The university degrees that earn the highest starting salaries

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
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