Canadian Business Undergraduate Programs

Around this time of year, university applications are submitted from thousands of students across the country. Some fancy a degree in life or health sciences, aiming to make their parents proud and emerge as a doctor in 7–10 years (depending on whether they get into med school on their 1st, 2nd, or 5th attempt), while others prefer to explore their interests in world religions, gender study, and the art of mixing drinks at Starbucks; the terrible fate for many with this degree (but not all!).

For student that just can’t stomach physics and intense math, studying business is often a great alternative to engineering. Money is always a motivator, and with job opportunities in finance, marketing, consulting, and even entrepreneurship, business programs across Canada begin to be noticed. As an Ontarian student, I have my biases and evidently do not know everyting about Canadian undergraduate business programs. But after speaking to industry professionals and current/past business undergraduate students, I think I can safely express my opinion. So let’s begin!

Note: I will be focusing primarily on Bachelor of Commerce degrees (BComm), with the exception of a few degrees like the Bachelor of Business Administration, and a few select programs of interest. Additionally, I will not comment on aspects of the university like “student life”, and stick to recruiting/reputation.

The Giants: Ivey HBA and Queen’s Commerce

The rulers of the land, Ivey HBA and Queen’s Commerce stand out as the top choices for business undergraduate study in Canada. With recruiters from Canada and the USA in a variety of areas (primarily consulting & finance), both these schools are a safe bet for students looking to shoot above the crowd, or at least secure a great job upon graduation (average $58,000 salary).

Which is better? That depends. Ivey’s 2+2 program, where your first 2 years are in any field (BMOS, social sciences, etc) and your 3rd and 4th years are at Ivey, creates a unique undergraduate experience. Queen’s Commerce, however, builds a strong foundation through 4 years of business, the first 2 being foundation years, and the 3rd and 4th years for specialization. At the end of the day, it’s whatever suits your fancy.

The Monarchs: Rotman Commerce and Desautels Management

Sorry, who? Hosted by Canada’s top two universities, the University of Toronto (Rotman) and McGill University (Desautels), one would assume that prestige along would carry these programs far… And that’s about all that carries them.

Recruiting for both schools is decent, but not comparable to Queen’s or Ivey. The fact that Desautels considers nothing either than your grades is a huge flaw, and gives you an idea of what type of students attend. However, it is worth mentioning that Toronto and Montreal are full of opportunities, and if you can escape the bubble of your university, success awaits!

The Accountables: Schulich iBBA and Waterloo AFM

York University is not known for a whole lot, but the Schulich School of Business is. The iBBA, or International Bachelor of Business Administration, is a fairly selective program with a promising career path for those interested in accounting, as the Big 4 (EY, KPMG, PwC, and Deloitte) all recruit from Schulich. Their marketing program is also starting to pick up speed; a relatively unknown sector in business, while those interested in consulting and finance will have a hard time getting recognized.

Waterloo Accounting and Financial Management (AFM) is widely regarded as the best program for accounting in Canada. Their unique co-op structure will place you far ahead of the game, with 2nd year students already interning with Ernst & Young (EY) and other top companies.

Rising Powers: Wilfred Laurier BBA and Ryerson Commerce

Were you unable to get the high 80/low 90 that is often a prerequisite for top business programs? Never fear, the Rams and Goldenhawks are here! Laurier’s BBA is a 2nd tier program, with good placements at firms like MNP for accounting, and business analyst jobs at P&G, Pepsico, and other great companies. Their co-op program also provides interesting opportunities, should you desire to pursue that route.

Ryerson University, or Ry-High (school), has had a tough time shaking off its reputation as a polytechnic institution, and not a premier university. However, their commerce program is gaining speed. Located at the heart of Toronto, Ryerson Commerce students have exposure to numerous firms and internships hidden in Toronto. The Digital Media Zone, Ryerson’s startup accelerator, is highly reputable and provides interesting opportunities within the entrepreneurship realm.

Francofantastic: HEC Montreal

Unfortunately, with the majority of Canada being anglophones, HEC Montreal does not gain a lot of respect from most students. However look at any recognizable ranking (i.e. Macleans) and you’ll see HEC near the top. The program is for francophones, and therefore mainly attracts students from Quebec. From what I’ve heard from my quebecois friends, recruiting is good and the program is top for recruting into Montreal-based firms.

West Coast Wonder: UBC Sauder Commerce

The University of British Columbia is internationally renown, as the 3rd best university in Canada. Sauder’s undergraduate commerce, unlike McGill and UofT, has built reputation that is not dependent on the master’s programs or research of the university. Being the most credible business school outside Ontario, Sauder has many coveted job opportunities with Vancouver-based companies, access to its startup field, and not to mention very close proximity to the growing metropolitan hub of Calgary.

Notable Mentions: Brock BBA, uCalgary Haskayne, uOttawa Telfer

Brock University is far from a top school, but claims a 3rd tier spot among business programs. Banks like RBC, TD, and BMO are starting to notice this hidden gem, through the help of generous alumni donations from Ned Goodman, an investment expert. They also portray a “big fish, small pond” mentality, where top students have numerous opportunities to excel given the quality of their classmates. International exchanges and conference subsidies (up to $2000) make Brock a palatable program.

The University of Calgary is not the premier option for Ontarian students, but has significant reputation out west. As mentioned previously, with Calgary being a growing city and numerous firms re-locating their headquarters there (i.e. MNP), Haskayne might not be all that bad. Give it 5 years and we’ll see where they are at.

What’s there to say about the University of Ottawa’s Telfer School of Management? Not much, except that their french immersion program opens doors on the national stage for jobs, and that Ottawa is the capital of our country. Their international program is slowly gaining credibility, but realistically they’re a long ways out.

The Others: If you can’t get into the above schools, you’re better off getting an MBA down the road, and/or switching into business from a Bachelor of Arts. Keep in mind, undergraduate students from any university in their 2nd year can apply for Ivey HBA, though spots are limited. Don’t give up hope!