Studying in Canada

USA vs Canada for International Students: Which is Better?

Deciding between studying in the USA or Canada involves considering costs, educational quality, immigration policies, and post-graduation opportunities. Canada offers affordability and simpler pathways to residency, while the USA boasts top-ranked universities and a wider job market. The choice depends on individual priorities and career goals.

The US and Canada are two top destinations for international students. Both countries boast world-class education systems and offer immensely enriching student experiences. 

You could be deciding between the University of Toronto or Tennessee. We’re here to help! Gain a better understanding of USA vs. Canada for international students by reading this article because it will provide comprehensive insights into what the two countries have to offer. 

This article will help you make the ideal choice for your study destination by breaking down the following:  

  • Benefits of studying in Canada
  • Drawbacks of studying in Canada 
  • What international students can expect from the US
  • Benefits of studying in the US
  • Drawbacks of studying in the US
  • Comparison between the US and Canada for international students
  • Difference between the American and Canadian education systems 
  • Dual degrees in the US and Canada 
  • Postgraduate degrees in the US and Canada
  • Which country should you choose

Let’s begin!

Advantages of Studying in Canada

Canada welcomes thousands of international students from around the world each year because of these common reasons: 

Cost of Education

Tuition fees and living costs in Canada are generally more affordable than in the US. Reduced education costs are a huge advantage for international students on a budget. 

Canadian Government Support for International Students

Drawing from our experience, one of the significant pros of studying in Canada is the ample support offered. The Canadian government provides plenty of international scholarship programs and funding through Global Affairs Canada. 

Post-Graduation Work Permit

Studying in Canada guarantees international students post-graduation work permits for up to three years. Graduated students can use post-study opportunities to gain work experience, potentially leading to permanent residency. 

Disadvantages of Studying in Canada

As you can see, there are several reasons to choose Canada as a study destination. However, here are some potential drawbacks that may result in obstacles and difficulties in adapting to the country: 

New Climate 

The winter is bitterly cold throughout most of Canada. As an international student, you might come from a tropical country and are used to experiencing two seasons per year. Canada's seriously low winter temperatures can be intimidating if you are not used to it. 

Potential for Cultural and Language Barriers

Canada is well known for its culture and background diversity. However, you may feel excluded if you are not confident in your English and communication skills. 

Areas such as Quebec are French-speaking. If you plan on moving here, you must be proficient in French. Learning English to make the most of Canada would also be necessary.

Distance from Home and Family

Being an international student in Canada is challenging if you find being away from family and friends hard. Homesickness is accentuated when experiencing difficulty adapting to a new culture and place.

Overview of USA for International Students

Studying in the USA provides international students with many growth opportunities. The US is renowned for innovation, diversity, and advanced research. Embarking on an educational journey in the US can be profoundly transformative for students from all corners of the globe. 

Advantages of Studying in the USA

If you’re thinking about studying in the US, here are the most notable benefits offered to aspiring international students: 

Quality of Education

The quality of higher education in the US can enhance your academic and professional profile. The US is home to some of the world’s top-ranked universities. 

The US boasts eight tertiary institutes out of the top 15 globally. Moreover, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) takes out number one.

Wide Range of Programs

The US has many colleges and universities that offer a diverse range of programs across various fields. Many institutions in multiple states are renowned for their facilities and programs. 

Popular Destination for International Students

Over time, we found that the US is among the most popular options for international students. Part of this popularity is because the country is one of the best destinations worldwide to gain exposure to cultural diversity.

The US has long been seen as a cultural epicentre of the Western world. From sports and entertainment to stunning wildlife and recreation. The US has just about anything an international student could ask for.

Employment Opportunities

The US has just under ten times the population of Canada. With more people comes more opportunities. 

The US is a global leader in many industries and fields of innovation. As such, the US has plentiful employment opportunities, providing extensive networking with industry professionals and access to cutting-edge resources. 

Disadvantages of Studying in the USA

While there are countless advantages to studying abroad in the US, here are some of the challenges: 

Tuition Fees & Other Expenses

In many areas of the US, education and living expenses are high. For many students, borrowing through student loans to cover tuition fees is necessary.

Complex Visa and Immigration Procedures

The visa procedures for international students in the US can be time-intensive and confusing. Those applying need to familiarize themselves with the application process to ensure they meet all the requirements.

Competitive Admission Process in Top Institutions

Gaining admission into the US's most prestigious and reputable universities is challenging. The admissions process is highly competitive due to rigorous standards of competence.

Prospective students worldwide work for a place at a top American university or college. Just making it to the first day on campus is a challenge!

USA vs Canada for International Students

Both countries offer many opportunities for international students. However, we will assess the main difference between the USA and Canada through the following categories: 

Difficulties Obtaining Study Permits

Completing 12 years of education and getting your SAT exam results are common prerequisites for undergraduate courses in most American and Canadian universities. However, the requirements for pursuing a postgraduate degree vary for each country and will largely depend on the program you choose. 

Universities in the USA will require you to submit your scores from entrance tests, such as TOEFL/IELTS and GRE/GMAT, along with your GPA. Canadian universities, on the other hand, put more stock into your GPA. Getting admitted to Canadian universities is often considered more accessible by some.

Student Visa Requirements

As an international student, your immigration experience to the USA or Canada will begin by obtaining a student visa to study abroad. Both country’s visa processes can prove lengthy and complex.

These processes will require proof of acceptance from a recognized institution, evidence of financial support, and English proficiency scores. In some places in Canada, french proficiency scores are also accepted.

Studying in the USA requires a stringent visa application process due to stricter policies. 

Canada’s immigration laws can be seen as more favorable for students. Getting a student visa is much easier in Canada because the process tends to be more straightforward, focusing on attracting international students.  

World-Ranking Universities

When studying at world-class universities, international student benefit from a global reputation and recognition of their courses. Each country features renowned universities and offers a diverse range of courses. When examining university rankings, remember that each institution is qualified by how well it maintains rigorous academic standards. 

Canada has fewer institutions at the top of the QS World University Rankings than the US. Nonetheless, many of Canada’s schools are academically excellent. If you are looking for a university with state-of-the-art research facilities, the USA and Canada have similar teaching quality and research-focused standards. 

Cost of Living

International students' living costs include housing, transportation, lifestyle, and other expenses. The cost of living in the US and Canada will ultimately depend on your chosen city. It will be cheaper for international students to study in less crowded cities such as Clarksdale or Sherbrooke than New York City or Vancouver. 

On average, studying in Canada as an international student entails higher living costs than in the US. International students' annual living costs can range from $19,000 to $31,000 in Canada. Average living expenses for an international student in the US range from $10,000 to $18,000, depending on the individual. However, currency exchange rates typically narrow the gap in living expenses.

Cost of Education

Tuition fees depend on the university you choose, your study level, and the program you decide to enroll in. Private universities cost considerably more than public universities. Often, tuition fees for international students are significantly higher than for domestic students.

An undergraduate degree at a private university can cost international students anywhere from $35,000 to $60,000 annually. Public universities can cost between $8,000 to $30,000 annually. 

For international students in Canada, annual tuition fees for undergraduate programs are around $26,500. Average tuition fees for graduates total $15,650. 


The cost of healthcare is lower in Canada compared to the US. Canada offers more affordable healthcare options due to public funding from the Canadian government. 

The United States healthcare system is primarily private, and many colleges require international students to register for health insurance. As a result, these students frequently pay for expensive private healthcare.  

Safety and Security

Canada is the better choice for a secure and safe environment based on the Global Crime Index 2024. Canada has a crime index of 45.2, while the crime index of the US is 49.3.

When looking at the 2024 quality of life ratings, Canada scored 150.2, and the United States 174.0. Although both countries show similar standards in quality of life, the US currently places ahead based on these statistics.

The Climate

The USA has various climatic zones ranging from the chilly humidity of Alaska to the warm dryness of California. When comparing the general weather, Canada experiences colder winters and has less seasonal variance.

Luckily, in North America, you have options! If you are fine with the cold, many parts of Canada offer a pleasant winter experience. If you can’t stand it, the consistently sunny areas of the US may be a better study destination for you. 

Financial Aid

The US does not have state-funded and institution-specific scholarships for international students. International students in the US can still be eligible for student loans. However, they will need a credit-worthy cosigner who is a permanent resident or US citizen. 

Canada provides better scholarship opportunities and several student support services for international students. The Canadian government supports students through comprehensive services that include scholarships and financial aid.

Welcoming Attitude

Choosing a university that welcomes international students with open arms is crucial when selecting a study destination. Universities in the US and Canada have programs aimed at international students. Both countries arrange and host unique cultural events and festivals. 

The US has a larger international student population and many multicultural environments. However, you’ll have no difficulties finding a school in Canada that promotes student-community engagements through cultural experiences. 

Employment Opportunities

The US offers higher starting salaries for university graduates than in Canada. Canada provides more work opportunities during the study. Canada offers accessible pathways for students to gain work experience during their studies.

Statistically, the US has far more employment opportunities than Canada due to its massive economy. As such, more jobs are generally available to international students after completing their program in the United States. 

Permanent Residency

Many international students aspire to permanent residency in the USA or Canada after completing their studies and graduating with their bachelor's degree or more. The application process for both countries can be time-consuming and complex. However, Canada grants more accessible pathways to permanent residency because of its immigration policies prioritizing international graduates and skilled workers. 

The American vs. The Canadian Educational Systems

The US and Canada have two of the most respected education systems in the world.  When considering education before the tertiary level, the main difference between the USA and Canada is as follows:

The Canadian education system supports critical thinking and a “no-zero” approach to grading. The education system in Canada is provincially regulated and not controlled on a national level

The US uses standardized testing. The US system is considered more competitive, emphasizing standardized tests and school sports.

When considering the main difference in tertiary education, The US has three types of higher education institutions, while Canada has four. The types of higher education institutions in the US offered to international students include junior or community colleges, vocational schools, and universities. The higher education institutions available in Canada include universities, university colleges, career and technical colleges, and community colleges.

In the US, colleges prioritize the development of soft skills such as communication and teamwork. Students acquire job-specific skills through internships and work opportunities. In Canada, several schools offer three-year bachelor's degree programs, which some students prefer due to their shorter duration and lower cost.

Dual Degrees in the USA vs Canada

Combining two passions and earning two degrees can provide an advantage in the job market. The main difference between dual degrees in the US and Canada is the curriculum and specializations offered. 

Notable dual undergraduate degrees in the US and Canada include a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Arts. There is also a Bachelor of Design and a Bachelor of Media Communication. In addition, there is a Bachelor of Engineering and Bachelor of Business or a Bachelor of Business and Bachelor of Information Technology, and others. 

For dual master’s degrees, notable examples for international students in the US and Canada are a Master of Business Analytics and a Master of Management. There is also a Master of Planning and Master of Architecture. In addition, there is a Master of Professional Accounting and Master of Business Law combination and many more.

Types of Postgraduate Degrees in the USA vs Canada

The main difference between the types of postgraduate degrees offered between the USA and Canada is the duration of study:

Postgraduate Degrees and Duration in the US 

  • Master’s Degree (Professional) - two years
  • Master’s Degree (Academic) - two years
  • PhD or Doctorate - five to eight years

Postgraduate Degrees and Duration in Canada 

  • Postgraduate Diplomas - one year
  • Master’s Programs - up to two years
  • Doctorate Courses - up to six years

Final Verdict: Which to Choose

Based on our first-hand experience, studying in Canada provides better immigration pathways and is cost-effective. The US offers more education options and varied employment opportunities. 

Deciding to study abroad and venture out of your comfort zone can be a life-changing experience. Considering all the above factors is vital when choosing between the US and Canada as your top study destination. 

Key Takeaways

Based on our past experiences, choosing between Canada and the US should be based on your unique priorities. Take into account your preferences and the range of factors that are important to you. 

Canada might be ideal for a less expensive but undoubtedly world-class education. Canada is also excellent for post-graduation and permanent residency pathways.

The USA could be the better choice if you value diverse job prospects and are willing to spend extra on your education. The USA also boasts the lion’s share of the top-ranked universities in the world.


Is Canada Better Than the USA?

Choosing between Canada and the USA for higher education will depend on your goals and preferences. Canada is known for its affordable education and welcoming atmosphere. The US boasts a wide array of prestigious universities and strongly emphasizes entrepreneurship.

Where can I Get PR Easily? 

The US and Canada offer pathways to permanent residency. The path to PR may be considered easier in Canada, as the country’s immigration policies prioritize skilled workers and international graduates.

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