Higher Education for Higher Earnings

While there are no guarantees in life, generally the higher education a worker has, the higher his or her lifetime earnings will be. Many higher-paying jobs, such as managerial and supervisory positions, require at least a bachelor's degree. Even though college costs are quickly rising, it is still generally agreed that undergraduate and graduate programs are worth the money.

Average Wages

Statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that higher education provides big benefits. The median weekly earnings for workers with a high school diploma in 2010 was $626. In comparison, workers with an associate degree had median weekly earnings of $767. The figure for workers with a bachelor's degree was $1,038. Workers with a master's degree, with median weekly wages of $1,272, earned more than double what high school graduates made.

These figures prove that higher education is one of the best ways to increase your chances of earning more over a lifetime. In fact, education is the single most important determining factor for how much you will earn. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report on the impact of higher education on wages in 2011.

The report, which studied data from residents from all 50 states from 2006 to 2008, showed that education level was more important than gender and race in determining earnings. The lifetime earnings, which represented estimated earnings over a 40 years starting from the age of 25, for white males with a bachelor's degree was $2,847,953. White males with a master's degree was estimated to earn $3,318,658. The estimated lifetime earnings of Asian males with a bachelor's degree was $2,437,516 while those with a master's degree had an estimated lifetime earnings of $3,454,087.

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Lower Unemployment

Not only does higher education give you a much higher chance of higher wages, it also protects you from losing out on wages due to unemployment. The average unemployment rate for workers with a high school diploma in 2010 was 10.3 percent.

Meanwhile, higher educated workers faced less unemployment. Workers with an associate degree had an unemployment rate of 7 percent while those with a bachelor's degree had an unemployment rate of 5.4 percent. Following the pattern, workers with a master's degree had an unemployment rate of only 4 percent.

People with degrees generally face less unemployment because they are qualified for a larger pool of jobs. While a high school graduate may be disqualified from a manager position because it requires a college degree, a college graduate can generally do the job of the high school graduate in addition to going after the manager position.

Sources:

Education pays. (2011) U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Education and Synthetic Work-Life Earnings Estimates. (2011) United States Census Bureau.

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