With 10 provinces and three territories, Canada is vast and varied. There are jobs in Canada for foreigners of all skill sets, whether you’re a software developer, French-speaking nanny, or mechanical engineer. Working in Canada is the ideal way to build your resume, as the standard of living is high and the cost of living is relatively affordable.
Unless you are specifically looking for a chance to live in and explore the wilder regions of the country, or have a very specific skill (i.e. ski/snowboard instructor), your best bet for finding jobs abroad in Canada are in the nation’s metropolitan areas. More than a dozen cities in Canada have a population of a quarter million or more, providing plenty of options for international workers.
Montreal. Montreal is Canada’s most cosmopolitan city, and also most complex. French is the city’s official language, and just a little more than half of its 1.6 million residents name it as their first language, but English is just as widely spoken too. A low level of French will not shut you out of the job market in Montreal, but picking up at least a few basic phrases will help make day-to-day life more pleasant and less difficult. Historically, Montreal was a port, and industrial and financial center. In recent years, as the inner city has gentrified, it has reinvented itself as a fashion center, a center for software engineering and the film industry, and hub for video game production.
Toronto is where the bulk of Canada’s business is carried out. Banking and telecommunications companies are the city’s largest employers, and those Toronto is the country’s largest city (about 2.6 million) it is still not as diverse as Montreal. Just over half the population is white/caucasian, and the largest ethnic group is Asian, primarily Chinese. Toronto is home to Canada’s stock exchange, and five of its largest banks, and is a center for broadcasting. All of the English speaking national news and sports networks are headquartered in Toronto, and it is also a center for what are called the “life sciences,” such as jobs related to academic institutions and health care services. There is also a small (but growing) microbrewing industry.
Vancouver is to Canada what Paris is to France or Cape Town is to South Africa. It’s a city blessed with beauty, both natural and architectural, and a magnet for arts, culture, creativeness, and diversity. A large majority of its more than half-million people have a first language other than English. Nicknamed Hollywood North, it’s the place to go if you’re an aspiring actor or musician, and thanks to the influence of the Pacific Ocean, it’s Canada’s warmest city in the winter, and added benefit for those who choose to work in Vancouver.
Alberta. Edmonton and Calgary are booming locations for jobs in Canada’s Alberta province. The boom is driven by extraction industries, especially petrochemical development, but there has been a domino effect throughout its economy. Recent economic booms have added to the need for skilled workers in a varied of jobs, from teachers to hotel managers. Most of the landscape is wide open prairie, hot in the summer and cold in the winter, but Alberta is also home to the famous ski slopes and hot springs of Banff and Lake Louise. Despite oil driving the boom, jobs are available everywhere in Alberta.
Media & Communications. Media jobs in Toronto are also easy to find, thanks to large telecommunications companies. However, since Montreal is a creative and visual city, it still comes out on top when it comes to graphics, video game development, and film production.
Hospitality. Resorts (such as those in Banff or Whistler, B.C.) offer jobs in restaurants, accounting, and reception, or jobs as snowboard or ski instructors at associated ski schools. Benefits vary, but most include lift passes and some staff housing and meal discounts.
The standard Canadian work week is a 40-hour one, generally Monday through Friday, though that does not apply to jobs in the service industry, where weekend and evening shifts are common. In most offices, business attire is expected, with “casual Fridays” a common practice. Punctuality is important, and teamwork and politeness valued.
Salaries vary widely according to skill level. Jobs abroad in Canada are most plentiful in the tourism and service industries, but these jobs are also generally low paying. Minimum wage jobs in Canada range in pay by province, from about $10.20 to $11. Workers in highly-skilled trades, especially in the oil, gas, and mining industries, can earn more than $100,000 a year, however. Those working in Canada in the tech field or as accountants will earn a bit less, while teachers may earn around $50,000. The exchange rate varies, but generally, the Canadian dollar ranges from 80 to 90 cents per one American dollar.
Canada and the U.S. are close in affordability, but differ in some keys ways. Salaries for similar jobs in Canada are comparable in cities of the same size in the U.S. Food is noticeably more expensive in Canada, and housing is slightly so, depending on region. If you plan on working in Canada long-term, health care, education, and social services costs will end up being much less.
Housing in Canada is plentiful, and varied. In most places, there are options for all income levels. In high-demand, high-expense locations (such as those were resort, ranch, and short-term contract jobs are usually located), employers often offer subsidized housing, though it is usually shared.
Canada has tweaked its visa and work permit regulations under new “impact assessment” legislation that attempts to evaluate the need for foreign workers against the availability of native-born candidates. High-demand workers are exempt, along with those covered under trade agreements (like NAFTA) or educational exchange programs. Visa requirements vary country-by-country, but citizens and permanent residents of the U.S. do not need a visa to enter Canada, and because of NAFTA, Americans who want to work abroad in Canada receive preferential treatment (particularly if they have high-demand skills).
Culture. Canada is a easy place to settle into when it comes to the culture and the workplace, especially for those from the United States and Europe, due to many cultural similarities.
Costs & Job Benefits. Job opportunities in Canada are plentiful, and the cost of living is comparable to living in larger cities in the United States. Rents and food cost more in Canada, but things like maternity benefits are typically more generous.
Age. Statistically, younger, less skilled workers have a better chance of finding a job in Canada than their older counterparts.
Quality. Canada rates slighter higher on most quality-of-living surveys (including job satisfaction) than the U.S., so it’s an excellent place for Americans to start gaining work experience close to home.