A college degree can be beneficial for many reasons. It can expand your job opportunities, increase your fund of knowledge and pump up your self-esteem. But one result in particular weighs heaviest in favor of pursuing a higher education: earning a degree can mean you’ll make much more money over your lifetime.
Of course, there are plenty of variables to consider when evaluating the income advantage of a degree. Specific degree earned, industry and occupation, work experience, intangibles such as ambition and drive. But over the years, several quantitative studies have shown that, in broad terms, earning a degree leads to significantly higher lifetime earnings.
According to a study published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in 1979, people with a bachelor’s degree could expect to earn 45% more than those with only a high school diploma over the course of a working life.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles and aggregates data regarding occupations, income and education. Current figures from the U.S.B.L.S. show college degree holders earning 53% more than those with high school diplomas.
A research study from the U.S. Census Bureau published in 2007 shows college graduates earning an average of 61% more than their high-school educated counterparts.
Bear in mind, these numbers are averages from a variety of different studies looking at data from a wide range of time-frames, occupations and degree types. But the basic conclusion is clear: in the long term you’re likely to make significantly more money with a college degree.