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National Graduates Survey

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More than 80% of college and university students who graduated in 2005 and did not pursue further studies had found full-time employment by 2007. In general, earnings increased by level of study. In 2007, two years after graduation, just over one-quarter of those who owed student debt at the time they graduated had paid it off.

In 2007, two years after they had graduated, a higher proportion of graduates with a master's degree were working full time than college graduates or those with a bachelor's degree or a doctorate.

The pool of graduates with a master's was higher in 2005 than it was in 2000 for both men and women. However, the employment rate among master's graduates remained stable for men at 94%, while it rose for women, from 89% in 2002 to 92% in 2007. Consequently, among graduates with a master's degree, the gap in employment rates between women and men nearly closed.

Findings also showed differences in terms of earnings from one level of education to another. The largest earnings gap existed between the bachelor's and master's levels, suggesting that investing in further postgraduate work is financially beneficial.

On the other hand, the earnings gap between a master's and doctorate suggests that the monetary gain from employment two years after graduation for doctorate students is marginal.

Among graduates in 2005 who did not pursue further education, about half financed their postsecondary education without taking on any education-related loans. Nearly one-half (46%) of all 2005 bachelor's graduates completed their studies free of debt, as did 56% of doctorates, 55% of college grads and 54% of those with a master's.

Within two years, just over one-quarter of those who had student-related debt (both government and non-government) had been able to pay it off. The highest proportion who were clear of debt were master's graduates (32%), followed by doctorate (30%), bachelor's (28%), and college graduates (24%).

Full-time employment rates highest for master's graduates

In 2007, two years after graduation, 9 out of 10 college, bachelor's, master's and doctorate graduates who had not taken further education were working.

A higher proportion of graduates of master's programs were working full time in 2007, compared with college, bachelor's or doctorate graduates.

About 86% of master's graduates were working full time, compared with 84% for both bachelor's and doctorate graduates and 80% for college graduates.

Note to readers

This report contains the first results of the National Graduates Survey, which was jointly undertaken by Statistics Canada and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada in 2007. This survey covered individuals who graduated from Canadian public postsecondary institutions in 2005.

This report presents information on the further education and labour market experiences that these graduates had in the two years that followed their graduation. For those who did not pursue further education, it also provides information on their student debt both at the time of graduation and two years later.

To date, six graduating classes have been surveyed: 1982, 1986, 1990, 1995, 2000 and 2005.

Women who were working full time generally earned less than their male counterparts. Furthermore, more women than men were working part time in 2007 at all levels of education.

About 8% of women at both the bachelor's and master's levels were employed part time, twice the 4% among men at those levels.

The gap was the widest among college graduates. About 14% of female college graduates were working part time compared with 5% of males.

It is difficult to identify consistent patterns in employment by field of study; rates of full-time employment did not necessarily increase by level of education within individual fields, and some fields had high employment rates only at one level, and lower rates at all others.

Earnings rise with each level of education

While relatively similar proportions of college, bachelor's, master's and doctorate graduates were able to find work two years after graduation, there were differences in terms of their earnings.

The median annual earnings among those who were working full time in 2007 was lowest for college graduates at $35,000. This increased to $45,000 for bachelor's graduates, $60,000 for master's graduates and $65,000 for doctorate graduates.

Therefore, the earnings gap was 33% between the bachelor's and master's degree, and 29% between a bachelor's and a college degree. But it was only 8% between the master's and doctorate levels.

Although earnings generally increased by level of study, there were large distributions of annual earnings within each education level.

Consequently, some college graduates earned more than many bachelor's graduates. For example, 25% of college graduates earned $44,300 or more annually, while 50% of bachelor's graduates earned $45,000 or less.

Student debt

The average debt from all sources in constant 2007 dollars among members of the 2005 cohort that owed student-related debt did not differ greatly from the class of 2000. Graduates from 2005 with student debt had lower average debt levels than their 2000 counterparts: doctorate graduates owed about $1,300 less on average, while college graduates owed about $700 less.

In 2007, two years after graduation, loans exceeded $20,000 on average for graduates with student debt (both government and non-government) at the bachelor's and doctorate levels.

In 2007, graduates with a doctorate still owed the highest amount from all sources, $22,500 on average, while bachelor's graduates had an average debt owing of $20,400. Master's graduates owed an average of $19,500, while college grads had the smallest debt in 2007, an average of $11,800.

Graduates who were still paying off their government debt two years after graduation earned less on average than those who had completely paid off their student loans. Bachelor's graduates who had paid off their debt earned over $8,000 more, or roughly 23% more, than those who still had debt two years after graduation.

About half of the 2005 graduates relied on either government or non-government student loans, which include private, family and bank loans. The proportion of 2000 and 2005 graduates owing to both types of loans was similar.

However, graduates of 2005 were more likely to owe solely to non-government sources, and less likely to owe exclusively to government sources.

In addition, graduates of 2005 who owed only to non-government sources had higher average debt levels compared with graduates of 2000. The opposite was true for those owing to government sources only: they had lower average debt levels compared with graduates of 2000.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 5012.

The report "Graduating in Canada: Profile, labour market outcomes and student debt of the class of 2005" is now available as part of the Culture, Tourism and the Centre for Education Statistics: Research Papers, 2007 (81-595-MWE2009074, free). From the Publications module of our website, choose Publications by subject, then Education, training and learning.

To obtain more information on Statistics Canada's Education Statistics Program, to order data, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Client Services (toll-free 1-800-307-3382; 613-951-7608; fax: 613-951-4441; TTY: 1-800-363-7629;, Tourism and the Centre for Education Statistics.