Canada vs USA: Which is Better for Indian Students in 2023?

Another article in our series of comparing global ed destinations is Canada vs USA. Located in North America, these two nations attract students from all over the globe. A decade or two ago, the United States was the unchallenged leader when it came to global education. “Abroad” usually meant the US. Today, its position is being challenged by its northern neighbour.

Why has Canada become a student favourite? How can one choose between the two?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of studying in each country?

Renowned for their world class education systems, infrastructure and research facilities, both Canada and the US are top global ed destinations. In recent years, the number of students choosing the US has plummeted, while Canada has marched its way to the top. This shift could be attributed to a number of reasons.

  • The US government feels that they are closer to the saturation point when it comes to immigrants.
  • US visa applications and processing became stringent during the pandemic, especially regarding work visas.
  • The Canadian government is actively taking measures to welcome international students by capping fees and providing work permits.
  • Despite recent incidents, Canada provides a much safer environment than the US.

Whatever the reason might be, the choice between the US and Canada is an important one to make. Here’s a quick summary of their higher education systems.

The United States of America Canada
Top Universities with world Ranking
  • 1 – Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  • 3 – Stanford University
  • 5 – Harvard University
  • 6 – California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
  • 10 – University of Chicago
  • 31 – McGill University
  • 34 – University of Toronto
  • 47 – University of British Columbia
  • 110 – University of Alberta
  • 116 – Université de Montréal
  • Bachelor’s degree: 4 years
  • Master’s degree: 2 years
  • Bachelor’s degree: 3-4 years
  • Master’s degree: 1-2 years
Choosing Majors/ Specialisations
  • Admission is to a specific school/ stream of study.
  • You can take a few courses and then declare your major at the end of your 1st or 2nd year.
  • In some universities, admission is to a specific school/ stream of study.
  • You can take a few courses and then declare your major at the end of your 1st year.
  • Some universities require you to declare your major at the time of admission.
Top Choice of Subjects
  • Engineering
  • Business and Management
  • Computer Science, Data Sciences and IT
  • Mathematics
  • Medicine
  • Physical and Life sciences
  • Biosciences
  • Engineering
  • IT and Data Sciences
  • Media and Journalism
  • Psychology
  • Education
Average Tuition fees
  • Undergraduate study: 38,200 USD
  • Postgraduate study can range from 25,000 – 120,000 USD.
  • Ivy Leagues and other tier 1 schools are significantly more expensive
  • Undergraduate study: 36,100 CAD (approx. 26,690 USD)
  • Postgraduate study: 21,100 CAD (approx. 15,600 USD)
Cost of Living per month
  • 1,000 – 2,000 USD
  • 1,250 – 2,000 CAD (900 – 1,500 USD)
    (note: cost of living can vary widely if you choose to live more expensively in both the countries)
Work While you Study
  • Students with a valid F-1 visa can work part-time up to 20 hours per week during semester and up to 40 hours during breaks and vacations.
  • The minimum wage is $7.25 per hour and can go up to $15.
  • Students with a valid study permit can work up to 20 hours per week when school is in session and more during breaks.
  • The minimum wage is $13 and can go up to 16.77 Canadian dollars, depending on the province.
Post-Study Work Regulations
  • Optional practical training (OPT) at the end of your course followed by employer-sponsored work visas.
  • Post-graduation work permit (PWGP) which allows you to work in Canada for 3 years.
University vs College

There is a clear difference between universities and colleges in Canada. Universities are larger, more academically oriented institutions that grant bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degrees. Colleges are smaller, more practice-oriented institutions focussing on professional and vocational training. They offer diplomas and some bachelor’s degrees.In the US, college and university are typically used interchangeably. The vocational training institutes are called community colleges.

With both nations being leaders in global education, the choice between the two countries is not an easy one. Last year in the US, 125,000 applicants from India were granted student visas while Canada has about 319,000 Indian students enrolled in their institutions. Higher education in the US has been a benchmark dream for countless students while Canada has been a symbol of a more accepting culture and a better quality of life. So, how does one choose between the neighbours?

Your choice primarily depends on your course and the university most suited for your choice of studies. Everything else is secondary. Is the university at the cutting edge of your field? Is the university curriculum matching your needs? Where does the university stand in terms of global recognition? These are the questions you must ask first while choosing.

Then comes all the other factors such as

  • The teaching-learning style of the department you are applying to
  • The costs involved
  • The admissions criteria that you need to meet
  • Immigration policies and job opportunities and
  • Attitudes towards international students in the university/ city/ country.

Keeping this in mind, here are the detailed pros and cons of studying in Canada vs USA. Let’s dive in.

1. University Rankings


Of the top 100 universities in the world according to QS World University Ranking, 27 of them are located in the United States. 5 of the top 10 are in the US. Institutions such as MIT, Harvard, Columbia, Sanford and Yale are unequivocally considered leaders in research and in academics.


3 of the top 100 universities in the world are in Canada. However, Canada is renowned globally for its high-quality academic programmes and research publications. Despite the lower ranks when compared to the US, Canadian universities are more accessible and provide world class education to its students. They are also highly ranked in specific fields.


USA. If you are looking only at the rankings, the USA is a clear winner. However, it is important to remember that competition is extremely fierce for these top universities. Canadian universities can be more accessible for the average Indian student.

2. Choice of courses

While schools in both countries offer countless options to choose from, the choice of courses and the level of flexibility that American universities offer are incomparable. Universities in the US have way more specialisations and niche areas of study when compared to the rest of the world.

Canada’s choice of courses are also limited particularly in the field of medicine. While most universities do offer the programme, it is restricted only to domestic students.


USA. The winner in this aspect is clearly the US because of the sheer number of universities. The US has well over 3,000 universities that grant degrees when compared to Canada’s 94.

3. Tuition Fees


For international students, especially if you are from India, the cost of studying in the US is one of the biggest obstacles. The average annual tuition for an undergraduate programme is around $38,200 while a master’s programme can range anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000.

According to the Education Data Initiative, a typical overseas student spends about $55,480 per academic year in a non-profit private university. That roughly converts to over 45 lakh INR per year. Without financial aid, this is a fairly large burden to bear.


The average cost of a bachelor’s degree is CA $36,100 (approx. US $26,690) while the median cost of postgraduate programmes is around CA $21,100 (approx. $15,600 USD). Specific professional programmes such as MBA, medicine, nursing, dentistry or veterinary sciences are much higher when compared to the median cost of tuition.


Canada. Typically, tuition fees in Canada are 20 – 25% lower than that of the US.

4. Cost of Living

When looking at absolute figures, the cost of living in the US appears to be higher than that of Canada. As an international student, you can expect to spend anywhere from $12,000 to $24,000 per year as living costs in the United States. In Canada, these figures range from $10,800 to $18,000 USD.

However, if you are employed, then the average salaries in the US are higher when compared to Canada, as we will see in the next section. Utilities, public transport and consumer goods are also typically more expensive in Canada when compared to the US, however, rents and insurance are cheaper. Canadian healthcare is also a lot more affordable than the US.


A tie. The cost of living largely depends on the city and your lifestyle choices. Both countries have their pros and cons, especially when it comes to international students. Some of the most expensive places to live in the US are New York, California, Honolulu and San Francisco while the Canadian equivalents include Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Calgary. Check out the section on cost of living to get a more detailed picture.

5. Work permit


With a student visa, you can work a maximum of 20 hours per week when school is in session and up to 40 hours during breaks. On completion of your course, you can apply for OPT (Optional practical training) with your student visa. You are allowed 90 days to find a job that fits the OPT criteria. This gives you one year (2 years in the case of STEM related work) to work and gain practical experience. Your OPT work experience must be in line with what you studied in the US. After your OPT period is completed, it should be upgraded to an employer sponsored work visa. The most common category is the H1B visa.


The work while you study regulations are practically the same when compared to the US. Under a student visa, you are allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours per week and more during holidays. On completion of your course in any of the designated learning institutions in Canada, you can apply for a Post Graduate Work Permit (PGWP). This permits you to temporarily stay and work in Canada. The duration of this stay is proportional to the duration of your course. A maximum of 3 years is allowed under the PGWP route. After which, with the sponsorship of your organisation, you can apply for a skilled worker visa as a step towards permanent residency.


Canada. While both countries have their own set of rules and regulations to be followed, visa processing for Canada is fairly more straightforward and lenient when compared to the US. Your permanent residence application can also be processed within six months. American immigration authorities are stricter when it comes to granting H1B visas or a Green Card.

6. Post graduate opportunities and Salary scales


The US is home to over 100 Fortune 500 companies. The US economy is the largest in the world and has always been considered the land of opportunities. As an international student, it directly translates to more industries and therefore more employment opportunities. Considering the US’s position as an economic superpower, the average salary of someone who has completed a bachelor’s degree is about $59,000.


While Canada is the 9th largest economy in the world, it has fewer industries when compared to the US. However, there is also a skill shortage that opens up numerous job options for international students graduating from Canadian universities. Freshers can expect to earn CA $40,000 – $60,000 on graduation.


USA. Average salaries are higher in the US when compared to Canada.

7. Language Barriers


English is the primary mode of communication and the official language. If you are a student applying from India, you will not be facing a lot of language barriers, except perhaps getting used to the local accents.


Parts of Canada, especially the eastern provinces such as Quebec and New Brunswick are bilingual with both French and English as their official languages. This might prove to be a barrier since knowledge of French is either required or recommended for some university applications or job opportunities.


USA. However, the knowledge of a foreign language like French can boost your profile as a global citizen.

7. Quality of Life

We will compare the differences in standard of living under these four categories.

  • Work-life balance: America’s competitive culture skews the work-life balance towards work, especially when compared to Canada. Personal or parental leave is very limited or is granted with a loss of pay. Fierce competition and working overtime are commonplace and part of the American industrial complex. In contrast, Canada emphasises on a better work-life balance. Some Canadian organisations are also experimenting with a 4-day work week.
  • Weather: Due to the geographical vastness of both nations, they experience different weather systems in different parts. However, the climate in the US is more moderate and temperate when compared to the harsh winters of Canada.
  • Healthcare: The US has one of the most expensive healthcare systems in the world. Health expenditures in the United States average out at $12,914 per person, nearly double the $6,500 spent per person in Canada. (Source: School of Medicine, Ross University). Insurance for international students in the US is also significantly higher.
  • Safety: According to the 2022 Global Peace Index, Canada stands 12th in the list of safest countries to live in while the US is ranked at 129. Increasing gun violence, racism and political division make the US less safe when compared to Canada.


Canada. Except for the weather, Canada offers a better quality of life to international students when compared to the US. It is more multicultural and accepting of immigrants.

Based on this list, it is clear that both countries have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. The idea of this list is to not give you a final answer but help glean a picture of what to expect should you choose one of these countries. As mentioned earlier, your decision is primarily based on the university and the course of your choosing. However, if you run through the parameters with a specific course and university in mind, you will be able to judge which of the two is better suited for you.

How is campus life in each country?

Let us take a look at how your student life will be like in both countries.

Canada USA
Time Spent on Campus
  • Bachelor’s: 3 – 4 years. A 4-year course is called Bachelor’s Honours
  • Master’s: 1 – 2 years
  • 4 years for UG and 2-3 years for Master’s
Nature of Study
  • With many universities, you choose your major at the time of application
  • Most take classes in relation to your declared specialisation.
  • There’s flexibility to switch, to a certain extent, but it can delay graduation.
  • Programmes are typically designed for flexibility and breadth of choices.
  • Example: You enter the university for a liberal arts degree. You can take general courses ranging from literature to music or arts and declare your major in your second year.
  • Even after declaring your major, you can choose courses from across disciplines without much restriction.
Coursework and Grading
  • The kind of coursework assigned and the grading system varies from one province to another.
  • Most colleges follow the 4-point GPA scale.
  • Quizzes, assignments and projects are distributed throughout the term and there is a culture of feedback and re-working.
  • The assessment cycle is more continuous and all your submissions will count for your final grade, including the end of term exams.
Student Housing
  • Most students choose off-campus accommodation.
  • The number of students in the top universities are quite large and therefore housing all of them on campus is difficult.
  • On-campus accommodation is typically dormitories. You might be able to get individual accommodation, but at a significantly higher cost.
  • Life revolves around the university.
  • Off-campus options are also available.
Clubs and Extracurricular Activities Most universities have clubs/ associations in the following categories

  • Study groups
  • Sports
  • Arts and Media
  • Outdoor Activities
  • International student and cultural communities
  • Student activities and sports play a huge role in US universities.
  • You might get preferential admission or even scholarships based on your athletic prowess.
  • These activities build a sense of togetherness and university spirit, making campus more engaging and active.
Work while you study
  • Full-time students can work a maximum of 20 hours per week during term time and more during semester breaks and other holidays.
  • Students with a valid F-1 visa can work part-time up to 20 hours per week during semester and up to 40 hours during breaks and vacations.
  • The minimum wage is $7.25 per hour and can go up to $15.

Winner: USA

Reminder, this is an opinion and not a fact. The US offers a more comprehensive and typical student experience when compared to Canada. However, if you are self sufficient as a student and enjoy exploring on your own, then Canadian schools can be a better fit.

What are the career opportunities in Canada vs USA?

Let us make one thing clear. Neither country guarantees a job on completion of your degree. The onus is on you to find the right job best suited to your career plan, within the terms of your visa. That said, here are some of the important facts to consider.

Immigration and Career at a Glance

Canada USA
Unemployment rate
  • 5.5%
  • 3.5%
Worker Shortage
  • Labour shortage is not as extensive except in the fields of healthcare, hospitality and a few such fields.
  • A mismatch in skills and pay has resulted in a significant number of vacant positions.
  • Only 5.9 million unemployed workers for 9.8 million job openings (Source: US Chamber of Commerce)
  • Over 120 of the Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in the US.
In-Demand Job Sectors
  • Nursing, Accommodation and food services, Construction, Web developer, Data Science and Fintech
  • Healthcare, Information Technology, Finance, Engineering, Law and Management
Average Salary
  • Lower average salaries when compared to the US.
  • Higher average salaries than Canada.
  • A typical median salary for a fresher can be considered low, considering the cost of living and the taxes.
Visa as a Student
  • Canadian study permit
  • It allows you to work 20 hours per week during term time and more during semester breaks and other holidays.
  • F-1 student visa
  • It also allows you to work 20 hours per week and up to 40 hours during semester breaks.
Towards/ On Course Completion
  • PWGP (Post Graduate Work Permit)
  • It allows you to look for work/ work in Canada for up to 3 years.- You are not eligible for a PWGP if your programme is less than 8 months.
  • OPT (Optional Practical Training)
  • You can work in the US for 1 year (2 years for STEM courses).
  • You have a period of 90 days to find a job for OPT.- The job must be within the scope of study that you have completed at university.
Post Study Work Visas
  • On expiry of your PWGP period, you can either apply for
  • Open Work permit
  • Provincial Nominee Programmes
  • Work permit with Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)
  • Permanent Residency visa
  • After your OPT period is over, you will be eligible to apply for any of the employer sponsored H1B visas.

Winner: Canada

While the US does provide a more competitive work environment with more opportunities and higher salaries, Canada offers better stability and better work-life balance. More importantly, compared to the US, immigration policies are friendlier in Canada.

Cost of living: Which country is better ?

It is important to note that the figures shown in the table below are averages and approximations to give you a general idea. The actual costs can vary depending on your selection of courses, the universities and the city that you will be living in.

Costs per year Canada USA
Average Tuition (for an undergraduate programme) 36,100 CAD (approx. 26,690 USD) $38,200
Average Tuition (for postgraduate studies) 21,100 CAD (approx. 15,600 USD) Can range from $25,000 – $120,000
Rent (On-Campus) $4,800 – 10,400 $8,000 – $11,000
Rent (Off-Campus shared living per month) Toronto – $900 to 1,000
Other cities – $500 to $1,000
New York – ~$1,000
Smaller cities – $600 – $900
Food About $3,000 ~$4,000 – $5,000
Transport $600 – $1,200 ~ $1,500 – $2,500
Health Insurance $450 – 700 (varies with each province) $1,800 – $2,400
Utilities (Monthly) About $1,800 $1,500 – $2,000
Average Total Living Expenses About $13,000 $12,000 – $20,000

Winner: Canada

Looking at the averages, Canada is comparatively cheaper when compared to the United States. However, your choice of city, university and lifestyle will play a major role when planning your budget.

Courses and study duration

Here are some of the top courses to study in both countries

Canada USA
  • Business Management
  • Information Technology
  • Human Resource Management
  • Media and Journalism
  • Psychology
  • Education
  • Healthcare management
  • Engineering
  • Business Management
  • Data Science
  • Computer Science
  • Medicine
  • International Relations
  • Mathematics
  • Social Sciences
Study Duration

  • Bachelor’s – 3 years
  • Bachelor’s Honours – 4 years
  • Master’s 1- 2 years
Study Duration

  • Bachelor’s – 4 years
  • Master’s – 2 years

What are the eligibility criteria?

When it comes to admissions, both countries have their own set of requirements and both are extremely competitive. Your application must stand out, based on academic merit, extracurricular activities and your statement of purpose. The general eligibility criteria are as follows

Canada USA
Academic Requirements for UG Programmes Completed grade XII with the required courses. For e.g. you must have scored high in Class XII Maths to apply for a Computer Science programme. Completed grade XII with the required courses
Academic Requirements for Master’s Programmes
  • A bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. Some universities accept the Indian 3-year bachelor’s degrees.
  • Some courses might require you to have work experience.
  • A 4-year bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. (The US is specific about 4-year undergraduate courses. If your programme is only for three years, you will be expected to take additional courses.)
  • Some courses might require you to have work experience.
Standardised Tests
  • Some courses might have entrance exams, especially if admissions are competitive.
  • A few universities might also require you to submit GRE/ GMAT/ MCAT scores.
  • Most universities have become test-optional post Covid, especially at the undergraduate level. Some require you to submit SAT/ ACT scores.
  • Many master’s degree programmes require GRE/ GMAT scores.
Language Proficiency Tests IELTS/ TOEFL to prove your proficiency in English English language proficiency tests –  IELTS/ TOEFL

What are the scholarship options?

As a student applying from India, it is also important to look into scholarship options. Four sources should always be considered when looking into financial aid:

  • Scholarships from home country
  • Scholarships of your destination country
  • University scholarships
  • Scholarships from external sources such as charitable trusts and philanthropic organisations.
Canadian Scholarships US Scholarships
  • Canadian – ASEAN scholarships
  • Emerging leaders in the Americas Programme
  • Study in Canada Scholarships
  • Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships
  • Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship
  • Ontario Graduate Scholarships
  • Fulbright Scholarships
  • Aga Khan Foundation Scholarships
  • AAUW Women Scholarships


Overall Winner: Canada

Looking at affordability, safety and the immigration policy, in today’s world, Canada is more alluring for Indian students who want to study abroad.

However, it is impossible to categorically pass judgement on which of the two neighbouring countries is better than the other. Each nation has its own pros and cons. The US has better ranked universities while Canada is more affordable. The US has a better economy and therefore better job prospects while Canada offers a better work-life balance.

Ultimately, the choice of country when you are looking at Canada vs USA should be dependent on the course, the university and the return on investment. Your ultimate choice is based on which department and school are best suited for your career needs.

There are a lot of choices and decisions to make. The process can get overwhelming. The easiest way to reduce your stress is to sign up with TC Global.

We simplify international education, learning, and mobility through connecting students, universities, and a global community on a single platform where there are over 1000+ education providers and over 80,000+ courses.

Our platform enables students to study anywhere in the world in just a few steps. From search and discovery and finding the right course fit for you, to applications, visas and departure – we see you through it all.

To move forward with us, download our app or visit and sign in to create an account on our student platform and onboard with us in quick, easy steps.! 🚀

Then simply set up a visit to pick a Relationships Team closest to you and choose a slot to meet with a Relationship Member.

Let’s shape your future together.

You May Also Like

Date added

Filed under:

Global Ed


No spam, just your favourite topics.

Choose Insight topics that you are interested in to subscribe for your personalized newsletter.

A world
of possibilities awaits.
Join the movement.
Find your perfect university,
in one of 40 countries all over the world
Prepare for the future,
whether at university, business or in employment
Secure your future,
through STEM courses
Connect with leading international companies
and unlock the potential of your team
Fill in the form, so we can contact
you and start our journey together.