Did you know Canada is the second-largest country in the world? Yep, right after Russia!
In Canada, eight hours in the car is a light Sunday drive.
With its size comes diverse geography, from Banff National Park in the West to Montmorency Falls in the East.
Keep this size and diversity in mind as you plan your gap year in Canada. There’s an overwhelming amount to see, so take your time!
While many jobs are seasonal, winter and summer are equally busy. The variety of seasonal and temporary jobs in Canada means you can be creative with how you spend your gap year.
Regardless of how you choose to spend your time in Canada, prepare yourself for a year of beauty and culture.
What’s a Gap Year?
The term “gap year” refers to a year off from school or work to do something different. It’s most common for students taking time off from school, people graduating high school or college or people transitioning careers.
Numerous programs are designed to streamline the process of moving abroad for gap year travelers. Organizations help you with visas and paperwork, as well as provide a support network while you’re away from home.
When planning your gap year, there are two main things to consider: The type of job you want and type of visa you need.
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What Visa Do I Need for a Gap Year in Canada?
Your work visa in Canada depends on where you’re from, what skills you have and how long you plan to stay.
Typically, visas aren’t limited to one location. You can stay in one place for the whole year or see a few different regions using the same permit.
Most types of Canadian work visas, other than those designed for students or youth, require an offer of employment from within the country first. Check the Government of Canada’s immigration and citizenship page for more information.
Student and Youth Visas
Canada is excited to welcome young travelers and students.
The Canadian Working Holiday Visa is available to students and youth between ages 18 and 35, provided they hold a passport from a country that has an agreement with Canada.
Working Holiday Visas allow people to enter Canada without a previous offer of employment. You can find a job after entering the country. For most people on this visa, travel is their first priority and work is second.
Most American youths don’t know that they can spend a full year in Canada, too! Just apply for the IEC Canadian Work Permit. But submit your application early—permits are limited!
Legal Market Option (LMO) Work Permits
If you already have a job offer and plan to travel independently, you can apply for a Canadian work permit using the LMO.
Basically, this means you have an economically viable skill in high demand in Canada.
This visa is more difficult to obtain than a Working Holiday Visa. However, it’s a solid option if you’re older, and it can be used to establish permanent residency in the future.
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Work Permit
Residents of the United States or Mexico can apply for work visas under the terms of NAFTA.
This option is only viable for certain professions. But the list is a varied one, and not all the jobs require certification or training.
You might take this route if you’re focused on career development. There’s the possibility of internships and co-operative programs based on your specific interests and skills.
Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) Program
This is an unlikely choice for gap year students, as it’s usually reserved for highly trained professionals. But you never know!
The FSW is a type of visa used to determine permanent residency for immigrants who already have job offers.
If you plan to stay in Canada long-term after school and have a job in high demand, this could be a good option.
From Quebec to Manitoba: The Best Jobs for Your Gap Year in Canada
Canada is organized into five regions according to geography and provincial boundaries.
English is the most widely spoken language, but many Canadian communities prioritize French as the main language. Fluency in both French and English might be mandatory to qualify for some jobs or to obtain a visa to work in these areas.
If you want to work in a French-speaking area, try FluentU free for 15 days to brush up on your language skills. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers and news reports—and teaches you the local language!
Learn with FluentU before your trip to prepare, then keep watching videos to impress locals throughout your gap year.
You can also combine your gap year activities with a French learning program.
Many jobs in Canada are seasonal, so you can narrow your choices by winter or summer activities. But if you still want ideas for how to spend your gap year, keep reading!
1. The Atlantic Region: Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick
Did you think Quebec was Canada’s only French-speaking region? Think again! The provinces making up the East Coast are fully bilingual.
French language skills aren’t essential to work here, but they’ll definitely open up more opportunities.
Winters are cold and snowy while summers are cool and wet. Although the region is relatively small compared to the rest of Canada, the range of jobs is diverse.
The various historic buildings and natural parks of the Atlantic region are most active during summer.
Several gap year packages focusing on Eastern Canada are reserved for the warm summer months. A prime example is the Canada Road Trip offered by Gapyear.com, which starts in Central Canada and concludes on the East Coast.
Gap year students can experience the thrill of a lifetime on the Atlantic Ocean with a semester at sea through the Ocean Passages program, which starts on the Canadian side of the border.
Tourism and Service Industry Jobs
The Atlantic Region’s scenery and history make it a popular tourist destination throughout the year. That means plenty of tourists are frequenting bars and restaurants!
Apply during the summer or fall if you’re traveling on a Working Holiday Visa and looking for work in the hospitality industry.
2. The Central Region: Quebec and Ontario
Also known as the Snow Belt, the heart of Canada is known for its humidity no matter the season. It’s either the ski hill in the winter or the cottage by the lake in the summer.
This is the place for people who love the outdoors. On the other hand, Toronto is the biggest city in the country and has everything you would expect from a major metropolitan center.
Quebec is the only Canadian province that openly prioritizes the French language, but Ontario’s capital region is also fully bilingual.
It would be wise to brush up on your French language skills if you plan to spend your year in this part of the country. Most jobs require at least a basic knowledge of French.
Quebec First recruits international applicants for specific positions and accepts CVs primarily in French. A huge plus of working with this agency is that it offers help with visas and work permits!
If you’re here in winter, you’re here for the snow. The avalanche of choices might overwhelm you.
Programs with Ski le Gap (Ski the Gap) combine French language lessons with a ski and snowboarder instructor’s course, making it easier to get a visa and find work on the hills.
Entertainment and Tech Development Jobs
Media of all kinds is a thriving concern here, with news, television and video games as popular as ever in the current economy.
Examples include gap year study programs and internships like the ones offered by Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE). Take a summer or semester and learn to be socially savvy in Toronto.
Natural Resources Jobs
Limited to the rural parts of Ontario, this is an ideal choice for those who want to get a closer look at Canada’s Boreal Forest. Wilderness guides and camp counselors are in high demand in cottage country.
USIT Ireland is one of many organizations that focuses on placing gap year participants in various camp jobs in Canada throughout the summer.
Education and Training
Montreal hosts most of the gap year programs that include learning French. There’s also a handful of opportunities in rural areas, small towns, Quebec City and Atlantic Canada.
CEC Séjours Linguistiques (CEC Linguistic Stays) is one summer program for gap year visitors that combines French classes with full immersion in Quebecois culture.
Business and Entrepreneurship Jobs
A busy hub of international commerce and transportation, Toronto is an ideal venue for an entrepreneur.
Gapyear.com offers a program that combines training in the finer points of business with an extended stay in one of North America’s most business-centric environments.
3. The Prairie Provinces: Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta
This region is more diverse than the rest of Canada gives it credit for, despite the smaller population and less dramatic geography. The seasons here are dry, with warm summers and a bitter wind chill in the winter.
Most jobs in this area are agricultural in nature. Other disciplines include design, media and engineering the farther west you go.
Western Alberta is the most economically rich area in the region. It’s home to economic powerhouse cities like Calgary and tourist areas in the nearby Rocky Mountains.
French language skills are emphasized in the southern half of Manitoba, which is the cultural heart of the Métis Nation.
Alberta is the place to go if you’re looking for a job in this field.
Recruitment agencies such as Randstad list job openings all over Canada, and many of them are in the Prairie Provinces.
Jobs are often in remote locations. Availability depends on boom and bust cycles related to mining and natural resources.
Farmstay programs like those offered by Gap 360 can connect you with family farms in this region. Get ready to experience the big sky country in Alberta or Saskatchewan.
These types of gap year jobs include room and board along with authentic farm work experience, but not a regular paycheck.
Service and Tourism Jobs
Banff isn’t just the name of a ski hill. It’s one of Canada’s flagship national parks, the name of a historic hotel and resort and a bustling municipality.
This small city is a major resource hub for an otherwise isolated area.
Several gap year organizations offer a variety of jobs operating almost exclusively in and near Banff. Recruiters visit Europe and the USA regularly looking for workers.
Education and Training
The University of Brandon, Manitoba offers a program in conjunction with StudyAbroad.com designed for gap year students. Take a semester or summer course that can lead to a longer residency or permanent employment in your field of study.
This often overlooked part of Canada includes the Assiniboine River and the scenic landscape surrounding it.
4. The West Coast: British Columbia
This province is diverse enough to host virtually all types of industry and interests. Practically every gap year program has an option to spend time in British Columbia (BC).
The ecosystems are delicate and rare, ranging from warm valleys, rainy coastlines and snowy mountains.
Seasonal and Tourism Jobs
Winter is a busy time for the Rocky Mountains. The rain on the coast drives skiers, snowboarders and other powder seekers to the snowy interior. Even Vancouver Island has a mountain!
Browse the list of jobs offered by the Ultimate Work and Travel Package with BUNAC. While this company has offerings all over Canada, it has some intriguing ones at ski and mountain resorts in BC.
BC isn’t just coast and mountains. This province’s interior is home to a rich farmland famous for peaches, cheese and ice wine.
Many family farms in the interior host farmstay programs. Or you can join a seasonal harvest workforce as part of Gapwork.com.
Between July and October you can pick grapes, peaches, cherries and other fruit you might not expect to come from Canada.
BC is a veritable treasure-trove for those with wanting to work in hotels or restaurants.
The natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains draws visitors throughout the year. Oyster Worldwide posts jobs and internships for places like Whistler and Jasper. Both winter and summer jobs are available.
Employment can always be found in Vancouver and Victoria, where foodies run rampant!
Education and Training
The numerous ethnic groups in this region makes it an ideal area to study several languages. ESL study is a common endeavor for residents and visitors.
If English isn’t your native language, enroll in some classes. You can choose between academic, conversational or business English.
There are a vast array of ESL programs available in the Vancouver area. Stewart College holds ESL classes in the quaint provincial capital city, Victoria.
5. The North: Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories and Nunavut
The Arctic has been opening up to tourism, industry and other types of development in recent years. However, opportunities here are still limited compared to other parts of Canada.
The unspoiled north is a popular venue for hiking, camping, wildlife viewing and adventure travel. Most of the northern half of the country is simply inaccessible via conventional transportation.
For a brief period during autumn and spring, many northern communities are only accessible via float plane. Keep this in mind if you’re traveling independently to the north!
Winter is obviously cold, while summer is surprisingly warm and humid.
Most of the gap year programs available in this region involve enjoying and surviving the wilderness.
Education and Training
Dramatic changes in weather and daylight hours mean even fundamentals like transportation are limited.
Gap year study program,s such as NOLS Summer Semester in the Yukon, only take place in the summer due to accessibility issues.
Most jobs, activities and study programs available to gap year students are part of the tourism industry. Although there are tourists who brave the colder months, the environment is much more active in the summer.
Gap year adventurers can use their Working Holiday Visas to find hospitality or service industry jobs in heavily traveled cities of Whitehorse and Yellowknife.
If you don’t have time to see all five regions of Canada during your gap year, don’t feel bad! This country is so massive that even most Canadians never see it all.
Whether you decide to stay in one spot or spend your year traveling the country, prepare yourself for a huge adventure in a huge space.
Kristy Ambrose has been writing professionally since 2010. She dabbles in various genres, including everything from short blog posts to serialized novels. Her inspiration comes from gamers, beachcombers, foodies and of course her fellow travelers. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Victoria.