The Influence of College Education on Graduates’ Earnings and Hours of Work

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +

Education plays a crucial role in defining social stratification and, indeed, equality. The median weekly earnings for the 4th quarter of 2018 for the United States’ 115.9 million full-time salary and wage employees were $900. This was approximately 5.0% higher compared to 2017. However, this growth is considered very small according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) has stagnated.

Therefore, how much are you likely to earn if you have college education? This post is a comprehensive evaluation of the influence of college education on graduates’ earnings and hours of work.

Average Starting Salaries of Graduates

Once you clear college and get a job, the starting wage is generally at a lower mark than what you will get several years down the line. This is attributed to the fact that you are still new and got lesser experience compared to those who entered the workplace earlier.

In the US, the overall starting salary when working for the standard 40 hours every week stood at $50,516 per year in 2018. This was approximately 0.3% increase from 2017. In the UK, the starting pay for graduates according to the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) is £28,250 (about $36,959.5).

It is important to note that the above figures only reflect the averages. Your annual salary could vary based on the area of specialization. Take a closer look at starting salaries for graduates in different disciplines in the US in 2017 below to understand the variations.

  • Engineering graduates had the highest starting salary of $65,539/ year.
  • Statistics and mathematics professionals starting salary was $60,631/ year.
  • Social science graduates got an annual starting salary of $46,707.
  • Health sciences experts entering the market received $53,872/ year.

Areas with the Highest Wages for Graduates

Today, the average cost of education in the United States is $9,410 per year in public colleges (for in-state students) and a whopping $32,410 per year in private colleges. Therefore, it is important to take a closer look at wages offered in different states when looking for a dream job after graduating. Every student wants a high paying job, especially when they have to start paying back their college loans. However, achieving a job like this can be difficult after graduating. It’s vital that your resume sets you apart from other applicants. One way to do this is by considering taking part in an Optional Practical Training program (OPT). This opportunity is usually open to most students, so even non-American students can benefit from them with an OPT EAD. It’s always advised for students to make use of these opportunities, especially if they will make the graduate look more employable. Anyway, here is a closer look at the top four states that pay the highest wages in the United States.

  • Texas: Texas is one of the most lucrative states in the US. The average salary in the state is $51,701. Therefore, looking for a job in Texas and even moving there could be a great decision for you.
  • Georgia: Here, college graduates take home an average of $49,989 per year. This is more than 90% of what high school leavers earn in the same state.
  • Wyoming: Salary for graduates in Wyoming is $45,519. If you went to school in Wyoming, this is a great plus because the state has one of the lowest costs of going to college in the United States.
  • New Mexico: If you head to New Mexico, you will get a salary of $43,257 per year which is higher than what high school graduates get in the same state by $17,000.

If you are planning to look for a job in the UK, the pay also varies with regions. The table below shows the average salaries to anticipate in different regions in the UK.

  • London £24,991 ($32,695.75)
  • Scotland £22,400 ($29,305.94)
  • East Midlands £21,421 ($28,025.12)
  • Yorkshire £20,855 ($27,284.62)
  • Wales £20,600 ($26,951)

NOTE: It is important to also look at the cost of living in different states even when the pay is higher. This means finding out the average cost of crucial items and services such as housing. The goal should be getting the highest possible salary in a state with low cost of living. For example, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Michigan are some of the places with low cost of living.

Gender Gap Disparities

Like many countries across the globe, CNBC reports that women in the United States earn less than their male counterparts. On an hourly basis, ladies are paid 86 cents for every dollar paid to men. According to EPI analysis of Current Population Survey Outgoing Rotation Group micro-data for 2016-2017, men are paid $20.87/hour while ladies get $17.88. Note that this disparity has manifested itself for decades. See the full comparison table below.

Image source:

On an annual basis, male undergraduates get an average salary of $59,000 while females take home $48,000. Note that even with this disparity, the college you went to could also be a determining factor of how much you will get in the job market.

Workers from Harvard, MIT and Stanford are likely to get more compared to counterparts from other colleges. A lady from Harvard earns an average salary of $80,700 while another lady from a college such as Brigham Young earns $31,400. This is more than double! However, these figures are still low compared to what men from respective colleges get. Like the United States, the gender disparity is also manifested in the UK. According to the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) data, the starting salary for ladies in the UK in 2017 was £21,535 ($28,174.26) compared to £23,668 ($30,964.87) for men.

Methods Used by Graduates to Earn More

Many college leavers have very high expectations after leaving school. About 52% of the graduates expect to get a salary of more than $50,000 or more per year from the first job. But this rarely happens. To bridge the gap, some of them opt to work for more than the standard hours. Others opt to engage in additional jobs. Additionally, using an ATS-friendly template could increase the likelihood success in finding a job after graduation! Here is a list of common part-time jobs that college leavers use to rake in more funds:

  • Blogging in an area of interest
  • Writing books and selling on free platforms such as Amazon
  • Freelance writing or editing jobs
  • Online tutors
  • Web design
  • Web development.


When you clear education, the next major step is getting a job. Well, it is time to start reaping after years of hard work and sacrifice and, in the case of those looking for veterinary jobs, dentistry jobs, doctors jobs, essentially those who have formal education within the realm of medicine (be that for working with humans or animals) these students are among those who have committed to more years of college than most. By understanding the pay to anticipate and the regions with better remunerations, you can apply for jobs that will put more into your pocket. Note that even though the starting salary might be low, you can always wade your way up by working harder and even advancing for a master’s degree. Your college degree is just an opening, the future opportunities are endless!


About Author


Elizabeth Price is a freelance writer interested in education, marketing, and business-related topics. A former Psychology student of Montclair State University, she currently works as a marketing assistant and outreach expert at