Machine learning specialist: US 108k, Canada 53k (49%)
Embedded applications/devices developer: US 100k, Canada 53k (53%)
Systems administrator: US 90k, Canda 49k (55%)
Doubling your salary by moving south across the border is a very tempting option, especially considering that NAFTA makes it extremely easy to do so. No need to wait for an H1-B, just show up at the border with job offer & credentials in hand, assuming you've graduated college. TN visas are instant and infinitely renewable.
And I'm not trying to be argumentative, but your take on TN visas is extremely simplified. For instance software developers aren't actually allowed to have a TN visa, and instead you have to say that you're a "system analyst". Only they've actually started strictly demanding proof that you're an analyst and not a programmer, etc. Add that any single border crossing can lead to a revocation of your TN visa.
EDIT: Before more people reply with general comments, I am specifically talking about the salary claims for "ML Specialist" and embedded developers. Those numbers -- and I happen to have a good amount of reason to know this -- are ludicrously low. But yes, if you're a web developer, a generalist, etc, pay will be terrible in much of Canada, just as it's terrible in much of the US.
Then put stock in a the words of a guy who has actually looked for employment in Canada, and after the election of Trump is very incentivized to take a positive view on moving to Canada: as far as I can tell from the salaries posted, I'd take about a 50% pay cut, and I wouldn't be able to afford a house (at least not in Vancouver). Drop me in, say, Kamloops for $65K/year and maybe I'd do it. But there are few, if any, software jobs in Kamloops, or Kelowna, or much anywhere else outside Vancouver.
The biggest problem there is you have to be OK living in a place like Waterloo, which is great if you like suburbs and want lots of space, not so great of you're into city living.
(seriously, their headquarters are there)
The Okanagan is actually a great area to live in as far as tech goes in Canada.
What are the big tech names around there these days?
Would might net worth be slightly higher if I had stayed in the US? Yes, because I spent around $30k to get established (that was also a personal choice, I needed a break after a rough startup go between '98-2005.
I, too, like BC, but SW Ontario has more jobs.
Software engineer (Canada): $51,000 (C$70,000)
Software engineer (US): $80,825
The gap here is smaller ($30k vs. $50k) but still significant. And I'm not trying to be argumentative, but I'm more inclined to believe two surveys than a random person's claim.
So yeah, a lower dollar is somewhat bad for employees who see some of their costs go up (in CAD) due to the exchange rate, as well as those who are planning to spend their earnings in other countries. It's also bad for companies that need to import goods. Of course it's good for companies that export goods, especially those with costs (like employee salaries!) paid in CAD. If the dollar stays low (in a relative sense) for long enough, these things tend to be pulled back into equilibrium, but they never move as fast as currencies can fluctuate.
I haven't researched the historical averages and correlated them with exchange rates, but I have been employing software developers in Canada for around 8 years now and so have kept current on market rates. In my experience, currency fluctuations, even on the order of 25-30%, have very little impact on market salaries.
Healthcare, stability and democracy (sans land/house prices) make up a lot for this.
Healthcare: We're talking about tech jobs. The healthcare coverage you will get from any tech company paying 6 figures is going to be essentially zero cost full coverage.
Stability: I have no idea what you are even talking about here, but it would be pretty hard to refer to the US as unstable from the perspective of someone working in a tech job. I suspect you pay too much attention to click-bait news and not enough talking to people that live here?
Democracy: again, what is this even referring to? The fact that the US is a republic? That's a pretty weak argument when comparing to a monarchy.
This is not always the case, especially for small startups. I know engineers who make 6 figures in small startups and pay $1K a month for Health insurance for family of 2 young people.
I think what OP refers to is stability of financial markets. Canada does not have major financial crisis every decade or so, that wipes out half of your 401K and real estate value.
>> Democracy: again, what is this even referring to? The fact that the US is a republic? That's a pretty weak argument when comparing to a monarchy.
Canada is not monarchy, it is "Federal parliamentary representative democracy under a constitutional monarchy", so essentially Canada has parliamentary form of government.
Also per my understanding they do not have electoral college. US has wired and extremely complex election system. In last elections Democratic candidate received 3M more votes, yet she lost election and Republicans control both House and Senate. Similarly Al Gore lost elections to Bush.
That's not been my experience. Microsoft used to offer a 100% plan, but that was unusual, and they dropped it a few years back. (Don't remember exactly when; I'd already left.) Google did not have a 100% plan, and no startup I've worked for has done better - in fact the startup I'm working for right now has no health plan at all.
All in all I don't really think it's a useful point of comparison when considering compensation between the two countries.
US politics are pretty terrible.
If any relevant number of people left you would know someone anecdotally at a minimum or be impacted in your tech company.
So, point is, you might not see a sudden movement but it might still be there.
a) Engineering is covered by TN visas, but you have to have an actual engineering degree. Claim you're a software engineer and they have every right to deny the CS grad.
b) Programming is not covered. This is simple fact of NAFTA. It's a process where applicants are told to be super careful with the wording (sort of like saying you're "going to meetings" when crossing the border for work related things), and at most the actual allowance is for a software analyst that does a small amount of programming.
In the Trump era antagonism towards NAFTA, anyone who buys this notion that it's all automatic is fooling themselves. And once you have a TN visa, that is zero guarantee -- any single border guard can reject it, at any time.
Not true at all. BSc in Computer Science is perfectly fine for Software Engineering jobs.
Look up NAFTA Appendix 1603.D.1
> b) Programming is not covered. This is simple fact of NAFTA. It's a process where applicants are told to be super careful with the wording (sort of like saying you're "going to meetings" when crossing the border for work related things), and at most the actual allowance is for a software analyst that does a small amount of programming.
That's true. But seriously is there anyone hiring "computer programmer" these days?
>>And once you have a TN visa, that is zero guarantee -- any single border guard can reject it, at any time.
True. Remember to carry all your paperwork with you whenever you cross the boarder.
Small correction. "Software engineer" has been a valid TN category since the early (?) 90s.
At the end of the day, those 'low' salaries are only low relatively. They are more than enough for most people and only a reason to move south if your main driver is money. Otherwise they're good enough.
The average Canadian house costs $585k now. That's over 10x these average Canadian tech salaries. Housing prices contributed to our decision to move from Toronto to Seattle 10 years ago. I imagine that they are even more of a motivator nowadays.
The thing about Canada is that Nafta makes it easy to move south, while in the U.K. going to the USA is not as simple.
I just had an interview fall through because I'm a Brit and it would be difficult to get me over to SF due to the visa system. Maybe I should look for a dev job in Canada? :P
I've been making more than double the median wage in my city for the last 20 years or so.
All the anecdotes still seem to point to software engineers making more than double in the US. I would love to return to Canada some day, but I'm not likely to do so until the numbers I see people post online start beginning with at least a 2 or 3.
And you have 20 years experience? If you are good, you could be making 4x this in the Bay Area. Or more,
In the larger cities, salaries have really gone up in the last few years.
This is false. I say this as someone with a TN visa, which I use to visit my employer a few times a year.
The TN application process is onerous and takes weeks to confirm. The actual visa is indeed granted at the port of entry but can be denied - simply having the completed application doesn't guarantee anything. And you have to go through the complete application process every time you re-apply. There is no renewal application.
The best way to get it done is to work for BigCorp, Inc. whose team of lawyers will handle it for you. If you work for a smaller company or are a contractor/consultant, you'll have to hire a lawyer for a few grand. I know because I've been there too.
When I moved from Canada to the Bay Area, I accepted my job offer on a Friday evening, organized to get original transcripts from my university on Tuesday morning, FedEx'd them overnight to the law firm and they arrived on Wednesday. I received my TN-1 package (a thick, completely opaque set of forms, documents, letters and all sorts of other legal shenanigans) on Friday evening. I then bought my ticket to leave Canada the following Friday. All together it was 2 weeks from acceptance to arrival in the US.
Not every experience is the same, and no doubt it would have been far harder had my company not pipelined my immigration through a very prominent and large law firm.
That being said, the fact that I can be denied entry in the US at any time scares me. It scares my company. It's no secret it's expensive to hire, and even more expensive to hire new talent to replace talent that cannot enter the country. I say this as a young, educated professional with no criminal history or ties. I shouldn't have to worry about this.
takes weeks to confirm
For example, I used to live in Fukuoka, a mid-sized Japanese city, and now live in Tokyo. A nice 2BDR in Fukuoka downtown would cost (say) U$600 per month. My salary in Tokyo is about double of what I could earn in Fukuoka, but an equivalent place in Tokyo would cost me way over $1200. So I don't live in downtown, and I choose to live in a smaller place. But it's not like everything costs twice as much as in Fukuoka. Food is a bit more expensive, not twice as much. A smartphone costs pretty much the same wherever you are in Japan. Traveling abroad also costs the same (or less in Tokyo, since you usually need one fewer leg). More importantly, if I keep my savings rate the same (savings/income), I can save much more money in absolute terms; I don't have to retire in Tokyo, so it is definitely worth the save more.
Beyond that, there's also the issue of schooling. That tends to be a nightmare for people in the Bay Area, due to the districting policies. Many Bay Area parents opt for private schooling, further adding to the expense.
How about, you know, basic empathy? (Unless you have some reason to believe that DCFS has unreasonably high standards here?)
No. I was never advocating for raising children in cramped conditions. Remember, the person I was arguing with lumped family into "other stuff".
I live in Waterloo. I've seen more than one person on HN argue that you should leave as soon as you get your degree here. I don't want to do that. I think Waterloo has some wonderful neighbourhoods for raising children, complete with top notch public schools within walking distance. The real estate prices here are not nearly as bad as Toronto, let alone SF. Even if you could make 3 times as much working in the Bay Area as you could here; I would assert that it's easier to buy a 3BR house here, have 2 kids, get them both into university and keep them healthy the entire time than it would be in SF.
If you used to live in a nice 1BR condo, you could definitely move to SF and spend an extra $20k/year in housing and still come out way ahead.
If you used to live in 3br house with a backyard and garage, you definitely won't be able to maintain that in SF.
In order to hire relatively talented people, the salaries were (even in 2007) no where near what you are describing.
When I resigned in 2014 the lowest paid developer on a 30 person team might have been making around $80k. Typically salaries were between $88 and $110.
While there are a large number of Canadians that have gone to the US to work, I regularly encounter Americans in tech that have come here. Sure, it's anecdotal.
My taxes are only slightly more than I paid in Wisconsin, and likely on par with California. And for that I always have some level of basic healthcare, even if I lose my job. Plus, the government tries harder for its citizens here.
Software Developer $80,947
Software Engineer $96,600
Software Engineer $93,333
The averages are pulled down by lots of mediocre companies. Startups and big places like Google and IBM have salaries that are nowhere close to your numbers. Couple this with taxes here being much much lower than say the bay area, and you are doing really well living here.
The average Torontonian (in any field) earns ~$50-70k and costs here are quite high still, even if they trail San Francisco by ~30%.
To wit: on that average salary you certainly won't starve, but pick one: save money, buy a car, have a child (and that might be a stretch).
I'm a Canadian software engineer living in Canada, but I'd never consider working for a Canadian or US company here and earning Canadian dollars - it just makes no sense. I work remote only (these days only part-time.) It isn't such a great deal as it used to be for me now that I have to pay Canadian taxes, but it was bloody fantastic when I used to live in Panama and legally paid no tax of any kind other than 7% sales tax.
as well as higher taxes and rapidly rising real-estate prices in both Vancouver and Toronto
But high earners pay lower taxes in California because the higher brackets are lower and they can purchase a home (interest portion of mortgage is tax deductible).
I'm Canadian though, so I don't have to deal with the long-armed-fingers-in-my-pockets embrace of Uncle Sam. Every other country in the world is sensible enough to only tax residents.
To be non-resident you have to spend at least half the year outside the country and have no residential ties to Canada like property, dependents, bank accounts, health insurance, etc.
Not so the USA, which has a claim on all money earned by Americans world-wide. There's a ~U$100k earnings exemption (so many people aren't paying much tax back to the USA), but high-earning USA expats are in a different tax-world from their overseas colleagues.
Not for Mexicans, as I found out the hard way. I tried doing this to come to Canada, but since Mexicans at the time needed an entry visa, I had to leave the country for a month and apply for a work visa in NYC. It was pretty frustrating for me because I read and re-read all the documents I had to read, and everything seemed to say I could just walk into Canada with my NAFTA-relevant job offer.
On the other hand, the Canadian border guard at Toronto was very nice to me, said I had to figure out my visa status and let me in anyway on a 1-month temporary visa, to give me time to go to NYC and fix my visa status.
There are people in the Valley who specialize in tracking every twist and turn of what visa policies are like this year.
Also, I'm assuming those numbers are converted to USD. Even if they look lower, you have to consider what kind of lifestyle the salary buys you where you are earning it.
In my experience, the real reason people leave isn't so much salary, as lack of opportunities.
Of course, Trump has said before he's not a huge fan of NAFTA either, so...
The developers I know that are worth their chops have all taken remote US contracts. I'm looking to do the same because local companies just can't compete with the work available nor wage.
Additionally, sales tax is high relative to the US. IIRC GST in Toronto was around 15% when I was there last summer.
Of course, in practice, no sane company is going to abuse this to the extreme. People do get stat holidays, overtime isn't usually used, etc.
I attribute it to some kind of watch-goliath-fall fantasy. That has been amplified dramatically since Trump got elected. Since then, a couple dozen countries are now supposedly candidates to swipe a lot of tech talent away from the US. Nothing will come of it; even more high-skilled talent will actually make it to the US thanks to reforming the H-1B back to what it was supposed to be. Inbound, substantial corporate tax cuts will increase the power of the magnet luring start-ups to US shores.
Berlin - startup capital of Europe. Strong education system, low cost of living, dev salaries are held down by immigration from, and proximity to, Eastern Europe. Possible synergy with German automotive and manufacturing industries.
Shenzhen: global manufacturing hub, access to Chinese-speaking World. Major support from Chinese government. Possible synergy with supply chain, manufacturing, and logistics.
London: English speaking, global financial capital. Drawbacks include immigration questions and small population.
Toronto seems to be based largely on proximity to the US with a better healthcare and immigration system, plus the university of Waterloo.
Not sure what the obvious rationale would be for Vancouver or Chicago.
Why do people think they will be the next SV?
Maybe Chicago could be a contender?
Shopify came out of Ottawa, but it's the only one. A Rails dev in Ottawa is usually either working for Shopify or is unemployed.
We are, however, woefully under-represented with experienced seed stage investors, as the author states. The few that are here have abandoned seed and pre seed and are exclusively VC, mid to late round investors. Can't blame them, either, as the wins are still few and far between.
Vancity seems to excel at bridging H1B visas for large firms hoping to cycle them into the US once they've cleared. Candidates get here easier and quicker.
We're also a cost effective labour farm, and our devs are happy for the work to help pay for their ridiculous mortgages.
Great city to live in, worst city to fundraise, good place to launch and validate, and really nice for avoiding the noise.
We'll see a unicorn or two in the coming years. They'll just go a much different path than the typical SV startup.
In the suburbs maybe.
Just had a convo with a NYC venture friend who was raised here in Vancity and his quote was revealing. He said the stink of the VSE resource pump and dump era is still prevalent.
I've been approached by 3 different groups trying to list us pre launch here in town. When that's the culture of the investment scene, it's tough to make anything great.
I have no idea how accurate the opinion is that this affects raising funding.
It's not the only challenge the city has, there are a myriad of forces at play, and some are positive. Best way to fix it is to get more startups earning more customers and growing locally. Nothing stopping them from doing that, just wont be as fast as SV is all.
A lot of these press releases come from top down incentives, tax cuts, special programs and such that. The problem is they fail to capture all the reasons and causes a startup center is a startup center.
One thing might help is to start war for example and have the Canadian defense ministry invest heavily in war technologies and hand out cash to develop radars :-) or other such non-obvious things.
I don't think a startup scene in a city is ever going to really blow up when sticking around in that city is giving up the possibility of building any kind of future for yourself.
Everybody I know who's worth half a damn moved to Seattle.
The prairies: "Is Fargo the next up-and-coming startup center?"
At any rate I'm very skeptical of the Montreal claims. It is a wonderful place to visit, but all of my Canadian non-native French speaking friends eventually found that their career opportunities were limited and the culture was simply too hostile to non-Quebecois and so they relocated away.
Everything pointed out in the comments about low pay, and high cost of living in Vancouver is true. However, let's look of it from another angle. If you were a young college grad with options, wouldn't you want to go to sunny California? Not only is it an adventure, there's better night life, better sports teams, the glory of the valley, and on top of that, higher pay. It's really a no brainer for some.
Toronto is definitely a better environment and I can see it blossoming more and more. I know a couple of Founders there and they love it. I would go there myself in the future, except for family ties in the west coast.
Just my 2 cents.
The higher pay is the ONLY reason to move to Silicon Valley. It has nothing on Vancouver or Toronto in terms of night life, food, or fun for a college-educated professional.
I am not saying Toronto is not a great city to live and work and start a business.
But if it has all these things going for it, why isn't it producing startup value per capita like SV? Doesn't this show that these things are not enough for a startup scene? Or, to put it another way, having startups is not essential for a great city.
First they will tell you it's impossible to succeed without them. Very aggressively so. Then, if you sign on, they will tell you that you can't succeed unless you move to Silicon Valley. They'll connect you with dozens of experienced people all chanting the same mantra. Eventually most people succumb to it.
But it not scientific. It's not "proof" of any sort. It's simply a very well funded agenda to keep Silicon Valley as the king of innovation. I don't blame them, it's a good strategy, but it's also one very rarely discussed or even recognized.
There are a number of startups here, but there are also many community/social innovation hubs and organizations that draw in a lot of people who come here to start something up.
The number of jobs I have seen posted for the "Next Flipp!" the "Next Uber!!!" is outstanding. How many flyer-aggregate apps do people really need? There's an odd lack of creative capital in business for a city that prides itself on the arts.
I think some of that is due to social pressures. Many in the arts here, at least the people who would need the money, seem to think earning any real money is evil unless you earned your $10.50 an hour working on the line in a diner kitchen. As if a financially successful business is inherently a corrupt business.
Other organizations like Enterprise Toronto seem like great ideas to bolster people in theory, but (speaking only from my experience) it seems to attract people who want to only run their quaint one-man dev-designer gig with enough money to do what they want, and all the free time to do it. Sounds kind of nice, but the city is flooded with people who have the same dream. (Maybe there's more space for it these days, and maybe I should get in on it).
Your last paragraph raises very good questions, and the answers are probably too many: the best talent goes to California/New York/Boston(/Waterloo?), or otherwise the best talent here doesn't get into business but stays in academics. Some of the highest capital here seems to be made through selling to American companies. Then of course the social factors I mentioned: it might just be that the dream is a little different for a lot of people who come here. They didn't necessarily come to strike it big with a company, but more for the culture of the place. Like you put it: having startups is not essential for a great city.
edit: I should add the obligatory MaRS is an awesome resource comment. https://www.marsdd.com/
I work for a company that sometimes deals with other smaller startups but they can be fleeting in lifespan.
I would love to find something viable to join in on vs. the enterprise environment I find myself in now. Though I honestly haven't had my ear to the ground as much lately.
The companies that get that far will typically come out of other places where they aren't stifled by the conservative VCs/angels eager for an exit like they are in Toronto.
I'm not suggesting by this that Vancouver isn't an up-and-coming startup center. Just commenting on the extreme desire I see all around to be like SV.
> but many countries of similar stature — G7 nations, for example — dismiss the Great White North as nothing more than America’s top hat
Canada is one of the G7 nations. Or did you mean the other 6 don't care about Canada?
Can you please just not bother writing about my country anymore.
Living in one of the cities, sub-zero might have an impact but I don't think it's the brain drain main reason. For aspiring founder, I think it's more related to insufficient founding. For engineers, I think the very low salaries is more to blame. Even if cost of living is a bit lower, the difference makes no sense at all.
The Bay Area is strange in that well-funded startups can actually hire top talent at below-market rates because quite frankly a ton of these ex-Googlers really have more money than they know what to do with. They just want a new adventure.
That being said, I'm a product of the public schooling system in Scarborough/Markham. Which could possibly have the best free public schools in North America.
I know few Campbell guys
A lot of places pay easily ~ 60% to 80% of market average, and ~ 30% to 60% of market peak.
With any student loans that puts you at paycheck to paycheck if you want to rent an apartment, take transit, eat healthy, wear new clothing, get a decent haircut regularly, buy a computer/parts/software once in a while, and socialize. I'm not saying one needs all of these all of the time, but it's a typical adult lifestyle to do so.
But that theory made so much sense!
1 - https://www.mentorworks.ca/what-we-offer/government-funding/
That's probably the case for other Provinces too.
I would take lower taxes over a grant most days.
Or is it that your experience with grants are that negative that you value them so poorly?
They talk about how great MaRS is and how much revenue it has generated... but in reality MaRS has been an issue and has had hundreds of millions in bailout money.
The only notable and interesting stories are when the articles compare absolute investment amounts, tech GDP growth, IPOs, open tech jobs or other real measurable comparisons. This seems to be lacking any of these deeper comparison to actually non-trivially show how this area is really the "up-and-coming startup center" of North America.
Vancouver is found in British Columbia (BC), amongst the Rocky Mountains on Canada’s west coast.
The actual Rocky Mountains are much more east at the BC/AB border.
*edit, added Coast Mountains
And speaking of rocks, the hike up the Yosemite Half Dome, just an hour by car from downtown Vancouver is really nice.
* AI/ML Scientists (UBC, SFU) , Typically MS/PhD: C$85K-125K
* Web developers: ranges from 60K (mediocre) to 110K (very good), the exceptional are nearly impossible to find.
* Database/Backend : C$80K-100K for the good to very good talent.
I would expect Toronto to have similar salary ranges, Waterloo and Montreal might be a bit lower.
It enabled a lot of risk taking.
I don't think you could call any major Canadian city cheap.
So how does it build up an ecosystem? Maybe if all the VCs etc get chased out of the US?
Not saying he's necessarily wrong about any of this though, I wouldn't know.
But there is a significant difference in the number of job offers:
USA: ~5000 https://jobsquery.it/jobs;page=1;tags=;sortBy=PUBLISHED_AT_D...
CANADA: ~100 https://jobsquery.it/jobs;page=1;tags=;sortBy=PUBLISHED_AT_D...
They are Delaware corporations, aren't they?
Also you could be sarcastic, hard to tell.
Also, shocking news - I use my left hand the second most often of all my hands.
A better, and overused, title would be "Canada is poised to be the next startup center" or something.
11 degree water, on the other hand, is like out of the cold water tap. Not so great for outdoor activity. Add to that the windchill factor if you're running or cycling.
Clear, sunny weather and -3 degrees is better than pouring rain and 11 degrees.
Staying warm isn't much of an issue for outdoor activity. It's not hard to achieve: an extra layer, some head gear and gloves; being dry is more important.
Toronto has MARS and DMZ and 111 Richmond are a few places to start off. I'd rather take Waterloo over that any day. The real-estate in Toronto is just insane.
Neither Toronto nor Waterloo has the VC's of Sand Hill Road, so if you're on the fund raising track, Waterloo being an hour away makes no difference.
So yea, I'd still opt for Waterloo, just my opinion, others will likely disagree.