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College degrees bring lifetime financial rewards, census says

October 10, 2012 |  4:11 pm

 Philip Caltabiano, 21, listens to the instructor in physics class on the UCLA in May.

It pays to get a college degree and it especially pays to earn a bachelor’s in engineering or computer science.

Those are some of the findings of two new reports from the U.S. Census Bureau that examined income disparities linked to educational attainment and field of work.

Over the course of a career, college graduates with a bachelor’s degree can expect on average to earn about $2.4 million, about $1 million more than those with just a high school diploma and about $600,000 more than those with a two-year associate’s degree, according to one of the two “American Community Survey Briefs.”

The lifetime earnings then rise even more dramatically with higher levels of academic degrees: $2.8 million for those with a master’s, $3.5 million for doctorate degree holders and $4.1 million for those with professional degrees.

People over age 25 who had earned a bachelor’s in engineering topped the earnings list, with median full-time incomes of $91,611, said the accompanying study. Next highest, at $80,180, were those who majored in computers, mathematics and statistics. Business degree holders earned $66,605; those in literature and languages, $58,616; education, $50,902; and visual and peforming arts, $50,484.

The report cautioned, however, that there may be many other factors in play then what someone studied as an undergraduate; many people switch careers from their college majors and go on to get other degrees that influence their earnings.


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Photo: Philip Caltabiano, 21, listens to the instructor in physics class at UCLA in May. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times