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Doctoral Grads Important To Canadian Work Force – But Half Are Overqualified For Their Jobs

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The number of Canadian students pursuing university education has increased greatly over the past several decades. In turn, this has lead to an increase in students completing masters degrees, and then doctoral degrees. For example, 5,400 students graduated with a PhD in 2008, an increase of 40% from five years previous.

Statistics Canada recently released a report that quantifies the number of doctoral graduates and the employment outlook for these graduates.

Approximately 19% of those surveyed said that their degree made them over-qualified for their current position, while another 30% stated that a doctoral degree was not needed for their job.

According to Stats Can, doctoral grads are key to the Canadian workforce thanks to “their contributions to innovation and productivity growth through research and educational activities.” At the same time, they contribute to only 0.8% of the workforce.

In 2005, 4,200 students graduated with doctoral degrees in Canada. Two years after their graduation, the median income of these students was $65,000, with those pursuing a postdoctoral position having a median income of $54,000 and those entering the workforce having a median income of $72,000.

Employment levels also varied depending on the kind of doctoral degree completed. Humanities graduates were more likely to be employed part-time or be unemployed than graduates in other disciplines. However, the median income for employed students with arts degrees was around the same as grads from other fields.

Students with a degree in the life sciences were reported to have the lowest median income, at $55,000. The median income for humanities graduates was $60,000 and had the highest rate of employment in educational services (77%), compared to around 56% overall.

In contrast, engineering graduates had the lowest rate of employment in educational services, at 34%. However, 31% were reported to work in technical services, and 13% in manufacturing. 28% of social sciences students were employed in the health care or social assistance industries.

The salary of a PhD graduate according to Stats Can “is one indicator of how a society values certain skills. Another is a match or mismatch between the amount of education required for employment and education attained.”

Over-qualification was a major factor related to these students’ employability after graduation. Approximately 19% of those surveyed said that their degree made them over-qualified for their current position, while another 30% stated that a doctoral degree was not needed for their job.

Again, this was often related to specific degrees that participants in the study obtained.  43% of graduates in education and similar fields did not require a doctoral degree, compared to 28% of engineering graduates. For life sciences students, the numbers were much lower: 16% for graduates who felt that their position didn’t require their level of education.

Over-qualification impacted graduates’ earnings as well. Graduates who believed they were over-qualified for their positions reported a median income $5,000 lower than other graduates. These amounts were exacerbated further by the degree program of the participants: for social sciences and psychology graduates it was $5,000, for those in education and similar fields it was $14,000 and for humanities students it was $17,000. Graduates of engineering, physical sciences, computer sciences or life sciences did not illustrate a wage difference if they were over-qualified for a position.

Photo credit: More honorary degree & doctorate certificates by Michael Denne on Flickr
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