Professional Practice in Canada


  • Overview
  • How is Professional Engineering Defined in Canada?
  • How is Professional Engineering Governed in Canada?
  • Provincial Associations Mandated With Regulating Engineers
  • The Knowledge Economy and Engineering
  • Foreign Credential Recognition and Reserved Title
  • Canadian Experience
  • Employment and Licensing
  • Recruiting and Hiring Practices
  • Newcomer Support and Bridging
  • When is certification needed in Engineering in Canada?
  • Other Resources


The following comprise regulated professions in Canada

EngineersEngineering technicians

Engineering technologists

Urban planners


Land surveyors


Landscape architects

Real estate agents


Community planners




Chartered accountants

Certified accountants

Social workers

Home economists

Translators Physicians and Surgeons

Naturopathic physicians

Licenced practical nurses

Registered psychiatrist nurses

Registered nurses


Audiologists and Speech Language PathologistsPsychologists



Dental hygienists


Dental technicians

Dental assistants










Respiratory therapists

Occupational therapists

Massage Therapists

Medical laboratory technologists


Embalmers, Funeral directors

In Canada a regulated occupation is one that is controlled by provincial and territorial (and sometimes federal) law and governed by a professional organization or regulatory body. Canada is a Confederation of ten provinces and three territories. Each of the provinces has its own vision and regulatory structure for the practice of Profession and integrating the skilled immigrants into these professions.

To build a globally competitive economy, the Federal Government of Canada has committed itself to investing in skilled knowledge workers, cutting-edge research, science, and innovation. It has also committed itself to attracting highly skilled and educated immigrants based on a point system ( Consequently, the vision of the Government of Canada in bringing immigrants with engineering and other professional backgrounds to this country has been one of bringing in the leading edge of migrant workers (associated with globalization). The idea is to create a world class and globally competitive workforce to make Canada more productive.

The Government of Ontario as well as many other provinces are driven by the vision of strengthening Ontario’s economic advantage but the provinces pride themselves in having the highest engineering and professional standards and capabilities. They position themselves as already having the best workforce to which immigrants must match up to maintain the provinces competitive advantage. As a result highly educated and experienced migrant workers from other parts of the world lose their credentials upon landing in Canada and are subjected to many hurdles that have to be crossed in order to be able to practice engineering or other professions in Canada. These hurdles have been so difficult, for instance for the immigrants who hold high level skills and experience in engineering and who have come to Canada since 1986 that only less than 15% of them are currently practicing as professional engineers.

While CAPE has begun to identify innovative ways to help all immigrant professionals, its focus until 2011 has been on the engineering profession. This profession is used to illustrate the focus of this section of our offerings.

How is Professional Engineering Defined in Canada?

The practice of professional engineering in Canada as defined in the Professional Engineers Act and comprises:

  • Any act of designing, composing, evaluating, advising, reporting, directing or supervising;
  • Wherein safeguarding of life, health, property or the public welfare is concerned; and
  • That requires the application of engineering principles, but does not include practicing as a natural scientist.
  • If what you do meets all these three tests, you can qualify to practice professional engineering

How is Professional Engineering Governed in Canada?

As engineering is a regulated profession in Canada, by law, no one can practice this without a license. You cannot call yourself an “engineer” unless you obtain the Professional Engineer (P.Eng) license. However, 80% of engineering jobs in Canada do not require you to hold a license.

Licensing of engineers in Canada is carried out by 12 provincial and territorial associations or regulatory bodies who set standards and regulate the profession. These associations are supposed to serve and protect the public on behalf of their provincial or territorial governments. Until recently an engineering license was valid only within the provincial jurisdiction in which it is issued. A mobility agreement among the provinces and territories regarding transfer of licenses is now being put in place.

If you wish to become licensed as an engineer in Canada apply directly to the provincial regulatory association mandated with regulating engineers in that province. Please note that Engineers Canada, though an umbrella body for the provincial and territorial regulating associations, has no authority to regulate the engineering profession and the provincial associations do not recognize its Engineering International- Education Assessment Program offered by Engineers Canada.

Provincial Associations Mandated With Regulating Engineers

A complete list of engineering regulators in Canada is provided below.

Can I Become a Licensed Engineer in Canada?

Based on a Survey of over 3500 immigrants with engineering backgrounds drawn from 125 countries, CAPE has established that less than 15% of immigrants with engineering backgrounds (IEBs) actually become licensed and even fewer are able to practice as Professional Engineers in Canada. While you require an engineering license to become a “professional engineer” or “engineer” you do not need a license to work in the many fields of engineering/applied science technology.

The reasons for which the immigrants with engineering backgrounds have been locked out of their profession in Canada in are discussed here.

The Knowledge Economy and Engineering

Today knowledge cannot be contained within defined borders. Recognizing this, the Government of Canada has endorsed several international trade agreements (e.g. NAFTA and GATS) designed to ease the seamless access to markets, encourage mobility and the migration of knowledge workers. By signing the General Agreement on Trades and Services, Canada is required to ensure that all accreditation and licensing requirements for self-regulating professions such as engineering follow the same principles. These include being “open, transparent, non-discriminatory, objective and no more burdensome than necessary”. CAPE has adopted the Position that immigrants with engineering backgrounds (in the case of Ontario) face a licensing system that has yet to honor these obligations.

In response to such position submissions the Government of Ontario introduced the Fair Access to Professions Act 2006 under which it has set up the office of the Fairness Commissioner to examine self-regulating practices in the professions in Ontario

Foreign Credential Recognition and Reserved Title

By legislating the reservation of the title of “Professional Engineer” the Government of Canada strips all immigrants with engineering backgrounds of their right to the practice of engineering or credentials previously possessed by him/her upon arrival in Canada. It then institutes foreign credential recognition, a term that you will often have come across in Canada and that is said to underlie all the problems of access and accreditation to professional jobs and qualifications that highly qualified immigrants face upon arrival in Canada. In order to better understand these issues, it is important that you understand the constitutional issues that underlie this Canadian obsession with foreign credential recognition.

Under the Canadian constitution, provincial governments have exclusive responsibility for all levels of education and somehow the provinces through the regulation of engineering have managed to extend this to include work experience required for licensing into education. The quality of postsecondary (college/university) programs across Canada is ensured through a combination of legislative and administrative mechanisms rather than by a single system of institutional or program accreditation. Therefore, the notion of foreign credential recognition is used to assess the “equivalence” of “knowledge” on an individual-by-individual review obtained from a variety of sources in different jurisdictions. As mentioned in the overview above, for the most part, Ontario institutions define highly educated and experienced knowledge workers from other parts of the world as “deficient” due to its vision of already having the world’s best domestic professionals in the world. Therefore, the highly educated professional from other parts of the world has to have his/her foreign credential assessed to see if it is equivalent to the Canadian standard.

In the provinces of Canada, this has translated into an institutionally rigid foreign credential system so that you have to obtain “accreditation” for any route to access your profession in Ontario, be it higher education, licensing or employment. Appallingly, despite great strides in information technology, these services have been unable to keep up with rising diversity amongst immigrants with engineering and other professional backgrounds arriving in Canada. There is no centralized system that is either able to assess equivalency of credentials across engineering (or any other profession) or is used in agreement by different institutional bodies. Credential recognition systems based on the so called “time honored peer-review processes on an individual-by-individual”, case-by-case and need-by-need basis, through evaluation networks have become increasingly questionable creatures of confusion and disconnects in the provinces of Canada.

To combat this confusion, In Ontario, the regulator- Professional Engineers Ontario- set up the Licensing Process Task Force (LPTF) to review its licensing process. The Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration in Ontario) proclaimed Bill 124 (March 2007) to provide fair registration practices in Ontario’s regulated professions. The purpose of the bill is to help ensure that regulated professions and individuals applying for registration by regulated professions are governed by registration practices that are transparent, objective, impartial and fair. And the Government of Ontario has enacted the Labour Mobility Act, 2009 to allow for inter-provincial movement of its professional engineers.

However the accreditation barriers faced by highly qualified immigrants in accessing their professions still persist.

Canadian Experience

The term “Canadian experience” is continually utilized by employers and even regulators to lock out skilled immigrants from the professions, when in truth no one can identify, describe or define the constituent elements of this requirement.

Under Sections 33 of the Engineering Act, an immigrant applying for a professional license must acquire 12 months experience in a Canadian jurisdiction under a licensed engineer to ensure that the applicant is familiar with Canadian codes and standards of practice. CAPE has adopted the position that this knowledge can be acquired through simulated teaching or self-learning as is the case in the rest of the world.

Employment and Licensing

Requirements for Canadian work experience link licensing and, in turn foreign-credential and experience recognition, to the employment of immigrants with engineering backgrounds. The engineering employers in Canada are very resistant to hiring foreign trained engineers and often use the requirement of ‘Canadian Experience’ as the excuse for not hiring newcomers to Canada. Non-recognition of foreign credentials and experience by employers are the critical barriers that skilled immigrant professionals face in accessing licensure and employment upon arrival in Canada.

However, while you require an engineering license to become a “professional engineer” or “engineer” you do not need a license to work in the many skills-commensurate fields that only require an engineering degree

Recruiting and Hiring Practices

In the 1990s, literature began to emerge showing that referral-based sources of recruitment tended to produce candidates who had a lower turnover rate and who were a better “fit” than recruitment through more transparent channels. These it was argued were less expensive than merit-based processes and dovetailed nicely with the emphasis that began to be placed on networking in the new job-search practices. In truth these practices coincided with the start of a decade that saw the most diverse cohort of skilled immigrants that was much more highly educated than the homegrown pool of skilled workers.

Adding to this continued cost-cutting pressure in recruiting interacted with newer computer technologies, primarily scanning software and web development. The resulting shift towards internet-based recruiting resulted in the restructuring of the human resources industry to distance the potential job-seeker from the employer placing the onus for understanding employer needs squarely on the shoulders of the recruiter. The effect of this on immigrants with engineering and professional backgrounds was that their entry to the profession now depended almost entirely on recruiters who had adopted referral-based systems to protect domestic workers from the onslaught of skilled immigrants.

These recruiters driven by profits earned from the placement fees have since the 1990s been emphasizing the immigrant’s lack of familiarity with the “Canadian” workplace culture and language proficiency playing upon the fears of the lesser educated domestic employers. As a consequence, recruiters have closed off the professions to skilled immigrants by focusing almost completely on the existing and domestic pool of engineers and professionals in search of “exact fits” for quick placement profits and turnovers. This in combination with the development of email, OCR scanners, and web-based application systems to automate initial cuts on candidates through screening processes using carefully selected keywords, have allowed recruiters to readily scan out entire groups of jobseekers. This practice has particularly affected highly educated and experienced immigrants through the use of keywords such as “Canadian experience” and “P.Eng”. Some unscrupulous recruiters are now even charging unsuspecting immigrants who arrive in Canada a large fee under the name of career transition programs that never result in a job.

Newcomer Support and Bridging

In Ontario, the Access to Professions and Trades (APT) unit was established in the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities, in 1995. This initially focused on providing information about licensing, funded creation of a credential assessment service (World Education Services), developed fact sheets, and funded development of pilot projects such as the STIC program (Sector-specific Terminology, Information and Counseling) and other bridging programs for immigrants with professional and trades backgrounds. These included language training:

  • LINC, ELSA and Francisation
  • English and French as a Second Language
  • Occupation-specific ESL

And bridging and Transition Programs which include one or more of the following:

  • Occupation-specific language training;
  • Training in Canadian workplace culture, practices and communication;
  • Technical upgrading according to Canadian requirements; and,
  • Work placements to gain Canadian work experience.

In Ontario, many bridging and skills training programs were and are supported by the Ministry of Immigration and Citizenship through its Access to Professions and Trades (APT) unit and include:

  • An assessment of immigrant education and skills
  • A clinical or workplace experience
  • Skills training or targeted academic training programs
  • Preparation for a license or certification examination
  • Language training for your profession or trade
  • Individual learning plans to identify any added training you may need

However the success of these programs is open to question. A survey of 144 immigrants with engineering backgrounds, carried out by CAPE aimed at investigating the outcomes of these and other similar employment supports showed that less than 12% of those who attended these programs were able to access gainful engineering employment. In fact in a startling contrast 15% of those who had not attended any of these programs were able to become licensed and find a job in the profession of engineering.

When is certification needed in Engineering in Canada?

You will often hear language regarding “permission to practice engineering” in Canada. It is only those who have the equivalent of four or more years of full-time postsecondary education and wish to work as engineers that require to be licensed by PEO (Professional Engineers Ontario) the regulating and licensing body for the profession of engineering in Ontario.

For those immigrants who hold between two and three years of full-time engineering education it may be more appropriate to apply for certification as a ‘Technician’ or ‘Technologist’. This means that they may be asked to produce a Technologist/Technician Certificate. Certification to practice as an engineering technician or technologist is voluntary and is offered in each province by provincial associations. The Ontario Association for Certification of Engineering Technicians and Technologists (OACETT) is the body responsible for this.

Other Resources

The following are some other institutions that new entrants to the Canadian engineering workforce (that form the majority of our members) need to gain a proper understanding as the complex engineering fraternity is fraught with lobbies and other protectors of self and public interests in Canada: Engineering societies play a key role in helping engineers learn about new theories, advanced techniques, and modern equipment by bringing knowledge in many ways such as publications, conferences, seminars and courses. These are not involved in the licensing of engineers in Canada but their members are usually licensed engineers living in Canada. The following are some Canadian Societies that you may want to learn more about.

  • Association of Consulting Engineers of Canada (ACEC)
  • Canadian Academy of Engineering (CAE)
  • Canadian Dam Association
  • Canadian Federation of Engineering Students (CFES)
  • The Canadian Medical and Biological Engineering Society
  • Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering
  • Canadian Society for Civil Engineering
  • The Canadian society for engineering in agricultural, food and biological systems
  • Canadian Society for Engineering Management
  • Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineering
  • The Chemical Institute of Canada
  • Consulting Engineers of New Brunswick
  • Consulting Engineers of Manitoba
  • Engineering Institute of Canada (EIC)
  • Generation-E (Engineering Career Awareness site)
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering
  • RedR Canada (Registered Engineers for Disaster Relief)