More education = more earning power

How much education you have may make a difference in earning power

A Marine doing her homework on a computer.Everyone’s situation and goals in life are different. A four-year college degree or advanced degree may not be right for everyone. You may be interested in community college, trade school, or technical training instead.
Your life experiences (especially those from your military career) can translate into valuable skills for potential employers. Understanding these experiences and how they apply can make you a more marketable applicant.

The level of education you achieve may make a big difference in how much money you earn. Did you know that a college graduate earns almost one million dollars more over a lifetime than a high school graduate?1

Lifetime earnings1

Take a look at this bar chart to see, on average, how more education may improve your lifetime earnings over time.

Median lifetime earnings, by education level

Over the course of a lifetime1:

  • Someone with an associate degree earns almost a third more money than a high school graduate.
  • Someone with a master’s degree earns more than double the money of a high school graduate.
  • Someone with a professional degree earns 60% more than someone with a bachelor’s degree.

Annual earnings2

Now, look at this bar chart, which shows average annual earnings by education level.

Median annual earnings, by education level

However, a college degree or technical certification doesn’t guarantee a higher income. Research the typical salaries and demand for people in the field you are studying, as well as the job placement rates for the school you are considering. If you will need to take out loans to pay for your education, consider how much you’ll need to pay in student loans each month and how long it will take to repay.

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  1. Carnevale, Anthony P., Stephen J. Rose and Ban C Heah, Georgetown University, “The College Payoff, 2011. (
  2. The College Board, “Education Pays,” 2010 (