College graduates earn 84% more than high school grads, study says


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The cost of education these days would make anyone squirm, but researchers say it’s worth it.

People with a bachelor’s degree make 84% more over a lifetime than high school graduates. In 1999, the premium was 75%, according to a study released Friday.


Granted, the report comes from a university -- specifically, Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

But the data is striking, especially amid the backdrop of increasing concerns about soaring school expenses.

-- On average, a doctoral degree-holder will earn $3.3 million over a lifetime, compared to $2.3 million for a college graduate and $1.3 million for those with a high school diploma.

-- People with less education in high-paying occupations can out-earn their counterparts with advanced degrees. But within the same industry, workers with more schooling usually land better paychecks.

-- The gender and racial gap persists. To earn as much as their male colleagues, women tend to need much higher degrees, even while working the same hours. Black and Latino master’s degree-holders don’t out-earn white college graduates. But Asians with graduate degrees out-earn all other races and ethnicities at the same educational level.

-- The highest-paying occupations for each degree tier vary. High school graduates can make $2.2 million over their lifetimes as general and operations managers. College graduates who become chief executives or legislators can haul in $4.5 million. Physicians and surgeons rake in nearly $6 million.


The Georgetown researchers have also estimated that 63% of American jobs will require some sort of postsecondary education or training by 2018. Currently, the U.S. is 10th globally in college degree attainment, with 41% of adults earning a bachelor’s degree.


Recent college graduates earn less than those who graduated before the recession

The upward mobility gap: College-educated Americans live in a different country than high school dropouts

-- Tiffany Hsu