Education Means Higher Wages & Less Unemployment



By Stuart Esrock, Ph.D.

New research by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) again shows there are substantial economic benefits to a college education.  In fact, workers with a bachelor’s level degree make almost twice as much on average as workers with only a high school diploma.

The BLS study of the 2020 job market shows bachelor’s degree recipients with median weekly earnings of $1,305, versus only $781 for high school graduates.  In addition, bachelor degree grads experienced a 5.5% unemployment rate last year, compared to 9% for those whose highest level of education is a high school diploma. Almost uniformly across the board, the higher the level of education, the higher the wages and the lower the unemployment rate.  The following table includes median weekly wages and unemployment levels for each level of education.

 BLS Earnings and Unemployment

BLS notes that unemployment rates were higher in 2020 than in 2019 at all education levels due to the pandemic.  But despite the labor market problems that COVID-19 created, weekly earnings actually rose in 2020 at all levels.  BLS attributes the increases to a large number of jobs lost by lower wage workers in 2020. 

Students can learn about median pay and job market projections for hundreds of different occupations at the Occupational Outlook Handbook on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website.  The website also allows users to search by the level of education that is required for entry- level positions.