Mario ToneguzziIt pays to get a college bachelor’s degree, Statistics Canada reported on Monday.

The federal agency reported on a study showing that the average annual earnings of college bachelor’s degree holders two years after graduation were $55,187. This was 12 per cent higher than the earnings of university bachelor’s degree holders ($49,281), 42.5 per cent higher than those of college diploma holders ($38,726), and 38.2 per cent higher than those of college certificate holders ($39,935), it said.

“Almost all of the earnings advantage that college bachelor’s degree graduates held over university bachelor’s degree graduates can be explained by the fact that college bachelor’s degree graduates were more likely to select fields of study associated with high pay – at least early in their career. For example, 38.1 per cent of college bachelor’s degree graduates studied business, management and public administration (disciplines associated with high pay), compared with 21.0 per cent of university bachelor’s degree graduates,” added StatsCan.

The federal agency said bachelor’s degree holders generally earn considerably more than workers with no degree, but bachelor’s degrees have traditionally only been available from universities, which are less accessible to rural residents than colleges are.

Since the late 1980s, some colleges have begun offering bachelor’s degree programs. Overall, 4.3 per cent of all bachelor’s degrees have been awarded by colleges. Until now, very little was known about the benefits of obtaining a bachelor’s degree from a college rather than a university, it said.

“Overall, differences in field of study choices accounted for 89.0 per cent of the pay gap between the two groups of graduates two years after graduation. The remainder of the earnings gap can be explained by the fact that college bachelor’s degree graduates were more than two years older than university bachelor’s degree graduates,” said Statistics Canada.

“Although the fields of study chosen by college bachelor’s degree holders appear to have benefited them very early in their career, they were not associated with faster earnings growth in subsequent years. In fact, the average annual earnings of university bachelor’s degree holders grew by about $3,000 more than those of college bachelor’s degree holders between two and five years following graduation. None of this difference in earnings growth was related to differences in field of study choices.

“The study also found that 11.9 per cent of university bachelor’s degree holders enrolled in a graduate program within two years of obtaining their bachelor’s degree. In contrast, 2.5 per cent of college bachelor’s degree holders enrolled in a graduate program within the same period. Almost half of this difference was related to the fact that university bachelor’s degree holders were more likely to select disciplines that are highly associated with the pursuit of graduate studies, such as humanities and physical and life sciences and technologies.”

Mario Toneguzzi is a Troy Media business reporter based in Calgary.

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