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How Much Is Higher Education Worth?


So how much is it going to be worth to you to earn a higher education degree? A recent report from the Commerce Department's Census Bureau indicates that earning your master's degree will likely be worth $1.3 million more in lifetime earnings than a high school diploma alone.

In a government report title "The Big Payoff: Educational Attainment and Synthetic Estimates of Work-Life Earnings" it is revealed over the average working life of most adults, high school graduates will likely earn around $1.2 million; individuals possessing a bachelor's degree, $2.1 million; and those with a master's degree, $2.5 million.

Individuals with a doctoral degree on average will earn $3.4 million during their working life, while those dedicate the time to earn a professional degrees can earn up to $4.4 million over their lifetime.

According to Jennifer Cheeseman Day, one of the co-authors of the report, "At most ages, more education equates with higher earnings, and the payoff is most notable at the highest educational levels".

Along with the information presented above, the report also indicates that today more than ever before Americans are getting more education. In 2000, nearly 85 percent of adults age 25 and up had earned at least a high school diploma and 26 percent went on to earn a bachelor's degree, master’s degree or higher, all-time highs!

Additional information from the report included the following:

  • In 1999, average yearly earnings from about $19,000 for high school dropouts to $26,000 for high school graduates, $46,000 for college graduates and nearly $100,000 for individuals with professional degrees (i.e. doctors, dentists, lawyers, etc).

  • Over a life, earnings for an individual with a bachelor's degree compared to an individuals who has high school diploma increase by approximately $1 million for non-Hispanic Whites and nearly $700,000 for African Americans; Asians and Pacific Islanders; and Hispanics.
A separate report released a year ago, “What's It Worth? Field of Training and Economic Status: 1996”, proposed that bachelor's degree holders working full time in engineering earned the highest average monthly pay ($4,680), while those with a similar degree in education earned the lowest ($2,802) in 1996.

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