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A university education is still the best way to land a well-paying job. Over a 40-year period, university graduates on average earn $1.1 million, or 58 percent more than graduates from other Ontario post-secondary programs, and $1.5 million more than the average Canadian high school graduate, according to a 2015 employment report by University Works.

A university education may still the best way to land a well-paying job: The January 2018 employment report from the Council of Ontario Universities shows 94 per cent of 2014 graduates were employed two years after graduation.

Over a 40-year period, university graduates earned $1.1 million on average, or 58 per cent more than graduates from other Ontario post-secondary programs, and $1.45 million more than Canadian high school graduates, according to a 2015 employment report by University Works and Statistics Canada.

The list below ranks the top-10 bachelor’s degrees based on the highest average salaries as well as the most recent available tuition costs at three top Canadian universities so students can get an idea of the return on investment for their education.1,2

No matter what program you choose in the end, with careful budgeting, planning and hard work, you can find success in any field.

10. Civil Engineering

  • Average salary in 2017 dollars: $80,080
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, University of Toronto): $15,760
  • First year tuition (2017-2018, University of British Columbia): $6,054.65
  • First year tuition (2017-2018, McGill University): $7,402.80

Over the next few years, Canada’s economic growth is expected to boost investments in construction projects, which may lead to growth in employment in this sector, according to Service Canada.

Civil engineers are involved with multiple stages of building projects, from design to construction, and may work on a range of infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, towers, buildings, and water supply systems.

9. Nursing

  • Average salary in 2017 dollars: $84,510
  • First year tuition (2017-2018, University of Toronto): $8,840.00
  • First year tuition (2017-2018, University of British Columbia): $8,303.52
  • First year tuition (2017-2018, McGill University): $7,402.80

Nurse practitioners can have more responsibility than registered nurses, but less than doctors. To become a nurse practitioner you will need a bachelor’s degree in nursing followed by additional training. Alternatively, you could obtain a master’s in nursing, but either way you will need several years’ experience as a registered nurse. Job markets in healthcare are predicted to remain stable, especially given Canada’s aging population.

8. Specialized Engineering

  • Average salary in 2017 dollars: $85,009
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, University of Toronto): $15,760
  • First year tuition (2017-2018, University of British Columbia): $6,054.65
  • First year tuition (2017-2018, McGill University): $7,402.80

Specialized engineers work in fields like agriculture, textiles and biomedicine but the work is still typical of an engineer — managing processes, building equipment and supervising installation. The median salary is projected to rise, but keep in mind it can vary considerably across different disciplines in this field.

7. Business Administration

  • Average salary in 2017 dollars: $85,508
  • First year tuition (2017-2018, University of Toronto): $6,590
  • First year tuition (2017-2018, University of British Columbia): $5,189.70
  • First year tuition (2017-2018, McGill University): $7,402.80 (BCom)

There are plenty of opportunities available to those with a bachelor of business administration (BBA) and the salary will vary depending on the position. Business services management encompassing a range of firms including legal, payroll and market research.

Accounting is one area of business administration that remains a popular profession for many students, and the number of graduates has increased in recent years. However, according to Service Canada’s Canadian Occupational Projection System (COPS), the labour market has enough job openings to accommodate graduates until 2024.

6. Software Engineering

  • Average salary in 2017 dollars: $90,001
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, University of Toronto): $15,760 (CE)
  • First year tuition (2017-2018, University of British Columbia): $6,054.65 (SE)
  • First year tuition (2017-2018, McGill University): $7,402.80 (CE)

The number of computer engineers needed is expected to grow in the next few years according to COPS, as a result of high business investment in the technology sector.

There are a few differences between a software engineering (SE) degree, a computer science (CS) degree, and a computer engineering (CE) degree. Software engineers deal with building and maintaining software systems. Computer scientists focus on data, data transformation and algorithms. Computer engineers design, build and operate computer systems. All are highly relevant degrees with generally big payoffs. According to COPS, in the past five years, the number of employees in software engineering has grown by nearly half.

5. Geosciences

  • Average salary in 2017 dollars: $100,006
  • First year tuition (2017-2018, University of Toronto): $6,590
  • First year tuition (2017-2018, University of British Columbia): $5,189.70
  • First year tuition (2017-2018, McGill University): $7,402.80

A bachelor’s degree in geosciences can lead to work in mineral and petroleum exploration, environmental consulting and urban projects, among others.

These skills are highly valued in Canada’s mining industry, which has experienced some weakness amid lower commodity prices recently. However, it’s expected to expand significantly with the recent increase in exploration over the next few years, according to COPS.

4. Pharmacology

  • Average salary in 2017 dollars: $102,398
  • First year tuition (2017-2018, University of Toronto): $6,590 (BSc)
  • First year tuition (2017-2018, University of British Columbia): $16,112.07 (Entry-to-Practice PharmD)
  • First year tuition (2017-2018, McGill University): $7,402.80

A bachelor’s degree in pharmacology is only the beginning of your education as a pharmacist, but the payoff may be quite high. Upon obtaining a degree, you will also have to complete an exam with the Pharmacy Examination Board of Canada, complete an apprenticeship, and become registered with your province’s college. The Government of Canada projects a shortage of pharmacists until at least 2024, so employment opportunities are high.

3. Finance

  • Average salary in 2017 dollars: $103,376
  • First year tuition (2017-2018, University of Toronto): $6,590
  • First year tuition (2017-2018, University of British Columbia): $5,189.70
  • First year tuition (2017-2018, McGill University): $7,402.80

After two years of foundational business courses, students who specialize in finance will learn how to plan, manage and analyze the financial aspects of businesses, banks and other organizations. Upon graduation, they will be eligible to work in a variety of financial roles such as security analyst, market research analyst, bank manager, mortgage broker or portfolio manager.

2. Petroleum or Chemical Engineering

  • Average salary in 2017 dollars: $104,000
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, University of Toronto): $15,760
  • First year tuition (2017-2018, University of British Columbia): $6,054.65
  • First year tuition (2017-2018, McGill University): $7,402.80

Petroleum and chemical engineers can expect employment by energy companies, research institutes and the government.

Chemical engineering students will take the same foundational courses in math and science as students in other engineering disciplines in their first and second years. After, they will learn about subjects such as fluid mechanics, heat and mass transfer, and process modelling in order to design operations that will transform raw material into specified products for the various industries they may be employed in, such as oil and gas, pharmaceuticals or energy.

1. Business, a.k.a., Management Sciences (MS)

  • Average salary in 2017 dollars: ~ $110,000 – $115,000
  • First year tuition (2017-2018, University of Toronto): $6,590
  • First year tuition (2017-2018, University of British Columbia): $5,189.70
  • First year tuition (2017-2018, McGill University): $7,402.80

Note: according to the 2016 Statistics Canada report, a MS degree offers on average the highest salaries for women.

The discipline is more tied to math than commerce, and will teach students about theories and models in statistics and programming, and how to apply them to a variety of business problems. Potential jobs include administrative services, budget and management analysts and marketing managers.

Need help with budgeting? Use the Student Budget Calculator to figure out how much money you'll need to get through the school year.

Sources:

1. Marc Frenette and Kristyn Frank, Earnings of Postsecondary Graduates by Detailed Field of Study report, (Statistics Canada, 2016, accessed, February 20, 2018).

2. Canadian Business Staff, Canada’s Best Jobs 2017 (Canadian Business, May 2017)

Average first year tuition costs, each respective university.

Maxine is a freelance journalist in Ottawa and she holds a degree in journalism from Carleton University.

Sissi Wang is based in Toronto and primarily covers business, technology and lifestyle topics. Her work has appeared in Canadian Business, The Globe and Mail, and National Post.