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STEM Careers in Canada: What Are Your Job Prospects?

Thursday | January 16, 2020 | by Zara Khan

STEM careers

Canada’s job market offers many opportunities to skilled immigrants who have a background in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM).

The Canadian government is providing exceptional support to STEM-related research, training, and development, and has introduced multiple plans over the past few years to promote STEM innovation.

One example is its Innovation and Skills Plan. The plan seeks not only to recruit and retain talent, but to create more well-paying jobs for STEM professionals across Canada. It also aims to support new ideas that will drive the nation’s economy in the years to come.

As Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains recently stated, “Our Innovation and Skills Plan builds on Canada’s competitive advantages—a highly educated workforce, unrivalled access to global markets, and a government that partners with business—to create good middle-class jobs for Canadians and [to] position Canada as a global economic leader.”

Additionally, venture capitalists and private businesses are currently investing in these areas to remain competitive in an increasingly global market. The growing popularity of mobile technologies, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing will continue to drive interest in these fields throughout the next decade.

Now is a great time for STEM professionals to develop their careers and improve their skills in Canada.

Are STEM Jobs Available to Immigrants?

Immigrants represent more than half of the population holding at least a bachelor’s degree in STEM, according to a Statistics Canada report published in late 2019 (based on 2016 census data). The study also revealed that immigrants account for roughly three-quarters of individuals who hold an advanced degree in engineering and computer science.

Below are a few additional highlights from the report that can help you determine if you should pursue a STEM career in Canada.

Many STEM Professionals Are Immigrants

Many STEM-educated immigrants chose to pursue careers in a relevant field in Canada. In 2016, 54 percent of Canada’s STEM graduates were immigrants.

Here’s how those numbers break down:

  • Among all engineering and computer science graduates in the country (ages 25 to 64), 61 percent were immigrants.
  • Among all science and technology graduates (ages 25 to 64), 41 percent were immigrants.
  • About 49 percent of STEM professionals with a bachelor’s degree were immigrants.
  • Among STEM professionals with a master’s or doctoral degree, 64 percent were immigrants.

As these numbers reveal, immigrants represent a large portion of the labour supply for STEM-related jobs. As industries continue to expand their portfolios and innovate, there will be a greater demand for people who can fill such jobs. The country must ensure that its workforce can meet the demand by continuing to encourage skilled immigrants to pursue their STEM careers.

Your STEM Education Will Be Put to Work

If you graduated with a degree in science, technology, engineering, or math, there’s a good chance that you will be able to find work here. STEM jobs were divided almost equally between immigrants (46 percent) and native-born Canadians (48 percent) who held a relevant degree.

Nevertheless, there were a few discrepancies. For example, those with a bachelor’s degree in engineering were much more likely to find work if they were born in Canada (66 percent) than if they were migrants (42 percent).

Additionally, the share of STEM workers in a job requiring a university degree was much higher among native Canadians (64 percent) than among immigrants (49 percent).

This study also found that immigrants holding a bachelor’s in engineering felt significantly underutilized in their place of work, compared with their Canadian-born counterparts. (There is a notable exception for immigrants who studied in Western countries; they tended to feel better utilized at work.)

If a job requires candidates to hold a post-secondary degree, immigrants often wind up feeling underutilized once they have accepted the role; that is true for all fields relating to STEM. This issue is greatest for those with a bachelor’s degree and is least significant at the doctoral level.

However, the outcomes are better for immigrant technology professionals: WES research found that IT professionals were 1.5 times more likely to be employed than those working in other sectors. Furthermore, 76 percent of those who worked in IT pre-migration also had jobs in the IT sector in Canada.

STEM Jobs Show a Smaller Income Gap for Immigrants

For immigrants, salary is an important indicator of economic integration. In addition to reflecting a level of professional success, a salary can also symbolize how well a person is integrating into the new culture, lifestyle, and workforce.

The Statistics Canada report also offered insights into how well immigrants working in STEM are faring economically.

Listed below are some key findings:

  • The largest income gap between immigrants and Canadian-born respondents was reported by those holding a bachelor’s degree in STEM. The smallest gap was reported among doctoral graduates.
  • STEM-educated immigrants working in a relevant job earned 13.8 percent less than their Canadian-born colleagues.
  • However, immigrants holding a STEM degree reported even more significant earning gaps if they pursued a career outside of STEM. Those individuals accounted for just over half (54 percent) of all immigrants with a STEM degree.

These numbers show less salary potential for those who immigrated before entering the Canadian job market. Nevertheless, STEM professionals from all backgrounds are in high demand throughout the country, and this demand will likely continue.

Which Skills Do Employers Seek from STEM Professionals?

In an increasingly global market, businesses understand the value of innovation. That’s especially true in a country like Canada, where the government has demonstrated a commitment to STEM.

According to the Council of Canadian Academies, STEM employers seek candidates with the following strengths:

  • Reasoning and problem-solving skills
  • Technical acumen
  • Data analysis
  • Leadership and entrepreneurial skills
  • Ability to swiftly obtain and process information

If you have a STEM education and are seeking a promising career in a new country, consider Canada. You are likely to find a wide range of opportunities.

The next step is learning how to leverage your education and skills to navigate the labour market.

Check out this article to get helpful tips on pursuing STEM careers in Canada.

Zara Khan is the Marketing and Communications Associate at World Education Services.