Universities and colleges churn out thousands of students every year, but once they find themselves in the work force, do their degrees really pay off?

Studies show post-secondary education is still the best route to higher-paying jobs, as long as you are strategic in your studies.

Jesse Pelletier enrolled in university five years ago with no real plan in mind. He studied sociology and criminal justice because he enjoyed the material, but says towards graduation, the degree didn’t translate into a job.

Now, $20,000 in debt, the 25-year-old has moved back home and enrolled in college,

”(At university), you’re not learning any practical skills when it comes to jobs,” said Pelletier. “Now that I’m in college, every single day I’m learning skills I can translate into skills into the workforce.”

The Conference Board of Canada said post-secondary education, in part a university degree, is still the best route for higher-paying jobs. But it said there is a mismatch between education and the realities in the workplace.

It said jobs in engineering, health care and finance, such as accounting, are in high demand without enough grads to fill them.

“What we need to see are more people going into to higher education in all of these different pathways and if we see that, then we’ll be better off down the road,” said Daniel Munro, research associate with the Conference Board of Canada.

Red River College says 96 per cent of students find jobs within six months of graduating.

Vice-President of Academic and Research at Red River College Stan Chung said that’s because it’s programs align closely with the needs of the labour market.

“We meet with our employers to make sure our curriculum is state of the art, so [students] go into these new careers job-ready,” said Chung.

Still, Jesse Pelletier said he wishes he would have taken time to figure out what he wanted to do before sinking thousands of dollars into a university education.

“If you don’t have a specific goal in mind, in what you really, really want to do, just pursing university for random courses, it’s really not worth it,” he said.

Employment after university

The University of Manitoba looked at which graduates were the most and least successful at finding employment six months after graduation.

 

It found the least successful employment seekers graduated from architecture, education, human ecology, kinesiology and recreation management and music.

It found the most successful grads graduated from dentistry, engineering, law and environmental sciences.

The University of Winnipeg said the majority of its undergraduate students enroll in the faculty of arts, but added it doesn’t keep any numbers on how many students find jobs after graduation.