Covering vast expanses of land in the northernmost part of North America, Canada is one of the most successful Western countries in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, ease of doing business, and general education performance. It comes as no surprise, then, that Canada is also a prime MBA location.

A smart place for an MBA

According to Admit Master, a Canadian MBA admissions consultancy, many international candidates choose to apply for Canadian MBA programmes because of the country’s friendly visa and immigration policies. The Canadian economy is welcoming to newcomers as long as they are qualified. More than 250,000 workers immigrate to Canada every year, which means that businesses are used to employing people who have worked in other parts of the world. Naturally, finding employment in Canada is much easier for candidates who hold a Canadian degree. This is why international students graduating from Canadian business schools usually have little or no trouble getting hired by a Canadian company. Proof of this can be found in the marginal difference between post-MBA levels of employment for Canadian versus international students. A 2015 report by the Halifax Partnership claims that “immigrant workers made up 22% of the Canadian labour force [in 2011, -ed.] and had accounted for 41% growth in the Canadian labour force since 2006”.

When it comes to the MBA field, one could argue that these numbers can be explained by the inclination of Canadian business schools to admit candidates who they see as employable in Canada. Combined with the fact that everyone completing an MBA programme in the country is likely to receive a work visa for up to three years after graduation, this means that work is anything but deficient in Her Majesty’s subarctic realm.

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And with the strong finance, pharmaceuticals, and oil and gas industries powering the local economy, there is little difference between the life an MBA graduate can expect in Canada and the life in cities like Chicago or Los Angeles (minus the subtropical climate).

Speaking of cities, Canada’s top 10 list includes pearls such as Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, Edmonton, and of course Toronto and Montreal. Toronto’s Bay Street, the equivalent of New York’s Wall Street, is the financial centre of Canada. Montreal is the world’s second largest primarily French-speaking city, providing indirect access to French business across the Atlantic.

“Montreal is a cosmopolitan city, a melting pot where it is not uncommon to meet people from three different continents at the same party”, says Mathieu Renou, an HEC Montreal alumnus.

“Part of my decision [when I was deciding where to get my MBA] was based on job availability in the city and how many students get jobs [in Toronto –ed.]”, says Adedoyin Adesemowo, an MBA graduate from Ryerson University, Toronto.

Respectable schools

But how good are Canadian universities? They usually do well in global rankings, such as The Economist’s MBA Rankings and Bloomberg Businessweek’s MBA rankings. The Toronto and McGill universities have been placed in at least one ranking’s top 25 every year over the last 10 years, with many more claiming a spot in the top 100. Ivey has been Bloomberg Businessweek’s number one international school (outside of the US) for two years running.

However, when it comes to the Financial Times Global MBA ranking, it is more difficult for Canadian schools to score as high as in other rankings, since its methodology is based on post-MBA salaries and salary growth, according to Advent Group’s North American Director Jonathan Khayat.

“Canada has a good economy but income disparities lead to schools in Canada being outscored by institutions based in cities such as New York, London, and Singapore”, Khayat explains.

University of Toronto: Rotman is ranked 60th in the FT 2016 Global MBA Ranking, with McGill and Ivey occupying places in the 80s. Queen’s University: Smith and UBC: Sauder are further down in the 90s.

Accreditation-wise, Canadian schools live up to international standards, with all schools having at least one certificate and many sporting two. The two so-called triple-accredited schools (holding AACSB, AMBA, and EQUIS certificates) in Canada are HEC Montreal and Telfer School of Management.

US and Canada

Unsurprisingly, Canadian MBA programmes carry many similarities to their counterparts to the south.

Canadian MBA programmes are identical to those in the US in terms of duration (two years), electives, and emphasis on internships. There are some exceptions, such as Queens and Ivey, which offer one-year programmes, and UBC: Sauder, which has created an American-European hybrid that lasts for 16 months. Internships are a key component and an option to study abroad is often introduced at a later stage during the programme. The first semester is usually introductory and general in nature, while the second allows students to pick electives. As expected, most of the programmes kick off in August and September, with the noticeable exceptions being Queens and Schulich (January) and Ivey (March).

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Cost-wise, tuition fees vary from province to province, with an average of roughly CAD 80,000 for most programmes. Rotman offers one of the pricier MBAs (USD 105,000), while some schools in Quebec, such as HEC Montreal and Concordia charge considerably less. As with almost all higher education degrees around the world, tuition fees vary depending on nationality, with local students being charged less. Sometimes the difference can add up to 25,000 USD more for international students. Still, the MBA in Canada is much cheaper than in the US. For example, an MBA at McGill, a highly respected school in its own right, will cost around USD 60,000 over two years, which is approximately 40,000 USD less than what you would pay for a programme at a school of the same calibre in the US.

Despite the ailing oil industry, which has been in its deepest crisis since the 1990s, Canada maintains a strong economy and is the US’ largest trading partner. That’s no small feat in itself. But as the weak Canadian dollar drives export growth, the national economy is expected to expand by 2% in 2016-2018, according to The Economist’s Intelligence Unit.

Being cheaper both in terms of tuition fees and living expenses, and with an easily obtainable work permit, Canada is an attractive business education location. The MBA opens the door to a three-year work permit, and after gaining some work experience in the country a graduate could easily apply for permanent residence and ultimately get Canadian citizenship within 4-6 years of graduation. This should not be underestimated.

And yet, after all is said and done, a decision to study abroad should not be based solely on cold-blooded calculations. Canada should not be solely viewed as a cheaper alternative to the US, but as a meaningful destination with its own unique culture, business opportunities, and career paths. Canada is a welcoming nation that will test your ambition and reward you for your perseverance.

This article is original content produced by Advent Group and included in the 2016-2017 annual Access MBA, EMBA and Masters Guide under the title “The Canadian Dream”. An online version of the Guide is available here.