Study: Earnings of postsecondary graduates by detailed field of study, 2010
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Management sciences and quantitative methods graduates were the top earners among bachelor's degree holders in 2010. A new study also found that earnings varied considerably across specific fields of study within broader disciplinary categories.
Using data from the 2011 National Household Survey, the study examined 25- to 54-year-old men and women whose highest level of postsecondary study was completed in Canada. Only those with a college certificate, bachelor's degree or master's degree were examined. Annual wages and salaries among full-year, full-time paid employees who reported no self-employment income in 2010 were compared across detailed fields of study. Wages and salaries were age-adjusted so that all dollar figures represent predicted wages and salaries of graduates who were approximately at or near mid-career. All wages are expressed in 2010 dollars.
Among 25- to 54-year-old male bachelor's degree holders, those graduating from management sciences and quantitative methods earned the most ($130,547) after adjusting for age. They were followed by graduates in chemical engineering ($120,148), geological and earth sciences/geosciences ($119,397), and finance and financial management services ($116,473).
At the other end of the spectrum, male bachelor's degree graduates from theological and ministerial studies earned the least after adjusting for age ($51,791). They were followed by graduates in music ($55,942), social work ($56,407), and linguistics, comparative and related language studies and services ($58,301).
Among women with a bachelor's degree, the fields associated with the highest earnings were management sciences and quantitative methods ($94,525), chemical engineering ($94,385), and mechanical engineering ($86,549). The fields associated with the lowest earnings were French literature ($50,328), human development, family studies and related services ($50,607), and general human services ($50,624).
Within broad disciplinary categories, earnings variations were observed. For example, among male bachelor's degree holders in the social sciences, graduates from economics had age-adjusted earnings of $93,256. This compares with age-adjusted earnings of $73,934 for sociology graduates and $68,905 among graduates in general psychology.
There was generally more variation in earnings among master's degree graduates. Among men in this group, age-adjusted earnings ranged from $160,100 (finance and financial management services) to $50,184 (theological and ministerial studies). Female master's degree graduates from the same two disciplines were also at the top and bottom of the female earnings distribution.
Among college graduates, there was less earnings variation across fields of study. For example, the age-adjusted earnings of female college graduates ranged from $63,721 for criminology graduates to $36,158 for cosmetology and related personal grooming services.
The research article "Earnings of Postsecondary Graduates by Detailed Field of Study," which is part of Economic Insights (11-626-X), is now available from the Browse by key resource module of our website under Publications.
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