By Karen Kelly

What are you going to do with that degree?

It’s a familiar question for students in the social sciences—and for those of us who work with them.

So we decided to find out the answer…by collecting career information on almost 40% of our 30,000 alumni over the years.

With the assistance of Dan Patterson in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, we studied the information that our alumni voluntarily provided to Carleton’s Alumni Services.

We found more than 11,500 people who earned a bachelor’s degree from a program in the Faculty of Public Affairs—even before that was our name. Just over 10,000 of them earned a bachelor’s degree before 2005 and almost 1600 received one since 2005.

What we discovered were job trends that shine a light on the possible careers that await FPA undergraduate students. Click on the headings in the chart below to compare.


You may have heard that “government jobs” are hard to find, but our graduates are successfully finding careers in the public service. Thanks to FPA’s many placement and internship opportunities, a large number of our students are being hired by various government agencies right out of university.

Whether we’re talking about a researcher in the federal government, a diplomat serving abroad, or a city councillor, the number of our undergraduate alumni working in some way for a government—international, federal, provincial, or local—has continued to increase.

For instance, 27% of our alumni who graduated before 2005 worked in the government sector. But those who graduated since 2005 were even more likely to land one of these jobs—36% of them.

This strong representation cuts across all of our programs, but is particularly true in the Bachelor of Public Affairs and Policy Management (BPAPM), where 56% of alumni since 2005 worked in government-related jobs.

“I liked the idea that BPAPM is an interdisciplinary program that includes law, history, French, and politics—all of my favourite subjects. It also allowed me to specialize in an area of particular interest, and enabled me to take a minor in business.”

Kevin Mason, Senate Conservative Caucus Liaison, BPAPM

Alumni in Political Science also had a strong showing, with 40% of graduates since 2005 working in government.

“Political Science gave me a good understanding of how to critically analyze information and how government processes work. I think a lot about the policy cycle and how different government institutions create policy.”

Rumya Nithiananthan, senior program officer at the Public Health Agency of Canada, Bachelor of Arts, Political Science

Additionally, an increasing number of our Criminology and Criminal Justice graduates can be found in the government sector. Prior to 2005, 23% worked in government. Since 2005, the number has increased to 38%.

“Not a single day goes by in my career where I am not applying one or more aspects of law, sociology, psychology or statistics. My education also helped strengthen my ability to think strategically and to provide recommendations.”

Ashley Wamboldt, senior project officer at the Correctional Service of Canada, Bachelor of Arts, Criminology and Criminal Justice.


It may be no surprise that many of the Journalism and Communication graduates we followed work in the Media, Communication and IT sector: our highly respected School of Journalism and Communication has been the source of some of the world’s best journalists since classes started in 1945.

Among them are some of the top names in Canadian journalism, including Rosemary Barton, Nahlah Ayed and Laura Lynch at the CBC; Mark McKinnon at The Globe and Mail; and James Duthie at The Sports Network.

What may be more surprising is how many are working outside of the traditional media industries. Sixty percent of Journalism alumni and 80% of Communication (now Communication and Media Studies) alumni have established careers in other sectors of the economy. In other words, these degrees prepare students for success well beyond the traditional workplaces.

“I feel well-equipped with a really good basic tool kit in both Economics and Journalism. I can solve economic problems and write articles on technical, abstruse topics that many people want explained.”

Greg Ip, Chief Economics Commentator, The Wall Street Journal, Bachelor of Arts, Journalism and Economics


The finance sector includes jobs in banking, investment, insurance, real estate and more. Almost one-third of our Bachelor of Economics alumni since 2005 reported jobs in this area. Many of the 39% of Economics alumni in government are performing similar functions. You can see a significant increase in Economics graduates in both of these sectors over time.

“I had some excellent professors who not only helped us master the content but also encouraged us to look for the weak spots and limitations in everything you learn.”

Timothy Lane, Deputy Governor, Bank of Canada, Bachelor of Arts, Economics & Political Science

The Professions

Alumni working in the professional sector are lawyers, consultants, politicians, accountants, public relations professionals, and more. These account for 10 percent of all FPA graduates we followed and 14% (pre-2005) and 17% (since 2005) of those with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Law.

“I had never been exposed to the law before coming to Carleton, but that’s when I realized how much it speaks to who we are as a society.”

Kimberley Crosbie, Judge, Ontario Court of Law, Bachelor of Arts, Law


Twelve percent of our graduates since 2005 are working in the health care and social support sector, including nurses, doctors, support staff and, notably, social workers. Sixty percent of our Social Work graduates go on to work in this sector, many of them as registered social workers.

“What I first started my degree, I was solely interested in child protection work, but the structural School of Social Work helped me recognize a lot of the systemic issues we face in society, and got me interested in addressing the larger, structural barriers people face every day.”

Natasha Pei, Manager of Cities-Cities Reducing Poverty, Vibrant Communities, Bachelor of Social Work and Master of Social Work

What We Learned

The findings of this research yielded encouraging news for FPA and our students. Not only are many of our alumni successful in their careers, but they are successful in a multitude of ways. For instance, Journalism and Communication alumni are applying their writing and critical thinking skills to jobs in government and industry. Law and Legal Studies graduates are bringing problem-solving skills—as well as an understanding of law—to careers that span the employment sectors.

The findings here demonstrate the intrinsic value of a Faculty of Public Affairs degree. We don’t just train students to do a job; we equip them with the ability to see and improve the world around them…whether that’s in their workplace or our society as a whole.

Learn more about the sectors.

Find FPA Master’s alumni data here.

Disclaimer: The information represented in these displays is drawn from databases maintained by Carleton’s Alumni Services. Some degree names have changed over time; current degree names are used here. The information was voluntarily provided by some of our graduates and does not represent a scientific sample of all graduates. Some students in this sample will have also completed other degrees, including at more advanced levels. Individual experiences and outcomes can differ from those represented here.

Friday, September 27, 2019 in ,
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