University jobs in Canada: everything you need to know
Published: 21 Aug 2017
About higher education in Canada
There are about 100 publicly funded universities in Canada, all of which maintain institutional autonomy, setting their own boundaries for admission, tuition and governance, which also depend on provincial governance. The average full-time Canadian undergraduate pays about £3,400 in tuition fees annually. There are also about 20 privately funded institutions, with 6,000 students in total.
As of 2016-17, some 1.7 million students are enrolled at Canadian universities, with 89,000 full-time international students on undergraduate programs (11 per cent of all full-time undergraduates) and 44,000 full-time international students in graduate programs (28 per cent of all graduate students).
In 2014, universities generated £7.5 billion in research and development income. Many universities promote a global outlook through enrolling international students, hiring international faculty (40 per cent of faculty have at least one international degree) and encouraging international collaborations. The number of international students studying in Canada has doubled in the past decade.
University funding and salaries in Canada
Canadian universities employ roughly 250,000 people, 65,400 of whom are university professors or lecturers. The average annual salary of a Canadian university professor is about £50,000. The average university president (or vice-chancellor) earns £194,000, while the average salary for presidents at top-ranked universities is £215,000.
Many Canadian universities are counted among the best in the world, according to the Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings (26 in 2017).
Academic careers in Canada
The head of a Canadian university is known as the president or vice chancellor. The chancellor is an outside ceremonial head, while the vice-chancellor is the on-site academic leader. They are usually several deputy vice-chancellors, or provosts, who manage areas such as research, student recruitment and so on.
Academics have a range of job titles depending on their seniority, from instructors, research associates, postdoctoral instructors and junior researchers up to more senior roles such as assistant professors, associate professors and full professors. Instructors are either completing or have already earned their PhD and typically spend 9 to 12 hours a week teaching.
Assistant professors are expected to teach a similar amount, while also conducting and publishing research projects. The position can be seen as a training period where assistant professors work to develop a case for tenure (a permanent post which allows job security and the ability to research alongside).
Associate professors spend fewer hours on undergraduate teaching (6 to 9 hours a week), instead leading more graduate classes and advising graduate students on dissertation projects. Full professors usually teach for a few hours per week and take an active role in the research projects and dissertations of doctoral candidates. Opportunities for further career advancement in administration include becoming department chair, dean of students or president.
Unlike European universities, there is no pyramidal hierarchy and therefore often no limit to the number of people who can hold higher ranks within a university.
Teaching at a Canadian university usually requires at least a bachelor’s degree (preferably an honours degree), a master’s degree and a doctorate – typically a PhD in the chosen field. Assistant professor is the entry position to academia and one can move directly from PhD researcher to assistant professor. Serving as an instructor or having a temporary postdoctoral position is also a step in between.
The assistant professorships are generally not tenured, although typically, the term "tenure-track" position is used - meaning the candidate can become tenured after a probation period (often 6 or 7 years). Based on the accomplishments in the areas of teaching, research, and service, the candidate may be promoted to associate professor and receives tenure.
Individual universities do the evaluation and promotions but in most universities, at least half of assistant professors obtain tenure and are promoted to associate professor after the sixth year.
Based on continuing accomplishments, an associate professor may be promoted to full professor (average time is about five years at associate professor level before being promoted to full professor). Promotion requires significantly more accomplishments beyond those that were required to gain tenure.
The typical time between entering graduate school and attaining the rank of Full Professor in a university is 17 to 20 years.
Other professional staff positions include working as a librarian, within communications and marketing (to share the university’s brand through creation of media, design and narrative), within the human resources department (to provide HR consultation, advice and support to administrative leaders), and within the academic personnel department (to deal with all matters related to recruiting, hiring, conditions of employments, leave and retirement of academic staff).
Canadian universities have strong alumni offices for encouraging donations. Many also have equity offices, providing resources, conducting education and awareness initiatives on how best to activate commitment to equality, diversity and human rights on campus.
Pic. credit: iStock