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Working in Canada

Your Guide on Jobs and Finding Work in Canada

Working in Canada is a dream for many expats but nevertheless, understanding the process and learning how to navigate your way through the Canadian job market can be complicated especially for a foreigner. The good news is that this section is your first step in gaining some insight that is sure to help you in your job search in the Great White North.

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While the first month of 2019 saw a slight rise in the unemployment rate (.2% for a new total of 5.8%), the Canadian job market is undoubtedly on an upward trend overall. Since January 2018, employment has increased by 1.8%. This was mostly due to job growth in the private sector while there was a decrease in self-employed workers; public sector jobs stayed at a constant. In January 2019, the majority of the Atlantic provinces including Québec (-.1%) experienced a decline in their unemployment rates. Alberta and British Columbia, on the other hand, saw a slight increase in their rates (.4% and .3%, respectively).

This section will go over how to find a job in Canada, working as a self-employed person, social security, and more, including information on working days and average salary.

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How to Get a Job in Canada

If you are wondering how to get a job in Canada as a foreigner, the process is reasonably simple assuming you meet all the requirements for working in Canada lawfully. As a foreigner working in Canada, you will need a work permit to work legally. Eligibility for working in Canada is covered in the Visas and Work Permits section. Read through that to guarantee you can work in Canada.

How to Apply for a Job in Canada

Once you have ensured that all of your paperwork is in order, you are now ready to start your job search. The best way to get a job in Canada as a foreigner is simply by beginning your search online. This will give you a fast and comprehensive look at the types of jobs that are out there. Job search websites include:

You can also consider attending local job fairs.

YMCA Canada also offers free employment services for newcomers to Canada. An employment coach will be assigned to assess your career goals, review and/or help you write your resume and cover letter, practice interview techniques, and even point you in the direction of potential job leads and relevant openings. They also offer many other employment programs as well as apprenticeship information, workshops, entrepreneurship support, placement opportunities, and more.

Job Opportunities in Canada for Foreigners

If you are a highly skilled worker, you will find that there are many job opportunities for you in Canada. Whether you are a software developer or mechanical engineer, you are likely to find a workplace you love in Canada. The industries you will want to look at are manufacturing, service, real estate, and communications, all of which are important sectors in Canada and have been growing continuously over the years.

There are many temporary positions available for expats in the Great White North. These jobs include could be au pair positions, office administration, hospitality (hotels, bars, restaurants), or seasonal agricultural work.

Canadian-Style CV

In Canada, CV’s are usually referred to as resumes, and their style may be slightly different than what you are used to in your home country. Therefore, it would be beneficial for you to completely revamp your resume before starting on your job search. Ensuring that your resume fits the format used by Canadians will surely better your chances at landing that dream job.

Canada uses two types of resumes: chronological and functional. A chronological resume is organized in order of time by the different positions you’ve held over the years, usually placing the most recent or current job on top and working backward. This type of resume is best for people with a lot of experience. A functional resume is a skills-based resume organized by skills you have gained in your previous work and experience. This type of resume is best for students and recent graduates, or those looking for a career change.

Whichever resume you choose, here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Keep it short. A resume in Canada should be no longer than a page or two.
  • Tailor your resume. Don’t send the same resume for every job. Make sure you adjust it to best fit the position you are applying to.
  • Make sure your formatting is neat. This means clear, consistent, and legible font throughout. Bullets and point-form writing are okay.
  • Use headings. These can be your qualifications, professional experience, and education.
  • Use keywords. These can sometimes be pulled right from the job posting so make sure you review it.
  • Unlike in some countries, headshots are not included with Canadian resumes.

Cover Letter Tips

Even if the job you are applying for does not require a cover letter, it is a good idea to write one anyway. Like your resume, your cover letter should be short; no longer than a page. Also like your resume, don’t send the same cover letter to each organization – tailor it. Your cover letter is not a summary of your resume. In fact, it is your opportunity to tell your potential employer a little about yourself, your experience, and why you’re the perfect fit for the job and the organization. It is okay to let your personality shine in your cover letter – but remember: keep it professional.

Do not only talk about yourself in a cover letter. Do your research and write about a project you are particularly interested in that the team may be working on. This will show you have done your homework and have taken the time to get to know a little about the organization.

Interview Tips

If you have been invited to an interview, congratulations! While this is undoubtedly news worth celebrating, the interview process can also be a very stressful step of the job application process. Not to worry – the interview tips found in this subsection will help ensure that you nail your interview.

In Canada, you can expect three types of questions during the interview stage: skills-based, behavioral, and situational.

Skills-based questions are asked to understand your technical skills. When answering these types of questions, make sure you provide specific examples of projects you have worked on, the challenges you faced, and how you resolved them.

Behavioral questions are asked because your interviewer wants to assess how you handle certain types of situations that you may be confronted with in your new position. They want to gain an understanding of how you react and respond to sometimes difficult circumstances. When answering these types of questions, use the STAR method: Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Describe the situation, outline the task or goal, expand on the action(s) you took, and finally, explain what the result or outcome was.

Situational questions are hypothetical questions based on hypothetical situations. Similar to behavioral questions, you can use the STAR method to help you answer this question. Remember always to answer your questions in full. Every example you give should have a beginning, middle, and end. Take your time answering questions. It is okay to take a breath before speaking as it can show you are giving thought before you respond.

If possible, practice your interview skills with a friend or career coach beforehand. Before you go to your interview, make sure you research the company and any recent news or projects ahead of time.

Following your interview, make sure you send a follow-up email or, better yet, leave a hand-written note or card thanking your interviewer(s) for their time and consideration.

Networking Tips

If you are new to Canada, networking is an excellent way to get to know other professionals and colleagues and may help you land a job faster. Here are some tips to help get you started.

  • Join a professional association.
  • Attend industry fairs, exhibitions, and conferences.
  • Sign up to InterNations to meet other expats and attend local community events.
  • Volunteer at local organizations around the neighborhood.

Before attending any networking event, make sure you have your “elevator pitch”. This is a short speech highlighting yourself, your background, and your experience. Rehearse your elevator pitch with a friend or family member. Always bring professional business cards with you to networking events and dress to impress.

Required References and Qualifications

Keep in mind that your potential employer may require references as part of the application process. These should be professional references who can vouch for your work ethic, professionalism, and competency. References can be current managers, supervisors, colleagues, clients, or professors.

If you are new to Canada and short on local references, consider volunteering, interning, studying, or even networking (for some networking tips, see above). These can be fantastic ways to get to know people.

Qualifications to work in Canada include getting any foreign professional credentials and licenses recognized, and this can take some time. Authorities may review your international education, language skills, and work experience. A credential assessment and recognition costs money so make sure you check with a regulatory body to ensure you actually need one before you spend the money.

World Education Services Canada (WES) also provides newcomers with a free preliminary equivalence assessment.

Examples of jobs that need to get credentials recognized are carpenters, accountants, architects, doctors, electricians, and welder jobs. These are considered regulated jobs and they account for 20% of Canadian jobs. Other jobs which may be regulated include positions in health, finance, and legal industries.

To work in Canada, you will also need a Social Insurance Number (SIN) which you can read more about below. Fluency in either French or English may be another qualification for most jobs in Canada, and most employers will require you to have at least your high school diploma (or equivalent). Other qualifications may include adaptability; organization, problem-solving, teamwork, and communication skills; positive attitude and behavior; self-advocacy; resourcefulness; reliability; and independence.

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Minimum Wage and Average Salary

The average salary varies across Canada depending on the sector you work in and even the region in which you live. Here is an overview of average salaries across Canada based on industry and province.

Sector Average Annual Salary (CAD) Average Annual Salary (USD)
Accounting, Administration, and HR 45,650 34,030
Arts and Design 44,640 33,275
Childcare and Education 47,040 35,065
Construction and Maintenance 51,160 38,130
Engineering 73,410 54,710
Finance 63,640 47,430
Food Services 32,150 23,960
Healthcare and Social Services 58,840 43,850
Hospitality 30,235 22,530
Information Technology 77,410 57,690
Legal 87,280 65,050
Part-Time, Retail, and Customer Service 31,820 23,715
Sales and Marketing 61,365 45,740
Shipping and Manufacturing 30,640 22,840
Transportation 39,110 29,150

 

Region Average Annual Salary (CAD) Average Annual Salary (USD)
Nunavut 60,645 45,200
Yukon 55,660 41,485
British Columbia 43,765 32,620
Northwest Territories 42,860 32,630
Alberta 41,050 30,590
Manitoba 39,000 29,060
Saskatchewan 38,280 28,520
Ontario 37,550 27,980
Québec 33,150 24,700
Newfoundland and Labrador 32,170 23,970
Nova Scotia 29,250 21,795
New Brunswick 28,345 21,120
Prince Edward Island 25,660 19,120

 

The minimum wage also varies depending on the province. They are currently set to the following as of January 1, 2019:

Province Minimum Hourly Wage (CAD) Minimum Hourly Wage (USD)
Alberta 15 11
British Columbia 14 10
Manitoba 11 8
New Brunswick 12 9
Newfoundland and Labrador 11 8
Northwest Territories 13 10
Nova Scotia 12 9
Nunavut 13 10
Ontario 14 10
Prince Edward Island 12 9
Québec 13 10
Saskatchewan 11 8
Yukon 13 10

 

The Most In-Demand Jobs and How Much They Pay

According to Randstad, the top 15 most in-demand jobs in Canada for 2019 are the following:

Position

Average Annual Salary (CAD)

Average Annual Salary (USD)

Sales Associate 29,250 21,845
Administrative Assistant 37,690 28,150
Driver 37,32–
43,090
27,870–
32,180
Developer 75,000 56,000
Receptionist 31,200 23,300
Cashier 22,910 17,110
General Laborer 30,225 22,570
Project Manager 90,000 67,200
Account Manager 62,500 46,670
Welder 39,970 29,850
Accountant 57,500 42,950
Registered Nurse 72,910 72,910
Electrical Engineer 77,700 58,035
HR Manager 75,000 56,020
Merchandiser 28,290 21,130

 

Here are some other job salaries for popular occupations in Canada:

Position Average Annual Salary (CAD) Average Annual Salary (USD)
Teacher 39,000 29,130
Software Engineer 90,000 67,210
Architect 82,030 61,260
Marketing Manager 70,000 52,275
Product Manager 79,015 59,010
Web Developer 62,500 46,680
UX Designer 78,000 58,250

Self-Employment

If you are wondering how to be self-employed in Canada, please note that there are specific eligibility requirements you must meet if you plan on moving to Canada and partaking in Canada’s self-employment program. You must be able to prove that you have relevant artistic or athletic experience allowing you to be self-employed. You must also be able to make a significant contribution to cultural and sporting life in Canada. You can read more about applying for your self-employed visa and work permit and the qualifications for it in our Visas and Work Permits section.

Once you have ensured that you do meet all of the requirements, here are the top self-employed jobs in Canada you may wish to consider:

  • Graphic and web designer
  • Freelance writer or translator
  • Makeup artist
  • Photographer/videographer
  • Social media specialist
  • Event planner
  • Hairstylist
  • Interior decorator/designer
  • Marketing consultant
  • Caregiver
  • Personal trainer
  • Private tutor
  • Housekeeping
  • Repair work

Self-Employment Benefits in Canada

There are many advantages to self-employment in Canada. Some of these benefits are:

  • Independence and control of your own working hours.
  • Tax (link to Banks and Taxes section) breaks for people who run their own business.
  • More control over your earnings.
  • Savings – a self-employed person can save on things like commuting to a 9-5 job, lunches out, and office apparel plus other costs.

Self-employed people in Canada can also access Employment Insurance (EI) special benefits by entering into an agreement or registering with the Canada Employment Insurance Commission (CEIC). Upon doing this, self-employed workers will have a right to several benefits:

  • Maternity and parental benefits
  • Sickness benefits
  • Compassionate care benefits
  • Family caregiver benefit for children and adults

If you are a self-employed person in Québec, you can access maternity, paternity, and parental benefits via the Québec Parental Insurance Plan.

You are eligible for the EI special benefits and can register with the CEIC if you:

  • Run your own business.
  • Are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

It is important to note that some self-employed workers are not eligible for the EI special benefits because they qualify instead for the regular EI benefits. This includes workers such as hairdressers, barbers, taxi drivers, and fishers insured under the EI Fishing Regulations.

To register as a self-employed worker with the CEIC, you will need to create a My Service Canada Account. Once you create your account, you will receive your personal access code in the mail within ten days.

Once you have this, you will be able to log in and select the “Employment Insurance for the Self-Employed” option on the main page to start the registration process. Your participation in the program will last for as long as you are self-employed. You can also cancel your registration if you have never received any EI special benefits.

You have to wait at least a year from the date of your registration before applying for any of the benefits.

Canada Pension Plan for Self-Employed

In Canada, social security is known as the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). It is set up to help Canadians provide income for their retirement or in the case of disability. If you are a self-employed person with a net-income and pensionable employment income of more than 3,500 CAD (2,612 USD) per year, you will need to contribute (Québec residents contribute to a provincial plan instead, the Quebec Pension Plan (QPP) Contributions to the CPP begin at 18 and stop at the age of 70, even if you continue working after this.

Since the start of 2019, the contribution rate increased to 10.2% of your CPP pensionable earnings. This is adjusted annually based on the cost of living. A self-employed person is expected to pay contributions in full, paying both the employer and employee share (an employed worker would pay half, and his employer would take care of the rest). This is calculated when you do your tax returns each year and is based on your net business income (after expenses). For self-employed workers, the maximum contribution is 5,497.80 CAD (4,103.64 USD). This is also adapted annually. If you overpay your CPP contributions, it will be refunded to you in your tax refund.

Self-employed people are also free to set up other retirement income investments if they wish, in addition to the CPP.

Business Culture

Canadian business culture is actually a mix between British, American, and French leanings and practices. The Canadian working culture and business environment value respect for opinions, equality, diversity, and justice.

In Canada, punctuality is key, so it is best to arrive five to ten minutes early before any business meeting or interview. It is also advisable to carry professional business cards with you. When greeting or being introduced to someone, shaking hands is customary. A French Canadian of the opposite sex might greet with you a double cheek kiss, regardless of how well they know you. Address people by “Mr.,” Mrs.,” “Madame,” or “Monsieur”. Offering or receiving gifts among business colleagues is not customary in Canada.

Canada’s workplace culture dress code is formal, with men in suits, and women in dresses or pantsuits.

Working days in Canada are from Monday to Friday and companies are usually open year-round. Retail outlets are open seven days a week. Canada has several public holidays which workers usually have off (retail workers, if working on these days, are entitled to holiday pay). If a public holiday falls on the weekend, it is made up on the Friday or Monday with workers getting this day off instead.

Social Security and Benefits

Canada’s social insurance number is a nine-digit number that you will need to apply for before you begin any type of work. What is a Social Insurance Number in Canada? Apart from allowing you to work, this number gives you access to government programs and benefits.

Can a Foreigner Get a Social Insurance Number?

A foreigner can get a social insurance number if they hold permanent resident or temporary resident status.

How to Get a Social Insurance Number in Canada

Applying for a social insurance number in Canada must be done in person at a Service Canada Center. The documents you take with you must prove your identity and status in Canada. They must be original as photocopies will not be accepted.

Permanent residents should bring with them one of the following:

  • A permanent resident card.
  • Confirmation of Permanent Residence issued by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), along with a travel document (such as a passport) or a driver’s license.
  • Verification of Landing (only available if Confirmation of Permanent Residence is not (lost, for example)) issued by IRCC or Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).
  • A Status Verification issued by IRCC or CIC.

Temporary residents must bring one of the following to apply:

  • Work permit issued by IRCC or CIC.
  • Study permit issued by IRCC or CIC.
  • Visitor record issued by IRCC or CIC indicating you are authorized to work in Canada.
  • Diplomatic identity card and a note of permission of employment issued by Global Affairs Canada or Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada.

There is no fee to apply for a SIN. If all your paperwork is in order, you should be provided a SIN on the spot.

Canada’s Social Insurance Card

The plastic SIN card has stopped being issued by Service Canada and instead, is now issued in a paper-format that you must store in a safe and secure place.

Canada’s Social Insurance Benefits

Benefits in Canada include employment insurance, pensions, and benefits for housing, education, training, family, and people with disabilities.

Employment Insurance (EI)

Under employment insurance, you have benefits if you lose your job; if you are sick or injured and unable to work; maternity and parental benefits; caregiving benefits and leave if you are supporting someone who is critically ill or injured; self-employed benefits; and fishing benefits if you are a self-employed fisher actively seeking work.

Family Benefits

Canada has a child benefit for eligible families raising children under 18. There are also benefits if you are raising a child with a disability, and even a benefit for parents of young victims of a crime. You receive income support if you have to leave work to deal with the death or disappearance of your child as a result of a probable Criminal Code offense. There is also the CPP survivor’s pension which is paid to the legal spouse or common-law partner of a deceased person. The Goods and Services Tax (GST)/Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) credit is a tax-free quarterly payment for low-income families offsetting any GST or HST they pay.

Public Pensions

The CPP is Canada’s retirement pension. There is also the Old Age Security pension which you can receive once you turn 65 and have lived in Canada for at least ten years.

Education and Training Benefits

These are for students to help fund their education. It includes grants and scholarships for students of all levels.

Housing Benefits

Some people might be eligible for a GST/HST rebate for the purchase or construction of a new home. There are also programs to help families buy, renovate, or adapt a home. There is even special assistance for seniors who want to make adaptions to their house or apartment.

Disability Benefits

Along with some of the disability benefits already mentioned, others include things like education funding and a gasoline tax refund for people with a mobility impairment that does not allow them to use public transport. There is also a tax-free cash award for injured members of the Canadian Forces or Veterans with an injury or illness obtained during military service.

Benefits by Audience

Canada has benefits for Indigenous people along with other groups mentioned earlier: people with disabilities, military personnel, veterans, retirees, and even for Canadians living abroad.

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Maternity and Paternity Leave

Maternity leave in Canada is offered to new moms, including surrogate mothers, who are unable to work because they are pregnant or have recently given birth. Paternity leave is covered under the EI parental benefits.

It is important to note that new mothers and fathers in Québec are covered under a different program called the Quebec Parental Insurance Program.

How Long is Maternity Leave in Canada?

A maximum of 15 weeks of maternity leave in Canada is available for new moms to take.

Canada’s Maternity Benefits

Benefits can be paid as early as twelve weeks before giving birth and can stop as late as 17 weeks after the birth date. The weekly benefit is 55% of the mother’s average weekly insurable earnings up to a maximum amount (562 CAD (419 USD) per week).

Paternity Leave and Benefits

New fathers are covered under Canada’s EI parental benefits. Parents can share a total of 35 weeks of paid leave. The weekly benefit is 55% of the claimant’s average weekly insurable earnings up to a maximum amount (562 CAD (419 USD) per week).

New parents can also apply for the extended parental benefits which are a maximum of 61 weeks. The benefit rate for this is 33% of the claimant’s average weekly insurable earnings up to a maximum amount (337 CAD (251 USD) per week).

Apply for your Benefits

You can apply for your benefits online, and it will take about an hour to complete. Make sure you have the following information handy:

  • SIN
  • Mother’s maiden name
  • Mailing and residential addresses
  • Complete banking information
  • Expected or actual date of child’s birth
  • Employment information

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Updated on: September 20, 2019
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