USA vs Canada: Which is Better to Study Abroad for International Students? Image
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USA vs Canada: Which is Better to Study Abroad for International Students?

Yocket Editorial Team
34 mins read

You google for top study destinations abroad and both US and Canada find place in the top five most famous study abroad destinations for international students. The reasons are obvious - quality of education, world-class faculty, exhaustive course structure, post-graduation employment opportunities, and high standards of living.

In this article, we are going to compare the two largest countries of North America – Canada and the US to help students make an informed choice for applying to universities abroad. Let us quickly go through the pros and cons of studying in the US and Canada.

Why Choose Canada or US for studying Abroad?

Before we delve into the question: Is it better to study in the US or Canada, let us first learn why both these countries are a preferred study destination for millions of students.

The United States has been the ultimate study abroad destination for students from ages especially for MS and other master’s programs. It has established its reputation as a global leader in tech and research, which attracts students wanting to pursue high-quality education. Other than this, factors including excellent R&D opportunities, state of the art infrastructure, technological advancements, booming industries, etc. have added to its appeal as the penultimate study abroad destination.

In recent times, Canada has emerged as a frontrunner in attracting international students to the Canadian universities, marching ahead of countries including the UK, Australia, US, etc. This has been mainly because of the lenient immigration policies, high-quality education that is relatively cheaper, good work-related opportunities, speedy processing times for study permits, wide availability of scholarships etc. These along with a good quality of life is making Canada a favourite amongst foreign students.

Language & Student Support in US vs. Canada

The first thing a student has to consider while going abroad is language of communication. Apart from this a favourable environment is also desirable.



English is the most common language spoken by people in the US.

Bilingual in nature, English and French are the most commonly spoken languages

International Student are assisted with cultural & social adjustments through a variety of programs & inductions

Students from around the world are assisted with cultural & social adjustments through a variety of programs & inductions

Key takeawayBoth the countries provide Foundation courses to students before under graduation and graduation to help them adapt to university environment, the culture, language improvements and develop a strong base for the course ahead.

Comparing the Quality of Education in US and Canada

While answering the question, USA or Canada which is better to study, the most important thing one must consider is the quality of education.

US as we all know is definitely the torchbearer of quality education. The quality of its programs has stood the test of time and the higher education standards provided here are unparalleled. Most US universities have a strong foundation in research, which makes it the perfect for students willing to indulge in breakthrough research projects. Apart from this, US offers a wide range of courses in a wide array of upcoming fields which makes it even more lucrative

Canada is also not far behind when it comes to the quality of education . Although Canada has been recognised worldwide for its outstanding quality of education at all levels, in the last several years, the universities have also upped their game. As a result of this their universities like University of Toronto, McGill University, and the University of British Columbia are constantly being featured in the list of best Universities in the world.

Key takeaway: While the quality of education is very good in both countries, the US definitely wins the race by a small margin. Some examples are pre-MBAs, pre-med courses, pre nursing programmes, pre law degrees, pre-Masters in psychology, pre-economics studies, finance preparation courses, business foundation degrees, among others.

Education System in US vs. Canada

There are similar types of educational institutions in both counties. However, the nature of these institutions may vary.

In Canada, universities grant degrees, while colleges grant certificates and diplomas. Therefore, for bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees you should look for a university in Canada, not a college.

In the United States, the term college can imply any degree-granting institution. A university is just a bigger institution that offers more options and programs. Therefore, the terms college and university are used interchangeably in the US.

Types of institutions in US

Types of institutions in Canada

State college or university

(Subsidized by the government- local or state)

Grant Degrees, diplomas, certificates

Universities - Private & Public

Majorly degree-granting

May also provide Postgraduate diplomas and certificates (up to one year)

Private college or university

(Run privately)

Colleges and institutes

(Provide training in applied fields of work. Also known as colleges, community colleges, colleges of applied arts or applied technology, institutes of technology or science, collèges d’enseignement général et professionnel in Quebec)

Community College

(2-year colleges, award associate degrees and certifications, teaches transferable courses that can be used for 4-year university programs)


Institute of Technology

(Provides both 4 year graduate programs and short term courses in Science & Technology)


Key takeaway: The nature of educational institutions differs in the US and Canada. Also, while the US has a number of institutions to choose from, in Canada, this choice is limited. The US offers a variety of courses as it has many mid-level educational institutions. These range from core courses related to STEM to interdisciplinary programs.

Admission Requirements for International Students in US vs. Canada

Talking about studying in the US vs Canada, let’s now talk about admission requirements. The admission requirements may vary between the type of institution and between the courses.

Admission Requirements for students in US:

Institutions in US

US Degrees

US Admission Requirements

Community college, junior or technical college

Associate degree

(These can be transferable e.g., associate of arts, associate of science or prepare for entering the job market e.g., associate of applied science degree)

Lower TOEFL score than 4-year degree programs

English second language program can be taken

Mostly offered by universities

Bachelor’s degree

12th Standard

Minimum GPA – 2.50 to 3. 60

TOEFL- 61 to 100



Master’s degree

Bachelor’s degree

Minimum GPA – 2.50 to 3.50

TOEFL -78 to 100

Admission Requirements for students in Canada:

Institutions in Canada

Level of Studies

Canada Admission Requirements



(1 year)

Minimum of Higher second class in intermediate (i.e., above 55%)

IELTS (overall 6 with no sections less than 5.5)

TOEFL- 80-84


Bachelor’s degree

(3-4 years)

First class in Intermediate

IELTS (Overall 6.5 with no sections less than 6.0)

TOEFL- 88-100


Associate Degree

2 years

Minimum of Higher second class in intermediate (i.e., above 55%)

IELTS (Overall 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in writing band)


Applied degree

4 years



Engineering degree or basic science graduation degree


2-year diploma


Post Graduate certificate/ Diploma

1-2 years

Bachelor’s degree 50-60% academics ( 3 or 4 Years)

IELTS (Overall 6.5 with no sections less than 6.0)

TOEFL- 88-93


Master's Degree (Graduate studies)

2-3 years

1st Class in Bachelor's degree (4 Years)

IELTS (Overall 6.5 to 7.5 with no sections less than 6.0 or 6.5)

TOEFL- 88-100



2 years

2-3 years of work experience

GMAT between 550- 730

TOEFL- 88-100

IELTS- 6.5 - 7.5

16 years of education with first class

Key takeaway: Studying in Canada requires a better profile in terms of academic, technical skills and research skills. Most Canadian Institutions do not emphasize on GRE unlike the US.

Application & Admission Process in US Vs Canada

In the US and Canada both, the students need to apply to individual universities or colleges for admission. However, the difference lies in the procedure.

While admission to Canadian colleges and universities are mainly based on grades, in US colleges may require a set of essays, statements of purpose (SOP), or Letters of recommendations as a part of the application process.

Admission Process in US

Admission Process in Canada

Choose your course Choose your course
Find a college or university of your choice Find a college or university of your choice
Submit your application along with requirements like essays, SOP, etc. for individual institutions. Fill in the application for each of the institutions
Wait for a response Wait for a response
Accept and start the visa application Accept and begin the application for a study permit

Key takeawayThe admission and application process is simpler in Canada when compared to the US. However, the number of universities is limited in Canada and hence it becomes challenging to get an admit.

Student Visa Process in US Vs Canada

After having understood the intricacies of studying in USA vs Canada, let us now look at the visa process in both the countries

Visa Process in US

Visa Process in Canada

F1 student visa is commonly required

Students need the SDS Visa program, or the Canada Study Permit.

Cost of application for a student visa is 160 USD.

Visa fees for Canadian Student Permit is 112 USD or 150 Canadian Dollars (CAD)

The visa process includes a personal interview, biometrics, and sometimes a medical examination.

Canadian Visa requires the biometrics but not the personal interview.


  • Get accepted by a SEVP approved US University around 6 to 12 months before the program begins, and pay the SEVP fees.

  • Fill up the US Student Visa Application and pay the fees.

  • Schedule and attend the visa interview


  • Letter of Acceptance from the University

  • If applying for Quebec, a Certificate of Acceptance from the Government

  • Get & Fill in Canadian Student Visa Application Package from the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website/Canadian Embassy

Key takeaway: In the U.S, the visa application process is extremely lengthy and complicated. In comparison, the Canadian student visa application process is relatively simpler and shorter.

Top Universities in US Vs Top Universities in Canada

Universities in both the US and Canada have made it to the top university rankings. According to World QS Rankings 2021, following are the top universities in the United States and Canada.Top 10 Universities in the US

The US is home to the world renowned Ivy league institutions and some of the best institutions of higher education are located in the country.

US Universities

World QS Rank











Top 10 Universities in the Canada

Canada is not far behind when it comes to high quality educational institutions. Infact, the ranks of its universities are increasing year over year.

Candian Universities

World QS Rank











Key takeaway: US universities have better worldwide ranks compared to Canadian universities.

Top Courses in US Vs Canada

Both the US and Canada are known for their high quality education. Here is a look at the top streams in both these countries.



Business management

Business Management



Computer Science & IT

Computer Science and IT

Social Science

Media & Journalism

Physical and Life Sciences

Biosciences, Health and Medicine

Sports Management

Hospitality Management






Agricultural Science & Forestry


Psychology & Human Resources


Key takeaways: Both provide a range of programs and courses. However, they differ when compared on which ones are the top courses.

Tuition Fees for International Students in US vs. Canada

Taking the discussion Canada vs USA for international students, we compare the tuition fee of the two countries. We find that the cost of pursuing education in Canada is relatively less when compared to the US.

An important thing to remember is that the amount of tuition fees varies from university to university and from program to program. Given below is a comparison between tuition fees in the two countries:


Tuition fees in US per year

(US $)

Tuition fees in Canada per year (US $)

Undergraduate bachelor degree

10,000 - 40,000

5,000- 25,000

Graduate degree

20,000 - 45,000

10,000 - 35,000

Doctorate Programs

28,000- 55,000

6,000 - 16,000

Courses offered by Community Colleges

6000 - 8000


Key takeawayCanadian institutions are much more affordable compared to US universities both at undergraduate and graduate levels.

Cost of Living for International Students in US vs. Canada

Another factor that contributes to the total expenses in a foreign country is the cost of living. We have also added the costs in INR for those looking into Canada vs USA for Indian students.


Cost of living per year (US $)

Cost of living per year in Canada (CAD)

On-campus accommodation


(INR 3,97,000-6,10,000)


(INR 1,62,000- 4,05,000)

Private Accommodation

$6000-14,000 (INR4,50,000-10,50,000)


(INR 4,48,000-5,03,000)

Public Transport

$1200 (INR 90,000)


(INR 53,000-74,000)


$2000 (INR 1,50,000)

$1800 (INR 1,00,000)


$360-720 (INR 30,000-60,000)

$600 (INR 33,000)

Books and academic supplies

$1170 (INR 88,000)

$1500 (INR 84,000)

Household & other bills

$600 (INR 45,000)

$800 (INR 45,000)

Please note that the figures in the table above are tentative and depend on one’s lifestyle and the city.

Let us also compare the cost of living in the most famous cities of the US and Canada to get a clear picture of small expenses an international student would incur.

Expenses in New York City

Expenses in Toronto

Rent of one bedroom apartment is $3,116.43

Rent of one bedroom apartment is $1,536.22

A loaf of bread costs 95 cents, 0.15 Kg of chicken breast costs $1.96, cappuccino at $ 4.47

A loaf of bread costs 59 cents and 0.15 Kg of chicken breast costs $1.88, cappuccino at $ 3.15

Cost of inexpensive meal at restaurant is $20

Cost of an inexpensive meal at restaurant is $14.9

Local transport ticket for one-way travel costs $2.75. For 1 mile taxi takes $2.16

Local transport ticket for one-way travel costs $2.42. For 1 mile taxi takes $2.70

Levi jeans pair costs $53.74

Levi jeans pair costs $52.59

Key takeaway: In terms of accommodation, Canada is cheaper. The average cost of living in Canada is lower compared to the US.

Canada vs USA for International Students in Terms of Financial Aid

The cost of education in both the US and Canada is quite high. However, the good thing is that they both offer a number of Scholarships and other forms of financial aid to international students.

These scholarships can be university-specific, Government Funded or Private Scholarships or from the country you are applying from. Some of the top scholarships provided by the two countries are :

Scholarships in US

Scholarships in Canada

Fulbright Foreign Student


Canada Asia-Pacific Awards (CAPA)

Inlaks Scholarships

International Research Linkages funded by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada

Asian Women in Business Scholarship Fund

Sauvé Scholars Program by the Jeanne Sauvé Youth Foundation

East-West Center Scholarships and Fellowships

Anne Vallee Ecological Fund

AAUW International


Surf Shark Privacy and

Security Scholarship           



IDRC Research Awards

Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholarships

Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships Program

Key takeawayBoth the countries offer financial aid for students at different levels.

Part time work conditions as an international student in US vs. Canada

A lot of students studying abroad wish to take up some sort of part time jobs to support themselves financially. So, let’s see which one is better when it comes to part time work conditions :

Part-time work in US

Part-time work in Canada

F1 visa holders can work only after first academic year

F1 visa holders can work only after first academic year

An application with student's Designated School Official has to be initiated to get permission for working off-campus

Work permit is required for co-op programs which let students intern during a semester

A maximum of 20 hours per week of working time

A maximum of 20 hours per week of working time

For OPT holders, off-campus job must be related to field of study

Work can be done under any employer except some.

Key takeaway: It is easier to find part -time jobs or on campus jobs as an international student in Canada compared to the US.

Switching Undergraduation Stream for Study Abroad - US vs. Canada

There are many students who study Electronics and then want to do their Masters in Computer Science or switch to Aeronautics for Masters after a Mechanical Engineering undergrad.

Since Canada is strict about academic scores, it is less accepting of change of undergrad stream than the US which looks at the overall profile of a student including his/her projects, internships and extra-curricular.

Key takeaway: Due to a more open education system, the US is more likely to accept international students applications who look for changing their stream for Masters after undergrad than Canada.

Ease of Switching Master’s Program after enrollment in US vs. Canada

After admission to an institution in Canada or the US, an international student may wish to change their Masters stream due to a variety of reasons such as shift of interest or other requirements.

For applying to their university, one may have to get involved in a lot of formalities.

Changing Masters stream in US

Changing Masters stream in Canada

The reason for changing masters may not be accepted if not convincing by authorities. Letter of references, application for stating change while proving capabilities to perform well in new program are required.

A change in the study permit is not required except if one has a co-op work permit. An update needs to be submitted to IRCC.

Key takeawayCanada has a relatively easier set of formalities compared to the US when it comes to switching the Master’s program after admission.

Employment Opportunities US vs. Canada

According to QS Graduate Employability (GE) Rankings 2020, the universities in the US rank better than Canadian institutions. Also, Graduates with a degree in Computer Science from US universities earn more than 52,272 U.S. dollars. For careers in Computer Science, the average salary in Canada is $ 58,469 but the starting salary may go to 30,000.

US Universities and GE Rank

Canadian Institutions GE Rank

MIT #1

University of Toronto #16

Stanford University #2

University of Waterloo #25

University of California #3

University of Alberta #87

Harvard University #5

McMaster University #98

New York University #11

Queen’s University of Kingston #101-110

Key takeawayAverage starting salary after graduation may be higher in the US than in Canada. However, it is a factor of university, city, type of course and employer. Also, the US offers more employment opportunities than Canada and is not limited to STEM fields.

Student Life in US vs. Canada

An essential part of the university and college experience is to experience a student's social life. Both the US and Canada provide a variety of experiences and opportunities to the students in this regard.

US is known for its vibrant student and campus culture. There are multiple clubs, on campus activities, which give students ample opportunities of forming connections. Since most students live on campus, they have access to multiple university activities.

Staying in Canada has its own set of advantages for students. Canada is comparatively safer and considered more tolerant to international students. Also, since international students make up nearly one fifth of Canada’s university population, there are more chances of cultural exchanges.

Key takeawayBoth the US and Canada provide immense opportunities for students to grow and learn.

Stay Back Options After Studies US vs. Canada

After completing your course, you might wish to stay back in the country to get some work experience. Both US and Canada do allow students to stay back but the process differs significantly.

Stayback options in US

Stayback options in Canada

After completing studies, a student can make use of post-degree OPT work limit to stay in the U.S

If you have graduated from a list if DLIs then you can apply for Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP).

For OPT, a job should be found within 90 days of completing graduation. STEM students can get an extension of up to 24 months of OPT work limit.

If you are a student and waiting for your final marks and have your study permit valid even after getting your final marks, you can apply for PGWP till 180 days.

Non-immigrant H-1B Visa (Specialty Occupation) can be applied if a student already has an employer to sponsor him and the job is related to the major field of studies in his U.S Bachelor’s degree. A labor condition attestation is required before applying for this visa. It is granted for 3 years and can be extended up to 6 years.

If your study permit expires before getting your final marks, then either you have to leave Canada and apply from your home country for PGWP or, get your study permit extended and then apply for PGWP.

Key takeaway: In the US, after completing graduation, if you have not exhausted all your part time work limit (12 months in general except for STEM students for whom it is 36 months) under OPT, you can stay back only for 90 days. However, in Canada, you get a time till 180 days to apply for a PGWP and stay for up to 3 years depending on the length of your program irrespective of whether the course is a STEM or not.

Permanent Residency - US vs. Canada

While permanent residency can be obtained in both countries, they vary in terms of the ease and time taken.

While in the US the process is long and slow, in Canada it is relatively easier.

PR in US

PR in Canada

One option is a Green Card. You can also ask your company to sponsor you. It is called employer sponsorship. The company shall fill EB-2 or EB-3 basis your employment status.

There are many ways of finding permanent residency in Canada such as Express Entry, Provincial nominees among many others.

Key takeaway: In the US, citizenship can be obtained after 5 years of residence through employment. In Canada, one of the PR options called Canadian Experience Class allows international graduates to become permanent residents after 1 year of skilled occupation.

Which Country is Better to Settle in– US or Canada? Benefits as a Citizen

If you are considering settling down in the US after completing your education, a comparison between the two will be helpful.

Benefits to settle in US

Benefits to settle in Canada

Medium income of US families lies around $ 63,179

Canadian residents have their median salaries ranging from $45,220 to 89,610

Practical tax rate is 18%

Practical tax rate is 28%

Post taxes average salary is around $52,000

Post taxes average salary is around $35,000

Living index lies around 69.91

In Canada, living index is 65.01

Under Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), it can provide leave up to 12 weeks. This varies with states

Through provincial employment insurance, Canada provides mandated maternity leaves for mothers and fathers. Benefits could be up to $573 per week.

Health care costs reach $10,739 annually.

Health care costs $7068 annually

Key takeawayTaxes are lower in the US but cost of living is on a higher side compared to Canada as well. Social benefits such as maternity leaves and health care costs make Canada a highly sought after nation for settling.

Climate - USA vs. Canada

US Climate

Canada Climate

The weather in the U.S. is diverse, depending on your location in this gigantic country.

The weather is on the colder side where winters can be grueling with -30 degrees Celsius at some places.

Weather can swing from one end of the spectrum to the other in a single location or stay in extremes in certain locations.

In summer, the weather is pleasant under 30 degrees Celsius.

When comparing Canada vs USA for Indian students, an important factor that comes up is climate. Here’s a quick look at the two:

Key takeaway: For some study abroad aspirants, climate has been a major dampener in Canada.

There is nothing called a perfect country. As an international student aspiring to study abroad you need to assign weight to each factor these countries offer according to your preferences. Pursuing an international degree is a demanding process right from choosing a university to looking for job opportunities. We hope this blog post helps in making an informed decision. Yocket wishes you all the best!

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