Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Education matters

| March 2016

Education Pays

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Earnings and unemployment rate by educational attainment, 2015
Education attained Median usual weekly earnings ($) Unemployment rate (%)

Doctoral degree

1,623 1.7

Professional degree

1,730 1.5

Master's degree

1,341 2.4

Bachelor's degree

1,137 2.8

Associate's degree

798 3.8

Some college, no degree

738 5.0

High school diploma

678 5.0

Less than a high school diploma

493 8.0

All workers

860 4.3
Note: Data are for persons age 25 and over. Earnings are for full-time wage and salary workers.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey.

Even if your career path seems hazy, the data are clear: More education leads to better prospects for earnings and employment.

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), earnings increase and unemployment decreases as educational attainment rises. Grouping workers by education level, the chart shows that those with more education have higher earnings and lower rates of unemployment than those with less education.

For example, workers with a professional degree had the highest median weekly earnings ($1,730) and lowest unemployment rate (1.5 percent) in 2015 of all groups shown. That’s more than triple the earnings ($493) and less than one-fifth the unemployment rate (8.0 percent) of workers with less than a high school diploma.

Education alone doesn’t guarantee that you’ll find a job or make a lot of money, however. Earnings and employment vary by occupation, and they are further affected by industry, geographic location, experience, and other factors. BLS data and resources, such as the Occupational Outlook Handbook, can help you learn more about the occupations that interest you.

These data are from the BLS Current Population Survey, a monthly survey of households that collects information about demographic and labor force characteristics.

About the Author

Dennis Vilorio is an economist in the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, BLS. He can be reached at (202) 691-5711 or vilorio.dennis@bls.gov .

Suggested citation:

Dennis Vilorio, "Education matters," Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 2016.

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