More education = more earning power

The level of education you achieve can make a huge difference in how much money you’re able to earn, also called your earning power.

Everyone’s situation and goals in life are a little different. A four-year college degree isn’t right for everyone. You may be interested in community college, junior college, trade school, or technical training instead.

Expected lifetime earnings relative to high school graduates, by education level

Education level Earnings ratio
Not a high school graduate 0.75
High school graduate, including GED 1.00
Some college, no degree 1.19
Associate’s degree 1.28
Bachelor’s degree 1.61
Master’s degree 1.93
Doctoral degree 2.37
Professional degree 2.87

Source: The College Board, “Education Pays,” 2007.

A person with a two-year associate degree has lifetime earnings almost 25% higher than a high school graduate. A person with a four-year degree earns, on average, almost 75% more than a high school graduate.

Note: There are many jobs that don’t require specialized education or training beyond high school, but some jobs do require it.

For more about higher education and how to afford for it, see the topic School & $.

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