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Research Article

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Non-linear PSE Pathways and Credential Accumulation: Statistical Portrait and Evaluation of Labour Market Outcomes

July 2021

Authors: Xavier St-Denis (Institut national de la recherche scientifique), Yacine Boujija (Université de Montréal), Stephen Sartor (University of Western Ontario)

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Executive Summary

The conventional model for educational trajectories expects students to graduate from high school before completing, in many cases, a post-secondary degree or certificate in a college, university, or other institution. Among those completing a Bachelor’s degree, it is expected that some of them will obtain a post-graduate degree, in a linear progression through a set of well-ordered transitions between degrees.

In contrast, this project is motivated by a need to describe the population of post-secondary students who instead follow non-linear or non-conventional education pathways. It draws on data from the Longitudinal and International Study of Adults, Waves 1-4. We set out to accomplish two objectives: 1) to present a statistical portrait of different educational pathways in Ontario and in Canada in order to identify the share of post-secondary students who follow non-conventional pathways such as completing several postsecondary degrees or certificate at the Bachelor level or below; 2) to evaluate the employment and labour market outcomes associated with different educational pathways (earnings, over-qualification, etc.). We also explore the interaction between different educational pathways and parental education or immigration backgrounds. 


  • Student decisions, experiences, and outcomes
  • Program pathways, course transfer, and prior learning