Man in his twenties, contemplating.

Study: Where can that liberal arts degree take you on the Canadian job market right now?

Peter Harris|

Most Canadians surveyed told us that they believe educational choices should be tied to job market demands. (And almost 75% say that they are not working in jobs that are related to their studies.)

That is why for our recent Thinkopolis research report, we looked at the education Canadians listed on their resumes in conjunction with the jobs they ended up working in right after graduation, and then again five years later.

There is often no clear career path for these humanities studies, although professorships, teaching and research positions can follow from more advanced degrees.

Canadians who earn a degree in liberal arts most often appeal to employers who need candidates with solid analytical and communications skills – often starting in client-facing positions in customer service, reception/administration, or sales.

At the Bachelor’s degree level, these are the first jobs for Liberal Arts grads:

Economics

Customer Service Rep
Business Analyst
Administrative Assistant
Financial Analyst
Account Manager

History

Administrative Assistant
Customer Service Rep
Teacher
Sales Representative
Receptionist

Philosophy

Administrative Assistant
Customer Service Rep
English Teacher
Sales Associate
Account Manager

 
Political Science

Administrative Assistant
Customer Service Rep
English Teacher
Researcher
Sales Associate

Psychology

Administrative Assistant
Customer Service Rep
Sales Associate
Human Resources Assistant
Receptionist

Sociology

Customer Service Rep
Administrative Assistant
Human Resources Assistant
Sales Representative
Receptionist

Salary-wise, Economics grads come out on top, with the average wages for their first jobs being $57,000 a year. The average pay for the first jobs of the other liberal arts graduates is just over $43,000*.

The skills developed in obtaining a university degree – even one that does not lead directly to a related career – pay off on the job over time. When we look at the job titles on the resumes of this same group five years after graduation, they were 68% more likely than their less educated peers to have moved into management positions in whatever industry they were in.

While earning a bachelor’s degree in philosophy doesn’t lead to a direct career path, we see a number of these grads working in Marketing and Advertising. Perhaps this is due to the conversely methodical and creative ways of approaching problem-solving developed in their studies.

Similarly, one doesn’t practice psychology with a B.A., but many psychology and sociology grads start off working in Human Resources related jobs in which their education can be applied.

The least hirable bachelor’s degree appears to be in History. However, that being said, the research, writing and communications skills obtained while earning that degree still pay off eventually.

As I mentioned, liberal arts grads are much more likely than non-university graduates to become leaders in their fields within five years of leaving school. So while on the surface it may not look like your education is paying off on the job market directly, studying what you’re passionate about learning still helps give your career a competitive advantage.

See also: The university degrees that earn the highest starting salaries.
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Peter Harris
- Peter Harris on Twitter

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