New data shows university has highest pay-off for graduates’ career prospects and earnings

Ontario university graduates have the best labour market outcomes and highest incomes of any educational attainment group, and they have experienced the highest employment growth over the last decade, according to the latest University Works report by the Council of Ontario Universities (COU).

“Data consistently show that Ontario’s university graduates are securing good, well-paying jobs soon after graduation, and that they are out-earning their peers with other levels of education,” says Max Blouw, COU Chair and President of Wilfrid Laurier University. “A university education remains one of the most enduring investments a person can make.”

The report by COU Economist Cecilia Brain uses empirical data to conclude:

  • Ontario university graduates have the lowest unemployment rates and highest employment rates, and the highest lifetime earnings.
  • Over a 40-year period, graduates from Ontario universities earn on average $1.1 million (58 per cent) more than graduates from other postsecondary programs, and $1.5 million more than the average Canadian high school graduate.
  • Three years after graduation, the employment rate for university graduates is 91 per cent.
  • 86 per cent of recent university graduates report working at jobs that require skills acquired at university.
  • University graduates who are immigrants earn 58 per cent more than their peers who graduated from other Ontario postsecondary programs, and those who are aboriginal earn 49 per cent more. Over a 40-year period, this amounts to a $1-million premium and an $800,000 premium, respectively
  • Three years after graduation, the median bachelor degree holder earns 33 per cent more than the median college graduate.
  • Ontario university graduates also have the third-lowest average debt from government sources among all provinces.

“Graduates of Ontario universities are enjoying high earnings and strong employment outcomes soon after graduation – and these benefits last a lifetime,” says Bonnie M. Patterson, COU President and CEO. “The statistics clearly show that university is worth the investment.

University Works relied on data from Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey, National Household Survey, Income Statistics Division and National Occupational Classification for Statistics. It also drew on data from the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities’ Ontario University Graduate Survey and Employment Profile.

Read the full University Works report here.

View COU’s University Works infographic here.


COU is the voice of Ontario’s universities, promoting the value of education, research and innovation that leads to social, cultural and economic success.

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For further information, please contact:

Wendy McCann
Director, Strategic Communications and Media Relations
416-979-2165 ext. 233
647-271-0825 (cell)
Email Wendy McCann