Guide to Getting a Master’s Degree in Canada

attending a graduate school in canada

Despite its cold and harsh weather, Canada is a beautiful country which also happens to appeal to many people for tourism, employment, and study. The country boasts a low unemployment rate of only 6.5% (as of June 2017), and has a high quality educational system.

The QS Higher Education System Strength Rankings in 2016, ranked Canada’s higher education system as 5th in the world. In addition, Canada is regarded as being highly safe, tolerant, and non-discriminatory towards internationals. That is what attracts more than 350,000 students from other countries annually to enroll in Canadian universities. These students go there to complete their undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as vocational school degrees.

So if you are one of those students who recognize the quality of the Canadian education and wants to complete a master’s degree there, this guide is for you. We will go over the details of the length and system of a master’s degree in Canada, its cost, application procedures, opportunities it brings, and the best universities to complete a master’s degree there.

Length Of Master’s Degree Studies In Canada

The graduate education system of Canada is similar to that of getting a master’s degree in the U.S. Even though Canada is regarded as having a higher quality, its master’s degree programs are 1 to 2 years long. This always depends on the field of study, as law school and medical school take longer to complete.

In addition, the length of time also depends on the mode of study. You will complete your master’s degree for 1 to 2 years if you are a full-time student. However, if you enroll in a graduate program as a part-time student, you will take more time to get your diploma.

Cost Of Canadian Master’s Degree

Tution

If you are a student from the U.S, a Canadian degree will seem extremely cheap to you. As a matter of fact, Canadian tuition fees are comparatively lower with those of the U.S, as U.S degrees have become increasingly more expensive. However, in Canada, international students pay different and higher fees than domestic students. Even with this factor, the cost of study in Canada is quite low.

You can expect to pay 10,000 to 20,000 Canadian dollars annually to afford your tuition, but most degrees are around C$15,000. In U.S dollars, this is between $8,000 to $16,000. When you compare that with the average U.S graduate tuition fees of $30,000 to $120,000, you wonder why everyone doesn’t complete their studies in Canada.

Other costs and financial aid

Besides the low cost of tuition fees, universities in Canada also grant scholarships to international students. Scholarships can cover a part of the tuition fees, but you can also try to get external funding to finance it entirely. Scholarships are mostly given on merit and outstanding achievements, but the competition is high, so you will have to work hard to earn one.

In addition, there are also other costs to getting a Canadian degree. All international students are obliged to get health insurance, so you will incur this additional cost. The amount depends on what company you choose, so you must get an insurance that covers your medical needs.

Also, you will have to pay for housing. The average rent for a Canadian apartment is between $500 to $1,500 and it ranges based on what part and what city you live in.

You will also incur the additional expenses of food and living. In general; however, do not expect to have higher costs that $30,000 to $50,000 annually if you study in Canada.

For more about Canada’s expenses, you can talk to your university, or visit a cost of living website such as Numbeo.

Applying For A Master’s Degree In Canada

Requirements

Applications for Master’s Degrees in Canada vary depending on the university. Each institution has their own application forms, requirements, and fees associated with them. However, for international students, the steps to applying for graduate school in Canada first include submitting your undergraduate transcripts and diplomas.

You must make sure that your degree is accepted at that Canadian institution and it meets the required credits and accreditation. Canadian universities are very strict in terms of what international degrees they accept, so you must verify that your degree is up to Canadian educational standards.

The rest of the application procedure includes filing and paying a fee for the application form, attaching supporting documents such as essays and personal statements, recommendation letters, as well as standardized test scores. If you are from a country where English is not the first language, you must also submit TOEFL or IELTS scores. Since French is also a national language in Canada, if you apply to a university which teaches in French, you must complete the standardized tests for it.

In addition, many Canadian universities are now requiring graduate student applicants to submit GRE or GMAT scores. So be prepared to go through a long pre-application procedure of preparing and completing these tests.

After submitting the application

After you submit your application, it will take around 7 weeks to process it. If your application is missing any documents, the university will either reject or seek for additional information from you. You must make sure you apply well before the deadline, so that if you are given the chance to submit more documents, you have enough time to gather them and submit them before the application deadlines.

Following the application procedures, the Canadian universities you applied to will respond with either an offer of placement or a rejection. Hopefully, you will be accepted, and you can start your journey of getting a master’s degree in Canada.

Canadian Study Permits

To study in Canada as an international student, you must have the appropriate documentation from the country’s authorities. For students, this is the study permit. The study permit allows you to stay in Canada for the duration of your master’s degree.

You can get the study permit by applying online or at a Canadian Embassy in your country. To apply you will need the following documents:

  • Acceptance letter from a Canadian university
  • Proof of financial well being to afford studying and living in Canada
  • Proof of good health
  • Proof that you do not have criminal records
  • Tickets for returning from Canada after completing your degree

The most critical documents in this case are the acceptance letter and the proof of finances. Canadian authorities will not allow you to start your graduate degree if you do not have sufficient funds to cover your tuition and living expenses. So before you apply for the study permit, make sure your bank account reflects that you have enough money for the Canadian cost of living.

Attending A Graduate School In Canada

A Master’s Degree in Canada is similar to a degree in the U.S in terms of the structure. The academic year, usually starts in September and ends in May, with students having the usual winter and summer breaks. However, this all depends on the university as they might have differences. Since Canada has 10 provinces and 3 territories, there might also be differences between them in terms of such structures.

While you attend your Master’s Degree in Canada, you will have a number of required and elective courses each semester. These make up your degree and the electives you pick decide your focus of studies. Evaluation is done similarly to the U.S with exams, research papers, presentations, and participation in class. However, the grading system is much stricter than that in the U.S.

Internships and research

The Canadian education system places high value on practically applying what you study. This means that students are constantly encouraged to find internships during the academic year and during university breaks. The internships are called co-ops or co-operative education and students usually find them in their particular field of study. They are highly competitive, so students applying need to demonstrate great academic achievements.

In addition, research is extremely important in the Canadian education system. According to the OECD, Canadian universities conduct more than one third of Canada’s research. Emphasis is especially placed on scientific fields, but social fields also conduct a bulk of research. So while attending your usual classes, you might also want to be engaged in a particular research study that is being conducted in the university as a research assistant for example. Your resume and experience will highly benefit from this and it will make you more competitive in terms of finding an internship or a job.

Working during your studies

As a student, you might want to supplement your income through working at least part time during your studies. You can have extra cash for travelling or simply covering your living expenses. When you have a study permit, you are allowed to work part time on campus in any job that you find. If you work on campus, you don’t need to apply for a work permit.

However, there aren’t many jobs on campus, so students usually end up applying somewhere else. Off-campus work means that you will need to apply for a work permit, but since you are a student, you will not be allowed to work more than 20 hours during academic study. Only during university break, you are allowed to work full time.

Staying In Canada After Graduation

Canada is an attractive place to stay on after graduation and work, or even settle in permanently. Since the country is non-discriminatory, it actually encourages foreign graduates to stay in Canada and contribute their knowledge. According to the Canadian Bureau of International Education (CBIE), about 51% of international students who graduate state that they plan to apply for a permanent Canadian residence. There are several ways that you can stay in Canada after you get your degree:

  • Apply for a Post Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) – You can apply for this permit after 8 months of study. It allows students to stay in Canada to work after they graduate for the same duration of their study time. So if you got your master’s degree for 2 years, the PGWP allows you to stay in the country as an employee to work for 2 years.
  • Apply for permanent residence – The other option is to become a permanent resident of Canada. There are several ways you can do that, so for more information visit the Government of Canada

Even if you go back to your home country after you graduate with a Master’s Degree from Canada, you will have an advantage. Canadian degrees are valued and recognized throughout the world, so you will have no problem getting opportunities to further your professional career.

Best Universities For A Master’s Degree In Canada

Canada’s universities offer such high quality experiences that many of them are also in the top 100 universities in the world. This means you have plenty of choices for where to go and complete your degree. Below, we have listed the top 5 best universities to get your degree in Canada and their world rankings:

  1. McGill University (ranks 30th in the world)
  2. University of Toronto (ranks 32nd in the world)
  3. University of British Columbia (ranks 45th in the world)
  4. University of Alberta (ranks 94th in the world)
  5. Universite de Montreal (ranks 126th in the world)
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