Salaries vs. Education: Costs of 50 Common U.S. Jobs

Written by Carly Hallman

Does education make a difference in salary? People have been preaching “the more you learn, the more you earn” for decades, but does that theory still prove true in 2020? We’ve done a short college tuition vs. income comparison to see how the salaries of 50 common American jobs fare against each other. For each job, we’ve shown a cost-of-education and salary comparison, revealing how much one would need to invest in order to make a good annual income. Whether you’d like to find your own job or are considering your education options, check out our degree/salary comparison chart for common jobs in the U.S.

Would you like to embed this infographic on your site?

Salaries vs. Education Costs of 50 Common U.S. Jobs Transcript

Job Typical Salary Range Median Salary Education Level How Many People in this Field Have this Degree Education Costs Education Description Special Ranking
Anesthesiologists $208,000 and up $208,000 Doctoral Degree 97% $190,000 Median Medical School Graduate Debt Highest-Paying Occupations
Psychiatrists $149,900-$208,000 $208,000 Doctoral Degree 97% $190,000 Median Medical School Graduate Debt Highest-Paying Occupations
Obstetricians and Gynecologists $172,130-$208,000 $208,000 Doctoral Degree 97% $190,000 Median Medical School Graduate Debt Highest-Paying Occupations
Surgeons $199,920-$208,000 $208,000 Doctoral Degree 97% $190,000 Median Medical School Graduate Debt Highest-Paying Occupations
Orthodontists $142,470-$208,000 $208,000 Doctoral Degree 97% $190,000 Median Medical School Graduate Debt Highest-Paying Occupations
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons $177,650-$208,000 $208,000 Doctoral Degree 97% $190,000 Median Medical School Graduate Debt Highest-Paying Occupations
Family and General Practitioners $142,960-$201,100 $201,100 Doctoral Degree 97% $190,000 Median Medical School Graduate Debt Highest-Paying Occupations
Physicians and Surgeons, All Other $111,440-$208,000 $200,890 Doctoral Degree 97% $190,000 Median Medical School Graduate Debt Highest-Paying Occupations
Chief Executives $115,960-$208,000 $189,600 Bachelor’s Degree 40% $106,372 Median for All 4-Year Institutions Highest-Paying Occupations, Top-Paid Bachelor’s-Requiring Occupations
Prosthodontists $118,390-$208,000 $176,540 Doctoral Degree 97% $190,000 Median Medical School Graduate Debt Highest-Paying Occupations
Nurse Anesthetists $143,870-$198,470 $165,120 Master’s Degree 72% $156,449 Median Cost of 2-Year CRNA Program + 4-Year Program Top-Paid Master’s-Requiring Occupations
Financial Managers $91,420-$178,840 $146,830 Bachelor’s Degree 42% $106,372 Median for All 4-Year Institutions
Lawyers $79,160-$182,490 $144,230 Professional Degree 89% $145,509 Average Full-Time Law School Tuition + Median 4-Year Program
Architectural and Engineering Managers $112,400-$173,180 $140,760 Bachelor’s Degree 47% $106,372 Median for All 4-Year Institutions Top-Paid Bachelor’s-Requiring Occupations
Air Traffic Controllers $86,900-$152,830 $124,540 Bachelor’s Degree 39% $106,372 Median for All 4-Year Institutions
Political Scientists $86,220-$148,950 $117,570 Master’s Degree 38% $139,242 Median Costs for Master’s Programs Top-Paid Master’s-Requiring Occupations
Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers $94,380-$208,000 $115,670 Bachelor’s Degree 59% $90,000 Commercial Pilot Training Top-Paid Bachelor’s-Requiring Occupations
Computer and Information Research Scientists $91,650-$149,470 $114,520 Master’s Degree 34% $139,242 Median Costs for Master’s Programs Top-Paid Master’s-Requiring Occupations
Physician Assistants $90,150-$127,220 $108,610 Master’s Degree 60% $139,242 Median Costs for Master’s Programs Fastest-Growing Occupations
Nurse Practitioners $90,760-$125,440 $107,030 Master’s Degree 77% $138,772 Median Nonresident Fees for MSN + Median 4-Year Costs Fastest-Growing Occupations
Transportation, Storage, and Distribution Managers $72,340-$123,550 $100,740 HS Diploma or Equivalent 28% $0 N/A
General and Operations Managers $65,650-$157,120 $100,410 Bachelor’s Degree 33% $106,372 Median for All 4-Year Institutions Largest Occupations
Information Security Analysts $73,890-$126,870 $98,350 Bachelor’s Degree 41% $106,372 Median for All 4-Year Institutions Fastest-Growing Occupations
First-Line Supervisors of Police and Detectives $66,920-$116,300 $91,590 Bachelor’s Degree 40% $106,372 Median for All 4-Year Institutions Top-Paid HS-Requiring Occupations
Statisticians $67,440-$113,670 $87,780 Master’s Degree 41% $139,242 Median Costs for Master’s Programs Fastest-Growing Occupations
Radiation Therapists $67,490-$102,380 $82,330 Bachelor’s Degree 42% $106,372 Median for All 4-Year Institutions
Nuclear Technicians $61,090-$97,120 $79,140 Some College, No Degree 27% $53,186 Median for 2 Years at a 4-Year Institution Top-Paid HS-Requiring Occupations
Nuclear Power Reactor Operators $80,290-$111,070 $79,140 Some College, No Degree 31% $53,186 Median for 2 Years at a 4-Year Institution
Electrical and Electronics Repairers, Powerhouse, Substation, and Relay $67,480-$94,770 $77,770 HS Diploma or Equivalent 31% $10,000 Certification
Speech-Language Pathologists $60,570-$97,770 $77,510 Master’s Degree 84% $139,242 Median Costs for Master’s Programs Fastest-Growing Occupations
Registered Nurses $58,770-$88,350 $71,730 Bachelor’s Degree 50% $106,372 Median for All 4-Year Institutions Largest Occupations
Secondary-School Teachers (Except Special and Career/Technical Education) $47,980-$77,720 $64,340 Master’s Degree 49% $139,242 Median Costs for Master’s Programs
Elementary-School Teachers (Except Special and Career/Technical Education) $46,120-$75,330 $62,200 Master’s Degree 47% $139,242 Median Costs for Master’s Programs
Middle-School Teachers (Except Special and Career/Technical Education) $46,840-$74,600 $62,030 Master’s Degree 47% $139,242 Median Costs for Master’s Programs
Occupational Therapy Assistants $50,510-$71,820 $60,220 Associate Degree 69% $21,196 Median for All 2-Year Institutions Fastest-Growing Occupations
Wind Turbine Service Technicians $44,430-$69,550 $54,370 HS Diploma or Equivalent 40% <$1,000 Optional Certification Fastest-Growing Occupations
Carpenters $35,820-$61,530 $51,120 HS Diploma or Equivalent 42% $0 N/A
Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers $35,040-$54,400 $45,570 HS Diploma or Equivalent 48% $5,000 CDL School Typical Costs
Solar Photovoltaic Installers $35,310-$52,410 $42,680 HS Diploma or Equivalent 41% <$1,000 Optional Certification Fastest-Growing Occupations
Secretaries and Administrative Assistants (Except Legal, Medical, and Executive) $28,930-$46,230 $38,030 Some College, No Degree 31% $53,186 Median for 2 Years at a 4-Year Institution
Customer Service Representatives $26,730-$42,970 $33,750 Some College, No Degree 31% $53,186 Median for 2 Years at a 4-Year Institution Largest Occupations
Office Clerks, General $25,090-$42,050 $32,730 Some College, No Degree 32% $53,186 Median for 2 Years at a 4-Year Institution Largest Occupations
Nursing Assistants $24,340-$33,580 $29,580 HS Diploma or Equivalent 36% $0 N/A
Laborers and Freight, Stock, and Material Movers, Hand $23,520-$35,960 $27,270 HS Diploma or Equivalent 47% $0 N/A Largest Occupations
Retail Salespersons $20,910-$30,350 $24,340 HS Diploma or Equivalent 29% $0 N/A Largest Occupations
Home Health Aides $21,750-$28,030 $24,200 HS Diploma or Equivalent 36% <$1,000 Optional Certification Fastest-Growing Occupations
Personal Care Aides $21,810-$27,490 $24,020 HS Diploma or Equivalent 34% <$1,000 Optional Certification Fastest-Growing Occupations, Largest Occupations
Cashiers $19,430-$24,990 $22,430 HS Diploma or Equivalent 41% $0 N/A Largest Occupations
Waiters and Waitresses $18,820-$28,280 $21,780 HS Diploma or Equivalent 33% $0 N/A Largest Occupations
Combined Food Preparation and Serving Workers, Including Fast Food $18,700-$24,460 $21,750 HS Diploma or Equivalent 46% $0 N/A Largest Occupations

Sources:

How Much More Money Does a College Graduate Earn?

While the median income for those with a high school diploma is $730 per week, the median earnings for those with an associate degree are $862 per week, and those with a bachelor’s degree earn $1,198 per week. Your typical four-year college graduate earns an average of $468 more every week than someone without any college.

Those with college degrees are also more likely to be employed, with the unemployment rate for those without a degree spiking to 4.1% and the rate for those with a bachelor’s being as low as 2.2%.

The most stunning differences in the college-vs.-work comparison happen across one’s lifetime. College graduates typically earn about $1 million more than high school grads over their lifetimes and are 177 times more likely to earn more than $4 million over their lifetimes.

Does College Pay Off?

Though many people have been panicking over the spike in tuition costs, the cost of not going to college is still much higher than going, with some exceptions.

The average bachelor’s degree grad has about $25,000 in student debt and typically owes somewhere between $200 and $300 per month. Even accounting for that, when you look at averages, the person with a bachelor’s degree is still, in theory, making more than $1,500 more per month than a person with just a high school diploma.

In practice, it’s a little bit more complicated, as the first ten years or so are often especially difficult due to the combination of higher student loan interest rates and low entry-level salaries. Often, college-educated individuals will see the biggest jump in earnings between the ages of 30 and 39; that’s usually when graduates outperform those without a college degree. The salary vs. high school graduates’ low debt may not completely even out until much later, however, as the average repayment period for those with student loans between $20,000 and $40,000 is 20 years.

Why Do People Perceive a Low Value of College Education?

High interest rates and long repayment periods often make people panic, but there is no investment without risk. These risks have caused people to ask the question, “Does it pay to go to college?” The true answer is typically yes, by far, but not always.

For instance, 14.3% of people with only a high school diploma make more than those with a bachelor’s. Experts tell us that about 33% of college graduates are underemployed. For instance, 4% of all retail salespersons, a job that typically only pays between $20,000 and $30,000, have a master’s degree; 22% of them have a bachelor’s.

This doesn’t make the data, which is overwhelmingly pro-college, untrue. It just makes the widespread assumption of “higher education, higher salary” more of a theory that has several exceptions. Is it worth it to $25,000 on a degree that has a fairly low chance of not helping on a career path? It’s important to consider one’s education and future income carefully.


You might also like...