If you’ve been out of the education game for a while, going back to school as an adult can be a hard sell. Maybe you’ve heard that the learning experience is amazing, but you can’t imagine taking time out of your already busy schedule to pursue a degree. Or perhaps you’re doing just fine with the job you have and you don’t want to rock the boat. But the latest statistics on the financial benefits of higher education might change your mind.
A new State Policy Resource Center report from the association of State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) reveals that college degrees clearly result in higher earnings for the vast majority of individuals nationwide. The report, entitled The Economic Benefit of Postsecondary Degrees: A State and National Analysis, indicates that almost without exception, despite variation across states and disciplines, each successive level of higher educational attainment yields additional economic benefit.
Just look at the numbers: According to the analysis, people with a high school diploma have a median annual income of $29,423, while those with an associate degree earn $38,607, and bachelor’s degree holders earn a median income of $50,360.
For those of you who already have a college degree but have been toying with the prospect of graduate education, the dollar signs are in your favor, too. The report shows that individuals with a graduate degree have a median income of $68,064 – 35.2 percent more than those with a bachelor’s degree.
You may be making ends meet now, but think about what a salary boost could mean for you and your family. There are plenty of worthy reasons for pursuing higher education (e.g., learning a new subject, expanding your expertise, broadening your worldview), but the economic benefits are certainly not least on the list. We know that at this point in your life, when you’ve got a lot on your plate, you need a really good reason for adding something new to the mix. With numbers like these, we see thousands of good reasons – and they’re all in the bank.
“The more deeply and completely one examines the evidence, the more compelling the conclusion – higher education is a great investment for both the student and society as a whole, no matter where you live, no matter what you study,” says SHEEO President Paul Lingenfelter.
The report presents national and state wage premiums for seven discipline categories and examines median earnings variation across disciplines and across states.
Some of the fields of study that offer the best return on investment are health-related disciplines, as well as science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Health-related disciplines have the highest wage premium (123.4 percent) over a high school diploma, with health-related bachelor’s degree holders earning a median income of $56,427. And median incomes for the STEM disciplines are above average for each degree level analyzed in this report.
Even if you’re currently employed in the trades, you can benefit from higher education. The wage premium for bachelor’s degree holders may be the lowest in the trades, but the median income of $40,305 is still 39.9 percent higher than the salary for trades workers who only have a high school diploma.
No matter how old you are, a college education will never go to waste – that’s something you can bank on.