Employment After Graduation?

The universities in Ontario contribute data to the “Common University Data Ontario” (CUDO) database, and this can be interesting to look at when considering applications and offers.  You can select several universities and a specific piece of data, and do some side-by-side comparisons.  One of the questions we often get from applicants and parents is about employment prospects after graduation from Engineering.  Everyone worries about graduating and not being able to find a job, so let’s look at that specific piece of information for several universities.

In the CUDO database, employment rates are shown for various programs both 6 months and 2 years after graduation.  The employment rates are shown in Section K of the data (Other Useful Information).  I think the 6 month employment rate is more relevant when comparing universities.  Two years after graduation, there could be a bunch of other factors at play.  I used the CUDO database to find employment rates for Waterloo and several other Ontario universities of interest, and the results are compiled in the following chart for the years 2004 to 2009 (last available year) and the average for each university.

Employment

What can we conclude from this?  Maybe a few things:

  1. There is quite a bit of fluctuation in employment rates from year to year.  Of course, 2009 was a bit of a bad year, with the recession and all.  However, the other thing to realize is that these data are based on surveys of graduates, so there will be sampling error involved (like when pollsters say that it is accurate +/- 3% 19 times out of 20).  I have no idea what sample sizes are used and what the predicted error is, so we will just have to leave it at that.
  2. Co-op helps, possibly.  We know that all Waterloo Engineering graduates have at least 20 months of technical work experience, because the co-op educational system is mandatory.  At the other universities, they also have optional co-op or internship opportunities, although it’s hard to find out how many students actually complete them. Toronto publishes an annual report that shows somewhere between 30 and 50% of their students complete the 12 to 16 month internship, but I couldn’t easily find similar information for other places.  Anecdotally, we know how much benefit the co-op work experience gives our students, but it’s hard to see in this data, except perhaps that Waterloo’s record is a bit more consistent from year to year than other places.
  3. “Prestige” doesn’t get you a job.  You might be wondering what Lakehead University is doing in my chart.  I happened to look at their data, since I know a few faculty there, and their average employment rate is the best of all in my sample.  It’s a small program, located far from the Toronto area, but has an excellent college-transfer program and obviously graduates very employable engineering students.  Many employers I talk to are most interested in the quality of the candidate, not the name of the school, so high school students should be very careful about linking employment prospects with their perceptions of a university.  It’s much more complicated than that.
  4. There may be other things to conclude, but I’m always careful not to read too much into data of uncertain quality.  Overall, it’s clear that an engineering degree is like many other degrees and can lead to good job prospects.

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