Thinkopolis V: Education Nation

Canadians are becoming more educated, but is more education what employers are looking for?

Analysis of the millions of resumes in the Workopolis database shows that we are spending 13 per cent longer in school in 2014 than we were in 2000.

Over that period, 16 per cent more of us now have a bachelor’s degree as our top level of education on our resumes. Post graduate studies are increasing as well, with 43 per cent more Canadians having master’s degrees on their resumes, and 25 per cent more listing a PhD than 14 years ago.

Fewer people list high school (- 4 per cent) or college (- 15 per cent) as their highest level of education in 2014 than in 2000. The number of people with certifications on their resumes has remained static.

Are we using this education on the job?

We polled Canadians about how related their studies are to the jobs they are actually working. 73 per cent of people told us their degrees are not relevant to their jobs. (39 per cent not at all related, and 34 per cent not directly related.) Only 27 per cent of people say that their job is directly related to their education.

56 per cent also say they are over-educated for the requirements of their jobs.

Most Canadians (60 per cent) told us that they believe education should be tied to the job market.

It seems like more people are actually obtaining those degrees that lead to a clearly-defined career path. When compared with the year 2000, there is now a greater proportion of resumes on Workopolis listing degrees in Human Resources (+131 per cent), Nursing (+77 per cent), Kinesiology (+46 per cent), Accounting and Finance (+30 per cent), and Biology (+19 per cent).

On the downslope we now have fewer people listing education in Public Relations (-36 per cent), Geography (-33 per cent) and Social Sciences (-30 per cent).

For employers, it’s not what you know; it’s what you’ve done

While we’re spending more time in school, this doesn’t seem to be what matters most to the people who do the hiring. Employers look at 16,000 resumes a day in the Workopolis resume database to find candidates. The vast majority of their searches are keyword based. However, only 1 per cent of keyword searches are related to degree type or specific education.

For what they actually do search for, see Appendix: The most searched keywords by industry.

Employers have numerous options for filtering the millions of resumes on Workopolis. They search candidates by skillset, experience, location, previous employers, and how recently a resume was updated, all much more than they scan for level of education.

Perhaps this is why nearly 75 per cent of people told us that their education is not related to their current jobs.

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:

  • Human Resources (88 per cent)
  • Engineering (90 per cent)
  • Computer Science (91 per cent)
  • Pharmacy (94 per cent)
  • Nursing (97 per cent)
  • What do you do with an English degree?

    An English degree is a broad and versatile area of study which offers graduates a wide variety of career paths to follow. Among the top industries that English majors work in post-graduation are Marketing (24 per cent of grads), Arts and Media (21 per cent), and Education (15 per cent).

    The most common first jobs for English grads include:

    • Teacher / Teacher’s Assistant
    • Writer
    • Editor
    • Sales Associate
    • Marketing Coordinator

    Where will your Liberal Arts degree take you?

    We also took a look at what the first jobs were for graduates of some other popular disciplines that have less clearly defined career paths. Canadians who earn a degree in liberal arts most often appeal to employers who need candidates with solid analytical and communications skills – often starting in customer-facing positions, but quickly moving into leadership roles. Here are the most common first job titles for graduates of the following disciplines.


    Customer Service Rep
    Business Analyst
    Administrative Assistant
    Financial Analyst
    Account Manager


    Administrative Assistant
    Customer Service Rep
    Sales Representative


    Administrative Assistant
    Customer Service Rep
    English Teacher
    Sales Associate
    Account Manager

    Political Science

    Administrative Assistant
    Customer Service Rep
    English Teacher
    Sales Associate


    Administrative Assistant
    Customer Service Rep
    Sales Associate
    Human Resources Assistant


    Customer Service Rep
    Administrative Assistant
    Human Resources Assistant
    Sales Representative

    Salary-wise, Economics grads come out on top, with the average wages for their first jobs being $57,000 a year. The average pay for the first jobs of the other liberal arts graduates is just over $43,000*.

    The skills developed in obtaining a university degree – even one that does not lead directly to a related career – pay off on the job over time. When we look at the job titles on the resumes of this same group five years after graduation, they were 68% more likely than their less educated peers to have moved into management positions in whatever industry they were in.

    The five degrees that earn 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? Workopolis analyzed millions of Canadian resumes to see 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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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.

    Even when occupied in jobs not directly related to their field of study – university educated Canadians are 68 per cent more likely to land leadership roles within five years of graduation.

    Workopolis publishes the latest research and insights on employment in Canada regularly at

    * All salary information in this report is from Statistics Canada:

    Appendix: The keywords that employers search for the most in resumes by industry









    Skilled Trades





  • We have pulled the phrase ‘Project management’ out of the result, because it appears in the top ten keyword searches for every industry above except for hospitality. Therefore workers with project management skills and experience are amongst the most in demand right now.
  • In the Finance industry particularly, the names of all of the big banks are heavily searched keywords – possibly indicating that employers are out to poach their competitors’ employees.
  • Workopolis publishes the latest research and insights on employment in Canada regularly at

    Download this report as a PDF

    Click on the image to view the full-sized infographic.

    Download this report as a PDF.


    Previous Post [Infographic] Thinkopolis V: Education Nation


    Next Post The university degrees that earn the highest starting salaries

    Scroll back to top