Trent University Grad Finds Better Summer Jobs And Higher Wages In The North


If you were to drive from Pickering, Ont., to Montreal, you would be facing a 507 km trip. From Ottawa to Thunder Bay would be 1503 km. Toronto and Calgary are 3234 km apart.

Then there’s Yellowknife, the capital and largest city of the Northwest Territories – 5086 km away from Canada’s capital city.

That’s quite a trek – one that ensures you can’t easily scoot between the two in order to make it to all the patio birthday parties you had planned for the summer.

There’s no denying that living up north is likely far away from your home. However, if you’re looking for a change of pace and a way to make some big bucks in between school years or following graduation once you have student loans looming over your head, uprooting to the north just might have more benefits than you were anticipating.

Eilish McMahon, a recent Trent University graduate with a Bachelor of Arts, spent two summers living and working up north as an Experience Summer Program Co-ordinator for the NWT Council for Persons with Disabilities, and had an easy time pointing out the benefits of that lifestyle.

“Wages and opportunity are the biggest things,” she says. The job she held in Yellowknife would require at least one or two degrees in that field for the same position elsewhere in Canada. She was able to gain valuable and resume-worthy experience that she might not have been able to get in other parts of Canada. Speaking of which, and speaking to one of the greatest dilemmas faced by students today…

You can be a teacher in the north (right away)

Anyone looking to get into education will definitely find more opportunity in the north than anywhere else. “They are always hiring teachers there,” Eilish says. “Period.”

Teachers also make more money in the north. The average annual salary for an elementary school teacher in Ontario is $37,147. Conversely, the salary for the same position in Dawson, Yukon, is $42,304. Plus, depending on the community you’re living in, you may also receive some sort of northern allowance, ranging anywhere from an additional $3,200 to $20,000 per year.

Wages are higher in the north

For those of you who are not looking for classroom experience, there is still monetary incentive to commit to some time up north: a secretary with zero years of experience in the Northwest Territories can fetch an average hourly wage of $16.37. The same position in Toronto earns an average hourly wage of $12.90. That wage is even lower in Nova Scotia, at $11.46 per hour.

A retail sales associate in Dawson, Yukon, will make an average of $11.68 per hour. In Toronto, the average hourly income for the same position is $10.28; in Calgary, it’s $10.15.

In terms of where to live while experiencing life up north, often your workplace will help you find accommodations or will have staff accommodations, especially for entry level positions.

The lifestyle – and the scenery – is unparalleled

The benefits of living in the north don’t end with wages. The place itself is definitely something to be experienced. Eilish says, “Living here was one of the only times I’ve woken up in the morning and seen the view and thought to myself, ‘This is exactly where I want to be.’ Everywhere else, I’m like, ‘Ugh, what time is it?’”

The atmosphere in the territories is also something to be experienced. It’s an extremely easy-going and environmentally-conscious lifestyle. “I mean, people actually go canoeing on their lunch breaks,” Eilish says. That definitely beats sitting in a stuffy lunch room re-reading the same newspaper you browsed on your way to work.

Whether you’re unsure of what to do with yourself post-graduation, looking for a way to pay off some student debt or simply jonesin’ for a new (and beneficial) experience, consider spending some time in the territories. It might be 5,086 kilometers away, but this distance may end up being small compared to how far the benefits of this lifestyle can take you.

Oh – there’s also the Northern Lights.

Need I say more?

Photo credit: Image Editor

About the author

Leah Ruehlicke works in video production, living in a tiny apartment in Toronto with bad water pressure and an amazing book collection. Follow her on @LeahRuehlicke.