The University of Waterloo is not an easy place to work. At least, it used to be. This was in the 1990s and today it’s easy to forget that, just as the number of students has grown steadily, so have the types of jobs available to them. There were, then, jobs for nurses, lawyers and other specialist workers; now there are many for people with just one academic qualification—if they can find one at all.
The university has become an employment magnet—there are now about 20,000 of these positions across the country. What makes the job market so attractive is that, with a degree of academic excellence, students can earn up to $50,000 a year. At one time, it would have been a great deal to be able to move all that earnings into a high-paying career in one’s choice of subject (such as economics, engineering, law or science) and not have to rely at all on a wage, or on the government support that came with it. But that’s changed, and more and more people are moving out of that field—and back into the labour market.
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Today, the number of postgraduate employment positions at both universities is rising. Of the more than 100,000 postgraduate positions held at universities around the world, the University of Waterloo—where, for example, I worked a year ago, and of which I was a student—was the most popular on the market, according to a September survey by consulting firm Deloitte.
The numbers suggest that, given the growth in the number of college students, which now exceeds the number of undergraduate students, there’ll be more work for graduates than at any time since the 1980s. The new jobs are not necessarily for the well-to-do, however. Indeed, many of the jobs advertised are in the service sector—which means that graduates may have to choose between jobs at a bank or in a hospital. Many university postgraduates are still struggling to secure paid work, especially as they find themselves in a market where jobs are hard to find. As I wrote in a recent column for the New York Times:
So much of the postgrad work is performed by students now that universities are increasingly becoming a work force for employers. That, in turn, makes those students who do get jobs for salaries, usually starting on a much lower level by comparison with their classmates, more
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