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Do postsecondary graduates land high-skilled jobs?

This study examines the relationship between occupational skill requirements and educational attainment (the highest level completed and the field of study). Using the 2011 National Household Survey matched to data from the Occupational Information Network (which contains information on occupational skill requirements), the study uncovers many new findings on the skill requirements of jobs held by Canadians aged 25 to 34 with different educational qualifications. First, skill-level requirements in all areas generally increase with higher educational levels. There are three notable exceptions to this trend, however: requirements for technical operation and maintenance skills do not generally increase with more schooling; doctoral graduates require considerably less resource management skills than other university graduates; and professional degree holders have jobs that require lower mathematics skills than other university graduates, although this is entirely because of law graduates. Moreover, skill requirements are almost always higher among bachelor’s degree holders and college graduates of specific disciplines, compared with high school graduates. Second, skill requirements vary considerably by field of study. For example, bachelor’s degree holders in architecture, engineering, and related technologies generally work in multidimensional jobs requiring diverse, high-level skills. In fact, these graduates rank at the top or very close to the top in eight of the nine skills examined. In contrast, bachelor’s degree holders in three fields (education; visual and performing arts, and communications technologies; and humanities) generally rank lower than other bachelor’s degree holders in most skills examined. However, the skill requirements of college graduates and bachelor’s degree holders are very different across fields of study. While skill requirements are almost always higher among bachelor’s degree holders than among college graduates from the same discipline, the relative ranking of disciplines tends to differ for each level. Finally, there are considerably more gender differences among college graduates than among bachelor’s degree holders with regard to skill requirements by field of study.