Which universities best prepare students for employment? - Macleans.ca

Which universities best prepare students for employment?

We asked 17,000 students across the country whether their university education is preparing them for the working world. The top schools may surprise you

Second year speech and language studies students Christine Civiero and Harley Hamlin study in the plaza building on campus at Brock University. (Photograph by Cole Garside)

Twenty-six per cent of Brock University’s faculty feel students joining the school are not prepared to write at a university level. (Photograph by Cole Garside)

In our second annual student survey, Maclean’s reached more than 17,000 students at almost every university campus across the country. They told us how often they’ve cheated as well as how much time they spend studying, partying, working and on extracurricular activities. It is one of the largest surveys of its kind and provides a wide-ranging snapshot of student life on university campuses across the country in real time.

Respondents also told us whether they feel their school has prepared them for the workplace, offering insight into which universities—and which programs—are doing the best job preparing students for the real world. St. Francis Xavier came out on top for this one measure, with 53% of students strongly agreeing they had the skills and knowledge needed for employment. For some programs, the results were even better, with 71% of St. FX nursing students saying they’d been well prepared.  We also asked whether the schools helped with writing ability, with St. Thomas ranking first on that front. In addition, we surveyed professors to see whether incoming university students had the academic skills needed for success.

Our survey has its limitations, most obviously that it is anonymous and self-reported, so we have to trust students to fill it out honestly.





Young people working. (Dotshock/Shutterstock)

About 71 per cent of St. Francis Xavier’s nursing students strongly agree they are gaining skills they need for employment. (Photograph by Dotshock/Shutterstock)


Guelph University. (Photograph by Cole Garside)

(Photograph by Cole Garside)



Which universities best prepare students for employment?

  1. You have forgotten what universities are for.

    They aren’t trade schools.

    • Not a single trades mentioned in the article or in the charts?

      • It’s in the title……….preparing students for employment.

        Universities are for education…not job training.

        • Are you saying you cannot expect employment when graduating with a university degree?
          There must be some soft skills that are transferable into employment?

          • Depends on what degree. Bachelors, Masters or PhD.

            You can’t become a doctor, a scientist, anthropologist, psychologist etc. with just a bachelors. That is an entry-level degree. There are certainly jobs you can get with a bachelors……but it’s like high school. It give you a general knowledge but not a profession. It’s a basis for higher degrees

        • There are some very practical educations provided through university programs and they actually have practice components. In fact, aren’t cooperative programs quite common in business and engineering programs? I would suggest you are quite mistaken in your appraisal that an education does not provide “job training.” The education a medical doctor receives obviously provides job training or a medical student would not spend so much time in the hospital under the tutelage of a licensed physician during his/her education.

    • Interesting that in the Top 20 for preparing students for employment the 15 Canadian research intensive universities hardly make an appearance. So no large schools like McGill, Toronto, Ottawa ,UBC, Montreal, Laval, Western. What are we to make of that?

      How do current students who have not entered the post university job market evaluate how well they are being prepared for it? They have no experience in that job market.Perhaps they believe they are being well prepared because their university tells them they are. Then the survey may be a better indicator of what schools are doing a better job convincing their students that they are being well prepared, than the actual reality of being well prepared.

    • You can tell that by the debtload and lack of job prospects.

  2. WOW I have been a career practitioner in high schools for more than 20 years. All I can say is that any post secondary school or anyone who does not believe that one intends to use their education to find work must be stuck in a very outdated paradigm. To even suggest that learning and finding work is mutually exclusive is at best bizarre. Even people who are working toward a PHD hope to be hired at a post secondary institution to teach, Being hired means getting paid. Who knew that most professors and instructors are volunteers.

    • LOL and you want us to believe you’re university educated with an argument like that?

      • I doubt if emily has ever stepped foot on a university campus. Universities of the middle ages were specifically for enlightenment. And emily, even though your musings sound like they are from the middle ages, there has been some improvements that you may not be aware of. In the last few centuries there has been some changes. There are now professional degrees that are intended to prepare students for careers. i.e., engineering, forestry, nursing, education to name a few. These are all Bachelor Degree programs. Many of them these degrees have instituted work experience in their grad expectations. The intention again being to expose the student to the world of work as well as to make valuable industry connections. It is true that a degree does not guarantee a job, but it often opens the door towards one.

        • Bachelor’s degrees do not give you job skills. They give you the basis for a higher degree.

  3. Many things prepare young people for the road ahead. In terms of employment, a university education is perhaps useful and at least demonstrates a certain level of intelligence and stick-to-it-iveness. In some cases, a diploma in certain disciplines from certain universities have cachet that enhances employability. In general universities don’t think of themselves as career factories although some have coop programs and some like UOIT have something of a focus on employment. To some extent, the ability to learn – which is possibly exhibited by obtaining a degree – is most important in a world where practice is rapidly changing; an obvious limitation of university education is that instructors are by and large not practitioners and material follows business and industrial innovation poorly. In Canada another problem is that most universities are generalized, partly because they are seen as regional services, and few are highly specialized; at best, certain universities have recognized centers of excellence that are diluted within a general stream. The Chinese got a leg up in the business of rare earth materials by dedicating a whole university to the science and technology required. There is an argument that a degree of general knowledge is part of a good education but integration of curriculum is a problem (I personally suffered through an economics course delivered to students with 2 or more years of university calculus under their belts as if they could barely handle primary school arithmetic while my own faculty offered some courses for other faculties only i.e. ‘for-dummies’ level courses) and faculties tend to give no priority to cross-discipline courses such as economics, business, management, writing, etc.
    However, what Vickie Driver says ‘To even suggest that learning and finding work is mutually exclusive is at best bizarre.’ is on target and supported by lifetime earnings data. At a minimum, there is a large number of employment opportunities where a post secondary degree is a prerequisite – from that perspective, it matters little what skills were obtained. It should also be noted that there are several professions where a university degree is just a prerequisite to career oriented training.
    It is a problem that just as one cannot predict the future one can’t be sure which skills will be most useful down the road: I know an engineer that became a great live entertainment producer, a psychology MA that built a tech startup and a history major that made a career of communications technology policy work; all the same, a university education in some way was a stepping stone.