US or Canada : What’s better for me?
One of them is known for snow-capped mountains, its love for ice hockey and everybody’s favorite Prime Minister. The other is renowned for its booming job market, high standards of living, and its thriving multicultural atmosphere. We are, of course, talking about Canada and the USA. Both are vastly different countries, but with several similarities; one of which is the unsurpassable quality of secondary education.
Since the Internet boom in the 1980s, the US has been the ultimate study abroad destination for aspiring students. A combination of factors like cutting-edge infrastructures, R&D opportunities, and better employability has firmly cemented the US’s position as the first choice for a vast number of students wishing for quality education. However, in recent times, Canada, US’s friendly neighbor, has emerged as a competition to the US as an excellent alternative, with high-quality education that doesn’t pinch your pockets.
So, here is the big question- should you apply to both the US and Canada for your postgraduate studies? Or should you simply stick to one?
This is a question that leaves many students scratching their heads, so let us try and get some clarity on it.
What parameters should I consider?
Besides top-notch education and excellent faculty, there are several other parameters you should take into account while considering your postgraduate options. Remember: this is the place where you will spend two years of your life, so it is equally important to consider other factors such as the cost of living, public safety, employment opportunities, weather, student-friendliness etc.
Quality of Education
First and foremost, of course, is the quality of education offered by American and Canadian universities. This factor is paramount to your decision-making process- after all, it is a decision that will affect your life and career.
While it is true that the US has a monopoly in the education market, Canada is not lagging behind. With several top universities like the University of Toronto and the University of Ottawa, Canada is slowly but surely catching up with the US. In terms of course structures, both the countries are very similar. Universities in both the US and Canada offer research-oriented (thesis-based) and teaching-oriented (non-thesis based) Masters programmes. Depending on your academic aspirations, you can choose either – normally, students wishing to embark on a Ph.D. opt for the research-oriented Masters. In both the countries, students pursuing their MS are required to complete 36 credit hours in order to graduate. In terms of the quality of education offered, there is little difference between the two.
Top 5 universities in the US & Canada – World Rankings
Education in Canada is much cheaper than in the US, thanks to several laws and policies put in place to make education affordable and accessible to all. Private universities in both the US and Canada are generally more expensive since they are not regulated by the government. However, state universities in both the countries are much more affordable – exact fees differ from school to school.
Tuition and scholarships
For example, for a Master’s degree at University of Toronto, the average tuition fees per year for 2017-2018 is $25,813 per annum (approx. 13 lakhs).
Owing to a burgeoning number of international applicants, several universities in the US and Canada offer generous scholarships and grants to considerably reduce the financial burden on the students: these scholarships range from partial fee-waiver to full rider. In some universities where the focus is on a particular discipline, students who are applying to study that discipline are given scholarships.
For instance, in the University of Ottawa, researchers are working to create the world’s largest center for the study of photonics and optics, for which the University receives a huge amount of funding from alumni and philanthropists. Therefore, students who wish to study photonics are given full fee-waivers and living allowances in order to make scientific advancements in the field. Such discipline-specific scholarships are more widely available in Canada than in the US.
The taxes you pay in Canada are considerably higher compared to the US, but your tax money is judiciously spent by the government to ensure your social welfare.
For instance, one of Canada’s biggest assets is its universal healthcare schemes, which makes high quality healthcare extremely affordable to all its citizens.
Additionally, when you file your tax returns on time, a portion of your taxes is refunded to you. Social welfare in the US peaked under the Obama administration, with the advent of ObamaCare.
Living conditions and expenses
The biggest deterrent to students wishing to apply to Canada is the weather. Temperatures can dip as low as -25°C in winters, with heavy snowfall and storms forcing you to stay indoors for days on end. By comparison, the US offers more variety- states like California and Florida are perennially warm and dry, with the occasional spell of rain.
The US also boasts of a large Indian diaspora, which is often an important factor for many Indian students who start to feel homesick in a few months. The Indian community in Canada is comparatively smaller, but not nonexistent.
When it comes to living expenses like rent and utilities, Canada is leaps and bounds ahead, with lower rents and transportation costs. Cities like Toronto and Montreal are extremely student-friendly, with student discounts available almost everywhere- from restaurants to clothing stores and movie theatres. Additionally, Canada is much safer, and has lower crime rates and stringent gun laws.
Did you know that according to the figures from University of Alberta, the average living costs for an international student is $16,800 (Canadian Dollars) for an entire year?
Jobs and career opportunities
Of course, the US has a massive job market, but in recent years, recession and unemployment rates have soared, making it difficult to secure a job. Canada too has faced these problems, but on a relatively smaller scale.
The biggest difference between Canada and the US in terms of employment is that it is much easier to pursue part-time jobs in Canada. In the US, if you wish to work while studying, you will have to obtain an OPT (Optional Practical Training), but the job you undertake must be related to your field. In Canada, however, you are allowed to undertake almost any job, since your study permit doubles up as a work permit too.
After graduating, the average salary for an MS student in the US is about USD 69,000 (Rs 49 lakhs approx) per annum, while in Canada it is lower at CAD 70,000 (Rs 35 lakhs approx) per annum. Job prospects in the US are much better, however, the lack of proper job security, especially at fresher level makes one think twice about spending all that money on tuition fees.
It is much easier for students to get a study visa to Canada than to the US. For students desirous of living and working in the country after they graduate, Canada offers seamless immigration options that make it easy for you to obtain a Canadian citizenship. In the US, by comparison, applying and obtaining a green card can be a long, arduous process.
In sum, we highly recommend that you apply to a combination of both American and Canadian universities in order to maximize your chances of admissions. Barring a few minor differences, both the countries are almost the same in the educational sphere. The US and Canada are leaders in providing high-quality education and job opportunities and thus make for an excellent study abroad destination.
Like the old adage that says, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”
Similarly, it is smart as well as practical to not bank your MS dreams on one university or one destination alone. Increase your chances of an admit by exploring cost-effective options worldwide.