Introduction: Student employment in Canada


 According to a 2010 Statistics Canada Report:


♦ Just under 50% of full-time students were employed during the 2009/2010 school year


◊ Manitoba and Quebec had the highest rates (50%) and the lowest rates were 27% of full-time students in New Brunswick and 34% in Newfoundland and Labrador. 


◊ On average, full-time post-secondary students with jobs work about 16 hours a week with average hourly earnings of $11.80.


◊ If students worked from September through April, average earnings would have been about $­6,300 (deductions not included; learn more below under How much money will I earn?)


♦ 66% of full-time post-secondary students aged 20 to 24 were employed in the summer of 2010. The full-time employment rate of full-time PSE students was 52%.


◊ The average weekly hours of employed students was about 28 hours and the average hourly earnings were $12.80. This adds up to an average of about $6,500 earned during the summer (deductions not included; learn more below under How much money will I earn?)


◊ Averages earnings are considerably higher in Alberta and Saskatchewan due to higher hourly wages.

What are the benefits of working?


Financial: Working can help you cover the basic costs of PSE or allow you to have some extra money for leisure activities.


Work experience: You can build skills and improve your resume.


Making contacts: Networking during your studies can help you get jobs throughout your studies and after graduation.


Learning time management skills: Balancing your responsibilities can be challenging but is also a valuable skill.

What are the possible drawbacks of working?

It may be tempting to work more to satisfy your short-term financial goals. However, if working too much interferes with your studies it can have a negative effect on your long-term finances.


♦ Working can affect your grades, potentially limiting your options for scholarships and entrance into programs (such as Honours programs or graduate school in the future).


♦ Taking fewer classes to work more can make your degree take longer. Consider the economic cost: if you extend your program you may be taking longer to enter the workforce and start making money.  


♦ Working can affect your eligibility for student loans or bursaries:


◊ Student loan applicants have an exemption of $100 per week. This means this amount will not count against your assessed need. If you work more than this, you will receive less money for your student loan.


♦ It can limit your ability to take part in other activities, such as volunteering.


♦ Taking on too many commitments can be very stressful and can lead to mental health and physical problems.


◊ Make changes and/or see a counsellor if you are becoming overwhelmed. This is very common for post-secondary students. Your post-secondary institution should have student counselling services, including one-on-one counselling sessions and workshops, to help you deal with stress and other mental health issues.


◊ Learn more about dealing with stress.

How much money will I earn?


♦ Your gross pay is the amount you make before vacation pay and deductions.


♦ Your take-home pay (or net pay) is the amount you make after vacation pay and deductions. Learn more about income adjustments below:


Vacation pay: Most employees are entitled to vacation pay. Instead of receiving paid time off, you may receive vacation pay on every paycheque (2% to 6% of your gross pay). See your paycheque or ask your employer how much you will receive.


Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) contributions: Canadians over the age of 18 (until retirement or the age of 70) who earn over a minimum amount must contribute to the CPP (or the Quebec Pension Plan in Quebec). The amounts will automatically be deducted from your paycheque and are determined by your income.


Employment Insurance (EI) premiums: In 2014, you must contribute $1.88 in EI premiums for every $100 you earn up to a maximum. The amounts will automatically be deducted from your paycheque.


Income tax: You may have taxes subtracted from your paycheque. However, if you make a small income and/or receive tax credits as a student, you may be refunded these deductions when you file your income tax. Learn more about income tax here.


◊ If your employer is deducting more taxes than you will actually owe, you can fill out TD1 Personal Tax Credits Return forms (one federal and one provincial) declaring your personal tax credits (e.g., tuition, education and textbook amounts) and submit them to the payroll office. This way the appropriate amount of income tax will be deducted from your pay and you do not have to wait to receive a refund when you file your taxes. 


Union dues: Some employees will automatically be a member of a union and have union dues subtracted from their paycheque.


Other deductions: Other deductions, such as fees for employee benefits, may show up on your paycheque. If you are unsure of what they are, ask your employer or payroll office.


Calculator: You can use this payroll deductions calculator to find out how much your CPP, EI and tax deductions will be based on your salary. 


See the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada website for more information.                                      

Questions you should ask yourself before starting a job


♦ Will you able to reduce your hours if your job begins to interfere with your school work?


♦ Besides the time commitment, will your job cause you excess stress?


◊ For example, will you be working late hours, have to spend a lot of time in transit, or be in a stressful environment?


◊ Working on campus is a good way to combine work and school. Look for opportunities to become a grader/marker, work as a research assistant, or work at on-campus stores/restaurants/offices etc.


♦ Is your job beneficial for your education and future career?


◊ Try to get a job that will improve your skills in relevant areas and look good on your resume/curriculum vitae. A lower hourly wage may be worthwhile if the position offers these benefits.


♦ Have you explored all possible financial aid options?


◊ Receiving non-repayable funding or student loans can reduce your dependence on employment income.

Do I need to work both during the school year and the summer?


♦ It depends on your individual situation.


♦ If you have a heavy course-load, it may make more sense for you to focus on your studies during the year and earn money during the summer.


♦ If you want to integrate work into your school year, you may want to consider taking summer courses. This will allow you to have a more even balance of school and work throughout the year. If applicable to you, find out the course-load requirements to be a full-time student, to maintain eligibility for certain types of financial aid and to apply to future post-secondary programs.

How can I find a job?


♦ Network: Find opportunities through people you know, such as family and friends, teachers, past employers, or people you have volunteered with.


◊ Selecting employees through resumes and interviews can be a difficult process for employers. Being recommended by someone they know can be a huge advantage.


◊ In fact, many jobs are not advertised. Instead, the opportunity is spread through word-of-mouth.


◊ If you don’t have work experience, it can be especially valuable to be recommended by someone who knows you have the qualities needed to do the job.


♦ Your post-secondary institution will have a job search engine and possibly a career centre to help you find student positions.


◊ Some student positions you will only find out about through networking.


♦ Attend career fairs at your post-secondary institution.


♦ Some departments/programs provide students with information about job opportunities related to their field. You may receive e-mails or they may be posted on a website.


♦ Look for opportunities through the federal government and your provincial and municipal governments. Some positions are available for post-secondary students.


The Federal Student Work Experience Program allows full-time students to gain hands-on experience in their field of study. There is no previous work experience needed. Students gain access to job opportunities from all across Canada and are able to experience a wide variety of work settings (e.g. clerical, field work).


◊ This program runs from October to October of the following year. The hourly rate paid to the student depends on the level of education completed and their year of study.


◊ The Summer Work Experience Program aims to help students who are facing barriers to finding summer jobs due to where they live or other reasons. The period to apply for Canada Summer Jobs is generally December to January.

◊ Work Study Programs are available for students with financial need (learn more below).


♦ Use job search engines:


Job Bank: A job search engine through the Canadian government


Job Postings: A Canadian student job posting board


Workopolis and WowJobs: Canadian job search websites


♦ Start as early as possible. You can start looking for summer jobs in your fall term. You may not find a job easily as the end of the school year comes closer.


♦ Be open to different job opportunities and consider trying something new.


◊ Think about travelling for work, such as jobs in rural communities, tree planting, or even working holidays abroad.


♦ Working during the school year can be a good way to be considered for summer positions.

How do I apply for jobs?


♦ The career guidance centre at your high school or post-secondary institution can provide you with information on writing resumes and doing interviews. They will also likely provide workshops throughout the year.


◊ If they have an e-mail list, sign up to receive information about career development opportunities.


♦ Online tools has a resume builder.


Monster, workopolis and other job search websites have articles on writing resumes. has tips about writing resumes and cover letters, choosing references, and doing job interviews.


♦ Basic tips for job applications


◊ Make sure all the materials you submit are well put-together, everything should be easy to read and grammatically correct.


◊ Choose a resume format that best showcases your experiences and skills.


◊ As much as possible, tailor your resume to the position.


◊ Spend time on your cover letter. This is the first thing potential employers will see. Highlight your most relevant experiences and make it clear to the employer why you would be a great addition to their team.


◊ Avoid simply saying that you have certain skills, describe experiences in which you used these skills.


◊ Ask someone (a teacher, counsellor or parent) to look over your resume/cover letter and give you tips.


◊ Choose references who can best speak to your accomplishments and abilities


◊ Ask your references before you list them on your resume.


◊ Give them a copy of your resume/CV and give them some information about the positions you are applying for.


◊ Let them know if they can expect to be contacted.

Work Study Program


♦ Many institutions offer a Work Study Program to students in financial need.


◊ At some institutions, students are only eligible if they are currently receiving government student aid.


♦ Part-time, on-campus employment is offered to students in this program.


◊ Positions are designated specifically for Work Study students.


♦ The intent is to provide a regular source of income to students in financial need and allow them to gain valuable work experience while they study.


♦ Search the internet for “Work Study” along with your institution name or contact your student/financial aid office to learn the specific eligibility requirements and application process at your institution.

Co-op opportunities


♦ Some academic programs include work experience in their curriculum. Therefore, students must (or may have the option to) complete a co-op in order to complete their program.


♦ Co-ops can be paid or unpaid, but they are usually paid placements. This can be a great way to earn funds to offset the cost of PSE while gaining work experience and networking.


◊ Co-ops are usually part of an academic program, therefore you will probably have to pay a co-op fee.


♦ It is the student’s responsibility to ensure they find a co-op placement, however most programs offer support to students, including making connections with employers, offering assistance with resumes, and professional development.


◊ Students can often pursue the type of position that best suits their academic background and career goals.


♦ To find out specific details about co-ops, be sure to visit the program website or contact someone in the program.


◊ International students can learn more applicable details about co-ops here.

Are unpaid internships worthwhile?


 ♦ Unpaid internships can be valuable, but it depends on the position.


◊ Know what your duties will be and what skills and experiences you will gain.


◊ Find out if the organization has a history of hiring individuals after they completed internships.


◊ Explore your options, you may be able to find a comparable paid internship.


◊ Interning can be a great way to network with people in your desired field.


♦ Recently, there have been many criticisms of unpaid internships as unfair and exploitative.


◊ See Unpaid internships are just wrong (Globe and Mail, 2013), Unpaid internships focus of growing backlash (CBC, 2014)


♦ Others have looked at both the benefits and challenges of unpaid internships.


Internships in Canada: Working for free has benefits, but may be dragging down our economy (Huffington Post, 2012)


If unpaid internships are exploitation, why don’t kids just stay at home? (National Post, 2013)


♦ Resources


◊ The Canadian Intern Association provides an overview of the provincial laws related to unpaid internships.


◊ The Canadian Association of Career Educators & Employers provides suggested criteria to determine the legitimacy of an unpaid internship.

Information about working for international students


Learn more about working while you study through the government of Canada website.


Visit the international centre at your post-secondary institution (and/or visit their website) if you need more information about finding work as an international student.

Volunteer work


♦ Many of the benefits of working can also be gained through volunteering:


Work experience: You can build skills and improve your resume.


Making contacts: Networking during your studies can help you get a job throughout your studies and after graduation.


Learning time management skills: Balancing your responsibilities can be challenging but is also a valuable life and work skill.


◊ The experience you gain can benefit you financially in the long-run. has a list of potential organizations looking for volunteers and the types of tasks that can be available.


♦ Find a Volunteer Centre Network in your area.


♦ As a student, you may be able to find volunteer opportunities through your instructors, program, department or faculty.