5 Reasons To do a PhD in Canada and Settle after graduation?

In a nutshell, apart from chilly weather and a high-quality lifestyle, a) Canada can offer great research labs as well as funding opportunities for your proposed PhD research. b) It offers a great variety of alternate career paths for PhD graduates due to a large industrial sector. c) Plus, it has friendly visa policies for international PhD students who want to work and live in Canada.

Doing a PhD means you have to live in that country for several years, mostly 4-7 years depending on the country and academic system. If you like winters and crave snowy habitats and pristine lands, then a PhD in Canada can really enhance your experience. It doesn’t mean all of Canada is severely cold, there are warm regions too.

Considering the quality of lifestyle, U.S. News has ranked it number #1 several times in a row. Here you can read the quick facts about the quality of life in Canada and what benefits you can get from studying and settling there. Considering finances as a major aspect of how you will experience living in Canada take a quick look at some stats below.

Average PhD stipend in CanadaCAD$25,567 per year
Average living cost (including rent) for students in Canada (for larger cities e.g., Toronto)CAD$38,868 per year
Average living cost (including rent) for students in Canada (for smaller cities e.g., Halifax)CAD$31,728 per year
Average post-doc salary in Canada (for work in university after PhD)CAD$49,783 per year
The average salary in Canada (for work in industry after PhD)CAD$84,264 per year
The average living cost for PhD students in Canada may be higher than the average PhD stipend offered. This substantiates our data showing the highest PhD stipends in the world. “PhD stipend to living wage ratio” offered in Canada-Toronto is 0.7 (lower than 1 is a red flag).

1. Generous funding for PhD studies

Canadian universities sponsor PhD students with generous scholarships, this includes government and industry grants as well as fully-funded PhD fellowships offered for (4-year study). More, universities like the University of Toronto, The University of Colombia, and many other highly ranked Canadian institutes are considered hubs for early career researchers.

Many argue the poor average graduate salaries of researchers. While Canadian employers are taking notice of living wages for their workers, universities (like in many other countries) may lag behind. I also stand with the argument (one of the reasons to start this blog) that paying graduate student-researchers a decent salary is a matter of workers’ rights and human decency. A lower than 1 “PhD stipend to living wage ratio” indicates that PhD students may need to live beneath living wage. However, PhD students can still make a living while doing their PhD studies in Canada because

  1. PhD stipend may vary from one university and department. In many cases PhD students will receive more than the Minimum Funding Package.
  2. living cost may vary from one region, city, and province to another.
  3. external grants can top up the PhD stipend in many cases
  4. subsidized accommodations and room sharing can help PhD students to mediate the highest expense i.e., rent.
  5. assistantship work and off-campus work (may be allowed in some cases) may increase PhD students income
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It is true that many Canadian PhD students don’t usually complete their PhD in a 4-year timespan, still, PhD students can manage to survive through their remaining PhD years by doing on-campus assistantship work and off-campus internships.

One thing to note here is that you should not do a PhD in Canada for PhD stipend, delay working life or immigration. A PhD is a really hard journey and much different than your previous academic experiences.

You should also consider that PhD attrition rates are high-varying from 51% to 71% in Canada. The good thing about doing a fully-funded PhD in Canada is that the scholarship holders are more likely to complete their PhDs.

2. Best resources for research

Canada can be best for your PhD research project because it offers

  • PhDs in almost any area of study. It means you can easily find research teams and PhD advisors who may also be working in your specific research area.
  • many institutes with good funding opportunities. This means you are more likely to get grants for your research projects.
  • diverse resources and potential in various sector of Canadian industry. This can help early career researchers and PhD students to support a variety of research endeavors from marine biology to material sciences to civil engineering innovative projects.

There are many similarities and differences between the PhD studies in the US and Canada. Canada may hold much less population than its counterpart in the south. Still, Canada host 32 universities among top-ranked universities in the world. Also, being close to the research centers of the US, it can get a lot of collaborative research support from the south.

3. Best for internship experience in high-tech industries during PhD studies

Many universities in Canada are very supportive of finding internship opportunities. They guide PhD students to go for industry internships. Industry experience during your PhD can really change your mindset about post-PhD career prospects. It provides the opportunity to work under mentors who are not professors. This may seem contradictory to your academic mindset of publishing and teaching, however, you should take one or several internships during your PhD to prepare yourself for diverse job options after you graduate.

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PhD graduates are not limited to academic careers-As many are discussing and raising awareness in Canada that PhDs are not only limited to the academic ivory tower and most PhD graduates go for many different careers after their PhD. Industry can be a great option for these highly skilled people who are trained to analyze and solve problems.

University ranking may matter for the alternate careers-No matter what others told you about not considering the university ranking for PhD, the name of the university still matters when it comes to the industrial employment of a PhD. This is also true when seeking post-PhD academic employment in Canada. Plus there are great advantages when it comes to working in great labs.

Canada is changing its “work experience” preferences for PhD graduates-The PhD graduates face some discrimination by employers in Canada and only 2% of these PhD graduates are currently being employed in the Industry. This may be due to the trend in Canada to give more weightage to previous work experience as compared to academic credentials. Here is what do employers mean by “Canadian experience?”, while also recognizing the international experience candidates bring with them. The good news is many in academia are arguing as well as suggesting policies for institutes and tips for students. I am hopeful that PhDs can prepare for careers beyond becoming professors.

4. Best for Post-PhD job prospects

In Canada, more and more PhD graduates are finding jobs in the private and public sectors. Besides, the PhD unemployment rate in Canada is still much lower than the total unemployment rate. This means you are highly likely to get a job after PhD in Canada due to Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP).

The Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP) allows PhD students to make their careers in Canada. Under this permit, you can stay in Canada for 3 years after graduating from PhD. Plus, you have to freedom to work full-time, part-time, or be self-employed during these years of stay in Canada.

Find out if you are needed in Canada-PhD graduates in Canada are most likely to apply for their permanent residency via Canadian Experience Class. The Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP) can easily give international PhD students a head start to meet the criteria of the Canadian Experience Class. You can visit Canada Job Bank to really know the kind of job opportunities, employer demands, and your fit for the positions available.

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Canada attracts global talent with benefits and facilities including

  • high average salaries
  • generous annual leaves – approx. 25 per year
  • employee insurance
  • family support and benefits

5. Best for settling after PhD

If international PhD students find work in Canada and get work experience then they are eligible to apply for permanent residency. A permanent residency visa is offered to thousands of skilled workers every year who want to make Canada their home and are actively contributing to its economy. PhD graduates being knowledge workers can perform in different specialized work positions. A good sign for Post-PhD work opportunities is the Canadian Post-graduate work visa for international students. This visa allows PhD graduates to stay in Canada after completion of their studies and look for job.

You should be well aware that a PhD is not a shopping list item. Despite what many believe (myth #8) its purpose is much different than increasing a line on your resume. A PhD is really popular among international students even after knowing that only 1 out 10 PhD students can get to be a professor. One of the reasons to do a PhD in Canada can be the hope to become a permanent resident after that. However, I might advise against that because

  • this may intention may do more harm than good for you. A PhD is a long arduous journey and it is only chosen by early career researchers for specific purposes.
  • a PhD is usually done for specific interests and careers. If you do not need a PhD don’t do it (actually that is the moto of this whole blog).

Therefore, a) if you are interested in PhD due to other reasons and b) settling in Canada is not your primary motive behind choosing low pay misery of a PhD then you can do much better in and after your PhD years.

PhD application process in Canada for international students

The process for PhD application is mostly similar for different institutes and universities in Canada. However, some application steps may change from one field of study to another. A good way to start is to look for a professor, department, or university website for PhD application and a funding guide.

Canadian PhD application and scholarship application process is daunting at first because

  • it take time to prepare your PhD application in Canada
  • you are required to take graduate admission tests e.g., GRE, IELTS, TOEFL, GMAT etc.
  • there are many steps in PhD application which you need to go through in order to apply as an international student. Here is an easy to understand example of typical steps you need to take for a Canadian PhD application.

The good thing about PhD application process in Canada is that you can apply on your own and you do not need any third party to fill out your application forms and other documents for you. Here is a good guide from the University of Calgary.

Further Reading: PhD Study in Canada – A Guide