Is there value in an arts education? An analysis using the 1997 National Graduates survey

Thumbnail Image



Rotermann, Michelle L.

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


University of Guelph


This thesis uses the National Survey of 1995 Graduates, surveyed in 1997 by Statistics Canada to compare the various labour market outcomes of Bachelor's and 1st Professional degree university graduates across fields of study. The employment outcomes compared include: extent of part-time employment, rates and duration of unemployment, rates of employment, wages and benefits, level of education required for job, relation of job to degree, job satisfaction, satisfaction with money, and skill use in current job. Field of study is only one of many factors which contributes to graduates' labour market success. Motivations, job-education match, generic skill use and gender are other factors which are examined. The research draws-mainly on the theories of human capital and labour market segmentation. The research developed out of the unresolved debate over whether arts programs prepare students for labour market success. The popular perception is that graduates of the fine and applied arts, social sciences and humanities end up unemployed, underemployed and miserable, whereas graduates from the faculties of health, sciences, commerce, education and engineering end up in well-paying, satisfying jobs that use the skills they learned in school. Analysis suggests that there is considerable value in an arts education, not only from a work preparatory perspective but also because of the contributions it makes to graduates' lives beyond the workplace. The data also indicate a critical need for measures which can be used to assess the broader or non-monetary contributions of a university education as well as indicators which can be used to gauge the non-pecuniary aspects of employment.



arts education, value, National Graduates Survey, labour market outcomes, field of study