Highest Paying University Degrees in Canada

Highest Paying University Degrees in Canada


By Mark Swartz
Monster Contributing Writer


“Completing post-secondary education is still the best route to a well-paying, quality job in Canada.” That according to a recent report from CIBC World Markets.

They go on to say though that this education premium is dropping somewhat. Too few students are graduating from programs that employees value highly. There’s a mismatch between what students are studying, and what companies are willing to pay more for.

This isn’t a new situation. Many students choose to follow their bliss and study what they find intriguing. There is definitely value in learning for learning’s sake. However if you are intent on choosing a university education with the highest financial payoff, there are those that stand out above the rest.

>Highest Paying University Degrees
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The Post-Secondary Premium

University education overall still translates into better wages than either a high school or college diploma alone. A Bachelor's degree buys you more than a 30 per cent “earnings premium” over high school graduates. Tack on a Masters or PhD and earn an additional 15 per cent.

Perhaps surprising then, today’s unemployment rate among university graduates is just 1.7 percentage points lower than high school grads. This gap was much larger in the 1990s.

The university premium over college diplomas has narrowed as well. It’s now a slim 0.7 percentage points. Note that a number of Canadian colleges began granting simultaneous university degree over a decade ago.


Graduate Degrees That Pay Higher Premiums

You may be wondering, will an advanced degree advance your career? It isn’t always the case that graduate degrees pay higher than undergraduate programs. For instance an undergrad Pharmacist may well earn more than, say, a History major who has an M.A. (or even a Ph.D., given the current scarcity of professorships available).

Yet there are certain graduate degrees that pay much higher premiums than others. Here are seven that do.

Graduate Degree Earnings Premium
Medicine/Physician 184%
Dentistry 157%
Accounting 141%
Law 123%
MBA 102%
Public Administration 87%
Education 86%


Specialized Undergraduate Programs

If you happen enter university knowing what kind of career you want, there are higher paying programs you can start in year one or two. They lead directly to professional jobs. However some degrees may require additional certification before commencing work.

Professional Undergraduate Degree Earnings Premium
Engineering 117%
Computer Sciences 86%
Commerce 74%
Nursing 71%
Architecture 65%
Occupational or Physical Therapist 60%
Pharmacist 58%
Education/Teacher 53%


Standard Undergraduate Degrees

What to do with that four year B.A. in English Literature or Philosophy? Critics argue that such generalized programs aren’t aligned with workplace demand.

Yet graduating with a general degree is what most Canadians university students do. They discover that there are indeed jobs for Sociology and Anthropology majors. In fact the majority of recent grad find jobs with Liberal Arts and Humanities degrees. This is how they tend to fare:

Professional Undergraduate Degree Earnings Premium
Social sciences 38%
Life sciences 37%
Humanities 23%
Fine & Applied Arts -12%


Should You Bother With University?

No one says you have to be a graduate to succeed. In fact here are five jobs that pay over $50k a year without college or university. Not to mention that jobs in the trades are more lucrative than ever.

If you do elect to attend university, know that it’s not just your major that determines your job prospects. Your school’s reputationplays a part as well. As do your extracurricular activities and grades.

No matter which school you go to, or from which program you emerge, take care to work your education on your resume. You’ll certainly spend enough acquiring a degree. Might as well present it in ways employers respond to