Mixed prospects in Canada’s graduate recruitment market

Despite initial problems, majority of social science and humanities graduates go on to find rewarding jobs, says study

March 5, 2018
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Canadian social sciences and humanities (SSH) students often find it difficult to land suitable jobs when they graduate, but the majority will go on to find rewarding, well-paid work, according to a new study.

The report published by the Conference Board of Canada thinktank found that almost half of SSH graduates ended up in jobs related to business, finance, administration, education, law, and social, community and government services.

Nevertheless, in the years immediately after graduation, those with SSH degrees earn less than graduates as a whole and are less likely to be employed in a job directly related to their degree. They are also more likely to be overqualified for their current position, according to the research.

Three years after graduation, they are somewhat more likely than university graduates as a whole to be employed in part-time work. Meanwhile, only 74 per cent of humanities graduates found full-time work three years after graduation, compared with 84 per cent of graduates across all fields of study.

Their initial venture into the workforce is often impeded by a lack of work experience, a limited awareness of career paths and employer misperceptions about the skills of SSH graduates, added the report, Getting to Work: Career Skills Development for Social Sciences and Humanities Graduates.

Fortunately, however, their employment prospects were found to improve over time. And while SSH graduates did earn less than graduates with degrees in subjects such as maths, engineering and computer science, their earnings were more stable.

They also reported being generally satisfied with their careers and chosen study programmes.

Overall, the employment rate of social sciences graduates was 82.2 per cent. This compared with 77.6 per cent for humanities degree holders, and 82.6 per cent for undergraduate degree holders across all fields of study.

At present, almost 60,000 Canadians receive an undergraduate degree in the social sciences and humanities each year.

“While many of these graduates face challenges entering the workforce shortly after graduation, over time most will go on to rewarding careers, and their earnings and job satisfaction levels are comparable to graduates from other disciplines,” said Matthew McKean, associate director of education at the Conference Board of Canada.

The study concludes that SSH students, faculty members, universities and employers need to have much more awareness of skills profiles and career paths. In particular, students should be taught “to articulate and market to employers the skills they developed in SSH programmes”.

But none of this can be achieved without combating the stereotypes that currently surround SSH courses, according to the research.

“Negative publicity about the value of studying SSH is impacting SSH disciplines in the form of declining enrolment,” warns the report.

“Easing transitions to careers will combat myths about baristas with BAs and demonstrate to employers the value that SSH graduates can bring to their organisation. In today’s increasingly complex world, we need the skills of SSH graduates more than ever.”


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