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Everything you need to know about CaRMS

Residency matching is one of the most important steps in your medical education — in many ways, it sets the course for your entire professional career. Matching is a complex process and the more you know about it, the better prepared you’ll be.

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about residency matching.  

What is CaRMS residency matching?

Residency matching is a way for medical students to choose a residency program, and for programs to choose their residents. The process is facilitated by the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS), an independent, non-profit organization.

You submit your application through the CaRMS online portal, and they oversee the process from start to finish, and deliver your results.

How does CaRMS work?

After confirming that you meet the eligibility requirements for the provinces where you wish to apply, you enter your background information through CaRMS and then select the programs you’d like to apply to.

If those programs are interested in you, they’ll reach out to schedule an interview. After you’ve done interviews with a few programs, it will be time to rank them in your order of preference. The programs will do the same with all the students they’ve seen. Then the algorithm takes over!

For more detailed information about how the 2020–2021 residency matching program will work, see CaRMS timeline for medical students.

What is the CaRMS matching algorithm?

The Roth-Peranson algorithm that’s used to match students with residency programs here in Canada is essentially the same one used for matching in the United States, as well as in other disciplines such as law, psychology and dentistry.

It was created by Alvin Roth from Harvard University and Elliott Peranson. Roth is notable for winning the Nobel Prize in Economics (jointly with Lloyd Shapley from UCLA) in 2012 for this work.

What happens on CaRMS Match Day and what if I don’t match?

On Match Day, you log in to the CaRMS online portal to get your results. Residency matching occurs in two iterations. If you aren’t matched in the first round, you can enter into a second round, where you’ll have an opportunity to be matched with remaining positions.

Can I change my mind after I’m matched with a residency program?

No. You are legally bound to attend the residency program you’ve been matched with (likewise, the program is legally bound to accept you). So, it’s important to carefully consider which programs to include on your rank list, and to avoid choosing anything you won’t want to do, even if it seems like a good strategic move to improve your chances of getting matched.

How many residency programs are there, and which schools offer them?

There are 37 residency programs available through Canada’s 17 medical schools. However, not all schools offer every specialty, so be sure to check out which programs are available through which schools, and how many positions are available at each of them. You can find that information in the Archives section of the CaRMS site (2021 R-1 program descriptions are not yet available).

Can I apply for the same hospital as my partner does?

The ranking tools available through CaRMS allow you and your spouse or partner to prepare and submit your rank order lists as a couple. In such cases, a single ranking list of paired programs is used. See an example here. The drawback is that by pairing your choices, your chances of a successful match decline slightly.

How much does the residency matching process cost?

Normally, you’d need to budget for accommodation and other travel costs. But in 2020–2021, the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC) decided that all 2021 R-1 Match interviews will be virtual, even for local candidates.

You still need to budget for registration and test fees, which total over a thousand dollars. One of the most important things you can do leading up to residency matching is to prepare a budget to help you get through the process — and possibly even set up a meeting with a financial advisor to help you create a plan.

What do I need to apply for residency?

Applying for residency is a lot like applying for medical school. Here are the primary components of your CaRMS application:

  1. A curriculum vitae that includes your academics, employment, research, awards, professional memberships, volunteer experience and extracurricular activities.
  2. Your transcripts and Medical Student Performance Record (MSPR), both of which are sent automatically to CaRMS by your school.
  3. Reference letters from physicians or professors (usually three, but each program is different). Ideally, one of the letters should come from someone within the specialty you’re applying to. Note: CaRMS allows you to choose which reference letters go to which programs.  
  4. Personal statements that outline why you’re interested in a specific program, how it will contribute to your career aspirations, and what you hope to experience while you’re participating in the residency. Writing these types of essays is “an art unto itself,” so it’s a good idea to do a bit of research about what works and what doesn’t.

What should I do next?

If you have any questions about the residency matching process — such as how to develop a financial plan to cover all the costs — we can help. MD Financial Management has a dedicated team of Early Career Advisors to help medical students and early career physicians like you navigate your transition to residency and then to practice.

Contact an Early Career Advisor today.