Over the past few decades universities have added more and more highly specialized programs but in many cases these programs produce far more graduates than there are job opportunities.
Yesterday, I had a conversation with a friend who recently graduated from Concordia’s electroacoustics program, it’s a sort of sound art but the program involves a lot of technical training in sound recording and production. While he’s managed to find some work at a radio station and a recording studio, it’s not full time and much of it is unpaid. Now he’s thinking of going to technical college and getting a certificate in electrical engineering because he thinks that would open up more career opportunities.
It reminded me of a similar conversation I had over the summer with one of my colleagues at the Canadian University Press. Both of us are regional bureau chiefs for CUP and have been the editor-in-chief of a student newspaper. My colleague has also interned at one of Canada’s largest daily newspapers. Despite this, both of us are afraid that we may not be good enough to actually succeed in journalism.
The thing is, no matter how good and how committed you may be, in these hyper-competitive fields it always seems like there’s someone else who’s willing to work harder, sacrifice more and do it for free. Let’s also not forget the importance of networking and pure dumb luck.
In my first year at Concordia, I remember being told that only 10 per cent of journalism graduates actually get jobs in the field, I’d hazard a guess that the percentage is even lower now.
Part of the problem may be that in both music recording and journalism have changed dramatically over the past few years, creating a situation where there’s only room for the best of the best. Certainly these fields have always been competitive, but now it seems like there are only jobs for the elite and the rest will be stuck as amateurs.
So where do we go from here? Honestly, I’m not sure. I don’t know if there is a solution to this problem and I’m sure some wouldn’t consider this a problem. But every year hundreds, maybe thousands, of people graduate from Canadian universities with career-focused degrees that don’t actually lead to careers.