Good news for grads. While some sectors hire more graduates – and pay higher salaries – than others, most students end up working in their field. Here are the hottest (and highest paying) university degrees.

The Council of Ontario Universities recently conducted a survey of university graduates to create a snapshot of their post-school careers. The study reached out to 70,845 students who graduated in 2010 to find out how they were doing six months after finishing school, and then again two years after graduation.

Contrary to much of what we here about underemployment in the news lately, it turns out that the majority of grads were employed within the six month time frame – and almost all of them were working two years after leaving school. Six months after graduation, the average employment rate for graduates of university undergraduate programs was 86.5%.

Six university programs with 100% employment in six months

  • Dentistry
  • Forestry
  • Optometry
  • Veterinary Medicine
  • Medicine (98%)
  • Pharmacy (98%)

The graduates also report that in most cases the skills they learned in school are related to those that they use on the job. Six months after leaving school, 76% of graduates employed full-time said that their job is either closely or somewhat related to what they studied in school. By the two-year mark, that number had climbed to 82%.

Six months after finishing school, the average salary for graduates of undergraduate degree programs was $42,668 a year. After just 18 more months on the workforce, this average salary had climbed by 15% to $49,277 a year. The average Canadian salary is $47,745 right now.

Unsurprisingly, those degrees that have full employment have a high-demand for workers, so graduates in these fields also earn considerably more than the average pay rate soon after entering the job market.

The highest earning degrees six months after graduating

  • Optometry ($90,000)
  • Dentistry ($83,000)
  • Pharmacy ($75,000)
  • Veterinary ($65,000)
  • Nursing, Medicine, Law ($58,000)

According to this survey, many university degree programs have an over 90% employment rate two years after graduation – and those workers earn above average salaries.

This should come as welcome news for recent university graduates looking to crack into the job market. If you’re struggling right now, hang in there. Most grads say that they really do end up working in their field of study.

Of the 70,845 grads surveyed for this study 36% or 25,583 people responded. For more details, you can read the full report on the Council of Ontario Universities website.

Peter Harris
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