Myths About University

What are the myths you’ve heard about university? You might not even know they’re not true!

Well-meaning teachers, guidance counsellors, parents, siblings, friends, acquaintances may all share what they know about university with you. But it may be very subjective, or opinion-based, or just plain incorrect!

Below, I’m sharing two of the beliefs that I have heard from students over the years, and deconstructing them. These are both about post-bachelor’s degree employment: Will you make enough money, and will you find a job?

Myth #1: You’ll never make any money if you study something you like

Your degree and major will impact how much you earn after graduation, this is true. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t make any money studying something you enjoy! I’ve pulled some information from Statistics Canada (StatsCan) below showing median salaries for different types of degree a few years after graduation. The amounts vary quite a bit so I encourage you to do specific research for your area of study (you can use the links in the Resources section at the bottom of the page).

My purpose here is just really to show that you have options, and that it’s necessary to do some research. You might want to think about what “any” money means. Yes, there are certain degrees that make more money. But if you hate studying those subjects, is it worth it to struggle through your degree and then end up working in that area for many years? Maybe it is for you, but maybe it’s not.

We make lots of assumptions about what majors will result in the highest income. If you look below, the sciences are not that far ahead of social sciences, and there are other fields like business and management that earn more than the sciences. Yes, STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) degrees are the highest paid, but the social sciences are not that far behind, comparatively. Also, health subjects are way up there, even for an undergraduate degree.

Check out how much students are earning five years after getting their undergraduate degree (these numbers median incomes for students who graduated in 2014, how much they were earning in 2019, according to StatsCan). Remember that these are median salaries, so that means they are just the mid-range (not the average).

Field of StudyAnnual Salary
Humanities$48,800
Social & Behavioural Sciences & Law$52,600
Physical and Life Sciences & Technologies$58,800
Business, Management & Public Administration$63,200
Mathematics, Computer & Information Sciences$74,200
Architecture, Engineering & Related Technologies$76,800
Info from StatsCan – see Resource #1 below for full details.

StatsCan actually has a really cool tool where you can see the comparative median incomes of the class of 2014 both two and five years after graduation. Click the image to head the website, and you can filter more specifically. If you’re looking for more detail on a particular area of study, click the image below to visit the site and use the filters to see different subjects.

You can also filter by province to get the most accurate information for where you plan to live and work.

StatsCan Interactive Tool: click image to visit site.

So now when somebody tells you that you’ll never make any money with a Bachelor of Arts or Education, you can give them an actual number of the amount previous grads are earning!

Remember, you should also be doing your own career research before and throughout university so you have the most up-to-date information.

Myth #2: You’re never going to get a job with a degree in THAT!

Again, the best way around this is doing career research before you start university and then while you’re a student. You can read more about this here:

But if you’re looking for some general data about post-degree employability, once again we can turn to the 2016 census. This table shows the employment rates of people aged 25-34 with bachelors degrees at that time. You can also head to the link in the Resources section below to see more specific information.

DegreeTotal in WorkforceEmployed (%)Unemployed (%)
Any1,018,275960,565 (94.3%)57,710 (5.7%)
STEM240,510225,215 (93.6%)15,290 (6.4%)
non-STEM777,765735,350 (94.5%)42,415 (5.5%)
Info from StatsCan – see Resource #3 below.

Additionally, those numbers are from 2016. However, the national unemployment rate in 2016 was 7%, and in 2021 it was 7.5%, so we can assume the numbers might be similar while we wait for the 2021 census data to be published.

Unfortunately, the table above only shows those who were participating in the workforce, and it doesn’t show how much they are working or whether they are working in a field related to their studies. This data can be found for British Columbia (resource #4 below) where they indicate that 75% of those with bachelor’s degrees are working in an area related to their studies, but there is not a lot of detail on how far out from graduation these folks are. I’ll keep searching and update this page if I find more information.

What should you do with this information?

My goal with providing this information is to arm students against some of the myths about university degrees that are out there. We hear things that are stated as facts by people we trust: parents, teachers, counsellors, but we need to check that they really are facts before we believe them.

You should still be researching specific jobs and careers that may be of interest to you after graduation, because the statistics above are very broad and don’t give a lot of information about the types of jobs these students end up with or the salary ranges.

But hopefully deconstructing these myths about university has been helpful for you to see how necessary it is to do your research!

Resources

  1. Statistics Canada Median Salary Info by field of study, bachelor’s degree.
  2. Statistics Canada 2016 Salary Info for particular careers.
  3. Statistics Canada 2016 employment rates.
  4. BC Student Outcomes Data.

15 thoughts on “Myths About University

  1. This is so so true! I always heard people saying you will never find anything in this field and always think about a job that can make you money, it’s the biggest myth!

    1. Yep! The career and salary are important considerations – but not the only ones. We have to work for a long time, so we should make sure we’re not gonna hate it!

  2. This is such a brilliant article, debunking some of those terrible myths! I am sending this to my sister who’s just started uni and is loving it x

  3. Unwanted Life – Unwanted Life's a blog about invisible disabilities (mental and physical health) combined with my personal experiences and knowledge to help destigmatise mental and physical health conditions
    Unwanted Life says:

    I think the only myth about university that I’ve heard of on your list is that you can’t make money from certain areas of study. Philosophy is one such subject that we’re often told has minimal job opportunities. But to be fair, the people that I’ve known who have studied it have said the same. I guess the issue is, too many qualified people for two few roles

    1. Yes – there is definitely a piece about that. It also depends on the types of jobs. Philosophy can be really helpful for folks going into law or policy or anything that involves crafting logical arguments, but those are also not directly related to Philosophy and require other skills as well. My advice is usually for students to do some of that beginning career research while they’re still at uni so they know what kinds of jobs and salaries they can expect when they graduate.

  4. This is such an important article! I’m going to be studying a humanities-based degree in September and so many people have expressed concerns over what this will do to my future earnings and job prospects, but I think the most important thing is doing what you love – there’s no point paying for something you won’t enjoy! Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. Exactly! You can also do some starting career research while you’re a student so that you’ll know the types of work you can do with that degree. Then, you’ll already know the types of jobs and salary you’ll be making when you grad. This would have made a huge differrence for me back when I did my undergrad. Good luck with your degree!!!

  5. Caroline – Welcome to Enviroline Blog 💗 I blog to raise awareness about the environment and mental health - specifically eating disorder recovery. I upload a new post every Sunday and occasionally on Wednesday.
    Caroline says:

    Doing something you enjoy is most important for sure! I always find that the uni modules I enjoy the most are the ones I get the best grades in. Obviously money is super important, but you need to enjoy the course too x

    1. Exactly – the money is important, but not the only thing. And you are so RIGHT – the things that are actually interesting to us tend to be the ones we excel in. Thank you for sharing this!

  6. Lisa's Notebook – I'm Lisa, a Freelance Content Creator & Content Writer from Bath, helping brands and businesses connect with their ideal clients. I'm also a mum of one, cat concierge, gardener, gin, and tea lover, and Plantagenet enthusiast! Find me over on: https://www.lisasnotebook.com.
    Lisa's Notebook says:

    This was a really interesting read, and one in the eye for people who pour cold water on the non-vocational (ie not medical or science-related) degrees. Thank you for sharing this, very encouraging!

    1. Thank you for checking it out! I think there’s still value to studying things that are not directly related to particular careers, and I just think that students have to do a bit more research when making those choices. Thanks for stopping by!

    1. Anytime! I think there are a lot of things we believe or say about unis that are not entirely true, and I just want to break down some of that.

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