduates I believe. There’s also the SGUL INTO program (open to high school students and graduates); its big pitch is that it gives you 2 years of clinical rotations in the US but it seems super sketchy and no backup option yet again.
In terms of matching back to Canada, the only downside of going to a UK school is that unlike the others, there is no specific coaching for applying to North American residencies. UCLan is the exception – it’s one of the private schools and they teach to USMLE. But if you are focused on matching back, know two things: it’s unlikely that you’ll get a competitive specialty (not impossible; similar outcomes for each country) and you’re going to have to do a lot of studying on your own.
However, the biggest advantage is that you are able to pursue training in the UK. Despite being an international, as a UK graduate, you’re eligible to apply to whatever training without bias (you will need to switch visas eventually to work, but it doesn’t appear to be much of an issue).
There are also reciprocity agreements between Canada and the UK. Those who do family medicine have an easier time of going between countries. Those who do more specialized things (like surgery) will have to write some qualifying exams in order to get a Canadian medical license, but a job isn’t guaranteed. This means that you may have to stay in the UK indefinitely; I personally am fine with that as I’ve always liked the idea of practicing medicine in London but this is up to the individual.
If you do decide to stay in the UK and train/practice, there are three major differences between the UK and Canada: better pay in Canada, shorter training in Canada, better hours in the UK.
I found that the UK schools (or at least mine) are cheaper than the other options.
On my personal ranking list, this comes second. The application process is the same as to any Canadian or US MD school. And the residency application process is the same as any other international school.
You will be limited to those residencies in the US that Health Canada will issue a statement of need for (ex. family medicine). So, if you want to do a surgical specialty or anything more competitive, your next best option will be to apply through CaRMS as an IMG (note: there are some statements of need issued for surgical specialties but not all).
For me, this is second because while you're still in the US, you're limited to the residencies you can do afterwards. For those of you who are interested in surgical specialties (or more competitive specialties), this may not be a good option as you're essentially limiting yourself to a few things and have the greatest chance at matching to primarily family medicine. This is why I ranked the UK higher - I'm an IMG no matter where I go, but I still have the option of pursuing a more competitive specialty in the UK. If you do prefer primary care, then USDO is something to look into.
You can then return to Canada after completing your US residency. There may be some additional exams/qualifications you have to provide.
The most popular option for Canadians going abroad! And for good reason – many Irish schools have a large Canadian population and there is a lot of support for applying back to the US/Canada.
Applications are made through the Atlantic Bridge program. There are 6 Irish medical schools, but based on whether or not you have an undergraduate degree, you’ll only be eligible at some or for certain programs. The school profiles are all on the Atlantic Bridge profile. You take a look through them, find the ones you like, and let Atlantic Bridge know through a form on their website (you enter your education history, age, MCAT scores, and schools). Atlantic Bridge will then send you an application package for all the schools you selected with further details as to what essay(s) to write, what kind of reference(s) to get, etc.
The Irish schools do accept the MCAT, so you don’t have to worry about writing another examination.
As mentioned, there is excellent support in matching back to Canada and a high percentage of Irish grads to match back each year. However, there’s no backup option. While it is theoretically possibly to do an internship year in Ireland, it is highly highly unlikely that you will get one. As an international, you are at the bottom of the barrel and all the posts will be filled before they have to scrape so low. There are also no reciprocity agreements.
On par with Ireland for popularity I feel.
Applications can be made through OzTREKK, ISA, or directly to the schools themselves (more expensive option). There are about 8-12 Australian schools, and like the Irish ones, depending on whether or not you’re a graduate, you’ll only be eligible at some. The school profiles are all on the OzTREKK website as well. It’s a similar application process to the Irish schools.
Australian schools want either the GAMSAT or MCAT, so you don’t have to worry about other examinations. Each school has a GPA requirement listed out of 7, so contact them to make sure yours meets the requirement as it’s likely out of 4.
The number of available seats at schools can range from 10-100 for international students. These schools are less competitive than UK and Irish schools due to the increased number of spots and because international medical education brings in a profit to these schools.
I’m not too familiar with the level of support given to matching back to Canada or the US but the numbers are similar to Irish grads.
Like in Ireland, it is theoretically possible to do an internship year in Australia, but that has become much more difficult recently. However, it may still be possible to get an internship somewhere. Further specialty training is not guaranteed however.
Like the UK, Australian specialty training is accepted in Canada. If you complete training in Australia, you are eligible to get a Canadian medical license, providing you sit and pass the qualifying exams.
5. Caribbean **my least favorite option, so again, bias alert**
While these schools were a good option in the past, I feel that era has come to a close. You do get a chance to do US rotations with some schools even offering Canadian rotations. But these schools have a record for extremely large class sizes, poor teaching, and high attrition rates.
I personally would urge people to exhaust all other options before considering the Caribbean.