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  • Andrey Vasilyev

    When moving to a huge city such as Vancouver, InterNations made it easy for me to find fellow expats and the network that I needed.

A booming startup and tech scene and a vibrant film industry—that’s Vancouver’s labor market in a nutshell. Finding a job as an expat in one of these industries is competitive, but not impossible. In fact, Vancouver will soon be facing a skills shortage, especially in technology. So, if you know how to code, you may not have a hard time finding a suitable position.

But even if you don’t code, there are enough jobs out there, you just have to keep your eyes open, educate yourself through courses, and network as much as you can. If working for someone else is not your style, no need to worry, as self-employment in British Columbia seems to be more popular than in the rest of Canada. Around 18% of the local workforce is self-employed. Regardless of the work field, entrepreneurs will love setting up shop in Vancouver.

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Job Market Overview

Things to Know about Working in Vancouver

Booming Economy

Vancouver is home to the nation’s largest seaport and the western end of the transcontinental highway. As British Columbia’s largest city, and the third-largest metropolis in Canada, Vancouver is a major gateway for trade across the Pacific Ocean. In order to become a trade and business hub for goods and services, British Columbia is trying to strengthen its ties with Japan, China, Korea, and India, thus creating more job opportunities in the long run.

The labor market in Vancouver has been very competitive for expats, since the province already has enough highly-skilled local graduates. In recent years the economy has been booming though, and there is no end in sight. A lot of international companies have their headquarters in Vancouver. According to the government, this might be a chance for expats.

British Columbia is expected to have 861,000 job openings between 2019 and 2029. Over three-quarters of these vacancies will require some form of post-secondary education and some level of work experience. This means that the demand for trained workers will surpass the supply, and Vancouver will need skilled expats to fill these positions.

Industries, such as technology, biotechnology, and IT in particular, are currently facing a skill shortage.

Expats who always dreamed of showcasing their acting talent or proving their skills as cinematographers do not have to move to Los Angeles or New York. In fact, the Vancouver film industry is over 100 years old and is among the top 5 in North America. Today, around 35,000 Vancouverites work for the local film industry, which produces 10% of Hollywood’s movies, and generates around 1 billion CAD (750 million USD) annually.

Other industries in need of experienced employees are:

  • green technology, digital media, and life sciences;
  • natural resources;
  • service industries: healthcare, high-tech, and retail sales;
  • film industry.

Language Skills

Even though more than half of Vancouverites consider a language other than English their native tongue, fluency in English is an absolute prerequisite in the workplace all over Canada (the only exception is Québec). Since Vancouver is so multicultural, having skills in additional languages, especially French, Chinese, and Mandarin, is a valuable asset.

Business Etiquette

Business in Canada is pretty straightforward. One thing to remember is to never compare Canada to the US, and also do not dwell too much on conflicts between French-speaking and English-speaking Canada.

Another important thing to remember is, if for some reason you try to bring flowers to a work setting, do not choose white lilies. Canadians associate them with death and funerals. Red roses would be inappropriate as well because they are dedicated to romantic settings.

The Top 15 Companies in Vancouver

  • Fashion/Retail – Lululemon Athletica – Artizia
  • Finance – Insurance Corp. of British Columbia – Pacific Blue Cross – WorkSafeBC
  • Transportation – TransLink (South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority)
  • Technology – iQmetrix – Amazon Canada Fulfilment Services, ULC – StemCell Technologies Inc.
  • Education – University of Northern British Columbia
  • Media – PNI Digital Media Inc. – AbeBooks Inc. – Vancouver Film Studios
  • Natural Resources – BC Hydro
  • Real Estate – Oakwyn Realty

The Most Required Jobs and Skills in Demand in Vancouver

As mentioned above, Vancouver is expected to have over 800,000 job openings over the next decade in a lot of different industries such as biotechnology, natural resources, and healthcare. In recent years though, Vancouver has turned into an international broiling hotbed for the tech industry, with giants like Amazon promising to create 3,000 vacancies in Vancouver by 2022. Facebook and Samsung plan to open up new offices in town and Microsoft is investing in high-speed transportation between Vancouver and Seattle.

With this tech boom, Vancouver is facing major growing pains. There are simply not enough skilled web developers, software developers, and programmers to fill this employee void. So, if you are a tech-savvy expat and know your HTMLs from your Java scripts, this is your golden ticket to the True North. The average salary for a front-end developer in Vancouver is around 78,000 CAD (58,500 USD).

Average Salary

Constantly being ranked by Mercer in the top ten of the most livable cities turned Vancouver into one of the cool kids among expat destinations. Subsequently this also increased the influx of intrigued newcomers. As a consequence, living costs in the city keep rising. Compared to 2019, consumer prices are now up 3.9%. The largest increases were found in transportation, food, and housing.

Costs rising does not necessarily mean that salaries also rise. The average salary in Vancouver is 74,000 CAD (55,000 USD) gross. The average take-home earning after tax is 54,000 CAD (40,500 USD). However, the most common salary is 44,000 CAD (33,000 USD). To live comfortably as a single person in Vancouver you will need to make more than 55,000 CAD (41,250 USD). “Comfortably” means living without roommates, downtown, with enough money left over to save, but also spend on eating out, a gym membership, phone, and other amenities.

Popular Job Salaries

Physician 125,100 CAD (93,800 USD) Operations Manager 67,000 CAD (50,250 USD) Software Engineer 78,000 CAD (58,500 USD) Project Manager 75,000 CAD (56,250 USD) Software Developer 70,000 CAD (52,500 USD)

How to Get a Job

When looking at how to get a job in Vancouver, the biggest obstacle for expats is securing a work permit. To be issued one, you will need to have a job lined up and get your employer to sponsor you. In addition to that, the job market in Vancouver is very competitive. There are many educated and experienced domestic workers. So, when it comes down to it, it is financially easier for employers to choose someone that does not need visa sponsoring. However, the government has published forecasts that there will be many new job openings in technology, IT, software and healthcare in the upcoming year. The high demand for skilled workers means more opportunities for expats.

Applying for a job in a competitive market means expats need to stand out. A CV and cover letter are a prerequisite. Make sure to stand out with your achievements and not with your lack of knowledge of Canadian spelling. Many words are spelled differently in Canadian English compared to American or British English.

How to Obtain Your Work Permit

Applying for a work permit in Vancouver is straightforward. Expats need to show their employment contract in order to be granted a permit under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. This permit, however, is only valid for the particular work position you signed a contract for when applying for the work permit. That means, if you want to change jobs, you will need to apply for a new work permit. If you need to learn more about the requirements to work in Canada, read our detailed section on visa and work permits in our Canada guide.

Tips on How to Find a Job in Vancouver

Vancouver’s Hidden Job Market

Vancouver has a hidden job market, meaning a lot of openings, especially for high-ranking positions, are not advertised on job platforms, employer websites, or social boards like LinkedIn. Instead, a lot of positions are advertised through word of mouth, referrals, networking, or through recruitment firms.

Networking Events

Networking events can be tiring and oftentimes it is just plain old luck. You have to be in the right place at the right time. Good places to start and meet fellow expats are InterNations events or groups in the Vancouver area. There you will be able to meet people who have gone through the same process as you, when relocating to Vancouver, and maybe give you one or two insights into the business world.

A big city like Vancouver also has many networking events that are worth visiting, such as Business in Vancouver, Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia, BC Tech Summit, and Canadian Internet Marketing Conference.

Online and Social Media

It is worth it to follow the social media accounts of companies that you identify with and would like to work for. Many companies post vacancies within their social network, since the likelihood of finding someone suitable could be higher there.

Another option is to use traditional job platforms and social boards. The following are particularly popular in Vancouver:

Job platforms

  • Kijiji
  • com
  • Government of Canada Job Bank –

Job boards

  • LinkedIn
  • Workopolis
  • Monster
  • Eluta

Recruitment firms

Recruitment firms and headhunters have a close relationship with companies and often know when a job is available. One recruitment firm in Vancouver is Strive. According to their own data collection, 67% of the positions they recruited employees for in 2018 were not publicly advertised. It is ideal to register with one or two companies and let them search on your behalf. Perhaps they will even find a company that you have not thought of before, but that suits you and your qualities well. Popular firms in Vancouver are:

  • Goldbeck;
  • Robert Half;
  • Strive.

What to Consider when Applying for a Job

Localize Your CV

As mentioned before, you will need to adapt your CV and cover letter to the Canadian way of spelling, which is a mixture of American English, British English, Quebéc French, and local peculiarities.

Some words that differ from American English:

Canadian English American English acknowledgement acknowledgment analyse analyze cancelled canceled cheque check licence license

Who Are You?

Generally, when applying for jobs in a foreign country, try putting yourself in the shoes of the person reading your CV. If you have a non-Canadian degree or qualification, include the Canadian equivalent. This not only makes it easier for human resources to sort through your application and see if you are qualified for the position or not, but it also shows that you have taken the time to localize your CV.

Educate Yourself

Canadians are firm believers of “learning never stops.” It is not unusual for them to have very specific qualifications that you never knew existed. This would all be fine if those specifications did not regularly pop up on job advertisements as prerequisites. Some employers want to know if you took certain courses, seminars, and specializations offered in the curriculum of your degree. If you have the possibility of taking courses to further educate yourself in your area of expertise, do it, and then include them prominently in your CV.

Get advice on working abroad in Vancouver

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Entrepreneurship in Vancouver is quite popular, due to its booming startup and tech scene. According to Statistics Canada, around 2.9 million Canadians were self-employed, making up around 15% of the country’s workforce. The number of people deciding to be their own boss is constantly rising, with British Columbia leading the way. The province of BC has the largest prevalence of self-employment in 2018, with 18% of its workforce deciding to work for themselves. Reasons being: more freedom, independence, and work-family balance.

Expats wanting to set up their own business in Canada have the chance to immigrate through the Canadian Self-Employed Persons program. However, they have to meet certain eligibility requirements, such as having relevant experience in cultural activities or athletics, as well as being able to make significant contributions to them. But self-employment also means being able to work on your own and make enough to be able to live in a very expensive city. If you need more information regarding the application process for self-employment, tax returns, health insurance, and social security benefits, read the entrepreneurship and self-employmentsection in our Canada guide.

Popular Co-Working Spaces in Vancouver

Working on your own can be lonely and distracting sometimes, and that is why a lot of freelancers go to co-working spaces. Many of these spaces offer day passes starting at 15-30 CAD (11-22 USD) per day for a desk space, or monthly subscriptions for a fixed workspace that costs around 55-400 CAD (41-300 USD) or more, depending on your subscription and location. Many co-working hubs also have meeting rooms and virtual office packages, where new businesses that do not yet have their own office space, can use the co-working space’s address as their registered business address.

Co-Working Spaces in Downtown

  • L’Atelier Coworking, 400-390 W. Hastings Street (Gastown)
  • The Network Hub, 422 Richards Street 170 (Gastown)
  • VanCubers, 250 – 997 Seymour Street (Downtown)
  • IQ Office Suites, 1055 W. Georgia Street (Downtown)
  • The Profile Coworking Club, 375 Water St (Gastown), 535 Thurlow Street (Downtown)
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