Does an investment in higher education pay off in terms of cold hard cash over a lifetime?
A recent report issued by the U.S. Census Bureau says yes; in fact, it reports that a masters degree is worth $1.3 million more in lifetime earnings than a high school diploma. The findings, highlighted in the chart below, are based on 1999 earnings for different educational levels, projected over a typical work life, defined as the period from ages 25 through 64.
Of course, these are only averages - projected ones at that - and like the proverbial statistician who drowned in a lake with an average depth of six inches, we must understand that they tell us only so much. Neither Bill Gates nor Steve Jobs completed a college degree and they clearly did well, earnings-wise. At the same time, we've all encountered people with college - even advanced - degrees who are barely employable.
While advanced degrees provide a platform for future earning success, higher income levels don't (unfortunately) come as a guaranteed result of completing that degree, but as an outcome of actively and wisely putting it to work for you.