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 SummaryThe 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.


This 2006 survey by Statistics Canada highlights Labour forceactivity based on Major field of study (Figure 1).File:UnemploymentRate Major Field Study.png

Unemployment Rate for Major Field of StudyFigure 1. 2006 CensusData - [[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%.

Within the category Humanities we see a further breakdown of the unemployment rates based on the major field of study:Unemployment rate for Humanities MajorsFigure 2. 2006 Census Data

As shown there is a significant range in unemployment figures for Humanities grads depending on their area of concentration or major. For example at the higher end are majors in Medieval and renaissance studies (9%) and Classical and ancient studies (8.1%) while on the lower end Theology and religious vocations (3.6%) and History (5.4%) are both below the average general unemployment rate of 5.6%; generalizations are characteristically misleading.

In comparison to Business majors, Health Professionals and Teachers, Humanities majors tend to have a higher unemployment rate but it is important to look into other factors as well. The following two graphs show the range in salary for a variety of majors as well as percent of change in one???s salary from the outset of their career to 10 years into their career. These graphs illustrate the importance of considering long-term effects in addition to short-term gains when deciding upon a college or university major.In Figures 3 and 4 data taken from [[2]] shows the lower and higher income ranges for Canadian graduates with 30 different degrees and designations. With a quick glance it is clear that the lower range of salaries are fairly comparable while the higher range of salaries show significant deviations; the lowest paying salaries for all of the surveyed concentrations differ by only $20,000 while the highest paying salaries differ by more them $60,000.

Chart Pay RangeFigure 3 October 7, 2012 data [[3]]Graph Pay RangeFigure 4 October 7, 2012 data

The highest paying degree received is the BCom in Accounting and Finance with a higher range maximum salary of $141,223. The potential income awarded to these recipients is higher than even degrees recipients with MBAs ($133,737), PhDs ($124,852) or MBAs with a specialization in Finance ($131,823). At the other end of the spectrum the lowest paying degree received is the Bachelor of Arts in English with a lower range minimum of $31,114. Let us compare the highest and lowest paying degrees more closely:

DegreeLowest SalaryHIghest Salary
BA in English$31,114$83.892
BComm in Accounting and Finance$39,645$141,223

The range in pay that a BA English major could expect is a significant $52,778 (the highest salary accounted for is subtracted from the lowestsalary). One could expect that this is due to the fact there are not many jobs that English majors are specifically trained for and so the range inpay reflects varying situations and experiences of these graduates. The range in pay for BComm in Accounting and Finance majors is even moresuggestive with a difference of $101,578. These figures represent a major issue for these graduates as their salaries are extremely unbalanced.Though they have the potential to make a significant amount of money, seemingly more than any other degree, there is also more potential forgreater upset in the workforce due to disparities in pay.

Notably absent in this survey are figures relating to the range of pay achieved by those with higher designated Arts degrees such as MAs. Itwould be interesting to compare how Arts and Humanities students fair once they have continued with further education. Additionally thissurvey does not take into account a variety of factors such as: years in the field (level of seniority), average hours worked, the average wage ofdegree holders, nor even the level of satisfaction these degree recipients have.

With the following graph (Figure 6) one receives a more realistic idea of potential salary growth based on area of study. This graph illustrateshow pay increased for survey participants approximately 10 years following an individual???s graduation. Notable in this case are degrees withlittle change such as Nursing and Physical Assistant. Keep in mind Figure 1 that indicated these degree recipients (located in health professions)were among the highest likely to be employed. This tells us that though these degrees are highly employable, there appears to be little room foradvancement.

Other notable results seen are for Accounting and Finance degrees. According to Figures 3 and 4 these bachelor degrees had the highestpotential pay. This graph shows that Accounting has a 67.6% pay increase and Finance 84.3%. These correspond closely to English grads (70.3%increase) and History grads (81.1% increase) though pale in comparison to Arts grads specializing in Economics (96.8%) or Philosophy (103.5%).

Statistics Canada

Major Field of StudyUnemployment Rate
No postsecondary certificate, diploma or degree8.7
Visual and performing arts, and communications technologies6.2
Medieval and renaissance studies9.0
Social and behavioural sciences and law5.3
Business, management and public administration4.9
Physical and life sciences and technologies5.8
Mathematics, computer and information sciences6.1
Architecture, engineering, and related technologies5.4
Agriculture, natural resources and conservation5.2
Health, parks, recreation and fitness3.9
Dental, medical and veterinary residency programs2.3
Personal, protective and transportation services6.1

NACE - National Association of Colleges and Employers

Know your audience - who to advocate to

Frame your message

Ethics around advocacy

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