The university degrees that earn the highest starting salaries

By August 6, 2014Workplace trends
Workplace trends The university degrees that earn the highest starting salaries

We recently surveyed Canadians about their thoughts on university education as an investment for future employment. Most people, 60 per cent, told us that they believe education should be tied to the job market. (And only 23 percent of people say that what they studied in school is actually relevant to their current job.)

So, with nearly 75 per cent of people telling us that their education is not relevant in their jobs, we took a look at those areas of study most likely to land you a job in your field, based on the education and work histories in millions of Canadian resumes.

The degrees most likely to pay off with a job in their field

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

Percentages = the number of grads working in jobs directly related to their studies.

The areas of study that lead to the highest starting salaries?

Education can be expensive. Statistics Canada estimates the average cost of an undergraduate degree 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 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, Engineering, Law, 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
  • [View Computer Science jobs on Workopolis]

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
  • [View Engineering jobs on Workopolis]

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
  • [View all Legal jobs on Workopolis]

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
  • [View all Math jobs on Workopolis]

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
  • [View Healthcare jobs on Workopolis]

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

Education as an investment for the job market

While Canadians are obtaining higher levels of education in 2014 than they were at the turn of the century, the vast majority of employers show more interest in a candidate’s skills and experience and where they’ve worked previously than in their education.

If you are among the 60 per cent of Canadians who believe that education should be tied specifically to job prospects, there are key areas of study that stand out as particularly valuable on the job market.

Several disciplines fall into both the education that is most likely to lead to a related job, as well as to the most lucrative career paths. This indicates that if you are choosing your education based on job market demand, the best return-on-investments currently are in Computer Science and Engineering along with certain healthcare fields such as Pharmacy and Nursing.

Read the full Thinkopolis report at


Peter Harris
Peter Harris on Twitter


Join the discussion 19 Comments

  • Tracy Brown-Shoup says:

    What are the top jobs for those who do not have a university degree?
    In Canada we have 1 and 2 year community college diplomas and certificates.

    Not everyone is university material.

  • enthalpy says:

    where on earth did you get these salaries? horribly misleading to new grads. these are mostly inflated and not accurate. the engineering ones are particularly out to lunch and not even remotely in line with reality. check the provinces salary surveys(they all have them). Even those are optimistic for the majority but they still come in well under the numbers being reported here.

  • hotmale44 says:

    Canadian society is getting ridiculous..

    – Nowadays, >50% of the Canadian population has a degree/diploma therefore only people with a Masters/PHD degree stand out

    – School at all levels teaches you NOTHING about the real world (banking, insurance, money management, HOW TO GET A JOB etc)

    – In 2013, Q2 there was 250,000 university graduates in Canada but not even close to that amount of jobs available..

    BOTTOM LINE = Canada has a real problem on their hands, if education is not paying off the newer generations won’t have any motivation to go to school and society won”t progress!!

  • Jasvir Virk says:

    Most of the time Workopolis articles are out of tune with the reality like this one. I have seen many fresh engineering graduates without a job and the ones who have the engineering jobs, earning much less than reported in this article. Workopolis writes articles just for the sake of writing without any in-depth study.

  • MustBfun says:

    I am a certified electronics technician and have been in the IM/IT industry more that 20 years. I have NEVER had a job that utilized what I learned in college. I would have liked to go to university however, life/finacial situations made that impossible. I approached Service Canada when they were all gung ho about “Second Carreers” . I enjoy working outside and meeting people so I wanted to become an commercial/residential electrician . In my mind, that’s not a far stretch as I already understand the principle of electricity. I put myself through college by being a house painter and understand house wiring theory through being on many new housing jobs sites. Service Canada ran some kind of analysis of my skillset and they told me that I was too eduacted for that! I asked them “if I was a pizza deilvery person or barber, would I get it?” , they said YES. Needless to say , I was disappointed and a little shocked by that.

  • batman10 says:

    This figures are grossly overstated and Canadian education systems (ie. university) do not teach people how to do their jobs better / or even search for jobs for that matter. We need a complete overhaul of the education system if the Canadian economy wants to climb.

  • Jasper Dawes says:

    When my father graduated from the University of Manitoba with a BSc. in Agriculture, he was among just 15 graduates in the class. Today the typical university graduates many times more than this number with Doctoral degrees. The cost of a university education has become a big problem as well with university presidents here in Canada earning in excess of $500,000 a year. Education has become a business unto itself without much regard for graduates. The typical fate of a university graduate today is regrettably unknown. After graduating from three Ontario universities I have ended up as a security guard and it was not for lack of trying to find relevant work. There was none. No wonder I sympathize with the student protests in Quebec. Why keep paying more for an education that may lead you nowhere?

  • Sandra Canada says:

    A legal assistant earning $50,000.00!!?? I’ve been a legal assistant in Hamilton for 32 years and I’ve NEVER even been close to that salary.

  • QFAN says:

    What’s the difference between a Software Developer (starting at $68k) and a Software Engineer (starting at $80k)? Does one dig dirt and the other point where to dig?

  • Laxman Aryal says:

    Sir can we appy for canada after being a IT graduate from India to work on the field of computer science for canada although i am from Nepal? I have a keen interest to work for the canadian computer science department !!

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