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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Will the investment of university ‘pay off’?

I was recently watching a CBC Doc Zone documentary called ‘Generation Jobless’ (you can view it here: ); the main complaint from commentators and young people alike was that universities ‘let in’ students in fields where there are not enough jobs when they graduate.  For examples, there are too many qualified teachers in Ontario, yet universities keep ‘letting in’ students in education programs. 

I disagree with the complaints.  I do agree that there may not be enough openings for all sorts of positions after university training; however, I do not agree that it’s the universities’ responsibilities so be the gate for training.  First of all, they do not know what their students will want to do after they graduate; maybe they want to move overseas; maybe they want to do another degree; maybe they want to move to another province or use their training in a different, non-conventional way.  It is the responsibility of each student to look at the market BEFORE he or she starts training in a field, to see if there are jobs after the training. 
So will YOUR education pay off? It depends what you see is the goal of the education.  If it is simply learning and not the official documentation of the degree, it may be more cost-effective to combine Khan Academy lectures and a few textbooks.  If the degree will open doors to a career, it is most likely a good investment, if you are flexible in your job search so you can find a position. 

As much as I value education for its own sake (hey, I have a Ph.D.!), I also recognize that a B.A. with specialization in philosophy is not going to guarantee you a well-paying job.  Most professional degrees such as engineering, medical position training (physiotherapy, nursing, etc.), accounting, and education, are mandatory for career positions such as engineers, physiotherapist, accountant, teacher, and the likes.  So if that is your career ambition, there is no way around it – you cannot get physiotherapy training by working up the ladder in a clinic. 
So, if you are looking at university education as a financial investment into a good-paying career, investigate BEFOREHAND if this is the most cost-effective way to start your career.  Maybe working in a company of interest would take a bit more time, but overall would save you tens of thousands of dollars.

Is university a good financial investment? In many cases it is, but not in all cases.

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