Higher education is a hierarchal system. But what does it mean to have “higher” education than someone else? A more interesting job? More money? Better benefits? Not necessarily.
With the market changing and more and more money to be made in trades and technology, college programs are getting students employed faster and often with higher starting salaries. The 2013 National Graduates Survey (based on the graduates of 2009/2010) revealed that 49 per cent of bachelor degree graduates pursued further education after finishing their program, compared to 35 per cent of college graduates.
Tara Dawdy, 24, got a university degree in life sciences before going to college at Humber for the paramedics program. She said that she thought university would be it for her education.
“I only ever planned on going to university, but then you go through university and you don’t get any jobs in your field,” she said.
She’s not the only one who returned to college after facing a challenging job market for bachelor graduates. Brianna Langohr, 23, also returned to college after obtaining a university degree in sociology.
“I couldn’t get a job so I had to start researching what I could do. I knew somebody who went to college for HR and got a job right out of school so I looked into that and I signed up for that program,” she said.
But why didn’t these students choose college in the first place? Both Dawdy and Langohr cited a “college stigma” in high school.
“University has such a prestigious name,” said Dawdy. “Everyone thinks you have to go there to make it somewhere in life. That’s always the goal coming out of high school.”
Langohr agrees: “I was always taking the university-level courses. They made it seem like college was the lesser option, I guess.”
“However I think more people get jobs out of college than out of university,” she said.
According to a 2015 Statistics Canada publication titled “Career Decision-making Patterns of Canadian Youth and Associated Postsecondary Educational Outcomes,” almost 40 per cent of post-secondary graduates change their career path by the age of 25.
Brandon Quirk, 25, said he felt pressure to get post-secondary education, but dropped out of his architecture program at Conestoga to pursue a career in construction. He said he feels he wasn’t able to adequately explore his career options before having to make a decision.
“There isn’t much input into allowing us to figure out what we want to do,” he said. “When I had to try and decide what I was applying for, I was 17 with no clue as to what I wanted.”
A 2010 StatsCan study titled “Perspectives on Labour and Income” revealed that having a career that closely aligns with your education results in an average wage premium of anywhere between 14 and 30 per cent, depending on the level of education.
Langohr said that contrary to the “college stigma,” her college experience has better prepared her to get a job in her field.
“In college, I thought, ‘I could actually use this when I’m applying for a job’, building a portfolio,'” she said. “We had classes on how to write a resume properly – you didn’t have that in university. I definitely think that college helped me way more.”