Bounds reports findings from SHEEHO study

January 29, 2013

By Hank M. Bounds
Commissioner of Higher Education

If you were to ask a classroom of first grade students what career path they plan to choose, you will likely receive answers such as “fireman” or “astronaut,” probably based on the excitement of riding on a fire truck or a spaceship, or “teacher,” based on the example set each day by their own teacher. However, as these students grow and mature, discover and develop their own talent and aptitude, and consider many other factors, including job availability and salary, these career aspirations often change.

A recent report from State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEHO) utilizing the State Policy Resource Center (SPRC) with support from the Lumina Foundation on The Economic Benefit of Postsecondary Degrees found that, yes, earning a postsecondary degree matters.
The report found that “those who obtain a bachelor’s degree have a median income of $50,360 compared to a median income of $29,423 for people with only a high school diploma. Those with a graduate degree have a median income of $68,064, 35.2 percent more than those with a bachelor’s degree.”

The report’s authors also drilled down and found that, yes, the field of study matters also, noting that “incomes vary significantly among the types of degrees by level and discipline and within each state.” Health-related disciplines provide a 123.4 percent wage premium for those holding a bachelor’s degree. The median income for this group is $56,427. The report notes that, at $62,605, the highest median income is enjoyed by those working in the STEM fields.