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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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hii i have completed my masters in food technology.kindly suggest me universities in canada for masters in food quality or food safety.

Hi I am from Pakistan.I am doing A levels can I get admission in any of Canadian university after completing my As level . Please guide me.

hi laura ,
how you doing :) i hope you doing great .
first of all i would like to get an email from you to contact you for a few question that i have please i wanna get some advise from you i will be appreciate that help ..
i wanna study in Canada too , courses for learning English dealing with a petroleum engineer and oilfield well because i have Bc.s in petroleum engineer in iraq ...

Hi Laura,

I have completed a BA Hons International Marketing and Business degree in the UK and am seeking to do a masters or a LLB in law in Canada.
I was wondering what University's offer January Intakes as well as which one's offer acceptance for someone that has previously not done a law degree.

Thank you.

Kind regards,

I'm still confused whether GRE is required for MS in Canada?? Can u please clear my confusion???

Hi Arjun. It may be a requirement, or it may be optional - this depends on the course you're applying to study. So you'll need to check the guidelines provided by the universities you want to apply to.

i am currently pursuing mechanical engineering and wanted to know the various courses available which would help me gain better job prospects in Canada.

nice post its very helpful to me

Hi Hasna:

As an Electrical and Electronics undergrad i have applied for MEng program in Electrical and Computer Engineering in Canada.My dream is to join to industries instead of further P.H.D. or Post Doctoral.

Can you tell me, whether have i selected the right level of study or not?
Hope to hear from you soon.


Did you join and what are the job oppurtunities for the course

Hi Syed. That sounds like a great choice, but if in doubt you may also want to contact the university to find out what graduates of that particular program typically go on to do. That should help you get a better idea of whether it's a good match for your own career goals.

Hi Laura, I would like to know which university can i apply for material engineering (PhD)? and is there is scholarship offer to foreign student?

Thank you

Hi Sabha, we have world rankings of the top universities for mechanical, aeronautical and manufacturing engineering as well as materials sciences (you can filter by country to get just Canadian results). After finding a university of interest, visit their website or conduct an online search to see if they offer the PhD program you're after (not all will, but you should strike lucky). Scholarships will also be listed on university websites, but for an overview of the types of scholarship that are available, please see our article Scholarships to Study in Canada. Good luck! Laura

Greetings,i got my advanced level 8years ago and have been teaching mathematics and physics,i wish to get admission in electrical electronic engineering in cheapest affordable university in canada.I also wish i could get scholarship.I will be very greatful if you can Please help out

Please Good day,i wish to study Politics in Canada.Can you help me to acquire a school in there?

Hi Michael. For more information about applying to study in Canada, we have a dedicated country guide: https://www.topuniversities.com/where-to-study/north-america/canada/guide

You may also be interested in our ranking of the world's top universities for politics - you can filter by location to see the highest ranked Canadian institutions for this subject. https://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/university-subject-rankings/2014/politics

Hope this is helpful!


Hello, good day everybody... I wanna study in Canada and my course is PhD in Food service Management that related with restaurant operation under Hospitality and Tourism Department. Kindly suggest to me any University in Canada. Thank you

Hi Laura, I would like to know how can i apply to further study for my master in Canada? and is there is scholarship offer to foreign student?

Thank you.

Hi Arya. We have some more information about applying to study in Canada here: https://www.topuniversities.com/where-to-study/north-america/canada/guide 

There are scholarships for international students, some offered by individual universities and some by other organizations. Some more information about this is provided by the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials: http://cicic.ca/389/Student-Financial-Assistance.canada

And the Canadian government also provides information about funding opportunities for Canadian and international students, here: http://www.scholarships-bourses.gc.ca/

If you attend the QS World Grad School Tour, you'll also be eligible to apply for a QS Scholarship - more info here: https://www.topuniversities.com/scholarships

Hope this is helpful!

I will like to study an undergraduate program in banking and finance, I require up to date information please help me, it's urgent

Hi Klaus. Our guide to finance degrees and specializations may be helpful:



Good day,please,I intend to do masters in Accounting and Finance at your school but that field is not among your departments.Please,help,it is urgent.

Hi Binipere. We're not actually a university ourselves; we just offer information about universities. You might like to check our our subject guides to accounting and finance:



We also have a ranking of the world's best universities in accounting and finance:


Hope these resources are helpful.


Please, I need information on how I can do my master degree program in civil engineering ( water resource) in any of the Canadian university.......

Please anyone reading this take me serious.I am looking for a scholarship for a course in Immunology-masters.I KNOW THAT I AM INNOVATIVE.Consider me.


i have a few doubts regarding masters in canadian universities,that i want to share now:
my pofile was
10th –88%
b.tech,EEE–75% with no backlogs,going to releave by this may(JNTV university)
yet to take IELTS
1.what are the deadlines for january intake universities?
2.what are the documents i need to collect from college(T.C,refere letter like that)?
3.what will be the total fee(sem+continuing) for two years in INR?and how much we need to show for VISA processing?bank loan is mx. limit to 20L….so is it sufficient for completing MS in canada with initial living costs and travel expenses?
4.is there any universities funding scholarships there?if so what are they?among which are best for my profile?
5.which areas are good for research in EE?iam intrested power electronics/controlsystems/power systems……..what is the job scenario for M.S,electrical in canada?(as i have to clear bank loan too.)
6.what are the universities located near industries?
7.how about part time jobs there?
please post answers to these………………………

Please i need a list of universities that will give me admission into the masters degree program with a 3rd class degree,professional certification and relevant work experience.

Please kindly send admission form to me. I need admission in M.Phil Leading to PhD program in Boany

I need admission to your college.

Please kindly send admission form to me. I need admission in master program