How The Pay Gap Between Workers With And Without College Degrees Has Changed In The Last 20 Years

A 2019 report from Georgetown University says that education and training beyond high school are needed for two out of every three jobs. In the 1970s, only 3 out of every 4 jobs required at most a high school diploma.

According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report from July 2022, people with a bachelor’s degree make more money. In 2020, the median weekly wage for those with a bachelor’s degree was $1,547, while the median weekly wage for those with a high school diploma was $838.

During the second quarter of 2022, people with bachelor’s degrees made 61% more than those with some college or associate degrees. Workers with some college or associate degrees made 15% more than those with just a high school diploma. People with a high school diploma made 22% more than people who didn’t finish high school.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis’s inflation calculator shows that inflation has grown by 64% since 2002. This is about the same as the growth rate of weekly earnings for people with bachelor’s degrees and is higher than the rate for people with high school diplomas or some college.

Based on BLS data, College Ave looked at how the median weekly earnings of people with different levels of education changed between the second quarters of 2002 and 2022. The number of workers in each educational bracket as of August 2022 was also included, along with information about how much they made each week. The data are mostly about workers who are 25 years old or older.

Not even a high school degree

  • 8.2 million people have jobs.
  • In 2002, the average weekly wage was $390.
  • In 2022, the average weekly median wage will be $689.
  • 76.7% growth over 20 years

People who don’t have a high school diploma or GED may have fewer job options, but there are still some, especially in jobs that offer training on the job. There are jobs for cooks, drivers, janitors, landscapers, waiters, and people who work in warehouses. But young adults who don’t have a degree are a small minority.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, between 2010 and 2021, the number of people ages 25 to 29 who had at least a high school diploma rose from 89% to 94%. According to the BLS, the unemployment rate for people 25 and older who did not have a high school diploma was 4.3% in February 2022. People with some college credits or an associate degree had a 3.8% unemployment rate.

High school diploma, no college

  • 34.4 million people have jobs.
  • In 2002, the median weekly income was $532.
  • In 2022, the average weekly wage will be $838.
  • 57.5% growth over 20 years.

High school graduates who don’t go to college have trouble finding well-paying jobs, but some fields of work are growing. For example, flight attendants made about $61,640 a year in 2021, and the BLS says that the field will add 22,100 jobs by 2031.

Property and real estate managers made about $59,230 per year in 2021, and 11,100 more jobs could open up by 2031. Carpenters made about $48,260 a year, and about 20,500 new jobs are expected in that field. In February 2022, people who had finished high school but not gone to college had a 4.5% unemployment rate, according to the BLS.

Some college or associate degree

  • 34.1 million people have jobs.
  • In 2002, the median weekly income was $634.
  • In 2022, the average weekly wage will be $961.
  • 51.6% growth over 20 years.

Even if you only go to community college for two years, you may be able to get a job that pays well. The BLS says it has identified 99 jobs that usually require postsecondary education, usually an associate degree or a certificate but not a bachelor’s degree.

For example, medical equipment needs to be set up and fixed. In 2021, those who worked in this field made about $49,910. Usually, you need an associate’s degree in biomedical technology or engineering, but you might need a bachelor’s degree to move up.

Geological and hydraulic technicians need an associate degree, usually in applied science or a science-related technology. This is another good job field. They work with scientists and engineers to find natural resources and get them out of the ground. In 2021, they made about $50,080.

Higher than a bachelor’s degree

  • 61.9 million people have jobs.
  • In 2002, the median weekly income was $939.
  • In 2022, the average weekly median wage will be $1,547.
  • 64.7% growth over 20 years.

More and more people are getting jobs that require a bachelor’s degree or more. Pew Research Center says that as of 2021, 38% of adults aged 25 and up had a bachelor’s degree. This number includes the 14.3% of adults who also had a graduate or professional degree, according to the Current Population Survey from the Census Bureau. In 2022, 38% of adults will have a college degree or higher. In 2011, only 30.4% of adults had a college degree or higher.

A high school teacher with a bachelor’s degree can make $61,820 a year, while a physicist or astronomer can make $147,450 a year (often with a doctorate), and an orthopedic surgeon with a medical degree can make $306,220 a year. People who have at least a bachelor’s degree are more likely to make more than those who only have a high school diploma.

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