It’s Simple – More Education Means More Money

You’ve heard it before, but it still holds true: if you want to earn significantly more money over your lifetime, get a college degree.

According to a report issued by the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projection within the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), having a college degree will continue to be the ticket to better job prospects and higher lifetime earnings. It’s also important to know what careers offer the best prospects for college grads.

The report’s authors, economists Olivia Crosby and Roger Moncarz, state, “Data consistently show that, on average, college graduates earn more money, experience less unemployment, and have a wider variety of career options than other workers do. A college degree also makes it easier for jobseekers to enter many of the fastest growing, highest paying occupations. What’s more, having a degree is the only way to get a start in some careers.” Between the years 2004 and 2014, around 14 million jobs are expected to open up exclusively to those holding a college degree and who are entering their chosen occupation for the first time.

The report defines a college graduate as “a person who has a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral (Ph.D.) degree or a professional degree, such as one in law or medicine.” Associate degrees are not pertinent to the findings in the report.

The report looks at some hard numbers: in 2005, workers who had a bachelor’s degree had median weekly earnings of $937, compared with $583 a week for high school graduates – that’s a a 61 percent jump in median earnings. Assuming the graduate begins his professional career at age 21 and retires at 65, that’s a lifetime increase of $809,952—over three quarters of a million dollars in extra income. And that’s just for workers with a bachelor’s degree –  the increase in earnings is much higher with every jump in educational achievement. For those with master’s, Ph.D.’s, or professional degrees, the earnings difference climbs well over $1 million. And the trend just keeps on growing  –  the wages of college-educated workers have been rising over the past decade, and they’ve been rising faster than the earnings of other workers.

A college degree also means less unemployment: in 2005 the unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s or higher degree was 2 percent; for high school graduates it was 4 percent; and for dropouts it was 7 percent. Less unemployment over a lifetime adds even more to the increased lifetime earnings of college graduates, putting figures well over $1 million even for those with a bachelor’s degree.

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