Just as students head back to school, job-matching service TheLadders reveals a new study that answers the age-old question, “Is a college degree worth the cost?” By analyzing the data of its more than 6 million members, TheLadders concluded that individuals with a four-year degree make an average of $215,000 more than individuals without a degree over the course of 20 years. The compensation gap widens even more for individuals with graduate degrees who, according to the study, make an average of $440,000 more than non-graduates after 20 years.
While the data confirms that non-graduates may start their careers at the same financial level as graduates, the growth patterns over their careers differ substantially. Graduates watch their salaries grow exponentially over time. So, while the immediate benefit of a college degree seems nonexistent, the big payoff is typically seen over the course of a long career.
“In today’s uncertain economy, we wanted to help job seekers better appraise the value of a college education,” said Shankar Mishra, vice president of data science & analytics for TheLadders. “As evidenced by our ‘job vs. career’ trajectory, the disparity of salary increases between graduates and non-graduates over the course of 20 years more than justifies the hefty price tag of a college education.”
Other key findings from the study conclude that:
- Education requirements are generally higher in industries with higher compensations.
- Three of the four highest-compensated industries on TheLadders have a workforce where more than 80 percent of professionals hold at least a four-year degree.
- Besides the four highest-paid industries (financial services, computer science, consulting, biotech), marketing is the only industry where more than 80 percent of its workforce holds at least a four-year degree.
“TheLadders’ study proves that an undergraduate degree is beneficial and promotes growth over time during any career,” said Amanda Augustine, job search expert for TheLadders. “If you’re wondering whether to go back and finish your four-year degree, this new information encourages you to take the plunge.”
On an ongoing basis, TheLadders conducts primary user-experience research and analyzes quantitative data provided by its more than 6 million members to educate the company about current behavioral trends in the job-search process. TheLadders uses this research to improve the customer experience and provide expert advice to the marketplace.