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Ottawa prides itself on being a global centre for learning. As a result of the city’s investment in schools, universities and other educational establishments, it now boasts one of the most highly educated workforces in the country. Furthermore, Ottawa offers some of the highest average salaries in the whole of Canada.
Expats will also find that the city’s unemployment rate is fairly low and stable. However, competition for well-paid jobs is fierce. Therefore, it is best to have secured a suitable position before relocating to Ottawa.
Job market in Ottawa
As Canada’s capital and the seat of power, Ottawa’s biggest employer is the federal government. Canadian citizens are generally given preference when it comes to government jobs. The city is also home to several major national institutions, as well as foreign embassies and non-profit organisations which employ a large number of expats.
Ottawa is a thriving business and technology hub. Other leading industries for employment include health and social services, education, high-tech industries and manufacturing.
For most jobs in Ottawa, expats will be expected to speak fluent French or English. Speaking both will be even more advantageous.
Finding a job in Ottawa
A good starting point for finding a job in Ottawa is to look online. There are many online portals where expats can look for work. Networking is also an essential element of the job search in Canada, and social networking sites such as LinkedIn are especially helpful to make connections and research the local job market.
Expats looking for jobs in Ottawa may face some obstacles, such as a language barrier, having no previous work experience in Canada, and difficulty having their skills and foreign qualifications recognised by Canadian employers.
There are facilities and services in Ottawa that assist foreigners in overcoming such challenges. For instance, several organisations offer courses in English or French as a second language. Expats will also benefit from approaching Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). ESDC has a Foreign Credential Recognition programme that evaluates qualifications achieved abroad and helps internationally-trained workers make an easier transition into the Canadian workforce.
Expats moving to Ottawa should be aware that a licence is required by the province of Ontario to work in certain sectors. Expats working in professions such as teaching, medicine, architecture, social work and engineering will need to obtain the relevant licence or certificate to practise in Ottawa, along with a work permit, before applying for a position.
New arrivals should note that regardless of their field of work, anyone working in Ottawa will be required to have a Social Insurance Number (SIN).
Work culture in Ottawa
As Canada's capital city and a political hub, Ottawa is often thought to have a bureaucratic work culture, though this varies across industries and companies. Ottawa’s tech companies have a reputation for a friendly and fun working environment, but one that also has employees working hard.
Generally, the work culture in Ottawa is informal. Business dress across most sectors is casual or smart casual, although employees can always choose to wear more formal suits if they prefer.
►Learn more about Canadian business etiquette in Doing Business in Canada
►Read Work Permits for Canada for immigration and visa information
"The federal government is the biggest employer in Ottawa and it’s notoriously hard to land a permanent position, especially as a permanent resident or with a work visa (Canadian citizens have priority). That said, there are many work opportunities with the government for consultants, scientists, etc."
Expat Juliette Giannesini chats to us about finding a job and the work culture in Ottawa in this interview.
Are you an expat living in Ottawa?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Ottawa. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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