Skip Navigation
Annual Reports and Information Staff (Annual Reports)
International Comparisons

International Educational Attainment

(Last Updated: May 2021)

Across OECD countries, the average percentage of 25- to 64-year-olds with any postsecondary degree increased from 31 percent in 2010 to 38 percent in 2019. In the United States, during the same period, the percentage increased from 42 percent to 48 percent.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is a group of 37 countries whose purpose is to promote trade and economic growth. The OECD also collects and publishes an array of data on its member countries. This indicator uses OECD data to compare educational attainment across countries using two measures: high school completion and attainment of any postsecondary degree.1 In the United States, “high school completion” refers to individuals who have been awarded a high school diploma or an equivalent credential, such as the GED.2 “Attainment of any postsecondary degree” refers to individuals who have been awarded an associate’s or higher degree.3

Select a subgroup:

Select a subgroup characteristic from drop-down menu below to view relevant text and figures.

Figure 1. Percentage of the population 25 to 64 years old who had completed high school in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries: 2010 and 2019
Figure 1. Percentage of the population 25 to 64 years old who had completed high school in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries: 2010 and 2019

1 The International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) was revised in 2011. Although data for 2010 were originally calculated using the 1997 version of ISCED, the footnoted countries revised their 2010 data to align with the 2011 version of ISCED.

2 Data include some persons who completed a sufficient number of certain types of programs, any one of which individually would be classified as a program that only partially completes the high school (or upper secondary) level of education.

3 Refers to the mean of the data values for all reporting Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, to which each country reporting data contributes equally. The average includes all current OECD countries for which a given year’s data are available, even if they were not members of the OECD in that year. Countries not shown in this figure may be included in the OECD average.

NOTE: Of the 37 OECD countries, 35 are included in this figure. Data for Colombia and New Zealand are available only for 2019. Chile and Japan are excluded because data are not available for these countries for 2010 and 2019. Data in this figure refer to degrees classified under ISCED 2011 as completing level 3 (upper secondary education) or to comparable degrees under ISCED 1997. In the United States, “high school completion” refers to individuals who have been awarded a high school diploma or an equivalent credential, such as the GED. ISCED 2011 was used to calculate data for 2019 for all countries. Some data have been revised from previously published figures. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Online Education Database, retrieved September 14, 2020, from https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 603.10.

Figure 2. Percentage of the population who had completed high school in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, by selected age groups: 2019
Figure 2. Percentage of the population who had completed high school in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, by selected age groups: 2019

#Rounds to zero.

The percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds who had completed high school is higher than the percentage of 55- to 64-year-olds who had completed high school.

The percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds who had completed high school is lower than the percentage of 55- to 64-year-olds who had completed high school.

The percentages of 25- to 34-year-olds and 55- to 64-year-olds who had completed high school are not measurably different.

1 Refers to the mean of the data values for all reporting Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, to which each country reporting data contributes equally. The average includes all current OECD countries for which a given year’s data are available, even if they were not members of the OECD in that year. Countries not shown in this figure may be included in the OECD average.

2 Data include some persons who completed a sufficient number of certain types of programs, any one of which individually would be classified as a program that only partially completes the high school (or upper secondary) level of education.

NOTE: Of the 37 OECD countries, 35 are included in this figure. Chile and Japan are excluded because 2019 data are not available for these countries. Data in this figure refer to degrees classified under the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 2011 as completing level 3 (upper secondary education). In the United States, “high school completion” refers to individuals who have been awarded a high school diploma or an equivalent credential, such as the GED. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Online Education Database, retrieved September 14, 2020, from https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 603.10.

Figure 3. Percentage of the population 25 to 64 years old who had attained any postsecondary degree in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries: 2010 and 2019
Figure 3. Percentage of the population 25 to 64 years old who had attained any postsecondary degree in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries: 2010 and 2019

1 The International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) was revised in 2011. Although data for 2010 were originally calculated using the 1997 version of ISCED, the footnoted countries revised their 2010 data to align with the 2011 version of ISCED.

2 Data for both years include some postsecondary nontertiary awards (i.e., awards that are below the associate’s degree level).

3 Refers to the mean of the data values for all reporting Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, to which each country reporting data contributes equally. The average includes all current OECD countries for which a given year’s data are available, even if they were not members of the OECD in that year. Countries not shown in this figure may be included in the OECD average.

NOTE: Of the 37 OECD countries, 36 are included in this figure. Data for Chile and New Zealand are available only for 2019. Colombia is excluded because data are not available for 2010 and 2019. Data in this figure include all tertiary (postsecondary) degrees, which correspond to all degrees at the associate’s level and above in the United States. Under ISCED 2011, tertiary degrees are classified at the following levels: level 5 (corresponding to an associate’s degree in the United States), level 6 (a bachelor’s or equivalent degree), level 7 (a master’s or equivalent degree), and level 8 (a doctoral or equivalent degree). ISCED 2011 was used to calculate data for 2019 for all countries. Some data have been revised from previously published figures. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Online Education Database, retrieved September 16, 2020, from https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 603.20.

Figure 4. Percentage of the population who had attained any postsecondary degree in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, by selected age groups: 2019
Figure 4. Percentage of the population who had attained any postsecondary degree in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, by selected age groups: 2019

#Rounds to zero.

The percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with any postsecondary degree is higher than the percentage of 55- to 64-year-olds with any postsecondary degree.

The percentages of 25- to 34-year-olds and 55- to 64-year-olds who had attained any postsecondary degree are not measurably different.

1 Data include some postsecondary nontertiary awards (i.e., awards that are below the associate’s degree level).

2 Refers to the mean of the data values for all reporting Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, to which each country reporting data contributes equally. The average includes all current OECD countries for which a given year’s data are available, even if they were not members of the OECD in that year. Countries not shown in this figure may be included in the OECD average.

NOTE: Of the 37 OECD countries, 36 are included in this figure. Colombia is excluded from the figure because data are not available for 2019. All data in this figure were calculated using the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 2011 classification of tertiary (postsecondary) degrees. Under ISCED 2011, tertiary degrees are classified at the following levels: level 5 (corresponding to an an associate’s degree in the United States), level 6 (a bachelor’s or equivalent degree), level 7 (a master’s or equivalent degree), and level 8 (a doctoral or equivalent degree). Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Online Education Database, retrieved September 16, 2020, from https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 603.20.

Figure 5. Percentage of the population 25 to 34 years old who had attained a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, by highest degree attained: 2019
Figure 5. Percentage of the population 25 to 34 years old who had attained a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, by highest degree attained: 2019

1 Doctoral or equivalent degree data are included in master’s or equivalent degree.

2 Associate’s degree data are included in bachelor’s or equivalent and master’s or equivalent degree.

3 Refers to the mean of the data values for all reporting Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, to which each country reporting data contributes equally. The average includes all current OECD countries for which a given year’s data are available, even if they were not members of the OECD in that year. Countries not shown in this figure may be included in the OECD average.

4 Data are from 2017.

NOTE: Of all 37 OECD countries, 35 are included in this figure. Data for Colombia and Japan are excluded because data on master’s degree attainment are not available for these countries. All data in this figure were calculated using the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 2011 classification of tertiary (postsecondary) degrees. Under ISCED 2011, tertiary degrees are classified at the following levels: level 6 (bachelor’s or equivalent degree) and level 7 (a master’s or equivalent degree). Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Online Education Database, retrieved September 16, 2020, from https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 603.30.


1 Attainment data in this indicator refer to comparable levels of degrees, as classified by the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED). ISCED was revised in 2011. The previous version, ISCED 1997, was used to calculate data for all years prior to 2014, unless a country revised their historical data to align with the 2011 version of ISCED. Data using the ISCED 2011 classification may not be directly comparable to data using the ISCED 1997 classification. For additional information, please see https://www.oecd.org/education/isced-2011-operational-manual-9789264228368-en.htm.

2 Data in this section refer to degrees classified as ISCED 2011 level 3, which generally corresponds to high school completion in the United States, with some exceptions.

3 Under ISCED 2011, postsecondary degrees are classified at the following levels: level 5 (corresponding to an associate’s degree in the United States), level 6 (a bachelor’s or equivalent degree), level 7 (a master’s or equivalent degree), and level 8 (a doctoral or equivalent degree). The structure of education differs across countries and not all countries have significant numbers of awards at each of these degree levels.

4 Chile and Japan are excluded because 2019 data on their high school completion rates are not available.

5 The OECD defines the adult population as 25- to 64-year-olds to capture the adult population after postsecondary education and prior to retirement from the labor force.

6 Colombia is excluded because 2019 data on its postsecondary attainment rates are not available.

7 Colombia and New Zealand are excluded because data are not available for these countries for 2010. Chile and Japan are excluded because data are not available for these countries for 2010 and 2019.

8 Throughout this indicator, the “OECD average” refers to the mean of the data values for all reporting Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, to which each country reporting data contributes equally. The average includes all current OECD countries for which a given year’s data are available, even if they were not members of the OECD in that year. Countries excluded from analyses in this indicator may be included in the OECD average.

9 Chile and New Zealand are excluded because data are not available for these countries for 2010. Colombia is excluded because data are not available for 2010 and 2019.

10 The estimate for Estonia (39.7 percent) is not significantly different from 40 percent.

11 The estimate for the Slovak Republic (39.2 percent) is not significantly different from 40 percent.

Supplemental Information

Table 603.10 (Digest 2020): Percentage of the population 25 to 64 years old who completed high school, by age group and country: Selected years, 2000 through 2019;
Table 603.20 (Digest 2020): Percentage of the population 25 to 64 years old who attained any postsecondary degree, by age group and country: Selected years, 2000 through 2019;
Table 603.30 (Digest 2020): Percentage of the population 25 to 64 years old who attained a postsecondary degree, by highest degree attained, age group, and country: 2019
CLOSE