Should you go back to School?
Most immigrants who immigrate to Canada are skilled workers. According to Statistics Canada, “in 2006, 58% of recent male immigrants and 49% of recent female immigrants had at least a bachelor’s degree”. However, another study found that “male immigrants received weekly earnings that were over 50% less than the earnings of Canadian-born workers with the same level of total experience and education. For female immigrants, the size of this effect was somewhat lower, but the gap was still substantial, at approximately 44%.”
Why the gap?
Interestingly, many Canadian employers don’t recognize foreign universities but respond well to even just one course taken at a well-known local college or university.
There are many other complex factors I won’t touch in this post, but you can read some from here.
In this post, I will focus on whether or not going back to school works for immigrants, and the what, how and why.
- Is it true that in order to work in Canada I have to study in Canada?
Answer: it depends.
If your profession or trade is regulated, your regulatory body needs to assess your studies and experience to determine whether you are eligible for the license or designation. They will tell you if you need further training, so don’t rush, and start by checking with your regulatory body. If you don’t know whether your occupation is regulated or who regulates it, check with a career counselor or look into the NOC or here: Occupational Guides
If your occupation is not regulated, you have to do some research and see what the actual requirements for the job you want are. The results will tell you whether you need to upgrade your skills, get new skills or just gain some local experience.
In most of the cases, having strategic courses in your resume will help Canadian employers to see you as eligible candidate.
If you studied in Canada at college or university level, this means your English level is high, and that your qualifications have been “tested” by a trustable institution.
If your course is recent, this means your skills are updated.
- What should I study?
There are three answers to this:
1) What your regulatory body asked to study. Do not trust friends and family on this. Follow the experts.
2) What employers are asking: for this, you need to do a thorough LMI research (check here for info on how and where to do this)
3) Being strategic: choosing well-known institutions and choosing courses for their benefits (see benefits below)
- Where should I study?
You should make an effort to study at well-known colleges or universities. You can choose between public and private institutions, when choosing the institution; follow the recommendations at the end of this post.
- I still need to support my family, how can I get help?
When planning to study, you need to consider how you will pay for the studies, support yourself and your family and still have enough cushion money for when you finish your studies (remember, a certificate does not guarantee a job right away, it just helps)
Most colleges and universities have a department called “Student Aid” that can guide you through payment options, student loan applications, etc.
The Skills Connect Program is a program specially designed to help eligible newcomers, check at your local library or find the closest program here:
You can also get support from immigrant services agencies who deliver micro-loan programs, check with your employment/career counselor for more details.
- Why should I study and what other benefits would this bring to me and my family?
As mentioned before, Canadian studies are important for immigrants and they do make a difference when job searching. These are some reasons why:
- Canadian employers recognize Canadian institutions quickly
- Canadian studies are considered equivalent as “having Canadian experience”
- Most courses are delivered by professionals who are active in their fields, so they represent good connections for you
- Some institutions offer practicum and internships, and some have support for placement
- Many employers look for potential candidates by approaching institutions.
- Your professional English level will increase as you will be exposed to college/university level language
- You would probably feel much more relaxed and prepared when looking for a job
- You will be exposed to some “Canadian culture” and soft skills, very useful for networking, workplace environments and job interviews
- You will learn Canadian-specific approaches, regulation or jargon for your occupation or profession
- You will understand the wider picture: where employers are, who is who in your industry, who are the suppliers, clients, where to find resources, etc.
- You will make valuable connections, from your classmates to your instructor
- How can I know which one is the best option for me? I am not familiar with Canadian institutions…
The answer will come from:
- Checking with potential employers: “do you have any preference for job applicants?” “Would you hire somebody graduating from…?”
- Checking with people already working in the industry: “where do you recommend to study?”, “what was your experience with…?’
- Checking with ex students, either in person or through the Internet
- Consider cost, location and schedules
- Consider institution name in the wider community, is well known and respected?
- What extra benefits is this institution offering you?
- Are the instructors qualified? Are they currently working in the industry they teach?
- Does the institution allow you to seat at a demo class or do they have info sessions?
- Is this institution trying to convince you to study something bigger than what you were planning?
- Is this institution accepting your credentials or has it a process in place to evaluate them?
Some last considerations:
For private institutions: check that the institution is PCIA registered.