Choosing university over college may not pay off in the short-term

Around 4 per cent of bachelor's degrees in Canada are awarded by colleges (Getty)

It turns out getting a bachelor’s degree from a Canadian university rather than a college might not pay off after all.

New data from Statistics Canada found college students who completed a bachelor’s degree earned $55,187 a year in the 48 months following graduation — that’s 12 per cent higher than the $49,281 university graduates with a bachelor’s degree made.

Statistics Canada chalks the difference up to field of study. Among college graduates, 38 per cent chose programs that usually pay more, such as business, management, and public administration. For university students, that number dropped to 21 per cent.

In fact, Statistics Canada says the field of study accounts for 89 per cent of the difference in pay. The rest comes down to the fact that college bachelor’s degree holders were more than 2 years older.

However, the early lead for college bachelor’s degree graduates fizzled over time. Between two and five years after graduation, the average university bachelor’s degree holder’s salary increased by an average of $3,000 more.

This is explained by the fact that 11.9 per cent of those who completed a university degree pursued a graduate course within the first two years, compared to 2.5 years for college bachelor’s degree graduates.

Due to the fact that university bachelor’s degree holders tend to choose lower paying fields of study, such as humanities and physical and life sciences and technologies, they are poised for a comeback down the road.

Canadian colleges started offering bachelor’s degree programs in the 1980s, and currently account for 4.3 per cent of all bachelor’s degrees in the country.

University degree holders still make 42.5 per cent more than those with college diplomas, earning an average of $38,726. Yet, college certificate holders earn more than diploma holders, with a medium salary of $39,935.

Jessy Bains is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow him on Twitter @jessysbains.

Yahoo Finance Canada

Download the Yahoo Finance app, available for Apple and Android.