Face the financial facts of education - Macleans.ca

Face the financial facts of education

Lesson 1: Pick the right field of study


Simon Hayter

It’s September once again—the start of another university or college year. For students heading to campus for the first time, it seems a moment of endless possibilities. And yet according to a recent study, a student’s future prospects may be largely decided the moment they pick their major.

First the good news. Canada has the highest level of post-secondary education among all 34 countries in the OECD. And earning a university degree will boost your earnings by an average of 30 per cent per year, as compared to a high school diploma.

However, research this week from CIBC economists Benjamin Tal and Emanuella Enenajor suggests the financial advantage accruing to university grads has been shrinking of late. The cost of an undergraduate degree has risen 20 per cent in the past five years alone. And the five percentage point unemployment rate differential that university graduates once enjoyed over high school grads has shrunk to a mere 1.7.

At the same time, the relative advantages to college appear to be growing—tuition fees are much lower, and the unemployment gap between university and community college grads has almost entirely disappeared; it’s now just 0.7 percentage points.

Perhaps the biggest concern, however, is the fact that among all OECD countries, Canada has the highest proportion of university (and college) graduates earning less than half the median income. According to the CIBC report, this is largely because of massive earning differentials between various degree programs based on job-market demand. While the average degree holder may see a 30 per cent annualized return from their investment in schooling, results vary. A lot.

Engineering is the most financially rewarding choice a student can make, with a 117 per cent annualized earnings premium over a basic high school education. The next best fields of study, by payoff, are math, computer science and the physical sciences, all with an 86 per cent premium. After that comes a commerce degree, with a 74 per cent return on investment. Most arts or humanities programs, however, provide a much smaller boost. At the bottom of the rankings, fine arts majors earn, on average, 12 per cent less per year than high school grads.

These figures paint a somewhat discouraging picture of life after graduation for many eager new university students: despite your best efforts, future financial success seems largely predetermined by the course of study you select in first year.

It also seems to validate the Harper government’s fixation with a national skills gap. Recall that the 2013 federal budget claimed the “number one concern” for Canada’s future economic success to be a mismatch between the skills workers have and the skills employers need, and proposed a variety of fixes, including the much-criticized $300-million-a-year Canada Job Grant program and various apprenticeship benefits. The earnings gap between engineering and fine arts students speaks to a similar discrepancy.

And yet it’s a big stretch to go from spotting such a gap to accepting the need for government intervention. As much as it may make sense from a strict economic efficiency perspective to wheedle or cajole fine arts students into programs with greater market demand, like science or commerce, such a system is neither practical nor desirable.

No government can ever hope to know what is best for every student. Earnings potential is just one of many calculations that go into a student’s program decision. Ability, passion and personal satisfaction are equally significant factors. And no one would wish a world where the arts disappear simply because artists earn less than engineers—there’s more to life than wages.

If Canada’s higher education system needs fine-tuning to ensure graduates don’t face any unpleasant surprises when they exit university or college, the answer lies in improving the flow of information between the job market and new students. The CIBC report thus plays a part by laying out the cold, hard financial facts on earnings.

Maclean’s is also getting involved. Our annual University Rankings issue and Canadian Universities Guidebook have established our reputation as the leader in Canadian post-secondary coverage. This fall, we will be taking a close look at life beyond campus as well, with our first-ever Guide to Jobs in Canada special newsstand edition. Included will be detailed information on what jobs will soon be in high demand, what education they require, how much they pay and where they’re located.

Deciding what to study in university or college is something students must do for themselves based on their own unique hopes, dreams and life goals. But the better the information they have about life after school, the better those choices will be.


Face the financial facts of education

  1. Another in the continuing series of ‘let’s all be plumbers’ articles Macleans keeps publishing.

  2. Or, EmilyOne, it’s a self-advertisement for a Maclean’s product coming soon.

    “These figures paint a somewhat discouraging picture of life after graduation for many eager new university students: despite your best efforts, future financial success seems largely predetermined by the course of study you select in first year.”

    Things can change very quickly, whether it’s over four years for a bachelor’s degree or as many as eight or ten years for a Ph.D. At one time teachers were in demand, then MBAs, then doctors. Who can predict what will be needed in half a decade?

    Universities and colleges are places where young people have an opportunity to learn. They’re not pre-job preparatory institutions. Teenagers commingle, learn new perspectives, find out about themselves, get confronted, succeed and fail, pick up information that they hopefully can transform into knowledge, pick up an STD, and much more. Emphasizing the financial aspect above everything else, as the headline has it, is to view through a narrow set of eyes what happens there.

    • Never thought of that but entirely possible! I certainly can’t think of any other reason why our national media would pooh-pooh education in general and discourage our young people from getting one.

      We invented the electron microscope, discovered snow on Mars, created robots now for the ISS, discovered stem cells, created IMAX and pacemakers, developed
      standard time…..we have no shortage of brains for the knowledge economy….so WTH is there a move to make everyone a plumber??

      The OECD says we have the highest level of post-secondary education among all 34 countries. True….but the majority of it is college, not university. It’s time to raise our game.

      Thank you for this!

      • Re: “a move to make everyone a plumber??”
        I don’t think Macleans is trying to make “everyone” a plumber. However we could, in fact, use a few more plumbers and perhaps a few less fine arts grads. Your straw man argument is a disservice to this discussion.

        • That’s because you’re unaware the discussion has been going on for months.

          Most people research before commenting.

          • Ciao

          • Ahhhh you knew, you just wanted to be insulting. LOL


  3. For an article that purports to take an economic and financial view of student choices, it seems to forget the notion of a supply:demand ratio. One big reason why science and engineering graduates earn more that graduates in the humanities is that there are fewer of them. If we doubled the number of engineers coming onto the job market we would reduce their salaries and their employment chances.
    Second, it is bizzare to think that an incoming university student can freely choose between registering in either physics of English literature. That choice will have been made (and only partially made, since innate talent plays a role) much earlier when the 12-year old decided to spent their time writing stories instead of doing math.

    • Very true Being awash in engineers isn’t of benefit to anybody either. The day the Avro Arrow was cancelled in 1959 we lost 13,000 highly qualified people….many of them engineers….to the US. Kennedy announced the Moon shot just 4 years later.

      Thank you for some common sense.

      • I would argue being awash with engineers is a far better problem to have than being awash with arts graduates.

        • Really?

          Engineers would have to leave the country to get jobs them. Or work at something else with low pay at home. Engineering is specific.

          Arts and humanities students can work in a variety of different fields though.

          What is with the either/or binary thinking? Be thankful when engineers are in demand, and stop trying to make art students into reluctant engineers.

          • EmilyOne… Please point us to the area of the article that says everyone should become plumbers or engineers. What I got from the article is that they are wanting better transparency and more info for up and coming students as to what each job market is like. Why is this a bad thing?

            The article said straight up that there are many factors in selecting a route. All it is saying is that if you chose arts instead of engineering, be prepared to earn less. Which is absolutely the truth… as of this moment. Obviously things change over time. As of this moment… infrastructure is expanding, buildings and houses are being built, and jobs are needed in the fields that support this.

            Its not a pooh pooh on education. Its informing the students to make better choices about the TYPE of education they would like to receive. Then its up to them to decide how important the return on investment for their years of education and career earnings are.

            I would love to take some courses in arts and other things. However, I value my standard of living more, and there aren’t enough hours in the day to do this as well as all the other things I love. Universities and Colleges are for sure prep for jobs and the real world. I don’t know many people that are taking courses just for the fun of it. The vast majority are in these institutions as a gateway to a job/career.

          • This is an on-going discussion here. ‘Market’ means Tough Macho stuff to Cons….like engineers or plumbers…..while ‘arts and humanities’ are for weaklings….you know…..women, gays etc?

            We have tons of jobs available for the ‘tough macho’ stuff….but they aren’t being filled because nobody is interested. Most people want professions….to be lawyers, doctors, biologists, journalists ….what we used to call ‘clean indoor work, with no heavy lifting’ LOL

            And those jobs make more than the infrastructure stuff, and certainly more than plumbers.

          • No one said that arts are for “weaklings, gays”, etc. Those are your words, not anyone else’s. And certainly NOT what this article is about. You still haven’t pointed us to where it says that everyone should be in a trade. It clearly said there are many factors, and people have different priorities.

            “Market” does NOT mean only those types of jobs. EVERY profession/career/job/field/art has a market. It just so happens that the arts based ones are not as hot as the others. A “job market” merely means what the supply/demand is and how competitive that specific field is. The arts based stuff is not competitive right now.

            The proof is in the pudding. The numbers. Arts based jobs earn less and have less demand in society today. Simple supply/demand economics.

            Yes, those ‘clean’ jobs make more than construction, etc. But they also need to invest WAY more time and money just to be able to have a chance to be one. If you look at things from purely a return on investment perspective, the trades, oil, and construction cannot be beat. Again, I’m NOT saying that that is the way EVERYONE should look at it. Do whatever YOU want to do with your life.

            I disagree as to why they are not being filled. Here in Alberta, they are not being filled because demand outweighs supply. But this again depends on where you are and the job market in the area.

            Doctors (medical) are not arts students. They are sciences students. You can’t get into med school from taking arts degrees. And any other BIG profession only starts out in arts. They then need to take another degree/schooling to be that. Great for them if they carry on. But this is talking about the students who get an arts degree, and stop there.

            To your last point, NO ONE is telling students to be in trade school. You missed the point of this article. It is only saying that more information should be given to people about the current job(s) markets at any given time. That may actually dissuade certain people from taking certain things, as they maybe thought they could get a job more easily or make more money than they actually will.

            Then let them decide, no one else.

          • As I said, this has been an on-going discussion…..so consider yourself lucky to have missed some of the finer points. LO

            I still have no idea why this is even an issue. Choice of job or profession is up to the individual….no one else.

            And arts based jobs are very much in demand….I have no idea what you think you watch every night on TV, or at the movies, or in magazines such as this one.

            If you’re going on ROI that means you don’t have an interest in anything and will take anything. Not everyone is like that.

          • I am not going on ROI personally. Just making the point about that perspective. It plays more of a role than you think. You can’t do a lot of things that you enjoy in this world without at least some money.

            I am lucky to be in a profession and job that I like, while making some good scratch (I did go to College for it).

            What do you mean by “on going discussion”? We are discussing it, aren’t we? And what finer points? You made it an issue when you misquoted the article and didn’t get its point, then ran your mouth (or fingers) on something you don’t really understand the economics of.

            High demand means that they are taking more people than there are available.

            This is certainly NOT the case with TV, magazines, etc. Everyone wants to be star/famous, but not very many can or will be. No matter how hard they try. There are far more people who fail in that industry than who succeed.

          • The education discussion has been going on for a couple of years here….you and I aren’t discussing anything. You are just telling me how it is, without knowing anything about it.

          • What do you mean here? I live in Canada too. Maybe different areas, but this is how it is here (and I’m willing to bet others as well). The article is about Canada as a whole. Discussions about education and job markets have been going on for decades if not a century.

            You can think I don’t know anything about this all you want. The proof is in the numbers. You have provided zero facts/evidence of your theories of arts student demand.

            And because of that, this is a pretty one sided debate. Unless you have something factual and intellectual to bring to this. I’m out.

          • On. This. Site.

            And you’ve been ‘out of it’ from the beginning. Ciao.

          • Being out of an Internet discussion does not mean that I don’t know anything about the issue at hand.

            Again, I have provided proof, details, and facts about my position. You have not.

            You sound like someone who prides themselves on how long they have been around a forum, how may posts they have made, or how many “friends” they have on Facebook.

          • You appear to be arguing just to argue.

            I believe I said Ciao.

          • Again, still no facts from you. Thanks anyway.

          • This is a standard Con gimmick….when you lose an argument you claim your question wasn’t answered, or facts weren’t given….forgetting that all the posts are right here and visible…

            Now then, do I have to explain what ‘Ciao’ means as well?

          • No con here. I am actually more than willing to hear our a logical response.

            I actually just re-read your posts. The answers weren’t given. You still haven’t pointed us to where the article said everyone should be in trades. You still haven’t given any proof of your claims that arts graduates are of great demand and use in the moment of society. The article has hard fast numbers.

            Also, you still seem to be missing the entire point of the article (which I suggest you re-read). In that all they are saying is that people need to be more aware of the job markets they are going into. Instead of thinking that they will come out and get a high paying job quickly. That’s all, no more. The article also said that an individual should do what they want, just with a more educated decision.

            All of your responses are just based on personal anecdote and drivel. No facts, no numbers, not anything.

            Correct me if I am wrong.

          • Your analysis of the article is correct in my opinion. Students need a lot more “education” in choosing a career path than they receive now. As a middle school teacher, I see this every day. I try to open the eyes of my students to the wide range of possibilities in the world around them. Yet, when I see them later on as they are heading off to CEGEP or university, a large number of them are going into a general arts program because they do not know what to take. These children need more information and monetary compensation is one piece of the puzzle.

  4. The general direction of this piece is right on target. I can’t see that it’s urging all students to forget about social sciences entirely and aim for engineering degrees. It merely points out that students should take into consideration that we already graduate more than double the number of elementary school teachers needed, as one example, so perhaps he or she should only aim for a teaching credential if he/she has a driving passion to teach and utterly no interest in any other possible career field.

    So-called “STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects have become much more important to all students because practically every career field – even traditional ones like sales, forestry, mining, construction trades to name only a few – have become dependent on computer and information technologies. Therefore, chances of success are enhanced by well-honed skills in these subjects.

    A ‘general Arts’ degree frequently requires a couple of years of college career programs for many BA’s to find careers. This was evident to community college employees back in the 80’s. No surprise that it’s finally being noticed today by national media.

  5. What the article is saying is, if you want to pursue a degree in the humanities and liberal arts, you’d better be prepared to work at jobs where you have to sweat and get your hands dirty in order to pay for it. Want to be a writer? Learn to be a machinist. Want to be a sculptor? Learn how to weld. Want to be a philosopher? Learn how to run a track hoe.
    There’s nothing wrong with pursuing higher learning simply for the sake of higher learning. What’s wrong, though, is young adults with advanced degrees in Inuit Mythology decrying the job market in Inuit Studies and expecting that the beleaguered taxpayer dig into his or her pockets to somehow “make it right”.
    I don’t give a rat’s backside that you’re $41,000 in debt because you’ve earned a Master’s in 19th century Ukrainian folklore. I have no doubt that it was and is fascinating. But, your inability to pay for all that is not my problem, just as I didn’t make the connecting rods that externalized themselves on my poor little 360 when I zinged it to 7300 rpm your problem. Higher learning, higher RPM, they’re sometimes both sides of the same coin.

    • LOL oh doooo stop.

  6. Simple take a hard option you are eating steak, take a ” Mickey Mouse” option you are eating cheese and crackers

    • Yeah, all those movie stars and musicians and authors are starving!

      • What percentage of arts students do you think go on to be a half successful musician or movie star or author?? Not very much I would think.

        • Some do, some don’t….the entertainment industry is massive….but arts students are also journalists doctors and lawyers and architects and a ton of other things.

          Meanwhile you can’t name 10 top engineers or 10 top plumbers

          Look if you don’t care what you are…and all that matters to you is money, then assuming you have the ability…. by all means go for engneering or plumbing.

          Just stop telling students they all have to be in trade school, and can skip having an education.

          • Again, dimbulb, we’re not telling people to forego education. We’re trying to implant the reality pill. You can learn whatever you want, but in the end you have to be USEFUL. Money is right up there with air and water as far as necessities of life, so it behooves you to find a way to earn it. Spending (borrowing, actually) large sums of money in pursuit of higher education, with no real grasp on how you’re going to pay it all back is a fool’s errand. Pursuing an education track that will likely lead you to becoming a ward of the state is also a mug’s game.
            Far too many of our young people graduate from university expecting that their degree is an automatic ticket to a higher income, even though they have spent several years of adulthood specifically not gaining any marketable skills or knowledge. The trick is making your university education pay off, and many university educated young people have simply spent 4 years avoiding the reality of the working marketplace. I genuinely believe that if you weren’t ready to go out and earn a living at 18, you’ll be less ready at 22 with a degree under your belt. I simply resent being obligated to pay for such sloth.
            We would all be better served by reducing funding for higher education and weeding out the less motivated.

          • Canada will be better served by having more trained, university- educated people….prosperity comes with education. Every country in the world knows that.

            Something else we’d be better off with is if penny-pinchers like yourself worried more about our military expenses.

            ‘It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the air force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber’

          • “Prosperity comes with education.”

            No, it’s the reverse. Prosperous countries have more money to spend on education, so they do. You are confusing correlation with causation. Quite common, but still incorrect.

          • Education
            as a determinant of human development

            Statistically, educational attainment (as measured by
            average years of schooling) strongly correlates with subsequent income levels and
            development capabilities. An improvement in educational attainment will have a
            positive effect on a country’s income and human development (humanity) growth.[118]

            It is therefore evident that
            “universal access to, and completion of, primary or basic education is a self-evident
            goal upon which the foundations for building the human capacity rests.
            Increased participation, regardless of sex, in secondary and tertiary levels of
            education is a necessary step to be able to move forward in the process of
            achieving equity, capacity
            building, access to information, and strengthening science.”[114]


          • You can get into med school with a BA, but it’s rare (thankfully), and requires so much prerequisite work that few aspiring med students will choose a B.A.
            Architecture is not an arts program, it’s called Bachelor of Architecture, and abreviated to B. Arch. to differentiate it from an Arts degree.
            The entertainment industry is “massive”, but only the top 1% or so make any real money.
            You’ve managed to squeeze more factual errors into a single sentence than you have words. That’s really something.

          • No, you are just picking nits when there’s no need. We are talking in general terms here…..Science v arts and humanities

            A bachelor’s degree is basic knowledge of a subject

            A master’s degree is mastery of a subject

            A PhD means you can now do original work in the subject.

            They are general definitions….not specific to a field.

        • Plus many actors and musicians do not attend art school. With youtube around someone can become famous in a short time i.e. Bieber.

          • Yeah….and some attend drama school and the Royal Shakespeare company. Or take years of music lessions. Usually the ones with training stay around for years, others are flash in the pan.

            Some people are naturals at what they do….that’s not new.

          • Arts school is not a prerequisite to being famous or having a
            successful acting/music career. Most well known rock/pop bands of all time had
            not even seen the inside walls of a post-secondary institution.

            Now I do get that this is different from certain “fine” arts.

          • Talent and training are if you want to be more than a flash-in-the-pan. Hollywood is full of people who had one hit song, or one short-lived show.

          • Think about your favorite rock or pop band who has been making relevant music for years, even decades. I don’t think they went to post-secondary.

          • That’s great for those artists. All the power to them! However, for every one of them, there are multiple other rock stars who didn’t go to school.

            Plus, a lot of them didn’t go to school to advance in their music. Totally unrelated fields of education and careers. It would be great if everyone had that time and money to do this, but most people need to choose one thing to do with their time.

          • So who’s stopping them?

          • Time, supporting a family, supporting themselves, other commitments they have made.

            Not sure what kind of dream world you live in, but you sound like a 14 year old that has no concept of money, economy, or what one must do to support themselves and their families.

            As I’ve said, I would LOVE to go back to school and take some interesting courses. But other things would have to be sacrificed to do that. And not just sacrifices for me, but sacrifices that my loved ones would need to make as well. At this point, I’m not willing to do that to them.

          • Oh…YOU are stopping you.

            Well don’t blame me for that. You can rationalize anything if you try hard enough, ya know

          • Haha. I didn’t blame you for that. I know that I am stopping me. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because that would mean not being able to do other things. Like raise a family and be able to do the things in life that I really enjoy (some that need some good money to do).

            No one turned this into the blame game. Not once have I blamed you for anything. Don’t put words in my mouth, please.

          • Most universities are online these days….another excuse gone.

          • Not really. Still need lots of time to do that which would sacrifice many things:

            Money and current standard of living and activities for one.

            Time with kids and family. I’m not willing to not be available to them or my spouse at this point in time. Maybe when they become independent, this will be a better possibility.

            How old are you? You speak as though you don’t have a clue about life commitments or responsibility.

          • Also, my job takes quite a bit of time. If I were to stop working to do this, how is my family supported? Now I would be paying a lot of money instead of making a lot of money.

            I sure hope you are not blind to these common everyday realities that is life.

          • EmilyOne, I am trying to understand your perspective. You are obviously really passionate about this subject but I do not agree with pretty much anything you have said. Can you please give us some information about your educational background/career etc?

            Just to tell you a bit about myself, I went to college out of high school because I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do in University so I thought it was best to obtain some education and skills that I could use to possibly pay my way through university
            and thankfully, it did help me pay for university later.

            This brings me to one of the comments you made; “just stop telling students they all have to be in trade school, and can skip having an education” Are you saying that going to trade school doesn’t give you an education? What exactly is your definition
            of an education?

            So after college, I decided to go into university, I applied too late for nursing so they offered for me to be enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts. I accepted that offer because I wanted to go to university that year but my plan was to take any courses that I needed to transfer into a BSc in Kinesiology. (I had changed my mind
            about the nursing thing)

            While in Kinesiology I met someone in my class who had gone to college for sports massage therapy and rehab. She had done three years at college (two years for a diploma and then one year for a specialization). She was so far above the rest of us when it
            came to knowledge of the body and how it works even after we all graduated with our degree. Most University degrees require you to take many electives which don’t have anything to do with your specific degree. So I guess the one thing I agree with you about is that a university degree (may) give you a more diverse
            education but that is true whether it is a BSc, a BA, or and Engineering degree. Most of the engineering degrees that I know of, still require the students to take arts electives so I don’t think it is reasonable to say that engineering is specific and they can’t work anywhere else but an engineering field. I do know a bit about engineering because I worked at the (Engineering
            and Architecture) campus at my university. My sister went to university for engineering, my little brother went to trade school for power engineering and sometimes I do wish that I had gone that route as well because my interests in life (travelling, going to shows, kayaking, rock climbing, abseiling, etc) all require you to have money to pay for those things.

            I honest to God have so much respect for the person who is willing to go after their dream of becoming an actor/actress or a dancer or a writer because I was writing stories as a child and dancing and singing around the house and at my high school I
            definitely felt that we were groomed to follow the science/math route because at that time, the teachers knew that’s where we would make the most money. So in some cases, it is unfortunate because if a child is groomed to go into sciences when their passion is arts, they may just never find out what could have
            been and they will wonder about that forever and may not be happy. But on the other hand, if they try and fail and fail again and are making very little money, that can’t be the greatest life either.

            So in conclusion (finally, I know) I agree with everyone else as far as I do not believe that MacLean’s is trying to tell everyone to be a plumber or to enter into trade school in general. They are just presenting the facts. I will have to read the article again but I am pretty sure they didn’t mention anything about trade school in
            this article. They were talking about engineering in the context of a university degree. That being said, I haven’t read the other education articles over the past few months or year or whatever but I am sure they were probably just presenting the facts in those articles as well.

            One last thing, I forgot to mention; that comment about the Airforce was extremely insulting. I am a Kinesiology graduate who has a certificate in office administration (from college) who has worked with the airforce for the past year and a half. I am
            also a Cadet Instructor. I have many friends and family who are both Officers and NCMs in the Canadian Forces (airforce, army and navy) who come from all types of backgrounds; some went to university for engineering, others arts, others went to trade school for plumbing and power engineering and business but they all have one thing in common, they swore to protect this country which you can freely speak your mind in and not have to worry about getting raped on a bus or anything like that, that we see in other countries so that comment as I said was really insulting and you must be very unappreciative.

          • There is nothing wrong about aspiring to be the next Bieber at age 14 when you’re 34 you might have mental health issues.

          • But if you’re talking visual arts? When it comes to commercial arts, studios and agencies want you to have at bare minimum a degree OR 5+ years freelance experience when it comes to entry-level jobs. Those same studios and agencies will only take college students as interns, and those internships are often necessary for a new graphic designer or textile designer or 3D modeler or VFX animator to get their foot in the door (and to list as “agency experience” on their resume to get an entry-level job). Then there’s software training, where the software runs $800/each, you need to know 7 different programs inside and out, and employers don’t want to have to train new employees on it so you need to take classes and access computer labs for it anyways. Unless you want to spent close to half a decade or more doing freelance to pull in an unstable income, with little to no business training, an (affordable) degree is how you get an entry-level job.

            Fine arts is trickier. You don’t necessarily need a degree to be a successful fine artist, but you do need exposure to new artists and good mentors, and unless you live in or near an area with a thriving arts community and gallery scene, you’re really going to be limited in the amount of opportunities you get when you’re just starting out. However, once you get into the gallery scene and/or start to get involved in museums, it’s pretty much expected you start getting involved in academia on SOME level to keep your career going.

          • I get that. And I’ve said before that fine arts are different. I also get that some careers need a degree just to get entry level.

            The point again is education on what the job markets are like for a profession. If they want to shell out thousands of dollars to get a degree that will have a very low return on investment, then great for them. I understand money is not the only factor in choosing a profession. But I think we can agree that it is better if everyone knows what they are getting into before they decide to spend a crapload of money and time for training.

          • Rolling Stones – London School of Economics and isn’t there a member of Queen who has a PhD is astrophysics?

          • As I’ve said before, great for them. However, their schooling had nothing to do with their career in music. So how then does that relate to the point of this article?

          • Exactly. Arts school is not a prerequisite to being famous or having a successful acting/music career. Most well known rock/pop bands ever had not even seen the inside walls of a post-secondary institution.

          • My boyfriend worked with a guy who is in a band that just got their first recording contract. He worked in fast food all week and played in his band on the weekends

          • Very cool. I myself played in a band just after my high school years. Played gigs all around. Life got in the way as the music thing was realistically going no where.

            Was a great fun time. But was time to move on and deal with real life and support a family.

          • So what about those who want to become orchestral musicians, or land a symphony job, or are looking to become classically trained? It’s a step beyond just celebrity pop star. Those connections and mentors are pretty much 100% limited to students and alumni, as is the level of training required.

          • Of course you would require a high level of training but how many cities employ full time and paid symphony orchestras

        • Liberal Arts and Fine Arts students go on to have interesting careers in all areas, usually with enlightened employers who are not just looking for trained rats.
          My BFA son as a mid level office administrative position , not a huge paycheque, but he has a great after work life as a professional artist and as a member of the local arts scene.
          My daughter has an MFA and works as the communications officer for an important goverment department.

          • I completely agree that they go on to have interesting careers. The point again is better education for the student about the career path they are choosing.

            Maybe your kids knew that the ROI wasn’t going to be as good as other fields, maybe they didn’t. But everyone should know what they are getting into before they do.

            Lots of students go into arts because they don’t know what they want to do, and it ends up being either a waste of time and/or money.

            I would say that for someone who truly doesn’t know what they want to do, they would be better off working and making money for a year or two, rather than spending money taking courses.

  7. This research is simplistic. The main problem is our fixation with credentials. When I started working for the Bank of England in 1974 I had a degree in Medieval History. Fellow grad trainees ranged from Archaeology to Zoology. The bank was looking for trained brains and did their own training on top of that. When I arrived in Canada with three years in International Economic research under my belt I was interviewed by many employers. The answer everytime was, “we really need your experience but we have to hire someone with an economics or finance degree”
    It would be an absolute disaster if we abandoned the humanities.After all, someone is going to have to teach all those engineers, doctors, computer scientists et al. to read, write, and think. We need thinkers and doers. We need to stop associating ‘training’ with Universities. Universies, historically, were places learn to think and then apply that learning to research. Universities supplied the ‘theory’ to the ‘practices of a society’

    I believe the answer to ‘Harper’s dilemma’ lies in our college system; it is great that the gap between college and universiies is closing, probably about 30 – 40% of kids currently heading for University, because they have been told it is better, should probably be entering the college system. Europe has known about Polytechnics for 200yrs! One can always go to University when one is older and wiser, and financially secure.

    • I agree that experience should be taken over education (mostly, not always).

      However, Universities are businesses too (whether or not this is actually true, they need to generate income and make choices to do so). And right now, there is more demand for ‘training’.

  8. As much as I hate to admit it, China does a few things right. For one, people don’t get to choose their field of study. They choose which universities they want to study at, then based on their performance on the University Entrance Exam they are poached by various universities. High scores mean they get their first choices, usually top tier Universities in Shanghai or Beijing where they can study, roughly, what they had planned to.

    Many students don’t get their first choice though, and wind up at Engineering or Agricultural universities where, while they aren’t studying what they had wanted to, they are studying subjects that the country needs for economic development.

    This is a far cry from the model in Canada where there is usually no preparation or warning for a job market that varies incredibly based on what your major was. Sure, students can do their own research but universities are incredibly reluctant to admit that majors like International Relations or Archaeology face grim job markets that will probably require going back to school to get another degree in order to prevent stagnant low wage careers.

  9. BS at it highest level period. No real penetration of stats, relevance, or need. Keep up the bad work Mclean’s, it is growing on you. Perhaps we should get our students to evaluate your research. Clearly, you have a research budget deficit.