High earnings without a college degree?

August 30, 1999

Is it possible for a worker to have high earnings without a bachelor's degree? For a small proportion of workers without a degree, the answer is "Yes."

Workers age 25 and older, by usual weekly earnings and degree status, 1998
[Chart data—TXT]

Last year, the median earnings for all college graduates were $821 a week. Of full-time workers age 25 and older without a bachelor's degree, 15 percent earned more than $821 a week in 1998. However, 62 percent of workers without a degree had weekly earnings below $572 per week, which was the median for all workers age 25 and over.

Workers with high earnings and without a degree can be found in a variety of occupations. Examples are computer programmers, electricians, firefighting occupations, real estate sales occupations, and tool and die makers. Although the majority of workers without a degree in these five occupations do not have high earnings, in 1998 there were at least 50,000 people in each of them who did not have a bachelor's degree and who earned more than the median college graduate.

These data on earnings are from the Current Population Survey. The above figures are for full-time, year-round wage and salary workers age 25 and over. Find out more about earnings and education in "High earning workers who don't have a bachelor's degree (PDF 275K)," by Matthew Mariani, Occupational Outlook Quarterly, Fall 1999.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, High earnings without a college degree? on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/1999/sept/wk1/art01.htm (visited September 25, 2016).


Recent editions of Spotlight on Statistics

  • A look at healthcare spending, employment, pay, benefits, and prices
    As one of the largest U.S. industries, healthcare is steadily growing to meet the needs of an increasing population with an increasing life expectancy. This Spotlight looks at how much people spend on healthcare, current and projected employment in the industry, employer-provided healthcare benefits, healthcare prices, and pay for workers in healthcare occupations.

  • Employment and Wages in Healthcare Occupations
    Healthcare occupations are a significant percentage of U.S. employment. Some of the largest and highest paying occupations are in healthcare. This Spotlight examines employment and wages for healthcare occupations.

  • Fifty years of looking at changes in peoples lives
    Longitudinal surveys help us understand long-term changes, such as how events that happened when a person was in high school affect labor market success as an adult.