The College Payoff: Education, Occupation, Lifetime Earnings
The College Payoﬀ:
Education, Occupations, Lifetime Earnings
Anthony P. Carnevale, Stephen J. Rose, and Ban Cheah
August 5, 2011
• A college degree is key to economic opportunity.
• Only 41 percent of adults in America have a college
• Since 1999, the premium on college education has
risen to 84 percent.
Rule 1: Degree Level Matters
• On average, people with more education make more
than those with less.
• The wage gap is widening. In 2002, a Bachelor’s
degree-holder could expect to earn 75 percent more
over a lifetime than someone with only a high school
diploma.Today, that premium is 84 percent.
Rule 2: Occupations can Trump Degree Level
• There are significant earnings variations between
diﬀerent levels of educational attainment.
• A person does not have to be highly educated to earn
over the median salary in his/her field.
• Some occupational clusters pay better than others.
STEM occupations earn much more than teachers
despite level of educational attainment.
Rule 3: Degree Level Still Matters Most in
Rule 4: Race and Gender can Trump All
When Determining Earnings
• Women with a Bachelor’s degree earn about as much as
men with some college education but no degree.
• African Americans and Latinos earn less than their white
counterparts, even among the most highly-educated
• Education is an investment worth making since it
directly impacts lifetime earnings.
• However, occupation, race, and gender play significant
roles in one’s potential earnings.
For more information:
See the full report at: cew.georgetown.edu/CollegePayoﬀ
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