In light of the soaring cost of four-year college, leaders in education and business suggest Americans rethink the need for universities to find a good job. But at least for now, data suggests having a college degree pays more in the long run.
Tim Cook recently made headlines for stating that you don’t need a degree to be successful. Cook put his money where his mouth is: the CEO revealed about half of Apple’s new hires in 2018 did not have a four-year degree.
Cook isn’t the only one encouraging people to think beyond a bachelor’s degree to find a good job. Trade schools have touted the high wages blue-collar work can yield, including six-figures for heavy-equipment technicians.
Even students of four-year colleges themselves feel that a university education wasn’t worth the cost, a recent survey finds. College is more expensive than ever — and students are going into record debt to pay it off.
While skipping college may seem like a cheaper option, data suggests earnings for college graduates far exceed wages for those with less than a bachelor’s degree. A Business Insider analysis of US Census data finds that in every US state, earnings for college graduates exceed the earnings for those with less than a bachelor’s degree. Even in North Dakota, the state with the least difference in earnings, college grads still earn 38% more on average.
We made the above map using data from the Minnesota Population Center’s 2017 American Community Survey Integrated Public Use Microdata Series. Using individual-level survey responses from that data set, we found estimates for median total annual personal earned income for people with at least a bachelor’s degree and people without a bachelor’s degree in each state. The map shows the premium for college graduates as measured by the percent difference in median earnings between college grads and non-grads.
Some of the most expensive states have the largest differences between college grads and non-college grads. Washington, DC, has the highest pay disparity, with a 167% difference in earnings. California and New York follow closely behind with a 133% and 103% difference, respectively.
Separate data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics finds on average, workers who hold at least a bachelor’s degree earned more than the $932 median weekly earnings for all workers in 2018.