Graduate survey shows stark differences in salaries

Several years after graduation, majors---and genders---matter

Thanks to Statistics Canada’s National Graduate Survey 2010, we already knew that the vast majority of university graduates were employed and earning decent incomes three years after graduating.

Considering that, it’s not surprising that a new survey of 21,000 bachelor’s graduates from 41 universities, which was filled out six years or seven after their 2006 and 2007 convocations, reveals much the same: a 96 per cent employment rate, little variation in employment rates between disciplines, and a median income of $63,000.

It’s also not surprising (however disappointing) that a gender gap presents itself. Women reported median incomes of $60,000 compared to $70,000 for men.

What’s really striking is the big range of reported earnings by degree. A report on the survey (from the Canadian University Baccalaureate Graduate Outcomes Project) offers more proof that, while most graduates find work, those from certain degree programs are much more likely to get high-paying jobs. It includes a chart (copied below) that shows earnings for the 25th to 75th percentile of students by degree type. At the bottom are humanities graduates, who tended to make $40,000 to $65,000. At the top are engineering graduates, who tended to earn between $65,000 and $100,000. Business graduates were in between, at $55,000 to $90,000.

The Canadian University Baccalaureate Graduate Outcomes Project

The survey also showed that more than 10 per cent of humanities and education graduates were working part-time, while nearly all engineering and business graduates reported full-time work. That could hint at “underemployment” for humanities and education grads.

Also interesting is that the survey found employment rates are similar regardless of whether graduates are visible minorities, first-generation students (first in the family to attend college or university), living in certain regions or speak French. The survey did, however, find that disabled graduates were less likely to be employed: 90 per cent were, compared 96 per cent overall.

As for that gender gap in earnings, we already knew that young women who are good at math in high school are half as likely as young men who excel in the subject to choose math-heavy STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science). Here we’re reminded that STEM graduates often earn more.