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How much is your degree worth?

Over a couple decades’ worth of earnings, a bachelor’s in engineering is worth about two fine arts degrees

Crowd of graduates

(Kevin Lau Photography/Getty)

It’s a rough time to be looking for work, with Canada’s job market still suffering in a stagnant economy. Manufacturing is hurting, and the oilsands engine that drove so much recent growth is sputtering. But your financial security might have as much to do with a decision you made 20 years ago as the state of the market today, according to Statistics Canada’s recent “The Cumulative Earnings of Postsecondary Graduates Over 20 Years: Results by Field of Study” economic insights report.

The graphs below show what we already know to be true about workplace compensation: arts graduates earn less than their science and business counterparts, and women earn less than men regardless of field. But the StatsCan report, which tracks median cumulative earnings for the period 1991–2010, demonstrates just how big the gap is:

Here’s the top job in some of those fields of study from our annual ranking of Canada’s Best Jobs.

Field Job Title Rank Median Salary 5-Year Wage Growth 5-Year Job Growth
Humanities Lawyer 1 $79,997 14% 29%
Life Sciences School Health Care Manager 5 $87,360 14% 15%
Health Head Nurse & Medical Supervisor 7 $76,960 18% 11%
Business Administration Financial Administrator 9 $82,992 16% 8%
Engineering School Specialized Engineer 11 $79,997 28% 7%
Education School Principal & Administrator 17 $91,437 14% 8%
Social Sciences Psychologist 18 $77,875 18% 30%
Mathematical & Physical Sciences Geologist, Geochemist & Geophysicist 44 $88,525 19% -3%