Post-secondary education is a complicated issue to discuss, primarily because the associated benefits are much more complex than the simple income-generation we get from it. In fact, there is actual econometric evidence, undertaken by Marcus Greenlaw, that the biggest determinant of a person’s satisfaction with their degree is not the wage-premium, but rather the likelihood that they will be able to find a job related to their field of study.
To make the point more palpable, there is evidence, here at Mount Allison, that students are less influenced by income-generation than we might originally think. The table to the right shows (1) how many degrees Mt. A granted in 2012 in each major, (2) the corresponding average starting salary, and (3) the average mid-career salary. The averages are based on a nationwide survey in the United States; there is no Canadian source that so clearly delineates salary information according to major.
First reaction: Holy classics!
Second reaction: There is no correlation between salary and degree output. Or more accurately, there is a negative correlation. Within the majors offered at Mt. A, people seem to gravitate towards the lower-paying ones: history, English, anthropology, psychology, and sociology majors make up thirty-five per cent of the degrees granted in 2012, while the wage premiums to these degrees are relatively low.
So it appears that income-differentials matter very little in the choice of degree, at least amongst Allisonians. And to a certain extent, this is a very sane approach: study what interests you, because that will (hopefully) lead to a job that you enjoy. We are very privileged to have the freedom to place so little weight on future income, a benefit that comes from living in one of the wealthiest nations in the world.
However, to end on a sober note, income-generation is still important. According to a Bank of Montreal survey, Canadian students expect to graduate with $26,297 of debt on average. This translates to a $319 monthly payment for ten years. Or, for the ambitious, that would be $533 monthly for five years. From this perspective, income suddenly regains some importance.
|Mount Allison Degrees Granted in 2012||Average Starting Salary in 2013||Average Mid-Career Salary 2013||Rank|
|Commerce Degree (Various Majors)||56||$41,956||$75,789|