Employees who hold a bachelor’s degree tend to earn more than employees without one, but not always, according to a new report about the payoffs of college from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, a research and policy institute focused on education and career pathways.
The report found that a worker with a bachelor’s degree earns a median $2.8 million over a lifetime, averaging about $70,000 per year. Workers with some college education earn a median $1.9 million over the course of their careers, an average of $47,500 per year, and associate degree holders earn a median $2 million, an annual $50,000 on average.
However, 28 percent of associate degree holders, 23 percent of workers with some college education and 16 percent of workers with only a high school diploma earn more than half of workers who hold a bachelor’s degree, the report said. Employees in some more lucrative fields, such as engineering and architecture, can earn as much or more as employees at a higher education level across fields.
“There’s a lot of variation in earnings related to field of study, occupation, and other factors,” the center’s director and lead report author, Anthony P. Carnevale, said in a press release.
The report also noted that wages differed based on race and gender. Women earn less than men over a lifetime across education levels. White employees with an associate degree earn a median of $2.1 million, compared to $2 million for Asian workers, $1.9 million for Latinx workers and $1.7 million for Black workers. White bachelor’s degree holders earn a median of $2.9 million; the figure is the same for Asian workers and $2.3 million for Black and Latinx workers with the same level of education. Asian employees earn the most of any demographic group at the master’s-degree level.
“Students need professional guidance on the economic outcomes of college and career pathways before they make one of the biggest decisions of their lives,” Ban Cheah, report co-author and a research professor and senior economist at the center, said in a press release.