Culture, Tourism and the Centre for Education Statistics
Expectations and Labour Market Outcomes of Doctoral Graduates from Canadian Universities
Section 3 Profile of 2005 doctoral degree graduates two years after graduation
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Two years after graduation, about 3,500 graduates from doctoral programs from the class of 2005 were living in Canada or the United States, representing 83% of the 4,200 doctorate graduates from Canadian universities in 2005.
Almost three out of ten doctoral recipients graduated in life sciences
Two fields of study accounted for nearly half of all 2005 doctoral graduates who lived in Canada or the United States in 2007: 29% graduated from life sciences programs and 19% from psychology and social sciences programs. The proportion of doctoral graduates in the four other fields of study varied between 12% and 14% (Appendix table A.1).
Six out of ten women graduated from the life sciences and psychology and social sciences
Women accounted for 46% of doctoral graduates in the class of 2005; an increase of 11 percentage points compared to their proportion in the class of 1995, which stood at 35%1.
The difference between the proportion of female and male graduates was highest in engineering, where for every female (17%) there were almost five male graduates (83%), as well as in computer, mathematics and physical sciences, where the proportion of men (74%) was close to three times that of women (26%). Women made up the majority of graduates in two fields of study, namely, psychology and social sciences (64%) and education and other fields of study (56%). The proportion of women was comparable to that of men in life sciences (50%) as well as in the humanities (52% versus 48%) (Chart 1).
Moreover, about six women out of ten (59%) graduated from two fields of study, namely the life sciences (32%) and psychology and social sciences (27%). While life sciences also posted the highest share of men (27%), this proportion was lower than that of women and was followed by engineering (21%) and computer, mathematics and physical sciences (17%).
Although the median age of doctoral graduates was 33 years at the time of graduation in 2005, graduates in education and other fields of study reported the oldest median age at 42 years. These graduates were also much older at the start of their doctoral program; 36 years compared to an overall median age of 27. The relatively high age of these graduates at registration can be explained by the fact that most of them were out of the educational system during the twelve months before enrolling in their program. Indeed, seven out of ten graduates from education and the professional fields (70%) were in the labour force compared to 45% for all graduates combined (Appendix table A.5). Furthermore, they were also less likely to have taken their program full-time (56%) compared to all graduates combined (80%). Apart from education and other fields of study, there were no substantial differences in the age at the time of registration between the fields of study.
Conversely, the lowest median age at graduation was found in life sciences (31 years) and in computer, mathematics and physical sciences (30 years) (Chart 2).
Chinese languages were the third largest mother tongue group
Since Canadian universities deliver their programs in either English or French and since the pursuit of a doctoral program requires very high level literacy skills, it is worth exploring the literacy profiles of doctoral graduates by examining the first language learned at home in childhood and still understood by the graduates; that is, their mother tongue.
About two-thirds of doctoral graduates (67%) reported English or French as their mother tongue (47% and 20% respectively). Another 30% had a mother tongue other than English or French; an additional 1% had learned and still understood both English and French; and finally, 2% had learned and still understood English or French along with a non-official language. After English and French, Chinese languages2 were the third largest group, as 8% of doctoral degree holders reported a Chinese language as their mother tongue. This percentage is more than twice the proportion reported in the general Canadian population (3%).3 Furthermore, Chinese speakers accounted for more than one-quarter (27%) of doctoral graduates whose mother tongue was a non-official language. In addition, the vast majority of Chinese speakers (81%) as well as other non-official language speakers (87%) lived in Canada in 2007.
The proportion of graduates with a non-official language mother tongue varied greatly across fields of study. Almost two-thirds of engineering graduates (64%) as well as close to four out of ten graduates in computer, mathematics and physical sciences (37%) had a non-official language as their mother tongue. Conversely, 20% of graduates in psychology and social sciences and about 17% graduates in humanities reported a non-official language as their mother tongue (Appendix table A.2).
More than six out of ten engineering graduates were members of a visible minority group
Overall, 28% of doctorate graduates reported being members of a visible monority group and this proportion varied by field of study. The proportion of graduates who reported being a member of a visible minority group was higher in engineering (62%) and computer, mathematics and physical sciences (32%). On the other hand, the proportion was lower in psychology and social sciences (16%) as well as the humanities (11%, Chart 3).
The vast majority of 2005 foreign-born doctoral graduates were naturalized of became landed immigrants by 2007
Results for engineering and computer, mathematics and physical sciences can be attributed to the fact that a high proportion of graduates in these fields of study were born outside Canada. Indeed, close to three-quarters of engineering doctoral recipients (74%) and 44% of graduates in computer, mathematics and physical sciences were born outside Canada, compared to 36% for all fields of study combined. However, the vast majority of 2005 foreign-born4 graduates who were living in Canada or the United States two years after graduation (91%) were naturalized or became a landed immigrant by the time of the interview in 2007 (Appendix table A.3). As shown in Figure 1, more than two-thirds of immigrant graduates became landed immigrants before graduating from their doctoral program in 2005.
Half of doctoral graduates had a parent whose education was at least a bachelor degree
Previous studies have suggested that higher parental education results in higher education levels in children. More specifically, it showed that the type of postsecondary education pursued by young Canadians was strongly associated with parents' educational attainment. Young people whose parents had a university degree were three times more likely to pursue university studies than were those whose parents had a high school diploma or less.5
Moreover, a study of doctoral graduates in the United States showed that doctorate recipients who were American citizen were more likely than their non-citizen counterparts to report that at least one of their parents attained at least a bachelor degree.6
As shown in Chart 4, half of Canadian doctoral graduates had a parent whose highest level of education was at least a bachelor degree. There was no difference between the proportion of Canadian-born (51%) and foreign-born graduates (50%) who reported that at least one of their parents attained such a degree. In contrast, there were differences between Canadian and foreign born graduates among those whose parents did not have at least a bachelor degree. Foreign-born students were more likely to have parents who had not pursued post-secondary education (36% versus 30% for Canadian born) whereas Canadian-born students were more likely to have parents who had completed post-secondary education below the bachelor level (18 % compared to 14% for foreign-born (Chart 4). These differences may be explained by differences in the structure of educational systems within Canada compared to other countries.
Two graduates out of ten did not hold a master's degree before they started their doctoral program
Not all doctoral graduates had completed a master's degree before enrolling in their program, nor do all doctoral programs require a master's degree for admission. In fact, according to the Survey of Earned Doctorates, about seven graduates out of ten (69%) reported that a master's degree was a prerequisite for admission to their doctoral program.7 Graduates in the life sciences (50%) as well as those in computer, mathematics and physical sciences (57%) reported in significantly lower proportions than the overall rate that entry into their program required a master's degree.
Similarly, these same graduates reported the lowest rates of master's attainment at 63% and 73% respectively. Graduates in the humanities posted the highest rate of master's attainment (95%) while the overall rate was 80%. Moreover, a similar proportion of graduates in the humanities (93%) reported that they needed a master's degree to be admitted to their doctoral program (Appendix table A.4.1).
Typically, a median time of four months elapsed between the completion of a master's degree and the start of the doctoral program. However, for graduates who held a master's degree and were working during the twelve months prior to enrolling in their doctoral program, the median elapsed time between the completion of the master's degree and the start of the doctoral studies was three years and two months (Appendix table A.4.2).
Almost four out of ten graduates were working before entering their program
About half (51%) of all 2005 doctoral graduates were in school in the year prior to enrolling in their doctoral program. Almost four out of ten graduates (38%) were working, whereas 7% were combining working and going to school (Chart 5). The highest proportions of graduates to have been in school 12 months before the start of their doctoral program were those in computer, mathematics and physical sciences (64%). They were followed by graduates in psychology and social sciences (58%), life sciences (54%) and the humanities (54%). Conversely, seven out of ten graduates in education and other fields of study were either working (60%) or combining work and school (10%) (Appendix table A.5).
More than three-quarters of graduates had firm plans at the time of graduation
Upon graduation, doctoral recipients may have firm plans to enter the labour market; to continue their research; to pursue further studies or other activities; or they may still be undecided. At the time of graduation in 2005, three-quarters of doctoral graduates had made firm plans for either employment or postdoctoral studies or training for the year following their graduation.
There was no difference in the proportion of women with definite commitments compared to male graduates (75%). The proportion of graduates with definite plans upon graduation was comparable across all fields of study, ranging from 77% to 82%, except for engineering and the humanities, both at about 65%. Furthermore, Canadian-born graduates (79%) were more likely than their foreign-born counterparts (68%) to have definite plans at the time of graduation for the following year (Chart 6).
More than half the graduates with firm plans (56%) expected to join the labour market upon graduation. Proportionally more women graduates (61%) than men (52%) had plans for employment, whereas about half the men (48%) were planning to pursue a postdoctoral fellowship or other training (see box 2 for a definition of postdoctoral fellowship).
In addition, there were marked differences in the type of definite plans across fields of study. Almost all graduates in education and other fields (93%) were planning to work immediately upon receiving their degree. These were followed by graduates in humanities (76%) and psychology and social sciences (70%). Conversely, about two-thirds of life sciences graduates (69%), as well as computer, mathematics and physical sciences graduates (64%) had plans for postdoctoral studies or research when they graduated in 2005. Foreign-born and Canadian-born graduates had definite plans for postdoctoral studies in comparable proportions (at 49% and 41%, respectively) (Appendix table A.6).
The Survey of Earned Doctorates defines a "postdoctoral position" or a "postdoc" as a temporary position primarily for gaining additional education and training in research, usually in academia, industry, or government.
In Canada, individuals who contract with a university (and sometimes a specific faculty member) to conduct academic or scholarly research that will further professional development and expand their expertise in a specialized subject are usually referred to as "Postdoctoral Fellows" or "Postdoctoral Research Associates". They are considered trainees rather than employees by the university or research institution.
Their appointment normally occurs within five years from the completion of a doctoral degree and is time limited (often to a maximum of three years), with the possibility of renewal. The postdoctoral researcher may be funded through a salary, a stipend or sponsorship award. The amount of the fellowship typically varies between $25,000 to $50,000 depending on the field of research, the funding agency and the research institution.
Source: Information gathered from diverse Canadian universities' web site.
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- Taillon, Jacques and Mike Paju. 1999. The Class of '95 : Report of the 1997 National Survey of 1995 Graduates. Ottawa: Human Resources Development Canada, 19 p.
- Chinese languages include : Mandarin, Cantonese, Hakka, Taiwanese, Chaochow (Teochow), Fukien and Shanghainese.
- Statistics Canada, 2006 Census of Population.
- Includes visa students; however, these accounted for only 5% of all foreign-born graduates.
- See for example: Knighton, Tamara and Sheba Mirza. 2002. "Postsecondary participation: the effects of parents' education and household income." Education Quarterly Review. Vol 8, no. 3: 25-32. Statistics Canada Catalogue No. 81-003-XPB2001.
- Hoffer, T.B., M. Hess, V. Welch Jr., and K. Williams. 2007. Doctorate Recipients from United States Universities: Summary Report 2006. Chicago: National Opinion Research Centre, 203 p.
- Statistics Canada, National Graduates Survey (Class of 2005) and Survey of Earned Doctorates, 2004/2005 2005/2006 linked file.