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Higher Education, Higher Pay? Not Necessarily, Study Finds


People with higher education degrees usually earn more than those who only graduate high school, but data has now revealed that there’s been an increase in workers without college diplomas who receive a higher salary compared to employees with associate’s or bachelor’s degrees.

A study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) found that 16 percent of high school graduates are now earning more compared to half of adults with college degrees.

This trend continues to other education levels as 28 percent of workers with associate’s degrees receive higher pay than employees with a bachelor’s degree, while 36 percent of workers with bachelor’s degrees earn more than those with master’s degrees.

“More education doesn’t always get you more money. You can get less education and make more, it’s true. You can get more education and make less; it all depends on your field of study,” said CEW Director Anthony Carnevale, the report’s lead author.

The report showed that the fields of architecture, engineering, computers, mathematics, business, and health and physical sciences are the highest-earning occupations. 

What Else Affects Pay?

There are several factors that dictate how much you earn over the years. Gender continues to impact the ability to earn more as pay gaps in favor of men can be found across all education levels and industries. For example, women with master’s degrees earn $1.1 million less over their lifetime than men.

Race and ethnicity also play a huge role in salary but vary between education levels. White workers receive higher pay than Asian, Black, and Hispanic workers at the high school graduate and associate’s degree level. Further down the career road, Asian workers with a bachelor’s degree share the top earning spot but dominate once they reach the master’s degree level. 

Numbers-wise, staying in school and pursuing a college education continues to be the best course of action if one hopes to improve career prospects. But since there’s no guarantee, students should be exposed to rigorous advising and counseling

“Students need professional guidance on the economic outcomes of college and career pathways before they make one of the biggest decisions of their lives,” said Ban Cheah, the co-author of the CEW report.

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