CIRCA:Preparing for Advocacy

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History of the issue of advocacy - why do we need to advocate for the humanities

What the statistics say

The most common argument levelled against Humanities degrees is economic in nature. The general argument goes: Humanities graduates have more difficulty finding work than their science or engineering counterparts and so rather than contributing to society they become an economic burden. The following will address this economic argument using both Canadian and American surveys related to unemployment rates and pay-scale. Executive Summary The commonly held assumption that Humanities graduates do not do as well in the job market as their science, business and engineering counterparts is disputed. Using Canadian and American surveys of the last six years the following the following is determined:

  • On average Humanities graduates have a comparable unemployment rate to graduates of Mathematics, Biological Science, Natural Science and Physical Sciences.
  • The range of employment for Humanities majors varies significantly depending on one’s concentration.
  • The lower range in pay for Arts and Business graduates is comparable though there is a significant difference in the higher range in pay.
  • Graduates with a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting and Finance have the potential to make more than any other degree recipients though the disparity in pay amongst these BComm grads is more than $100,000; that’s double the difference in pay amongst graduates with a Bachelor of Arts in English.
  • Some highly employable university graduates, such as Nurses and Teachers, have little room for advancement in pay ten years into their careers.

Report This 2006 survey by Statistics Canada highlights Labour force activity based on Major field of study(Figure 1). Unemployment Rate for Major Field of Study Figure 1. 2006 Census Data - [[1]]

According to this graph majors included in the category Humanities have the highest level of unemployment at 6.3% when compared to other postsecondary graduates . By comparison the categories: Education (3.3%); Health, parks, recreation and fitness (3.9%); Business, management and public administration (4.9%), Agriculture, natural resources and conservation (5.2%), Social and behavioural sciences and law (5.3%), Architecture, engineering, and related technologies (5.4%); and Other fields of study (5.1%) all fall below the average unemployment rate of 5.6%. What is notable in this graph is some of the other categories’ employment rates that also fall above the average and are very comparable to the unemployment rates of Humanities graduates. Mathematics, computer and information sciences (6.1%) include majors such as Mathematics, Computer science and Library science. Physical and life sciences and technologies' (5.8%) include Biological sciences, Physical sciences and Natural sciences majors. Majors located in the categories Visual and performing arts, and communication technologies (6.2%) as well as Personal, protective and transportation services (6.1%) also have comparable unemployment rates to Humanities graduates while survey responds who did not complete a post-secondary certificate, diploma or degree had the highest unemployment rate at 8.7%.


Statistics Canada

Major Field of Study Unemployment Rate
No postsecondary certificate, diploma or degree 8.7
Education 3.3
Visual and performing arts, and communications technologies 6.2
Humanities 5.9
Medieval and renaissance studies 9.0
Social and behavioural sciences and law 5.3
Business, management and public administration 4.9
Physical and life sciences and technologies 5.8
Mathematics, computer and information sciences 6.1
Architecture, engineering, and related technologies 5.4
Agriculture, natural resources and conservation 5.2
Health, parks, recreation and fitness 3.9
Dental, medical and veterinary residency programs 2.3
Personal, protective and transportation services 6.1

NACE - National Association of Colleges and Employers

Know your audience - who to advocate to

Frame your message

Ethics around advocacy

Back to Advocacy Guide

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