There’s a saying many young graduates are used to hearing: “one degree is never enough.”
And although this may be true for industries that require more than just a bachelor’s degree, career experts say building skills in post-secondary institutions is beyond what you major in.
“Many professional roles require a university degree but it’s relevant work experience that matters most in today’s job market,” says Paul Wolfe, senior vice-president of human resources at career hub Indeed.
“While a degree can help open doors, there are other ways that an employer can determine skill … for example, a computer science grad who scores really well in a coding contest is proving ability to do a job, even if they didn’t go to a top computer science school.”
Caroline Konrad, director of the Ryerson Career Centre in Toronto, says this message that graduates are being told is often misinterpreted.
“When we’re talking about academic degrees, we’re not talking enough about recognizing that your academic experience is both the knowledge you gain and your experience.”
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She says whether you land an internship or take part in a case competition, or you have summer work linked to your degree, these are the types of skills and experiences employers are looking for.
And for the most part, while degrees help you become experts in a particular field, she adds, the rest of your experience (working in groups, presentations, problem-solving) are skills that all employers look for across the board.
“It’s all about having that confidence in yourself that you have obtained these skills, and recognizing that you bring as much to the table as they’re offering.”
Angela Payne, general manager of Monster Canada, adds when you’re in the process of planning your career, every individual’s plan is different, and not every degree will line up with someone’s preferred career.
“When you are career planning, it’s important to speak with and learn from as many people as you can to see if you’re aiming for the right degree and industry. This will help you gain a better understanding of how people used their education to get where you want to be,” she says.
And if your degree isn’t lining up with the type of work you want to do — a thought many of us have — there are ways to make it work.
“Many don’t end up in a role that’s aligned with their field of study for a variety of reasons such as opportunity, or they’ve found something else they’re more passionate about,” Wolfe says. “Consider taking professional courses to improve your skills or knowledge, network with people in your newly-chosen field and identify transferable skills to highlight on your resume.”
Konrad says not knowing what you want or where you want to work even after you graduate is completely common, and in fact, 60 per cent of graduates will change their careers down the road.
But where do you start? Below, our experts weigh in on some common university degrees and the jobs that graduates can end up with. Indeed has also broken down the average annual salary for these positions.
“Degrees are definitely considered an asset, but may not always be mandatory. Most employers are upfront with what level of education is needed for a position. If you don’t have the desired requirements, make sure you have the work, volunteer and additional credentials, such as speaking a second language to make up for it,” Payne continues.
Degree in the arts
Art director (72,529)
Art teacher ($41,884)
Payne says a degree in arts lays down the foundations of creative thinking. “This, as well as increasingly sought after soft-skills, such as teamwork and organization, create the perfect blend of experience for roles in business development, for example.”
Business development managers, for example, often operate in highly competitive markets and out-of-the-box thinking can be the edge their competitors don’t have, she says.
Degree in science
Research technician ($41,810)
“As a science major, your analytical and problem-solving skills can lead to a career in data science. Technology advancements in the industry can also lead you in many different directions that weren’t thought of when you were in school,” Payne says.
Degree in psychology
Human resources manager ($67,338)
Mental health technician ($58,799)
Youth worker ($34,234)
Payne says the best thing about a degree in psychology is that you have the basic skill set to work and engage with other people — a skill many employers look for.
Degree in business
Project manager ($79,765)
Business analyst ($69,249)
Account manager ($59,319)
“More and more people are considering entrepreneurship at early stages in their career. A business degree can be a great backbone for taking a confident leap of faith for being your own employer, even if you’re a recent graduate,” Payne says.