Going to university is pricey…so doesn’t it make sense to see where you get the most bang for your buck in higher learning?  How much does  an undergrad degree cost these days?  Statistics Canada estimates the average cost in Canada to be $23,000. And this is just the price of tuition. It does not include other fees, books and supplies, or the cost of the years spent not working.

So cost of tuition aside, do grads make more money than their non university counterparts?   Research shows that six months after finishing school, grads earn an average of $43,000 a year while their cohorts who did not attend university earn an average of just $26,000.

In a paper published in February 2014, Statistics Canada estimated that the earnings premium associated with a bachelor’s degree over the 20-year period from their mid-thirties to mid-fifties ranges, on average, from $728,000 for men to $442,000 for women.

That study also found that, for both men and women, a bachelor’s degree and a college certificate are associated with more years of coverage in an employer-sponsored pension plan and fewer layoffs than a high school diploma. But lets look at how much the cost of tuition is going up before we get too excited:


Trends Moving Forward Not Looking Promising…

Tuition fees are going UP! In Ontario for example, at an average of $7,539 per term – plus increases in additional compulsory fees – adjusted for inflation, means that tuition is up 33% since 2006. Meanwhile salaries six months to two years after graduation has been flat since 2006. However, when you adjust for inflation, wages are actually down in real dollars by 11.6%.

Employment rates six months after graduation are also down considerably from 94.1% in 2006 to 87.6% in 2012. Students are paying more to get an education but getting less benefit on the job market when they graduate. Regardless, post-secondary enrollment continues to climb.

So all current stats aside, according to Workopolis, here are the degrees most likely to pay off with a job in your field:

If you are obtaining education specifically as an investment for the job market, here are the five degrees most likely to land you a job in your field:

  • Human Resources (88 per cent)
  • Engineering (90 per cent)
  • Computer Science (91 per cent)
  • Pharmacy (94 per cent)
  • Nursing (97 per cent)

Percentage indicates number of people whose first job on their resume after graduation is in a related field.

The degrees that earn the highest starting salaries


So in what fields does that investment pay off the greatest dividends? We also analyzed the job histories on our database to determine which first jobs after graduation allow people to bring home the biggest paycheques. From a financial point-of-view, the most lucrative fields of study for first jobs right now are Computer Science,EngineeringLaw, Math, and Healthcare.

The average starting salaries for graduates from Computer Science programs is $ 68,000.

The most popular first jobs for Computer Science graduates include:

  • Software Developer $68,000
  • Web Developer – $52,000
  • Business Analyst – $74,000
  • Consultant – $74,000
  • Project Manager – $75,000

The average starting salaries for graduates from Engineering is $76,000


The most common jobs for Engineering graduates include:

  • Mechanical Engineer – $73,000
  • Design Engineer – $73,000
  • Project Engineer – $75,000
  • Electrical Engineer – $79,000
  • Software Engineer – $80,000

The average starting salaries for the jobs most often held by graduates from Law is $67,600

The most common first jobs for Law graduates include:

  • Law Clerk – $50,000
  • Legal Assistant – $50,000
  • Research Assistant $62,000
  • Associate – $75,000
  • Lawyer – $96,500

The average starting salaries for the most common jobs held by Math graduates is $67,600

The most common first jobs for Math graduates include:

  • Market researcher – $60,000
  • Actuarial Analyst $67,000
  • Software Developer $68,000
  • Banking consultant – $68,000
  • Business Analyst – $75,000

The other top category of education that pays off is in Healthcare. The range of courses of study and career-paths in healthcare and medicine is very wide, running the gamut from dentistry to nursing, from medical technicians to pharmacists to doctors. For this study we focussed our attention on the most in-demand roles that actively post jobs to hire graduates as soon as they receive their credentials.


The top Healthcare jobs that hire new graduates are:

  • Kinesiologist – $47,000
  • Physiotherapist – $71,000
  • Registered Nurse – $72,000
  • Occupational therapist – $73,000
  • Pharmacist – $85,000

The average wage for these positions is $69,600.

Education as an investment for the job market

Of course, there are other reasons to pursue your education besides simply ROI on the job market…but let’s face it, earning a good living makes everything more enjoyable in life.

If you are among the 60 per cent of Canadians who believe that education should be tied specifically to job prospects, the most valuable study areas continue to be in the healthcare fields like Nursing.

What do you think? Is a university degree loosing its lustre these days?


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