- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Ottawa Guide (PDF)
Ottawa prides itself on being a global centre for learning and now boasts one of the most educated workforces in Canada, thanks to substantial investment in schools and universities. Ottawa also offers some of the highest average salaries in the country. Expats will also find that the city's unemployment rate is fairly low and stable.
Despite this, competition for well-paid jobs is quite fierce, and it is therefore best to secure a suitable role before moving to Ottawa.
Job market in Ottawa
As Canada’s capital and seat of power, Ottawa’s biggest employer is the federal government. Canadian citizens usually get first preference for government jobs, though. Expats typically find work in one of the many major national institutions, foreign embassies and non-profit organisations.
Ottawa is also a thriving business and technology hub, with sectors such as health, social services, education, manufacturing and tech leading the charge.
Expats should note that fluency in French or English is a requirement for working in Ottawa. Proficiency in both will be advantageous.
Finding a job in Ottawa
A good starting point for finding a job in Ottawa is online. Job portals and social-networking sites, such as LinkedIn, are valuable resources where expats can research the local job market and apply for work.
Expats looking for jobs in Ottawa may face some obstacles, including the language barrier, having no previous work experience in Canada, and possible complications of having their skills and foreign qualifications recognised by Canadian employers.
That said, Ottawa supports expats in overcoming these 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 created a Foreign Credential Recognition programme to evaluate qualifications achieved abroad and helps internationally-trained workers transition into the Canadian workforce.
Expats moving to Ottawa should be aware that the province of Ontario requires a licence to work in specific sectors. Professionals who are teachers, healthcare providers, architects, social workers and engineers will need to obtain the relevant licence or certificate to practise in the city, along with a work permit, before applying for a position.
New arrivals should note that regardless of their industry, anyone working in Ottawa needs to have a Social Insurance Number (SIN).
Work culture in Ottawa
As Canada's political hub, Ottawa's work culture is often thought of as bureaucratic and inflexible. This couldn't be further from the truth, as the city has earned global recognition for its fantastic work-life balance.
Workers in Ottawa enjoy an informal and relaxed work culture, though this varies across different companies and industries. Ottawa’s tech companies have a reputation for having a friendly and fun working environment where hard work is valued. Business dress across most sectors is casual or smart casual, although employees can always choose to wear more formal suits.
►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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