The Wage Gap Between College and High School Grads Simply Beat a Record High

The average young worker with a college degree now earns $22,000 more per year than their high-school-graduate colleagues, setting a new high-water mark.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported that the typical yearly pay for a full-time worker with high school graduation in the United States is $30,000 for those aged 22 to 27. In the case of a full-time worker with a bachelor’s degree, the salary is $52,000.

According to the New York Fed, the disparity represents a $22,000 wage discrepancy, which is the largest on record, tracking earnings since 1990.

The results are part of new research on recent college grads, available online. It also examines the rates of unemployment and underemployment and employees’ earnings with various college degrees.

According to the data, in terms of median salaries, every major study by the New York Fed earned more than a high school education. Of course, there are always exceptions, and some people whose education ended after high school end up earning more money than others who have completed their college degrees.

According to a survey conducted by Georgetown University, 16 percent of employees with just a high school graduate earn more than half the wages of individuals with bachelor’s degrees.

Generally speaking, the return on investment for a college degree is high, with lifetime earnings increasing by upwards of $800,000 or more in certain instances.

In what may come as no surprise, the new data finds that certain college majors, such as those in the STEM professions, score far better than others in terms of wages. The disparity in salaries across majors draws attention to a large economic disparity in and of itself.

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Highest-paying university majors

New York Fed collated information on wages by major for new graduates and recent graduates in their mid-career. Recent graduates are between 22 and 27 years old, whereas mid-career graduates are between 35 and 45.

Engineering majors hold the majority of the highest-paying employment for recent and mid-career graduates. The following are the highest-paying majors for recent graduates:

  • Computer engineering (salary of $74,000).
  • Chemistry and chemical engineering: $70,000
  • $70,000 for aeronautical engineering
  • $70,000 for electrical engineering services.
  • $70,000 for computer science.

It should come as no surprise that the farther along someone gets in their profession, the more money they make. The following are the highest-paying majors for mid-career graduates:

  • Chemical engineering is worth $111,000.
  • $110,000 in computer engineering fees
  • $110,000 for aeronautical engineering
  • Electrical engineering is worth $107,000.
  • Mechanical engineering is worth $104,000.

Lowest-paying university majors

College graduates with specific degrees, on the other hand, earn just marginally more than persons with merely a high school education.

According to the research, the following majors are the lowest-paying ones to pursue. Liberal arts majors dominate this ranking, which is not surprising. The following are the lowest-paying majors for recent graduates:

  • Education in family and consumer sciences: $32,000
  • Social sciences in general: $34,000
  • $34,000 for the performing arts
  • $35,000 for social services.
  • Anthropology is worth $36,000.

The following are the lowest-paying majors for mid-career graduates:

  • Early childhood education costs $43,700 per year.
  • Education in elementary school costs $45,400.
  • $50,000 for social services.
  • $50,000 for general education.
  • Family and consumer sciences: 51,000 dollars

Occupation by college major

The Fed’s report discusses the unemployment and underemployment rates in detail. The underemployment rate reveals which degrees are most likely to result in recent graduates obtaining jobs outside of college.

The Federal Reserve defines occupations that do not typically need a college degree.

These are the majors with the lowest unemployment rates — including many below 2 percent — and correspond to the subject areas in the greatest demand. In order of decreasing unemployment rates for recent graduates, the following majors are listed first:

  • Medical technicians account for 0.7 percent of the workforce.
  • Early childhood education accounts for 1.4 percent of the total.
  • 1.6 percent of the economy is devoted to construction services.
  • Elementary education accounts for 1.7 percent of all education.
  • Biochemistry accounts for 1.7 percent of the total.

Oddly enough, numerous majors with low unemployment rates seem to be among those with the lowest starting salaries for recent graduates. The following are the majors with the greatest percentages of underemployment among recent graduates:

  • 71.1 percent of the population is involved in criminal justice.
  • 70.2 percent of the population is involved in the performing arts.
  • Anthropology received 61.3 percent of the vote.
  • Leisure and hospitality accounted for 59 percent of the total.
  • Various technologies accounted for 59 percent of the total.

Overall, median incomes for recent graduates vary from $32,000 to $74,000, resulting in a $42,000 salary disparity between the two groups.

This salary disparity by major is far greater than the wage disparity between college and high school graduates.

The wage difference between bachelor’s degree holders and non-degree bachelor’s holders continues to widen: mid-career bachelor’s degree holders earn between $43,700 and $111,000. The $67,300 issue then becomes not merely whether or not you will attend college but also what degree you will pursue.