After years of essay-writing and cramming for exams, thousands of university students will be celebrating the completion of their degree over the next few weeks.
But with a job market that isn't so friendly to recent graduates, many walk across the convocation hall thinking, "What next?"
Reflecting on their university experience and what post-university life has in store for them, six university students from Winnipeg about to graduate this spring had mixed opinions about the job market. While some were feeling confident about their chances of finding a job related to their field of study, others were less optimistic.
JOANNA GRAHAM, 23,
UNIVERSITY OF MANITOBA
UNDECIDED on a chosen career path, Graham had hoped university would give her a better sense of what her interests were.
"The first two years I didn't really know what I was doing," she said.
"I guess when I started university, I was doing it for general interest, but I maybe had the idea that possible career paths or opportunities would come up during the course of my degree."
Eventually she accepted an invitation to go for an English honours degree. Graduating this week, she hopes to pursue a career as a writer and is considering applying for grad school next year.
"Everyone I talk to about my English degree assumes I want to be a teacher," she laughed.
Graham is working at a greenhouse in Headingley for the summer, but says she'll pursue a full-time job more closely related to her field in the fall. However, she is concerned the job market for recent grads isn't plentiful.
"Basically I just keep hearing it's getting worse and worse," she said.
AICHELLE SAYUNO, 21,
UNIVERSITY OF MANITOBA
SAYUNO is graduating with a bachelor of fine arts (honours) with a major in graphic design, and hopes her combination of education and experience will help her in the job market.
"My degree shows that I have credentials, but the practical experience shows that I know what I'm doing," she said.
Upon entering university, Sayuno thought about becoming an art teacher after graduation, but quickly changed her mind after she thoroughly enjoyed her graphic design courses. After being hired as design editor at the Manitoban, the U of M campus newspaper, she said she got a better sense of other job prospects, such as pursuing design work for other publications or businesses.
Despite gaining hands-on design experience with the Manitoban, she said she's still worried about the competition with graduates from other design programs such as Red River College.
"They get more hands-on experience in comparison to the U of M," she said.
Right now Sayano is working at her parents' business and is planning on returning to her post at the Manitoban in June. Though she's worried about her chances of finding a full-time job in graphic design, she said she's still happy she pursued a fine arts degree.
"I basically just went with what I wanted to do. I knew that job market wasn't great for it, but I didn't want to get stuck with something I didn't want to do," she said.
"I figured I might have to work harder but it'll pay off in the end."
ANNA-MARIE JANZEN, 24,
CANADIAN MENNONITE UNIVERSITY
ANNA-MARIE Janzen knew her degree in peace and conflict-resolution studies wasn't the most practical major she could pursue. However, she felt it was more important to pursue a degree that catered to her own interests than one that was based on the job market.
"Anyone who gets a liberal arts degree, I would say it's more about what you're studying than getting a job. If you wanted to go to school and get a job from it, you'd become a doctor or a nurse or a plumber."
Right now, Janzen is working as a child-care assistant, but said she's hoping to get a job at an NGO or non-profit organization. She said her family has always been supporters of the Mennonite Central Committee, an international Christian charity organization, which greatly influenced her choice of degree.
"Even from childhood I wanted to do something with MCC, so MCC, being a non-government organization, it makes sense to take the education that I did," she said.
Beyond helping her in her chosen career path, Janzen said she greatly appreciates how her degree has helped her to think critically and understand concepts of poverty and justice.
"I think my degree has helped me understand the world better. I understand myself better, I understand how I interact with the world and my impact on it and how the world impacts me," she said.
CHELSEY HENDERSON, 21,
UNIVERSITY OF WINNIPEG
OVER the course of finishing her bachelor of arts at the U of W, Henderson said she quickly realized the job market for recent university grads isn't what she had hoped for coming out of high school.
"I quickly discovered that, unfortunately, unless I was going to pursue graduate studies, that a BA isn't really helpful anymore," she said.
"You obviously need to have more than that."
Henderson is graduating with a double major in politics and conflict-resolution studies this June, and is planning on pursuing a degree in social work at the University of North Dakota in the fall.
Though she was able to find a job as a youth-care worker upon finishing her courses, she said she has found her pay isn't much better than if she had a high school degree plus work experience.
However, the chances of recent grads getting their dream job "right out of graduating university are unrealistic," she said.
"I think a lot of people in high school were told by parents and teachers that if you go to university and you get a degree, you'll be safe. But I don't think that holds much truth anymore, because a lot of people are now getting degrees."
STEVEN HOBSON, 22,
UNIVERSITY OF WINNIPEG
GRADUATING with a degree in business administration in June, Hobson said he wanted to pursue a degree that gave him a high chance of being employed.
"I feel like that is definitely part of my decision, but not all of it. I think it's important to have a good balance of what you find interesting and what you enjoy doing with that as well," he said.
While he's optimistic about his chances of finding a job in his field, he said simply having a business degree isn't enough to make recent grads stand out to employers anymore.
"The environment now is that everyone has a business degree. So everybody that has a business degree, what's going to make you different or what's going to make that a little bit easier for you?" he said.
"I think the key to that is not necessarily valuing your education at your degree, and really just being content with taking the classes and finishing your degree. You have to look for opportunities that allow you to build your skills while you're doing that."
PAMELA WANKLING, 23,
RED RIVER COLLEGE
JUST finished her diploma in Creative Communications, Pamela Wankling has already found a position in her field with the Winnipeg Humane Society, where she works as a community-outreach co-ordinator.
Though she graduated from the University of Winnipeg in 2010, she decided to enroll in the Creative Communications program as she was concerned her degree in human rights and global studies wouldn't translate into a job.
"I loved my university experience, it was super-eye-opening, I learned a ton. But when I was done, I was like, 'So now what am I going to do for a job?' " she explained.
Compared to her university experience, Wankling said she found her diploma program gave much more hands-on experience than her university education did, which made her more confident about her chances of finding work related to her interests.
"At least from what I've seen, employers aren't necessarily looking to see if you have that piece of paper behind you, they're also looking for the experience. I think Red River gives people the experience they need to get that job that they want, whereas university doesn't really do that," she said.
Post-secondary education in Manitoba
-- 62 per cent of Manitobans possess some form of post-secondary education.
-- After graduating from their program, about three in 10 grads in Manitoba pursue other forms of post-secondary education.
-- 50 per cent of adults in Canada aged 25 to 64 have some form of post-secondary education, up from 39 per cent in 1999.
-- 13 per cent of Canadians aged 15 to 29 are currently not employed or seeking some form of education, according to 2011 data.
-- The employment rate for adults aged 25 to 64 with some form of post-secondary education is 82 per cent, while the rate for those without is 55 per cent.
-- Earning for university graduates averages 70 per cent higher than for adults without post-secondary education.
-- Approximately one in three students have some form of employment arranged after graduation, 23 per cent of which are full-time jobs.
-- source: Statistics Canada and the Canadian University Survey Consortium