Go to Content

How much does a university graduate earn?

Planning your academic journey
Daisy Le Corre

In Montréal, the unemployment rate is at a 30-year low (7.3%), while it has risen to 8.6% in Calgary. This is a boon for Montréal students at the end of their studies. Compare this to Québec in 2016, when the graduate-level unemployment rate was 4.9% (full employment is 4%) and 6.2% for those who completed secondary studies. What do the numbers really say? We asked our graduates.

Caroline Dussault, 27, Law graduate, Labour Lawyer at Dunton Rainville

"I’ve been a lawyer for four years since graduating with a Bachelor of Laws and entering l’École du Barreau du Québec. After I was admitted to the bar, it took me two months to find a job. UdeM’s good reputation certainly worked to my advantage. In my experience, the salary varies enormously from one law firm to another. The average salary of a lawyer who has just finished school is much less than most people think. You can easily start at $35,000 per year in a small firm, but at $75,000 per year in a large firm. Generally, a young lawyer’s salary increases dramatically in the first years of practice. I’ve experienced it myself. I recently joined a big firm and I’m pleased to be earning significantly more.

An entry-level salary of $35,000 per year in a small firm is not unusual. Obviously, you have to look at the position from a professional perspective to decide if it’s interesting and if it could be a springboard to something else.

Small law firms have their advantages: they often give young lawyers more responsibility more quickly than large firms, so they could be asked to plead or manage cases by themselves. It might be worth taking such a job for a year or two to gain work experience and use it as a stepping stone to a more lucrative position."

Olivier, Computer Science graduate, Anti-spam Manager at ZEROSPAM

"After receiving two bachelor's degrees at UdeM, one in Mathematics and Physics and the other in Computer Science, I earned my[CM2]  Master of Computer Science. I found my job at ZEROSPAM after two months of serious job hunting and I’ve been managing their anti-spam programs for three years, earning about $26 per hour. Before that, I worked at several low-paying part-time jobs for about $20 per hour.

In my view, there’s no ‘appropriate hourly rate.’ For example, I think’s it’s okay to work in a computer co-operative for $17 per hour, but not in a large company. Skilled junior developers are still highly sought after, so they shouldn’t underestimate their worth in the job market. Montréal is also a great place to work in computer science, especially in the field of deep learning at MILA (Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms) for a little while.

My advice to aspiring programmers is to take small programming projects on the side while you study. The more you know about computing languages, development environments and visioning systems, the easier it will be to make the transition to working in the field".

Hugo, 24, Architecture graduate, Architectural Intern at Saia Barbarese Topouzanov Architectes

"I’ve been interning at Saia Barbarese Topouzanov Architectes since I finished my Bachelor of Architecture Science and Master of Architecture two years ago. I earn $20 per hour, which is slightly less than I expected, but it’s okay for now. A professor I worked for at UdeM was kind enough to recommend me for the job.

In my opinion, the hourly rate shouldn’t be the main criteria for job hunting, but it’s important to consider if we want to prevent our profession from becoming undervalued. A university education should ensure that a young graduate starts their career earning a minimum wage of $18 per hour.  

As far as I’m concerned, interns benefit more from being mentored by architectural firms than the firms do. New graduates looking for a job should choose a firm based on its approach to internships, their interest in the firm's areas of practice and the hands-on opportunities available to them.

Keep in mind that architecture degrees are essential for becoming a practicing professional architect. They can also lead to other jobs in related fields, such as the public sector, where there’s high demand for real estate project management. In Montréal, the placement rate for new architecture graduates is good. Like most of my classmates, I started interning with a firm before I finished my master's degree. Montréal is brimming with design and project management opportunities so you can also find jobs in related industries."

Daisy Le Corre
#Globe trotter #Quick-Quotes Quill #Queer

Daisy is a journalist and project manager with Admissions and Recruitment Services (SAR). Lover of words and of people’s lives, her head is always full of ideas! Full disclosure: she worships Catulle Mendès, the author that inspired her to study androgyny in 19th century decadence literature. Which is also why she is pursuing research in literature at UdeM…