Keep in mind that exceptions apply! Not every college graduate makes more money than a non-graduate over a lifetime. But, Pew Research does the math, and on average, college graduates do better financially.
The typical college graduate earns an estimated $650,000 more than the typical high school graduate over the course of a 40-year work life, according to a new analysis of census and college cost data by the Pew Research Center.
Of course, this difference doesn’t apply in all cases; some high school graduates are high earners, and some college graduates are low earners. Also, the monetary return to college is influenced by a variety of factors, including type of college attended and major field of study.
But on average—and after taking into account the fact that a dollar earned at the start of someone’s working life is more valuable than a dollar earned toward the end of that person’s working life18—the analysis finds that the typical or average high school graduate with no further education earns about $770,000 over a 40-year work life. The typical worker with a (two-year) associate degree earns about $1.0 million, and the typical worker with a bachelor’s degree and no advanced degree earns about $1.4 million.
Source: Pew Research Center