Choosing, or switching, your university degree is a big (but exciting) decision.

In the fall of 2018, there were 1.7 million students in Canada heading back to school. In a volatile economy and an era of technological change, these students will have to apply knowledge and skills to meet employer needs and succeed in their respective fields. A university education remains one of the best ways to adapt to a rapidly evolving global workforce and launch life-long career success.

Luckily, Canadian universities continue to enjoy a solid international reputation with employers. Nine schools appeared on the Global University Employability Ranking 2018 report and the University of Toronto is the top recruitment choice for employers.

The list below ranks the top-10 bachelor’s degrees based on the highest average salaries from a 2016 Statistics Canada study, as well as the most recent available tuition costs at three top Canadian universities so students can get an idea of the return on investment for their education.1,2

No matter what program you choose in the end, with careful budgeting, planning and hard work, you can find success in any field.

10. Civil Engineering

  • Average salary in 2017 dollars: $80,080
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, University of Toronto) : $15,760
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, University of British Columbia) : $6,298.95
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, McGill University) : $7,632

Over the next few years, Canada’s residential construction sector will temper and the momentum for employment and investment will shift to large-scale heavy engineering projects, according to a 2018 forecast by Building Solutions.

Civil engineers are involved with multiple stages of building projects, from design to construction, and may work on a range of infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, towers, buildings, and water supply systems.

9. Nursing

  • Average salary in 2017 dollars: $84,510
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, University of Toronto) : $9,100
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, University of British Columbia) : $5,399.10
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, McGill University) : $7,632

Nurse practitioners can have more responsibility than registered nurses, but less than doctors. To become a nurse practitioner you will need a bachelor’s degree in nursing followed by additional training. Alternatively, you could obtain a master’s in nursing, but either way you will need several years’ experience as a registered nurse. Job markets in healthcare are predicted to remain stable, especially given Canada’s aging population.

8. Specialized Engineering

  • Average salary in 2017 dollars: $85,009
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, University of Toronto) : $15,760
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, University of British Columbia) : $6,298.95
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, McGill University) : $7,632

Specialized engineers work in fields like agriculture, textiles and biomedicine but the work is still typical of an engineer — managing processes, building equipment and supervising installation. The median salary is projected to rise, but keep in mind it can vary considerably across different disciplines in this field.

7. Business Administration

  • Average salary in 2017 dollars: $85,508
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, University of Toronto) : $6,780
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, University of British Columbia) : $5,399.10 (BCom)
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, McGill University) : $7,632 (BCom)

There are plenty of opportunities available to those with a bachelor of business administration (BBA) and the salary will vary depending on the position. Business services management encompassing a range of firms including legal, payroll and market research.

Accounting is one area of business administration that remains a popular profession for many students, and the number of graduates has increased in recent years. However, according to Service Canada’s Canadian Occupational Projection System (COPS), the labour market has enough job openings to accommodate graduates until 2024.

6. Software Engineering

  • Average salary in 2017 dollars: $90,001
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, University of Toronto) : $15,760 (CE)
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, University of British Columbia) : $6,298.95 (SE)
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, McGill University) : $7,632 (CE)

The number of computer engineers needed is expected to grow in the next few years according to COPS, as a result of high business investment in the technology sector.

There are a few differences between a software engineering (SE) degree, a computer science (CS) degree, and a computer engineering (CE) degree. Software engineers deal with building and maintaining software systems. Computer scientists focus on data, data transformation and algorithms. Computer engineers design, build and operate computer systems. All are highly relevant degrees with generally big payoffs. According to COPS, in the past five years, the number of employees in software engineering has grown by nearly half.

5. Geosciences

  • Average salary in 2017 dollars: $100,006
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, University of Toronto) : $6,780
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, University of British Columbia) : $5,759.04
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, McGill University) : $7,632

A bachelor’s degree in geosciences can lead to work in mineral and petroleum exploration, environmental consulting and urban projects, among others.

These skills are highly valued in Canada’s mining industry, which has experienced some weakness amid lower commodity prices recently. However, it’s expected to expand significantly with the recent increase in exploration over the next few years, according to COPS.

4. Pharmacology

  • Average salary in 2017 dollars: $102,398
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, University of Toronto) : $20,070 (PharmD)
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, University of British Columbia) : $16,762.59 (Entry-to-Practice PharmD)
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, McGill University) : $7,632

A bachelor’s degree in pharmacology is only the beginning of your education as a pharmacist, but the payoff may be quite high. Upon obtaining a degree, you will also have to complete an exam with the Pharmacy Examination Board of Canada, complete an apprenticeship, and become registered with your province’s college. The Government of Canada projects a shortage of pharmacists until at least 2024, so employment opportunities are high.

3. Finance

  • Average salary in 2017 dollars: $103,376
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, University of Toronto) : $6,780
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, University of British Columbia) : $5,399.10 (BCom)
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, McGill University) : $7,632

After two years of foundational business courses, students who specialize in finance will learn how to plan, manage and analyze the financial aspects of businesses, banks and other organizations. Upon graduation, they will be eligible to work in a variety of financial roles such as security analyst, market research analyst, bank manager, mortgage broker or portfolio manager.

2. Petroleum or Chemical Engineering

  • Average salary in 2017 dollars: $104,000
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, University of Toronto) : $15,760
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, University of British Columbia) : $6,298.95
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, McGill University) : $7,632

Petroleum and chemical engineers can expect employment by energy companies, research institutes and the government.

Chemical engineering students will take the same foundational courses in math and science as students in other engineering disciplines in their first and second years. After, they will learn about subjects such as fluid mechanics, heat and mass transfer, and process modelling in order to design operations that will transform raw material into specified products for the various industries they may be employed in, such as oil and gas, pharmaceuticals or energy.

1. Business, a.k.a., Management Sciences (MS)

  • Average salary in 2017 dollars: ~ $110,000 – $115,000
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, University of Toronto) : $6,780
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, University of British Columbia) : $5,399.10 (BCom)
  • First year tuition (2018-2019, McGill University) : $7,632

Note: according to the 2016 Statistics Canada report, a MS degree offers on average the highest salaries for women.

The discipline is more tied to math than commerce, and will teach students about theories and models in statistics and programming, and how to apply them to a variety of business problems. Potential jobs include administrative services, budget and management analysts and marketing managers.

Need help with budgeting? Use the Student Budget Calculator to figure out how much money you’ll need to get through the school year.

Sources:

1. Marc Frenette and Kristyn Frank, Earnings of Postsecondary Graduates by Detailed Field of Study report, (Statistics Canada, 2016, accessed, February 20, 2018).

2. Undergraduate average first year tuition costs, each respective university

Maxine is a freelance journalist and she holds a degree in journalism from Carleton University.

This article first appeared on the RBC Royal Bank Discover & Learn hub on July 19, 2019.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.