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Which degrees pay best? Data and finance say economists

But not all technical degrees lead to high paying jobs

Students walking at UBC's Point Grey Campus.

Nick Wells/Metro

Students walking at UBC's Point Grey Campus.

A post-secondary education in data or finance leads to the highest salary among graduates, according to economists.  

Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a degree if your goal is to make as much money as possible.

1. Which bachelor degree? Follow the data

People with jobs in science management and quantitative methods – which are fancy ways of saying data analysis – make an average of $130,547 per year for men and $94,525 per year for women, according to 2011 data from Statistics Canada.

Chemical engineering comes in a close second with an average salary of $120,148 for men and $94,385 for women.

The director of UBC’s School of Economics, Thomas Lemieux, says these types of degrees prove that hard work can pay off.

“These are not easy programs to get through, it’s actually quite technical. But in one sense it’s a bit of compensation. The studies may not be as enjoyable but you get compensated with higher salaries.

2. Think practical

But not all number-oriented degrees lead to high paying jobs, warned Lemieux. There aren’t many jobs for pure math or physics degree-holders, he said. He suggests taking a few courses in an applied field to bolster salary prospects.  

“For math or physics or statistics graduates, if they can take a little bit of business or economics, then that can help a lot.”

3. Studying money helps you make money

People with a master’s degree in finance earn the most on average, compared to other graduates, according to Statistics Canada. Men with finance graduate degrees earn $160,100 on average and their female counterparts earn $111,714 on average. 

4. But, follow your passion

But any post-high school education, no matter what degree, increases a person’s salary, said Lemieux. For example, men with a BA in political science earn on average $85,069, according to Statistics Canada.

If liberal arts is your passion, then pursue that, said Lemieux.

“There’s always a payoff for higher education. It’s not as big for art degrees but the data shows that labour market opportunities are better once you get a university degree.” 

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