Stats Can: Canada’s highest (and lowest) paying university degrees

The data crunchers at Statistics Canada have just released the latest numbers on how much graduates from various disciplines and degree programs earn on average on the job market. Because of the time involved in gathering the information over a relevant time period and then analyzing the results, this wage report reflects earnings pre-COVID-19.

With a new cohort of students entering higher education this fall – and many more people prolonging their studies as they wait for the economy and job market to start firing on all cylinders again, it can be beneficial to understand how well graduates from specific academic disciplines fared in the labour market prior to the pandemic.

The earnings by degree report reveal a number of interesting findings. For example, the highest earners among bachelor’s degree graduates came from various engineering specialties. Six of the top 10 disciplines among men (and 7 of the top 10 disciplines among women) were in engineering.

High-paying bachelor’s degrees

Mining and mineral engineering graduates ranked first among men with $111,533 in median earnings five years after graduation, and second among women with $89,680.

Graduates from chemical engineering were also highly compensated, landing 5th among male graduates ($89,637) and 3rd among female graduates ($82,193).

Several non-engineering bachelor’s degrees also led to high-paying jobs.

For example, pharmacy, pharmaceutical sciences and administration graduates registered the second-highest median earnings among men with $106,055, and the highest median earnings among women with $94,177.

The lowest paying degrees

Eight of the bottom 10 disciplines with the lowest median earnings were in arts or humanities for both men and women. The lowest-paying field among male graduates was drama/theatre arts and stagecraft ($35,935), while the lowest-paying field among female graduates was bilingual, multilingual and multicultural education ($19,892). Music graduates earned the third least for men ($38,462) and second least for women ($22,174).

Master’s degrees

At the master’s degree level, most top-earning graduates came from business programs. Men who graduated with a master’s in finance and financial management services ($110,518), business administration, management and operations ($108,382), and accounting and related services ($102,718) registered the three highest median earnings five years after graduation.

Male graduates from management sciences and quantitative methods also landed in the top 10.

Women with taxation degrees out-earned all other female graduates, with $96,416 in median earnings. They were followed closely by finance and financial management services graduates, whose median earnings amounted to $92,956. Women who specialized in accounting and related services or in business administration, management and operations also found themselves in the top 5.

Doctoral degrees

Doctoral graduates who received the highest pay graduated from various programs in fields such as business, health, engineering, social sciences, and education.

Bottom line: Study what you like. Educate yourself in the aspects of life that motivate and inspire you, and pursue your greatest passions. True success comes from doing what you love, and performing work you believe in.

However, if you view your education as an investment of time and resources that you expect to pay off on the job market financially, you’ll see the greatest ROI in engineering, business and finance, and pharmaceutical-related studies.

You can read the full report from Statistics Canada.

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