How well must I be able to communicate in English?
In Alberta, the language of the workplace is English. To work in
any occupation, you must be able to speak English well enough to
communicate effectively with people who speak only English. In
occupations that involve paper or electronic communications, you
also must be able to read and write well in English. If you work in
an occupation that has a specialized vocabulary, you must be
familiar with that English vocabulary as well as words used in
everyday conversation. For example, in health care occupations, you
must be familiar with English medical terminology. In technical
occupations, you must be familiar with technical terminology to
interpret operating manuals and communicate with others in the
In most occupations, you must be able to speak, read and write in English very well to obtain employment in Alberta. Immigrants who have basic communication skills in English often must upgrade their language skills before they are able to convince employers that they are the best candidates for employment opportunities.
In occupations that are not regulated, employers may require job applicants to demonstrate that they can communicate well enough in English to succeed on the job. Demonstrating your English language skills may involve participating in an interview or submitting the results of an English language proficiency examination. Many different English language proficiency examinations are available including TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), CLBA (Canadian Language Benchmark Assessment), CELPIP (Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program), IELTS (International English Language Testing System) and TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication).
In regulated occupations, the professional regulatory organization or the Apprenticeship and Industry Training Board is responsible for ensuring workers meet standards of safe practice. These organizations often specify which tests results they will accept and what levels of language proficiency are required for certification or registration. If you have not successfully completed high school English courses in Alberta, you may be required to take written and oral English language proficiency examinations as part of the certification or registration process.
Different examinations and levels of written and oral proficiency are required in different occupations. In some occupations, the required proficiency levels are very high. For example, if you will be working with patients in a health care setting, you probably will be required to have a very high level of proficiency in both written and spoken English. In other occupations, proficiency in spoken English may be more important than proficiency in written English (or the other way around).
Employers, professional regulatory organizations and provincial government departments may accept only certain types of evidence of your competency in written and spoken English. Before you pay to take an English language proficiency examination, contact employers, Apprenticeship and Industry Training or the appropriate professional regulatory organization and ask about required or recommended assessment procedures.