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Graduate Study in Canada: Guide for International Students

Graduate Study in Canada: Guide for International Students main image

This article is adapted from the QS Top Grad School Guide, available to read online here.

Combining the great outdoors with great student cities, Canada holds its own among the world’s leading study destinations. It welcomes around 16 million tourists each year and is currently hosting over 572,000 international students. Those with a passion for snowsports and other outdoor activities will be spoilt for choice, while the wealth of nightlife, cultural and sports venues in Canada’s lively cities provides a guarantee against boredom during downtime from studies.

Higher education in Canada

There are over 90 universities in Canada, of which 17 are private. As is common elsewhere, Canadian universities offer three levels of degree: bachelor’s (usually lasting four years), master’s (requiring an additional year or two) and doctorate (usually an additional three years).

Canada also has around 150 colleges – also known as community colleges, technical colleges, regional colleges or CÉGEPs (in Québec) – which offer short courses and diplomas. In addition, the country has a long history of specialized career colleges, which seek to prepare students for specific vocations.

A total of 26 Canadian universities feature in the QS World University Rankings® 2019, including three within the global top 50. These are the University of Toronto (28th), McGill University (33rd), and the University of British Columbia (47th).

How to apply for graduate study in Canada

The application process varies depending on the province and the institution. You’ll need to research the entry requirements of the specific course you want to join, and apply directly to the university.

You can apply to study in Canada from one year before the start date. You should apply by March at the latest for the September intake, although if you’re applying for a popular course, apply earlier than this to optimize your chances of success. There’s usually a second intake in January or February of each year.

Admission requirements

There are two important requirements for international students applying to study in Canada: language proficiency and sufficient finances. Both English and French are spoken in Canada, with the latter being the official language throughout the Québec province, and Canadian universities offer courses in both tongues. If you’re not a native speaker, you may need to submit proof of proficiency in the language you intend to study in.

You will also need to show you have enough money to cover your living expenses throughout your studies. This is currently set at CA$10,000 (~US$7,500) for each year of your stay (CA$11,000/~US$8,260 if you’re applying to study in Québec) on top of your tuition fees.

Thinking of studying a PhD in Canada? Read advice on how to do so here.

Getting a Canadian study permit

Quebec City

You can study in Canada for up to six months without a visa, which means it’s relatively easy to spend a semester abroad there. To study in Canada for longer than six months, you’ll need to gain a Canadian study permit. This will be your visa for the duration of your stay. Depending on your nationality, you may also need to obtain a temporary residence permit, which can be processed at the same time as your study permit application. Apply through the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) website well in advance of your departure date to ensure you receive the documentation in time, as it can take up to 10 weeks.

To apply for your study permit you’ll first need a letter of acceptance from a recognized higher education provider. For Québec you also need a certificate of acceptance (known as a CAQ) from the government before you can apply for a study permit. Next, you should obtain a Canadian student visa application package from the CIC website, your local visa office or the Canadian embassy or consulate in your home country.

You’ll be given a personal checklist code to submit your application online. To do so, you must create a MyCIC account, where you’ll fill in your details, pay your fees and upload the required documents. This includes showing you have a ticket home and a valid passport. Some applicants may also need to attend an interview at their local visa office, and those from certain countries may need to provide biometrics, a medical exam or a police report.

On approval you’ll be sent a letter of introduction, while students from countries which require an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) and/or a temporary residence visa will be issued these if required. Bring these along with your passport, proof of your finances and your letter of acceptance to the border control agency in Canada, where you will receive your study permit.

Read more detailed advice on how to get a Canadian Study Permit.

Tuition fees & living expenses

As is common in many countries, tuition fees in Canada are higher for international students than domestic students. Rates vary depending on the province, institution and course. Statistics Canada puts the average postgraduate tuition fee at CA$16,497 in 2018/19, which is approximately US$12,370.

As is the case worldwide, executive MBA programs are generally the most expensive, averaging around CA$49,798 (~US$37,340), while regular MBAs cost CA$30,570 (~US$22,900) on average. (You can read more about studying an MBA in Canada here).

Your living expenses, including accommodation, are likely to be approximately CA$15,000 per year (~US$11,250). You’ll need to include compulsory health insurance in your budget, along with the usual items – food, travel, course supplies, and of course social, sports and cultural activities.

Read more information on the typical costs of studying in Canada.



Exceptional international students may be able to obtain scholarship funding, which is available both from the Canadian government and individual universities. Examples include the Canadian Commonwealth Scholarship Program, and the ‘International Tuition Award’ offered by many Canadian universities. The latter aims to assist international graduate students registered full-time in research-oriented master’s and doctoral programs. International students are automatically considered for this award if they meet certain criteria.

When searching for funding, check each university website for details of available scholarships, grants, assistantships, fellowships and bursary opportunities. You may also find it useful to consult the information provided by the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials website, or the Canadian government’s dedicated website for international scholarship programs.

Your study permit entitles you to work up to 20 hours a week alongside your studies, and full-time during semester breaks.

Post-graduation work in Canada

If you want to stay in Canada once your studies have finished, you’ll need to apply for a post-graduation work permit, allowing you to stay for up to three years after graduation. The country is reporting high demand for skilled graduates across a diverse range of sectors, including engineering, finance, graphic design, human resources, information technology, healthcare and natural sciences. You can find out more about getting a work visa for Canada here

Meet Canadian graduate schools

Join an upcoming QS World Grad School Tour event in a city near you, to meet grad schools from Canada and around the world. You'll have the chance to speak to admissions directors to get personal answers to your queries, attend free seminars, and be eligible to apply for exclusive scholarships.

This article was originally published in January 2015. It was last updated in March 2019.

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Written by Hasna Haidar

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Hi am Grace from Nigeria with a CGPA of 3.49 am interested in the masters in HR management or MBA and would need your help on securing admission email.

Hi my name is Adeola Olamilekan am from nigeria i studied Educational Technology and graduated with second class upper i wish to do my masters degree over their in cananda please can you recommend schools that offer educational technology at Masters level thank you

Hi am Uhoka James from Nigeria i have OND and am 27 years old i want to study under graduate course in canada,i want to know if is possible for me.thanks

Hi, I am Christiana from Nigeria, I have a masters in International Relations and would like to apply for PhD in Canada (International Relations. Any affordable university because I would like to school and work as well to foot my bills. You can reach me on [email protected] Thank you

How can i get your number to chat you up on whatsapp . i am aspiring to do my master in canada

Hello Hansa, thanks for an informative topic. It's very much helpful. Well, one of my relative's son is studying his 6th sem of Comp Science and willing to pursue PG in Canadian University. He wish to enroll in Sept 2020 intake. But, he might not receive his graduaction certificates in India till the end of July 2020. So my question, is there any university(ies) in Canada who are accepting applications for Sept 2020 intake from the pursuant who have cleared their 3 years (6 sem) In India? If so, from where he should start his preparations? I would be more than happy if you can share the list of universities who are fit on the above criteria.

Thanks and regards,


My name is Zohaib Jalal
Currently an undergraduate student in Canadian University Dubai and i wish to transfer to a university in Canada.

Hello, im mawadah..i study in malaysia and alhamdulliah i am done with my igcse examination and i have a high school diploma.i wanna study in canada, architecture, but i have no idea about the system there and the requirements needed to apply for uni.. can i get help?

I am Hassan from Malaysia, Interested to pursue Master in Earth Science (full time). Can I know the syllabus in detail and tuition fee per year and total tuition fee.

Hi Hassan, I'm afraid we don't provide course syllabuses on TU, so you'll need to head to your chosen university's official website for the full syllabus and information on tuition fees. You can read general info on the costs of studying in Canada here

I am julius from Nigeria,I have a Bsc in economics 2.52 and also a credit (60 )in PGDE i want to know the possibility of getting admission to study masters in special education.your counsel is highly solicited.thanks

Hi, This is Tahir, I'm interested to study (MBA in Entrepreneurship) in Canada. I've completed BS Computer Science in 2016 & my CGPA is 2.29. Could any body help or guide me. Thx

hey, my gpa falls in the same range and i want to know if you have find out a uni where you can study MBA. can you share your knowledge with me,please? i will be very thankful.

hi..im in same position as you both..please if you find any information share ith me
thank you

Good day... Please I need a guide on university in Canada that offers a PhD programme in Education and Psychology. I'm a masters degree holder from Nigeria. Thank you.

Hi Hasna ,
I want to know that will be permited to work in Canada there if I enroll myself in ESL COURSE in any language school ,
and will be allowed to enroll my dependent children in school ?

Hello, My name is Gabriel from Nigeria. I really find this website helpful and I wish to kindly ask for more assistant. I am a graduate of English/Literature second class Lower I.e a CGP of 3.34 . I have kin interest in pursuing my master in Canada but because financial constraint I kindly ask that you help me with the list of schools that offers graduate programs on English/Literature at a very cheap rate and in Canada's most affordable cities.
I would prefer a part time study so I can work and meet up financial demands.

Hello how do I reach you I need couple of info

Hello Gabriel, I'm Emmanuel, I can help you get admission to study in some institutions in Canada.

Emma thanks, contact me when u can

Hello Emma. Thanks for you interest kindly write me so we can talk.

Hello, i'm Peter, kindly help me with the list of schools that offers graduate programs that are not too expensive and the processing. please reach me at *email removed*

Emmanuel whats my chances of getting admission to study special education .I have bsc economics and postgraduate diploma in education.kindly reach me



Hi, I graduated in mechanical engineering in India.I am currently working in Singapore, Having 5 years experience in mechanical engineering filed. I would like to study master degree in Canada government colleges with scholarship.
Is it possible? With scholarship and without scholarship how much C$ per year?
Please suggest me good me. Thanks in advance

hi, i am currently pursuing electrical engineering in INDIA and i am interested in doing masters in same and also looking to do an MBA. Does Canadian universities give mixed courses ?
~thanks in advance

Hi Hardik, it's definitely possible. The University of Alberta, for example, offers this course: https://www.ualberta.ca/business/programs/mba/degree-programs/mba-masters-of-engineering

Hi my name is onyejekwe chuwudi ferdinand am from nigeria i studied biochemistry and graduated with second class lower i wish to do my masters degree over their in cananda please can you recommend a school which is good and affordable for me thank you

Hello, I'm not sure about particularly affordable options, but you can view the top universities for biological sciences here (the results can be narrowed down to show only Canadian universities) and you could apply for a scholarship to help make your studies more affordable -we've listed a range of options here. :)

Hi Laura, My name is Himanshu from New Delhi, India, I have done B.Tech in IT and also has work experience in IT industry of 2 years. Now, I am planning to do MS in a field in which there are high job opportunities and of course in a good university in Canada. Can you please suggest me both ( Course as well as University).

Hi, my name is ayibiowu gbenga, i studied civil engineering and i graduated with second class upper,am from nigeria,i would want to further in structural engineering, please can you suggest a school in canada for me with cheap school fees or probably scholarship

Hi,my name is blake from Nigeria, i have a 3rd class degree in anatomy and i would want to further in cell biology, can u suggest a cheap school in canada that might accept me ? Your opinion will be highly invaluable and greatly appreciated

Hi,my name is blake from Nigeria, i have a 3rd class degree in anatomy and i would want to further in cell biology, can u suggest a cheap school in canada that might accept me ? Your opinion will be highly invaluable and greatly appreciated

Hi Laura, I am applying to M.Arch in University of Waterloo but my IELTS score is lower than thier requirement. Do you know any of their english pre-master courses which can officially get international student accepted later?

Hi Phan. I'd recommend contacting the university directly to see what they suggest. You could also look into re-taking the IELTS to try and meet the required score.

Hi i would like to ask few questions regarding undergrad study in canadian univ. Need your email id pls ..

Hi Lagnajita, I'm afraid we're unable to respond to individual enquiries via email, but if you'd like to ask your questions here, we'll help as best we can. You might find some answers to your questions in our complete guide on how to study abroad in Canada. :)

hello dear,
I am taleb, may yo u help to sort some universities in Canada with estimate costs? also, i would love to know about where i can study for the CFA there to
taleb tareq

Hi I am Samvel from Armenia.I am interested in studing in Canada

Hi Samuel, our complete guide on how to study abroad in Canada should help to get you started. :)

Hello, Im Chey from Jamaica , i would like some help in searching for the best University/College in Canada offering the program Mass Communication.

hi iam nellie njobvuyalema from malawi aged 28. help me to study in canada. i have diploma for rural and development studies i want to go further with my education.

Hi Nellie, our complete guide on how to study abroad in Canada should help to get you started. :)

Is there a loan from a bank or some other finance foundation for international student to cover their tuition and finances. My options are limited in my home country, gov and banks don't offer students going abroad.

I'm Mel, I taking up BS in Physical Therapy here in the Philippines. I'm in my 5th year already, but we're migrating to Canada probably next month. Will I be able to continue my studies there? And if not where would I start? Will I go back to grade 12 or something?

To Whom It May Concern
my name is Tarek. I am a graduate of English Literature from the University of Homs/ Syria, and would like to continue my higher education at your respectable university to achieve both my master and phD degrees. please I would like to be informed about all the needed contact information and requirements in order to start applying as soon as possible.
p.s: I am ready to afford all the financial requirements.

Hi Tarek. We're not actually a university - we just offer information about universities. You might want to take a look at our ranking of the world's best universities for English language & literature, to help you choose which institutions to apply to. Best wishes!

I am Affan from Pakistan...kindly tell me which university is suitable for mechanical engineering in Canada,which is not only famous but also provides affordable education?

hello guys iam from pakistan,
i have completed my graduation in civil engineering from NED University of engineering and technology . i need to ask how can i apply for masters program in university of Alberta , Canada. what program it offer in the field of civil engineering