Specialist physicians (NOC 3111)

High opportunity occupation

About this job

Specialist physicians are doctors with extra training and who treat patients in specific areas of health care, including clinical medicine, laboratory medicine and surgery.

One type of specialist physician is a psychiatrist. Watch the video below to see what a day in the life of a psychiatrist is like.

Common job titles
  • allergist / immunologist
  • anatomical pathologist / anatomopathologist
  • anesthesiologist / anesthetist
  • bacteriologist, medical
  • clinical pharmacologist
  • dermatologist / skin specialist


In general, specialist physicians act as consultants to other physicians and they may also do medical research.

Specialists in clinical medicine:

  • Diagnose and treat diseases, as well as physical and psychiatric illnesses and disorders
  • Order laboratory tests, X-rays and other procedures to identify and understand the patient’s health issue
  • Prescribe medication and treatment
  • Refer patients for surgery or other specialized treatments

Specialists in laboratory medicine:

  • Study how diseases start or are caused, how they change over time, and what happens to people when they get a disease
  • Analyze and review laboratory samples and specimens using microscopes and other medical tools
  • Supervise laboratory activities

Specialists in surgery:

  • Review patients’ diseases, disorders or injuries to decide what surgery is needed
  • Perform and supervise surgery to correct physical health problems and fix injuries

Work environment

Specialist physicians work in various medical or health-care locations. This includes private offices or clinics, hospitals and long-term care facilities. They could also work in labs and academic health sciences centres.

While precautions are taken and safety measures are put in place, people in this career could be exposed to infectious bacteria and viruses that may cause illness. They may work with equipment and instruments that could cause back, wrist and other injuries. They may be near or use X-rays and radioactive substances or non-ionizing radiation, such as radio frequencies and infrared, ultraviolet or visible light, which may be bad for their health.

Insights from industry

A growing and aging population will require more health services, including doctors who are specialists in certain areas of medicine.

Overall, in the last few years, there has been an increase in the number of doctors treating patients. Still, in parts of the province, it is hard for some patients to find a specialist physician.

The University of British Columbia (UBC) offers B.C.’s only medical program, which is delivered throughout the province in partnership with other post-secondary institutions, health authorities and community physician practices. There are four regionally distinct sites:

  • Island Medical Program (IMP) at the University of Victoria
  • Northern Medical Program (NMP) in Prince George at the University of Northern British Columbia
  • Southern Medical Program (SMP) in Kelowna at UBC Okanagan
  • Vancouver Fraser Medical Program

Even though opportunities for medical education in B.C. have gone up, there are still not enough graduates to meet the needs of an aging population. As a result, B.C. has filled gaps by recruiting physicians from other parts of Canada and around the world.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Progression to management positions, such as director of laboratory medicine or chief of surgery, is possible with experience.

Additional resources