Education Means Higher Income & Less Unemployment



By Stuart Esrock, Ph.D. 

The coronavirus pandemic might lead some students to think about putting a hold on their education or perhaps even taking the drastic step of dropping out of school.  If you are thinking about one of those options, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has a message for you: DON’T!  New research from the Bureau indicates the higher the level of education you have, the more money you will make and the less likely you are to be unemployed.

A new study by the Bureau shows workers age 25 and over with less than a high school education had the highest unemployment rates and the lowest weekly earnings during 2019.  Workers with graduate degrees had the highest earnings and lowest unemployment rate.

The Bureau reports those with a Bachelor’s degree in 2019 earned a median year-long wage of nearly $65,000 and experienced unemployment of about 2.2%.  To contrast, the median for those with only a high school diploma was $39,000, while their unemployment rate was 3.7%.  At the top end of the scale, Ph.D.s median earnings were $98,000 and unemployment was 1.1%.

According to the Bureau, “Each level of education you complete may help you develop more skills, give you access to higher paying occupations, and signal that you’re able to follow through on important tasks, such as planning ahead and meeting deadlines, that employers value.”

The director of the UofL University Career Center, Bill Fletcher, said while unemployment rates for all education levels have increased due to the pandemic, students still have many reasons to stay in school and persist toward their degree. "First, students should take the long view in that an education is a lifetime investment. The pandemic will subside and the economy will rebound.  Second, as the data show, the higher the education level, the lower the unemployment rate.  Thus, dropping out would put one at greater risk of being unemployed.  Finally, staying in college could provide the opportunity to 'ride out the storm' and graduate in a better economy."   Fletcher added, "Although the degree is important, making the most of the college experience and developing a solid career plan is also critical.”