For Higher Earnings, Consider More than Education Level

Back in May, a report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce created a buzz with new analysis on the connection between a student’s college major and future earnings potential. A new report from the Center takes a further look at how much a college degree is worth and other factors that may influence a worker’s earnings.

While some findings were not surprising – median earnings rise with education level – others were more intriguing. As the report describes, the range of earnings for each education level shows a high amount of overlap, meaning that the upper reaches of one level of education have significant earnings overlap with those in the lower reaches of another. For example, more than a quarter of individuals with an Associate’s degree earn more than the median earnings of workers with a Bachelor’s degree.

According to the researchers, this overlap is due in large part to varying earnings among occupations. Within an individual field, such as health sciences, earnings seem to rise with education attainment. However, some occupations pay more than others so across-field comparisons show that workers with less education may earn more than workers with more education in a different field. These findings link to the center’s previous report showing that a student’s college major choice can dramatically impact their future earning potential.

The report also showed earnings gaps for women and minorities, calling gender and race “wild cards that matter more than education or occupation in determining earnings.”

Career Technical Education (CTE) students begin career exploration earlier than many high school students. Secondary and postsecondary CTE programs expose students to high-wage, high-demand fields such as advanced manufacturing and health sciences, and prepare students to advance in further education or careers in these areas.

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