Pursuing a postsecondary degree is similar to purchasing stocks—it is an investment intended to provide future benefits. More than 80% of high school graduates pursue post- secondary education to increase employment opportunities and income. University graduates earn two to three times more than high school graduates and experience higher employment rates over the course of their careers. However, not all postsecondary degrees, and therefore postsecondary programs, are created equal. Some programs offer a high return on investment and promote employment opportunities and greater earnings. Other programs may provide a poor return on investment and lead to unrelated and overquali ed employment outcomes. Evidence for this comes from research showing that 35.1% of graduates are in a job that is not closely related to their education. Of greater importance, educational characteristics of particular programs—rather than demographic and socioeconomic characteristics (e.g., gender and family background)—predict the highest likelihood of employment is related to a graduate’s field of study.
Graduates aim to find employment related to their program. For example, a humanities graduate will often seek employment as a manager or as an assistant in marketing, human resources, or public relations, whereas a social science graduate is likely to be employed in a legal office, child and youth centre, or detention centre. Prior to graduation, students have significant knowledge about occupations and wages related to their program; however, they often underestimate employment opportunities related to other programs and earn signi cantly more in jobs related to their program than in jobs not related to their program. An important indicator of labour market success is the ability to use the investment in education in future em- ployment. Thus, the choice of program reflects an investment in skills necessary to obtain employment related to that program. However, the knowledge and skills o ered by different programs are not equally marketable in today’s workforce.
The current employment market values skills and knowledge that can be applied to domain-specific skills. Research experience, (e.g., lab and eld work), internships, computer and technology knowledge, persuasion and argumentative abilities, and knowledge of negotiation techniques are all skills that can be applied to specific domains, such as engineering, business, science, and some programs in social science (e.g., psychology, economics, geography). In contrast, domain-general skills, such as critical and analytical skills, are not tailored to specific fields of employment. Programs that promote domain-specific fields and practical knowledge increase opportunities for job-related employment to a greater extent than programs promoting the acquisition of domain-general skills and theoretical knowledge. Walters demonstrated that employers request specific postsecondary credentials for jobs, and showed a strong connection for occupationally specific disciplines, but not for general ones. In other words, employers sought out employees who had occupationally relevant skills acquired in university, rather than general skills.
The National Graduate Survey (2005) was used to examine how graduates of various programs differ in their pursuits of higher education, employment status, job-program relatedness and job qualifications. Results suggest that graduates from humanities are more likely to pursue higher education, are less likely to be employed full time, are more likely to have jobs unrelated to their program, and are more likely to be overqualified for their jobs. These findings highlight that humanities programs may not provide the knowledge and skills that are in current economic demand.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at What is Your Degree Worth? The Relationship Between Post–Secondary Programs and Employment Outcomes | Fenesi | Canadian Journal of Higher Education