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Measuring the value of education

| April 2018

Note: These data have been updated. The most recent chart is available here.

It’s hard to quantify the full value of an education. But U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data consistently show that, in terms of dollars, education makes sense.

As the chart shows, the more you learn, the more you earn. Median weekly earnings in 2017 for those with the highest levels of educational attainment—doctoral and professional degrees—were more than triple those with the lowest level, less than a high school diploma. And workers with at least a bachelor’s degree earned more than the $907 median weekly earnings for all workers.

Click the chart legend to see a second chart showing unemployment rates by educational attainment. As that chart shows, the higher the level of education, the lower the unemployment rate. Compare unemployment by education level in 2017 with the overall unemployment rate of 3.6 percent.

View Chart Data

Median weekly earnings (in dollars) and unemployment rate (in percent) by educational attainment, 2017
Educational attainment Median usual weekly earnings Unemployment rate

Doctoral degree

$1,743 1.5%

Professional degree

1,836 1.5

Master's degree

1,401 2.2

Bachelor's degree

1,173 2.5

Associate degree

836 3.4

Some college, no degree

774 4.0

High school diploma, no college

712 4.6

Less than a high school diploma

520 6.5


907 3.6

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.

Data in the chart indicate how weekly earnings and rates of unemployment vary by educational attainment for workers ages 25 and older at a broad level. Individual experiences differ, however, depending on factors such as your field of degree and your occupation.

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

Elka Torpey is an economist in the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, BLS. She can be reached at torpey.elka@bls.gov .

Suggested citation:

Elka Torpey, "Measuring the value of education," Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 2018.

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/careeroutlook Contact Career Outlook

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