When good isn't good enough - Macleans.ca

When good isn’t good enough

There just aren’t enough jobs for graduates of specialized university programs


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.

Filed under:

When good isn’t good enough

  1. You just spelled out all my fears about university.

  2. Wow, this is a shock. So what you’re saying is that you asked a bunch of people with Arts degrees about their job prospects and they said they look slim?

    What’s next, asking a bunch of males who live in Alert Bay about their marriage prospects?

    Arts degrees are pretty much only useful if you’re looking to attend grad school. Or… maybe if your goal is to replace one of the professors who taught some of the classes you took when obtaining your degree.

    Maybe if your “friend” had taken engineering in the first place, he’d already be working.

  3. @ Captain Obvious

    Did you even read the article????

  4. @Bob

    Both of his friends took arts degrees. look it up if you like.

    The issue is that we’ve positioned ourselves societally to believe that we should only do the job that we have an absolute passion for, and only when it meets with our requirements and time tables. Very few students are out of the ordinary. Thus, most need to come to terms with some level of compromise.

    The fact is, Arts degrees (even highly specialized ones) aren’t meant to be career oriented. If you would like a modicum of a possibility of using the degree you take, take something that is career oriented. Engineering, nursing, pharmacy, education, economics, commerce, etc.

    There is nothing wrong with taking an arts degree, or any more obscure degree in other faculuties for that matter. The onus is on you, the student to do your due diligence and find out whether the degree will give you what you want. That may be a job, or it may be an understanding of a particular area of interest.

    After you’ve finished your degree is hardly the time to be asking your self “is it worth it?”

  5. Having an engineering degree nowadays is pretty much similar as having an arts degree. Jobs are just far too scarce for new graduates without having any contacts in the industry.