Twenty-somethings working in an office

10 degrees that earn high starting salaries (and 10 that won't get you hired at all)

Written by Peter Harris
Posted on August 24, 2012

With tuition prices on the rise (sorry Quebec students) and student debt increasing, many students are looking for degrees that guarantee a return on the investment. TD economics estimates that the average cost of an undergraduate degree in Canada is $84,000. This includes the cost of tuition, books, and living expenses.

Because of the stubbornly high unemployment rate for young workers since the start of the recession three years ago, many people are graduating into jobs that don’t actually require their degrees, and don’t pay them enough to cover their loan payments.

With all that in mind, we decided to look at the degrees that lead to high paying jobs. A recent report by revealed that the average starting salaries for Canadian university graduates is $43,119 for men and $35,926 for women. (And that difference is a whole other discussion topic.)

So, based on figures from Statistics Canada, Robert Half, industry association websites as well as Workopolis’ own data, here are ten career choices that pay much higher starting salaries than those averages:

  1. Dentist: +- $90,000
  2. Petroleum Engineer: +- $86,220
  3. Data security analyst: +- $83,250
  4. Web site developer and user experience designer: +- $80,000
  5. Mobile applications developers: +- $72,500
  6. Financial Controller: +- $70,000
  7. Lawyer: +- $60,000
  8. Accountant: +- $58,750
  9. Nurse: +- $55,000
  10. Business Administration/Management +- $45,000

And if you are just beginning your studies now and you would like to pick your degree based on the probability of landing a job at the end of it, there are some programs to avoid. Based on US statistics that I think will generally apply here as well (I’m still looking for the equivalent Canadian data), here are ten fields that hiring managers just aren’t looking for on resumes right now.

  1. Architecture
  2. Latin
  3. Music therapy
  4. Theology
  5. English Literature
  6. Social Sciences
  7. American Studies / Canadian Studies (I mentioned that this list was based on US data. However, we can assume that Canadian Studies would be equally frowned upon, because the rationale is that as the workplace becomes more diverse, employers are looking for people educated with a broader cultural perspective than just studying their local national culture.)
  8. Puppetry (Apparently this is an actual degree that some people choose to study. I think it could be an equivalent stand in for most theatre and performing arts degrees.)
  9. Poetry
  10. Art History

Infographic: 10 degrees that hiring managers don’t want to see

Despite the high unemployment rate for new grads right now, and the student debt loads they struggle to carry, getting a university degree is still worth it. Why? Career options for people with only a high school are much worse. People with degrees earn significantly more over the course of their careers than people without them.

Plus isn’t it just better just to know more? To start out your life with a solid foundation of knowledge, critical thinking, and communications skills? Most degrees of any kind provide these, and that is always a worthwhile investment.

See also: Youth unemployment, how to build a competitive edge in competitive times.

Peter Harris

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