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Study finds college degree significantly increases lifetime earnings

How much is a college degree worth? According to the University System of Georgia, the answer is more than $1 million if you work in the state of Georgia.

According to a study conducted by the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia, a person graduating from a college in the University System of Georgia in 2021 can expect to earn $2.55 million over the course of a career. A person with only a high school diploma is expected to earn $1.4 million during the same period.

“Postsecondary educational attainment pays off,” the study concluded. “Work-life earnings increase substantially with each step up in postsecondary educational attainment, a finding that holds for both Georgia and the nation as a whole.”

Even an Associate Degree can make a difference of nearly $400,000 over a high school diploma, according to the study. People attaining a master’s, earn about $250,000 more than those with a bachelor’s, and doctoral degrees add about $900,000 more than a Bachelors.

The University System of Georgia website provides an earnings calculator.

The study looked at earnings in Georgia. Nationwide, those numbers are even higher.

In the study, the researchers made estimates based on more than 70,000 students earning various degrees from the University System of Georgia, based on salary earnings data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The study notes that these are average numbers and different degrees will result in different earning abilities.

“Although average earnings rise considerably with educational attainment, individual earnings within each specific education level can vary substantially,” the report stated. “These differences result from a variety of factors, including the field of study, occupational choice, labor force experience, and geographic location. Nonetheless, most USG graduates at every level will realize significantly higher work-life earnings.”

The University System of Georgia is comprised of 28 universities, including Augusta University, Georgia Southern University, East Georgia State College, Georgia College & State University, and the University of Georgia.

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