Canada’s mixture of open immigration, innovation, strong employment prospects and world-class education is making it a firm favorite among prospective business school students. Some 570,000 overseas students were in Canada overall in August, a 60 percent surge from three years ago.
Canada is enjoying its moment in the sun, having for decades played second-fiddle to its southern neighbor (the US) as a destination for business students. A big reason for the influx of foreign talent to Canadian shores is America’s clamp down on visas, and a perception that the country is less welcoming.
In contrast, Canada has progressive visa rules and a welcoming atmosphere. This approach is embodied by its prime minister Justin Trudeau, who has been a vocal proponent of asylum seekers and refugees.
Especially in terms of business master’s programs, America’s loss appears to be Canada’s gain.
“Immigration is a huge part of [Canada’s] unique advantage and sets Canada apart from other countries,” says Kiridaran Kanagaretnam, director of the Master of Management program at the Schulich School of Business in Toronto. “The Canadian government has prioritized international students in its economic strategy and this is often a key consideration for prospective students.”
Students on most Master’s in Management (MiM) programs in Canada are eligible to apply for a Post Graduate Work Permit (PGWP). The visa permits them to secure employment in the country for a time equal to the length of their program. A job offer is not required for this.
The work permit opens up a pathway to permanent residence in Canada. In 2017, 44,000 international students transitioned directly or indirectly to permanent residency, for example getting a work permit first, according to figures from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
There are strong employment opportunities in Canada, says Eric Simard, associate director of MSc recruitment and admissions at the Ivey Business School at Western University in Toronto. Some 90 percent of students on Ivey’s MSc in International Business received job offers within six months of graduation, with the vast majority staying in Ontario.
“The majority of our students sign their employment offers before they graduate,” says Simard.
The average salary was $62,577, which reflects the career management training that Ivey’s MSc students receive, including salary negotiations, networking and interview preparation.
At Schulich, MiM graduates have gone on to work for such blue-chip companies as Amazon, Walmart, IBM, Bell, Scotiabank and BMO.
Some Canadian cities, such as Toronto and Montreal, are becoming hubs for artificial intelligence and technology, boosting employment opportunities for business school graduates, says Shoeb Hosain, director of the Masters of Management in Analytics (MMA) at Desautels Faculty of Management, at McGill University.
Amazon, for one, said it had created 10,000 jobs in Canada in the past few years, with plans to create an additional 6,000 jobs.
In fact, Toronto, Canada’s largest city, created 82,100 tech jobs between 2012 and 2017, making it North America’s fastest-growing tech center, according to CBRE, the property company.
Microsoft, Intel, Uber and Instacart have all set up bases in Toronto, tapping into the local labor market. “We have an extremely strong and educated talent pool that is coming to study from all corners of the globe because they see Canada as a welcoming and advancing nation,” says Hosain.
The first cohort of MMA students will graduate in August this year, and about 50 percent have already secured jobs in Canada and abroad. “Data science is often touted as the top skill set in the US, and we anticipate it’s no different in other parts of the world,” says Hosain.
Experiential learning opportunities further strengthen students’ job prospects. As part of the Masters of Management in Finance (MMF) at Desautels, students work as equity analysts in the student-run investment management company, Desautels Capital Management. They are involved in all areas of the business, including trade idea generation, due diligence, risk management, compliance, client communication, marketing, and trade execution.
Desautels also recently launched a Socially Responsible Investing Fund, which invests in undervalued companies that are leaders in corporate social responsibility.
Of course, Canada has always had several natural strengths that have drawn overseas students. Its education system is highly regarded around the world, with its business schools ranked well. The tuition fee rates are often more competitive than other countries, as are, currently, exchange rates to the Canadian dollar.
And yet there remain challenges for overseas students. The growth in popularity of Canadian schools means that the education and job market are highly competitive, says Hosain at Schulich.
“Some students think that just because they study at a premier university, they will be handed a sought-after role,” he says. “That may be the case in other countries, but not as much in Canada.”
However, he adds that bright and motivated students have incredible prospects for building successful careers in Canada.