Post-Secondary Education in Alberta: ATB Releases New Perch

Calgary — Education stands at the centre of what makes Alberta a prosperous place with a high quality of life. From learning more about ourselves and our world, to improving the productivity and creativity of the labour force, an education makes all the difference.

But as students get settled back into lecture halls across the province, questions persist. The latest edition of ATB Financial’s Perch answers some of them, including:

  •          Does post-secondary education pay off in terms of employment and earnings?
  •          How educated are Albertans?
  •          What does our post-secondary system look like?


“To answer the question people ask most, yes, post-secondary education does pay off,” says Rob Roach, director of insight at ATB and author of Perch. “There are no guarantees, but Albertans with a post-secondary credential are more likely to have a job and to earn more than their less educated counterparts.”

In fact, over 83 per cent of Albertans age 25 to 64 with a post-secondary credential were working in 2015 compared to 76 per cent of Albertans with only a high school diploma or an incomplete post-secondary education.

And when it comes to salaries, Albertans with an apprenticeship or trade certificate earned almost $20,000 more than those who did not go beyond high school. Those with bachelor’s degrees earned an average of $33,500 more than those with high school diplomas.

While not everyone who graduates from a post-secondary program will land a well-paying job and keep it, especially during an economic downturn like the one we are facing, the aggregate numbers suggest that the time, effort and money required to earn a post-secondary credential are usually worth it.

Other key findings in Perch include:

  • Alberta, like Canada, has a highly educated population with 90 per cent of the working age population having at least a high school education.
  • Almost two-thirds of working age Albertans (62 per cent) have completed a post-secondary program. The national average is 64 per cent. Almost three in 10 working age Albertans (27 per cent) have a university degree compared to 28 per cent nationally.
  • As of the 2014-2015  school year:
    • there were 263,100 students enrolled in Alberta’s 26 publicly-funded post-secondary schools. This is equal to about six per cent of the provincial population.
    • the majority of full-time students (57 per cent) are pursuing a degree, be it a bachelor’s (45 per cent), master’s (7 per cent), doctorate (4 per cent) or applied (1 per cent).


So what does all of this mean?

“It suggests that it makes sense to seriously consider pursuing post-secondary studies,” says Roach. “For some, this will mean going into a practical program like welding or accounting. For others, their skills and interests might be better suited to a liberal arts degree that they can, with a bit of luck and hard work, parlay into a wide range of potential careers.”

To hear more from Roach, watch this video:

More on ATB’s research on post-secondary education in Alberta can be found here. An extended report on the topic can be found on