Here's the Average American's Income by Education Level

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KEY POINTS

  • Income among Americans varies quite a bit depending on their level of education.
  • College graduates earn more than double the salary of those without a degree and those with professional degrees earn almost four times as much as a high school graduate.
  • Staying in school pays off. Even Americans with some college but no degree fare better than those without any education beyond high school.


Do you need to go to college to make more money?

Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg didn't graduate from college but are among the richest people in the world. So does this mean going to college doesn't matter when it comes to your salary? Both Gates and Zuckerberg are exceptions to the norm. They were both able to get into Harvard and had the knowledge to create their billion-dollar businesses. According to data from the U.S. Census, not only do those with more education make more, but the difference is quite surprising.

Income by education level

The average American with a bachelor's degree earns about $80,500 per year, while the average American with only a high school diploma earns about $40,000 per year. College graduates earn more than double on average than those without a degree.

Education Level Average Income
Less than 9th grade $26,293
9th to 12th grade, no diploma $27,987
High school graduate (includes equivalency) $39,976
Some college, no degree $48,555
Associate's degree $51,161
Bachelor's degree $80,478
Bachelor's degree or more $91,892
Master's degree $98,268
Professional degree $151,348
Doctoral degree $141,178
Data source: U.S. Census

The difference increases significantly the more education you get. Those with a professional degree in career fields such as law, pharmacy, and medicine make a little over $151,000 a year, almost four times as much as a high school graduate.

Even the difference between those who drop out of high school and those who graduate is quite large. A high school graduate, who earns about $40,000 a year, makes over 40% more than a person who doesn't complete high school.

Interestingly, even Americans with some college but no degree fare better than those without any education beyond high school. The average income level for this group is slightly over $48,500 per year, about 20% higher than that of a high school graduate.

It pays to stay in school

When it comes to income, education really does pay off. Your education level is clearly a major factor in determining how much you earn. The data shows that if you want to earn a good income, you'll need at least some college education under your belt.

But why is this the case? There are a few reasons. For one, college graduates tend to have better employment opportunities and are less likely to experience unemployment. They also tend to go into fields that offer greater job security, better working conditions, and higher salaries. Finally, college graduates often have an easier time rising through the ranks in their chosen profession, which leads to even higher earnings over time.

As you might expect, the average American's income varies quite a bit depending on their level of education. A college degree may not be right for everyone, but there's no doubt that it can lead to a higher income. Staying in school both figuratively and literally pays off. If you're thinking about pursuing a degree, remember that it's an investment that will pay off in the long run -- both financially and professionally.

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