Study and Work in Canada as an International Student

28 FEB 2022

From the lush greenery of rainy Vancouver to the ice hotels in frosty Quebec, Canada is a country that embodies diversity in all forms - from climate to culture! Studying and working in Canada is thus an enticing opportunity for international students interested in embracing all that the Great White North has to offer. 

In this article, we’ll go through the different options available to international students hoping to study and work in Canada.


Studying in Canada 

There are two streams students can choose from as they pursue a postsecondary education in Canada: college or university. Unlike the US, where universities are colloquially referred to as “colleges,” college and university are different pathways of higher education in Canada. The main difference between the two is the post-graduation route available to students. College is a vocational path that leads to a specific career, usually a trade, and depending on the student’s interest and long-term ambitions, pursuing a college education could be a great option. Conversely, university education is focused on theoretical knowledge and students can then opt to pursue graduate and professional degrees, like law or medicine

The entry requirements for a college program can differ greatly from those of a university program, so how can students ensure that they are making the best choice when deciding between these two pathways? 

I always encourage students to think backwards

Start with brainstorming your long term goals: what industry do you see yourself working in? Do you hope to pursue graduate school after completing undergrad? Is the major you are interested in offered at Canadian universities or is it established as a college program?  

Take time to envision the life you want for yourself. Then, work backwards to determine the necessary steps needed to achieve your goals. Choosing a college or university in Canada is but one of many decisions you will have to make and completing thorough research about different schools and programs will help you when deciding between the two pathways. For instance, students are often surprised to hear that graphic design programs are almost exclusively offered at colleges, not universities, in Canada. It is advisable that students narrow down the pros and cons of both options, and take into consideration factors such as location, tuition, cost of living, culture and language – all of these can vary greatly depending on where in Canada you are studying. 


Working in Canada 

There are many opportunities for students to live and work in Canada after completing their undergraduate studies. The Canadian Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP) allows graduates from designated Canadian colleges and universities to obtain work experience in Canada and the PGWPP is valid for up to 3 years. 

The most strategic way to build professional connections and gain industry experience prior to applying for the Canadian PGWPP is to complete internships and co-op opportunities in your field of interest. Establishing connections with industry professionals (whether in your home country, Canada, or abroad) can improve your chances of gaining employment upon graduation, so international students are encouraged to consult with the Internships and Careers Office at their school. Students also have the opportunity to work part-time on-campus jobs to both gain work experience and offset living and tuition costs. McGill University, for example, has a Work-Study Program that students can enroll in to determine their eligibility for priority access to on-campus work. The Canadian study visa allows students to work up to 20 hours per week without needing a work permit.

It is also advantageous to register for external opportunities that may not, on the surface level, seem to align with your academic trajectory: skills are always transferable and how you present yourself on the job market matters. I urge students to begin the process of intellectual and professional exploration sooner rather than later. Enrolling in research and work opportunities through programs like Crimson’s Research Institute as a high school student will not only bolster your extracurricular profile in your applications, but will also give you an edge when entering the Canadian job market. 


These tips are meant to help international students hoping to study and work in Canada - wherever in the process of applying you may be! While navigating the system may be daunting at times, don’t forget to enjoy the process. 


Looking for extra help? Reach out to a Crimson Education specialist!