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Career Outlook article page

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Learn more, earn more: Education leads to higher wages, lower unemployment

May 2020

Note: These data have been updated. For the most recent chart and other related links, click here.

If you’re wondering whether it pays to stay in school, take a look at data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS): As workers’ educational attainment rises, their unemployment rates decrease and earnings increase.

As the chart shows, workers age 25 and over who have less education than a high school diploma had the highest unemployment rate (5.4 percent) and lowest median weekly earnings ($592) in 2019 among those at all education levels. Workers with graduate degrees had the lowest unemployment rates and highest earnings.

These data come from the BLS Current Population Survey, a monthly survey that collects information about the labor force, including age, employment status, and other characteristics.

Each level of education you complete may help you develop more skills, give you access to higher paying occupations, and signal that you’re able to follow through on important tasks, such as planning ahead and meeting deadlines, that employers value.

Other factors affecting employment and earnings include geographic location, experience, and hours worked. BLS data and information can help you understand some of these factors. For example, the Occupational Outlook Handbook provides information on wages, typical education requirements, and the projected job outlook for hundreds of occupations.

Suggested citation:

"Learn more, earn more: Education leads to higher wages, lower unemployment," Career Outlook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2020.

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