University or Technical? A Question on Canadian Higher Education

Economics is a ubiquitous discipline; its principles can be found everywhere from financial markets to the agricultural fields.  Economics also plays a major role in our daily lives—especially in choosing education levels and career paths.

The question of whether to attend a technical college or university is an extremely important decision perennially faced by high school students across the country.  Likewise, secondary and postsecondary level students are confronted with the task of selecting the field in which they wish to pursue further studies—though many students waver on this choice.  Students decide which field they wish to study (and hopefully find a career in) based on numerous factors including personal interests, preferences, and future job/earnings opportunities.

By analyzing data compiled by Statistics Canada and conveyed in the above table and graph, it is clear that if all degrees are assumed to be standardized within levels and fields of study, the amount of benefit in terms of earnings experienced by receiving a bachelor’s degree compared to a college diploma varies with the field of study.

For example, the mean age-adjusted earnings of a male with a bachelor’s degree in the field of social work is only $2,488 more than the mean age-adjusted earnings of a male who received a college diploma (this amounts to a difference of 4.6%).  Whereas in the field of finance, there is a $43,207 disparity in mean age-adjusted earnings for a man with a bachelor’s degree compared to a man with a college diploma in finance (a staggering 58.9% jump).  This characteristic of earnings is extremely important because university degrees are much more expensive in terms of time and money when compared to college diplomas. Furthermore, as of 2016, the average Canadian university student was saddled with $26,819 in student loan debt by graduation[2] (a sizeable amount but still considerably less than the average $50,760 per student in the United States)[3]; student loan debt acts as a financial albatross around the neck of graduates and economically minded students should look to minimize this burden when possible.

Across all fields of study, men and women experience a $20,932 and $16,838 increase in mean age-adjusted earnings respectively when comparing the earnings of bachelor’s degree recipients to those of college diplomas; this is a significant increase that would pay off throughout the working age years of an individual.  Though it doesn’t always make sense to go to university—it often does.


John Butler

Works Cited



Picture titled, "Montreal holiday panorama." taken by Jazmin Million on December 18, 2011, obtained through Creative Commons (