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The Value of Education

Posted: 26 Oct 2016 02:05 AM PDT

Fox Business shares some data that highlights the value of education. The highlights:

Based on the assumption of a 40-year work history (from age 25 to 64) and using 2011 dollars for its example, the Census Bureau finds that full-time workers' lifetime earnings capacity soars as their education level rises. Non-high school graduates with a ninth through 12th grade education level and high school graduates in its example bring home $936,000 and $1.1 million in earnings over their lifetimes. Individuals with at least some college experience netted an average of $1.6 million, while those with an associate's degree brought home $1.8 million over their lifetime.

The data showed that people graduating with a four-year bachelor's degree earned an average of $2.4 million over their lifetime in 2011 dollars, with people attaining a master's degree bringing home $2.8 million. More specialized degrees, such as a doctoral or professional degree (for example, law or engineering), led to lifetime earnings of $3.5 million and $4.2 million, respectively.

To summarize, average lifetime earnings are:

  • Non-high school graduates: $936k
  • High school graduates: $1.1 million
  • Some college: $1.6 million
  • Associate's degree: $1.8 million
  • Bachelor's degree: $2.4 million
  • Master's degree: $3.5 million
  • Doctoral degree: $3.5 million
  • Professional degree: $4.2 million

Several thoughts on this info:

  • There's an on-going debate about whether or not education is worth it because of 1) cost/debt incurred and 2) the time it takes to earn a degree takes away from the number of years you earn an income. I think this data shows that educations is generally worth it (by generating more lifetime income) even given these two factors.
  • Using data from ages 25 to 64 seems to limit the value of some degrees. Many (most?) people have their Bachelor's degree by age 22 or 23 and many (most?) work way past 64. So it seems like the value of some degrees are understated. Even those with no degree could begin working at 18 or younger and work well past 64, making the non-high school graduates and high school graduates numbers higher too.
  • You can maximize the financial value of any degree by 1) cutting college costs (and time) in getting the degree and 2) working at your career so you make more than average. The above incomes are the average figures, but who says you have to be average? Even being just a bit above average will earn you a tremendous amount more over the course of a working career.
  • I'm not sure if an MBA counts as a Master's degree or a professional degree. Getting my MBA was certainly one of the smartest money moves I've ever made. I "only" worked 28 years and made well more than $4.2 million. That said, all that income wasn't from my career -- a decent amount was from investments (which my career enabled) and from a few side businesses.

Overall, this data seems to clearly show the value of an education, especially one done right (the lowest costs possible and the highest earnings possible). Anyone think differently or like to support what's above?


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