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Annual Reports and Information Staff (Annual Reports)
Population Characteristics and Economic Outcomes

Annual Earnings by Educational Attainment

(Last Updated: May 2021)

For 25- to 34-year-olds who worked full time, year round in 2019, higher educational attainment was associated with higher median earnings. This pattern was consistent from 2010 through 2019. For example, in 2019 the median earnings of those with a master’s or higher degree ($70,000) were 26 percent higher than the earnings of those with a bachelor’s degree ($55,700), and the median earnings of those with a bachelor’s degree were 59 percent higher than the earnings of those who completed high school ($35,000).

This indicator examines the annual earnings of 25- to 34-year-olds who worked full time, year round (i.e., worked 35 or more hours per week for 50 or more weeks per year). Many people in this age group recently exited formal education and may be entering the workforce for the first time or transitioning from part-time to full-time work. In 2019, some 75 percent of those in this age group who were in the labor force1 worked full time, year round. This percentage was generally higher for those with higher levels of educational attainment. Levels of educational attainment refer to the highest levels of education attained. For example, 79 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree worked full time, year round in 2019, compared with 72 percent of those who completed high school (those with only a high school diploma or an equivalency credential such as a GED) in this age group.

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Figure 1. Percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds in the labor force who worked full time, year round, by educational attainment: 2010 through 2019
Figure 1. Percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds in the labor force who worked full time, year round, by educational attainment: 2010 through 2019

1 Includes equivalency credentials, such as the GED.

NOTE: Data are based on sample surveys of the noninstitutionalized population, which excludes persons living in institutions (e.g., prisons or nursing facilities) and military barracks. Full-time, year-round workers are those who worked 35 or more hours per week for 50 or more weeks per year. The labor force refers to the population who reported working or looking for work in the given year. Caution should be used when comparing 2019 estimates to those of earlier years due to the impact that the coronavirus pandemic had on interviewing and response rates. For additional information about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the March CPS data collection, please see https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/cps/techdocs/cpsmar20.pdf.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 2011 through 2020; and previously unpublished tabulations. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 502.30.

Figure 2. Median annual earnings of full-time, year-round workers ages 25–34, by educational attainment: 2019
Figure 2. Median annual earnings of full-time, year-round workers ages 25–34, by educational attainment: 2019

1 Includes equivalency credentials, such as the GED.

NOTE: Data are based on sample surveys of the noninstitutionalized population, which excludes persons living in institutions (e.g., prisons or nursing facilities) and military barracks. Full-time, year-round workers are those who worked 35 or more hours per week for 50 or more weeks per year.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 2020. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 502.30.

Figure 3. Median annual earnings of full-time, year-round workers ages 25–34, by educational attainment: 2010 through 2019
Figure 3. Median annual earnings of full-time, year-round workers ages 25–34, by educational attainment: 2010 through 2019

1 Includes equivalency credentials, such as the GED.

NOTE: Data are based on sample surveys of the noninstitutionalized population, which excludes persons living in institutions (e.g., prisons or nursing facilities) and military barracks. Full-time, year-round workers are those who worked 35 or more hours per week for 50 or more weeks per year. Earnings are presented in constant 2019 dollars, based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), to eliminate inflationary factors and to allow for direct comparison across years. Caution should be used when comparing 2019 estimates to those of earlier years due to the impact that the coronavirus pandemic had on interviewing and response rates. For additional information about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the March CPS data collection, please see https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/cps/techdocs/cpsmar20.pdf.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 2011 through 2020; and previously unpublished tabulations. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 502.30.

Figure 4. Median annual earnings of full-time, year-round workers ages 25–34, by educational attainment and sex: 2019
Figure 4. Median annual earnings of full-time, year-round workers ages 25–34, by educational attainment and sex: 2019

1 Includes equivalency credentials, such as the GED.

2 Represents median annual earnings of full-time, year-round workers ages 25–34 with a bachelor's or higher degree.

NOTE: Data are based on sample surveys of the noninstitutionalized population, which excludes persons living in institutions (e.g., prisons or nursing facilities) and military barracks. Full-time, year-round workers are those who worked 35 or more hours per week for 50 or more weeks per year. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey (CPS), Annual Social and Economic Supplement, 2020. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 502.30.


1 The labor force consists of all civilians who are employed or seeking employment. In 2019, some 85 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds were in the labor force.

2 Caution should be used when comparing 2019 estimates to those of earlier years due to the impact that the coronavirus pandemic had on interviewing and response rates. For additional information about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the March CPS data collection, please see https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/cps/techdocs/cpsmar20.pdf.

3 Data for other racial/ethnic groups were not analyzed separately.

4 Constant dollars based on the Consumer Price Index, prepared by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

Supplemental Information

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Table 502.30 (Digest 2020): Median annual earnings of full-time year-round workers 25 to 34 years old and full-time year-round workers as a percentage of the labor force, by sex, race/ethnicity, and educational attainment: Selected years, 1995 through 2019
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