A Closer Look: Living, Learning, and Working in Toronto

Toronto, a bustling metropolis within the Ontario-region of Canada, is one of the most populated cities in the country, hosting 18 percent of all Canadians. Although it is known primarily as the economic and trading hub of the nation, Toronto has also gained popularity over the last decade for its comparatively low cost of living and the many exciting career opportunities available for local and transplant Toronto residents alike.

Read on to learn what it’s like to live and work in this growing city, and how professionals can work strategically to land a role in one of Toronto’s coveted industries.

Living in Toronto

Living in Toronto

The city of Toronto only continues to grow over time—both in size and popularity. Along with being the largest city in Canada, Toronto has also been named the fourth largest city in all of North America, and the second fastest-growing city in the United States and Canada.

As of 2016, Toronto was home to 2.7 million residents—a 4.5 percent increase since 2011. Despite this growing population, however, Toronto has also done a fantastic job of keeping its living conditions high and its residents happy. In the Economist’s 2019 Global Liveability Index, Toronto tied with Japan as the seventh most livable city in the world, and the area continues to rank high regarding cleanliness, sustainability, and diversity.

Cost of Living in Toronto

The reported average cost of living in Toronto in 2019 is $42,986.88 CAD, taking into account the average cost of housing, transportation, groceries, phone and internet bills, and entertainment in the city. 

This cost of living for Toronto is considerably lower than in other popular cities in North America. For example, Toronto is more affordable than Boston (by 16 percent), New York City (by 31 percent), Washington D.C. (by 16 percent), and San Francisco (by 27 percent). Canadians can also become part of the country’s publicly funded healthcare system, furthering the disparity in living costs among these areas.

Though Toronto still ranks among the top 30 most expensive cities to live in worldwide, locals find that the benefits of the current job market and the lower overall cost of living in the area make life in Toronto sustainable.

Regional Culture in Toronto

Living & Working in TorontoToronto has many attractive qualities, including its diversity. The area is made up of 140 unique neighborhoods, including West Queen West, which was named the second hippest district in the world by Vogue. Along with its geographic diversity, Toronto is also known for being home to people from a variety of different cultural backgrounds. In fact, over 50 percent of people living in Toronto are of foreign origin, making Toronto one of the most diverse cities in the world. As a result, many languages are spoken in the area; although English is still the most prominent, there are at least 200 other dialects used commonly throughout the city.

Despite its 2.7 million inhabitants, Toronto is also considered one of the cleanest and most environmentally conscious cities in the world. The city’s government has a well-established focus on sustainability, including a reduction in greenhouse emissions due to the frequent use of public transportation among commuters, and the green construction technology utilized throughout the city.

Toronto residents also make great use of the “city beneath the city,” using the underground tunnels to travel about the area, especially during the city’s infamous cold and snowy winters. Other notable, local spots include the Toronto Islands, St. Lawrence Market, and the Distillery District.

Discover Northeastern University—Toronto

Learn more about the industry-aligned graduate programs designed to help working professionals achieve their career goals.


Working in Toronto

Working In TorontoThe job outlook in Toronto is very promising for professionals in the area. The average salary in Toronto is $59,358 CAD and, as of August 2019, the unemployment rate is down to 6.3 percent. There has also been a reported 4.5 percent annual employment growth rate in Toronto—higher than the 0.7 percent in Chicago and the 1.6 percent in Los Angeles—as well as an additional 30,000 new positions added to the job market since 2017. These rates aren’t predicted to slow anytime soon either; the city’s projected growth plan estimates that by 2041, there will be 3.4 million people and 1.72 million jobs in the city of Toronto.

Top Industries in Toronto

1. Technology

Toronto is one of the top technology hubs in the world. It has been named the fastest-growing and fourth-largest technology market in North America, as well as the eighth-most popular city for tech talent globally. Currently, there are 241,000 employed within this industry working at some of the top technology companies in the world. Alongside an increase in available jobs, those employed in Toronto have also seen an average salary increase of 9 percent in the past year. 

Since 2014, the technology sector as a whole has grown by over 50 percent in Toronto, as well, and it is expected to have a substantial and sustainable impact on the overall Ontario economy in 2019. The region is also known for supporting entrepreneurs and offers many opportunities for technology startups to find success in the area.

2. Financial Services

Toronto is the largest financial center in all of Canada; it employs 210,000 people who account for more than three-quarters of the entire region’s financial workforce. This industry also added 55,000 new jobs between 2012 and 2017, a growth rate of 25 percent and the third-fastest worldwide at that time. The top sectors within this industry include banking and deposit-taking institutions, security and investment organizations, insurance carriers, and more.

3. Education

The education industry in Toronto employs over 100,000 individuals and accounts for $7.2 billion in annual wages in the region. Roles in elementary and secondary schools make up over half of the employment opportunities in this industry, followed by those at universities. These Toronto-based trends are representative of the overall impact of the education industry on Canada’s economy, which has grown 2.9 percent and added a total of 316,075 jobs since 2014.

4. Life Sciences

Nearly 30,000 workers make up Toronto’s life sciences industry, resulting in a contribution of over $2 billion to the city’s economy. Though this industry is broad, the majority of those employed in Toronto work as paid researchers in hospitals (32.3 percent), pharmaceutical manufacturing (20.5 percent), or medical and diagnostic laboratories (17.3 percent.) 

Within the Discovery District, specifically—Canada’s largest hub of research in life sciences in Toronto—there are over 30 medical research facilities including hospitals, research centers, and startup companies. Some consider the public and private investment into research, as well as the operation of major pharmaceutical and medical device organizations in Toronto, as other significant factors behind the industry’s regional growth.

5. Food and Beverage

The food and beverage industry employs 64,000 workers in Toronto, most commonly in roles related to the manufacturing of consumable products. Total annual wages for those in this sector are around $3.2 billion, and there has been a 20 percent increase in the number of food processing businesses in the city over the last ten years. The greater Ontario area is also considered the largest food processing industry in Canada, with revenues increasing 6.2 percent since 2016.

Read More: The Top-Paying, In-Demand Industries and Jobs in Toronto 

 Top Companies in Toronto

1. Manulife

The Manulife North Tower, an impressive structure of mirrored gl

This leading international financial services group operates out of Toronto and was ranked the biggest company in Canada as of 2018—employing roughly 13,000 employees in Canada and 34,000 worldwide. It was recognized as one of Greater Toronto’s top employers in 2019 and one of Canada’s top employers for young people, as well.

Manulife boasts yearly revenue of $40.238 billion, making it one of the highest-earning Canadian companies, and has seen 29 percent growth in annual profits since 2018. These positive changes moved the organization up the Fortune Global 500 list by 144 places in 2018, and it continues to expand today.

2. Shopify

Shopify Toronto

Shopify is an e-commerce platform based in Toronto that allows business owners to manage every aspect of their customers’ online shopping experience. According to their website, the organization is the fastest growing SaaS company to reach $1 billion in revenue. They anticipate a continued above-average expansion rate with plans to double the number of employees in Toronto by 2022. It was also ranked number six on Glassdoor’s list of Best Places to Work in Toronto and is known for its emphasis on positive company culture. 


3. TD Bank Financial Group TD Centre Toronto

Toronto-Dominican Bank and its subsidiaries are known collectively as the TD Bank Financial  Group. Though the organization is known most prominently for its consumer-based banking, the group also offers customized private banking and wealth management services, as well as vehicle financing and commercial dealer services, insurance, and more. TD Bank Group employs more than 90,098 individuals globally, including 58,290 Canadians, and offers services to over 26 million customers. It was ranked one of 2019’s Best Places to Work in Canada and has been recognized for its sustainability leadership, as well. 

4. Top Hat

Top Hat Toronto Office


Top Hat is a tech company based in Toronto that aims to increase engagement among professors and students in higher education institutions through the use of technology. The company grew at a rate of 2,920 percent from 2011 to 2016 and is expected to continue expanding. In fact, it was named one of the fastest-growing companies in Toronto as of 2017 and is now used in 75 percent of the top 1,000 colleges and universities in North America.

5. Cluep

Cluep Office

Representing the startup culture in Toronto is the company Cluep, a mobile ad platform that uses artificial intelligence to target consumers based on what they share on social media. The organization, which was only founded in 2012, already represents over 120 popular brands across five countries. It also ranked number two on Canada Business list of the Greater Toronto Area’s Fastest Growing Companies in 2019 after seeing an 11,344 percent increase in revenue since 2014. Although the Cluep team currently employs less than 50 people, its growing notability and high revenue potential will likely lead to an array of job openings for those looking to get involved. 


Read More: 6 Top Tech Companies to Work for in Toronto

Top Jobs in Toronto

1. Software Developer

Responsibilities: Software developers are primarily in charge of developing and customizing computer systems that will perform a particular function. They work alongside systems engineers and computer programmers and are required to be familiar with standard computer languages.

Training: Some software developers can get by with a bachelor’s degree in software engineering, computer science, or information technology alongside extensive hands-on experience. Others may consider a Master of Science in Computer Science degree to remain competitive.

Toronto-Specific Salaries: Alongside substantial bonus, commission, and profit-sharing figures, software developers in Toronto make an average salary of $67,723 CAD per year compared to the average $65,038 CAD software developer salary in Canada.


2. Project Manager

Responsibilities: In general, project managers are in charge of seeing a scope of work through from conception to completion. This may require handling stakeholder relationships, overseeing a project’s budget, providing a schedule, managing deliverables, and more.

Training: Project managers must acquire a unique set of tactical skills, as well as an intricate understanding of the variety of project management methodologies they may use in their work. For this reason, many project managers choose to pursue their Master of Science in Project Management degree.

Toronto-Specific Salaries: The average project manager in Toronto earns $75,082 CAD per year compared to the average salary of $73,482 CAD per year made by project managers throughout the rest of Canada.


3. Software Engineer

Responsibilities: Software engineers work at a crux between software developers and programmers. They are in charge of ensuring that the software developed by the design team functions appropriately while also mapping out complex program functions with coders.

Training: Similar to software engineers, those with a Master of Science in Computer Science will stand out among a sea of applicants for these roles in high-demand regions like Toronto.

Toronto-Specific Salaries: The average software engineer in Toronto earns $75,328 CAD per year compared to the $72,952 CAD average annual salary that individuals in these positions earn throughout the rest of Canada.


4. Operations Manager

Responsibilities: An operations manager works to supervise the production of goods and services over a specified timeframe. Primarily this includes keeping operations functioning efficiently, monitoring customer satisfaction, developing budgets, managing safety and profit goals, and more. 

Training: A relevant master’s degree can go a long way in setting operations managers apart in a competitive job market (and in landing mid- or senior-level roles within organizations.) Those interested in this career path might consider a Master of Business Administration or a Master of Science in Project Management.

Toronto-Specific Salaries: The average Toronto-based operations manager makes an average of $69,698 CAD per year compared to the average national salary of $68,363 CAD per year.


5. Assistant Roles (Legal, Executive, Administrative)

Responsibilities: Although the duties may vary depending on the industry and level, those in assistant roles are often in charge of managing schedules, performing critical office duties, drafting documentation, handling accounting or human resources tasks, and much more. 

Training: The level of required training for an assistant role will depend on the individual’s unique scope of work, the organization they work for, and the level of the role. For example, an executive assistant often requires an associate or bachelor’s degree, while an administrative assistant role may require only a high school diploma. Those hoping to get their foot in the door with a top company in Toronto (or advance beyond an assistant-level role) might consider earning an advanced degree in an area of study relevant to the organization in order to stand out from other applicants.

Toronto-Specific Salaries: Executive assistants in Toronto make an average annual salary of $56,207 CAD, administrative assistants make $40,564 CAD, and legal assistants make $49,114 CAD—all above the national average.

Toronto’s Competitive Job Market

Quite a few factors contribute to the competitive job market in Toronto, however the most common are based in the region’s overall appeal and its attraction of top-talent from around the globe.

Although this may seem like the norm considering the influx of residents to other popular cities (such as Seattle, Charlotte, and the San Francisco Bay Area), Toronto is experiencing this at another level. This is because, unlike in America, Toronto—and all of Canada—has made it easier than ever for those living outside of the country to accept a role there.

A Closer Look: A recent article in Time explored this phenomenon, explaining that, while the United States is tightening its stance on immigration and work-visa processing, Canada has chosen to open their arms to individuals with the sets of high-level skills they need to keep local organizations thriving. The article quotes Mark Lindt, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association as saying, “Increasingly, talented international professionals choose destinations other than the United States to avoid the uncertain working environment that has resulted directly from the agency’s processing delays and inconsistent adjudications.” Canada, on the other hand, offers visa-processing in under two weeks, as well as work visas for hired individuals’ spouses.

This recent development has seen many positive outcomes for organizations in Toronto, yet it has also brought with it the need for job-seekers to find ways of standing out among the masses of qualified, global candidates applying for roles in the city. One of the best ways to take control of your future and be noticed in a competitive job market is by obtaining an advanced degree

Benefits of Studying in Toronto

Northeastern Toronto ClassroomWhen you decide to earn a graduate degree in an effort to stand out among other candidates, you may be tempted to pick the first program you encounter that seems to fit your needs. Whether that means choosing the program that is low-cost, close to your current job, offered online, etc., it’s easy to prioritize the convenience-factor above all else.

However, if your goal is to be competitive in a demanding job market, it’s important that you prioritize based on where the program is located and what career-advancement opportunities it will provide for you post-graduation, instead. Doing so will allow you to tailor the knowledge you obtain, the network you create, and the hands-on experience you gain during grad school in a way that best aligns with the needs of the particular region you wish to work in. 

Below we further explore how choosing to study in your desired city provides strategic opportunities for those hoping to gain regional success.

1) Work With Regional Organizations

Many top universities, like Northeastern, provide opportunities for graduate students to participate in hands-on learning while in school. These experiential learning opportunities—which may take the form of a co-op, internship, or work-study—allow students to apply the skills they gather in the classroom to real-world scenarios.

Spending time working with local organizations in this way is incredibly beneficial for those who choose a regional-specific program because they hope to work in the city after graduation. In doing so, students gain real-world experience to set themselves apart when applying for jobs in general, but also an unparalleled understanding of the specific needs of the organizations and industries in the area specifically. They’ll be able to make connections and learn on the job, all while observing firsthand what these employers value from their workers. Then, they can strategically work to improve where needed before entering the job market themselves.

2) Expand Your Network

Your time in a regional-specific graduate program will also provide you with the opportunity to make valuable, local industry connections. Whether you build these relationships with your professors, classmates, or active members of the industry in which you hope to someday work, the people you connect with during graduate school will help define your professional career.

Read More: 7 Networking Tips for Graduate Students

Northeastern Toronto

Your network will likely have the most obvious impact on your job options post-graduation. In workplaces today, 85 percent of roles are filled through networking. That means that, even in a competitive job market like Toronto’s, your strong network has the power to set you apart from the crowd. Whether in the form of a referral to an open position, a positive recommendation or reference, or simply an introduction to someone who works in an organization you’re interested in, having a network of people that can vouch for you will go a long way when applying to roles. What’s more, when you attend school in the location you wish to work, you are able to develop your network to include top players within both the specific industry and region in which you’re hoping to advance your career, a strategic move that will have a lasting impact on your career.

3) Hone Your Skills

Especially considering the influx of foreign, skilled professionals seeking roles in Canada, one of the most important ways you can set yourself up for success in Toronto is to actively work on refining your practical industry abilities. Through the pursuit of a graduate degree, students are given a chance to deepen their knowledge, hone their skills, and stay up-to-date with constantly evolving industry trends. Students can also tailor their education through the declaration of a concentration within their graduate program. A concentration allows students to gain skills and experiences in the niche area of work they hope to find a role in, while also ensuring they have the base-understanding of industry concepts explored in their required courses.

For Example: Those who pursue their Master of Science in Project Management at Northeastern—Toronto have the opportunity to pick from 10 concentrations within the program, including Information Security Management, Program and Portfolio Management, Construction Management, and more. Declaring a specialized concentration while in school will give students a competitive advantage when it comes to landing roles in that specific area of work after graduating. 

Consider Northeastern University—Toronto

If you’re looking to land a role in one of Toronto’s top industries or companies, consider earning your graduate degree from a location-specific university like Northeastern University–Toronto. Doing so will give you an advantage over less regionally aligned applicants by providing the relevant skills, hands-on experiences, and networking opportunities you need to stand out within this competitive job market. Take the first step toward a successful career in the thriving city of Toronto with a graduate degree from Northeastern.

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