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Undergraduate Degree Vs. Graduate Degree: Income and Salary Comparison

The income and salary of those with an undergraduate degree verses a graduate degree can vary widely by discipline. Read on to see a comparison of the average starting salaries for a variety of academic fields.

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Undergraduate vs. Graduate Degree Salary

In general, graduates of master's degree programs often earn more than those with an undergraduate degree. Master's degrees may also allow graduates to advance in their current career field or secure positions where an advanced degree is a requirement. According to data from the 2000 U.S. Census, the average salary of U.S. workers between the ages of 21 and 64 with a bachelor's degree was $42,877, while those with a master's degree or higher earned an average salary of $55,242.

Salaries for college graduates vary by subject, as well as the level of degree earned. For instance, according to a September 2013 report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), graduates of bachelor's degree programs in elementary education earned an average starting salary of $39,000. In comparison, graduates of master's degree programs in elementary education earned an average starting salary of $48,600. Additionally, accountants with bachelor's degrees earned average starting salaries of $53,000, more than elementary teachers; however, accountants with master's degrees earned an average wage of $62,700.

According to NACE, the fields with the highest average starting salary in 2013 were engineering, computer science and business. Read on to see a salary comparison for graduates of undergraduate and graduate degree programs in a selection of fields.

Salary Comparison

The table below shows the average starting salary for 2013 college graduates with bachelor's and advanced degrees in various fields. All figures are from NACE's September 2013 Salary Survey.

Academic Major Salary with a Bachelor's Degree Salary with a Master's Degree
Accounting $53,500 $62,700
Biological Sciences $41,000 $57,200
Business Administration $56,000 $70,400
Computer Science $64,100 $73,400
Elementary Teacher Education $39,000 $48,600
History $42,100 $49,000
Mathematics $49,800 $52,800
Mechanical Engineering $63,900 $67,500
Nursing $52,000 $63,200
Political Science/Government $42,100 $53,200
Psychology $37,200 $48,200
Visual and Performing Arts $35,600 $49,300
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