Graduating in Canada: Profile, Labour Market Outcomes and Student Debt of the Class of 2005

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In an increasingly knowledge-driven and global economy, a highly skilled well educated workforce is a key driver of economic competitiveness as well as social and economic development. Countries have supported all types of postsecondary education in order to improve the knowledge and skills of the labour force, increase productivity and support world class research. For individuals, a postsecondary qualification contributes to employability, access to continued learning and training and higher lifetime earnings in addition to other related social outcomes. Therefore, governments have emphasized investments in higher education.

Canada has a highly developed postsecondary education system and as a result almost half of young adults aged 25 to 34 years hold some type of postsecondary education credential, well above the OECD average of 33%1. However, the demands of the global economy require an optimal skills-job match, which requires more detailed information on the flow of graduates with specific knowledge and skills in addition to the type of postsecondary credential. This demands a greater understanding of the educational pathways of graduates, the investment in time related to their chosen field of study and the labour market outcomes related to each field of study following graduation. Such information is important for informed decisions regarding the expected return for investment in years of education in specific fields of study and estimates of the time required to retire any debt incurred during education. This information is also valuable to determine the distribution of skills in the labour force to respond to anticipated skills shortages.

This report describes the educational experiences, labour market outcomes and financing of higher education of recent graduates for Canadian postsecondary education institutions using data from the 2007 National Graduates Survey (Class of 2005). The first section describes the characteristics of graduates from college, bachelor, master and doctorate level programs. The second section focuses on experiences after graduation including pursuing further education and labour market activities. Section three presents information on the financing of postsecondary education, its relation to education level and labour market outcomes. The final section focuses on co-operative education and international studies and their relationship with labour market outcomes and student debt.

The National Graduates Survey (NGS)

The National Graduates Survey examines the labour market experiences of graduates from Canadian public universities, CEGEPs, community colleges and trade/vocational programs. The survey's primary objective is to obtain information on the labour market experiences of graduates entering the labour market, focusing on employment, occupations and the relationship between jobs and education. The NGS interviews graduates two and five years after graduation. To date, six graduating classes have been surveyed: 1982, 1986, 1990, 1995, 2000 and 2005.
This report presents the first results of the 2007 National Graduates Survey (Class of 2005). It looks at graduates who completed the requirements or graduated from a college or university bachelor, master or doctoral program in 2005. Data for graduates of trade/vocational programs are not presented in this report.


  1. OECD. Education at a Glance 2008. OECD Indicators. Table A1.3a.
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