Education pays in lower unemployment rates and higher wages

With additional educational attainment comes higher wages and lower unemployment; however, some fields of training are more lucrative than others, and research should be done to ensure that a prospective field can offer the lifestyle one desires.

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If you are interested in higher wages and more job security, then completing post-secondary education can be the solution. With additional educational attainment comes higher wages. In 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics  indicated the average weekly wage for someone with a bachelor’s degree was $1,334, compared to $963 for someone who held an associate degree and $809 for those with high school diplomas. Overall, people with a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree all had a mean average annual salary above $65,000, whereas those with a high school diploma had a mean salary of $42,000.

However, some post-secondary majors are more lucrative than others. Combining field of training and education, those individuals with professional and doctorate degrees in medicine, natural science and law had the highest wages. According to data from the United States Census Bureau and the New York Federal Reserve, in terms of people who completed their bachelor’s degree, the field of engineering had the highest earnings whereas those in the social sciences and education had the lowest. In fact, among bachelor’s degree recipients, those with degrees in engineering earned more than twice of what was earned by those with degrees in education. However, the unemployment rate for engineers is often over three times higher than that of educators.

In order to attain meaningful employment in these higher paying fields, individuals often need higher education, such as a masters or professional degree. Of those working in engineering fields, roughly half hold some sort of graduate degree. Art, communications, and business tend to be the fields with the lowest amount of graduate education needed to secure a job, although graduates in these fields tend to experience higher levels of unemployment than those in either education or engineering.

During times of high unemployment rates, certain occupations are affected more adversely than others. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment rates significantly decrease with higher levels of education, with those who hold a bachelor’s degree or higher having the lowest rates of unemployment in the country. In February of 2022, the unemployment rate for a person with a high school diploma was 4.5 percent, compared to 3.6 percent and 2.1 percent for a person with an associates or bachelor’s degree, respectively.

Michigan State University (MSU) Extension recommends doing career research before deciding which field to enter or what degree to pursue. Considering factors such as earning potential, additional degrees needed, employer demand, one’s career values and interests can be helpful in finding a path that will meet one’s lifestyle needs.

For more information on this topic, read The Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Major. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also provides information about the current job market, as well as predictions for employment statistics up to 10 years into the future.

MSU Extension  and Michigan 4-H Youth Development helps to prepare young people for successful futures.  For more information or resources on career exploration, workforce preparation, financial education, or youth entrepreneurship, email us at or follow us on social media (Facebook, Instagram or Twitter) by searching 4HCareers.

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