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Undergraduate Degree Vs. Graduate Degree: Income and Salary Comparison

The income and salary of those with an undergraduate degree versus a graduate degree can vary widely by discipline. However, an individual with a graduate degree will generally earn more over a career than someone with an undergraduate degree. View article »

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Video Transcript

Undergraduate vs. Graduate Degree

It may seem like common sense that individuals with an advanced degree earn more than those possessing only a bachelor's degree. This is certainly the case for individuals with professional and doctoral degrees, but the salary comparisons between graduates of bachelor's and master's degree programs reveal that earnings can vary widely by discipline.

In general, graduates of master's degree programs earn more than those with an undergraduate degree in similar positions. Individuals with a professional or doctoral degree earn around $20,000 to $30,000 more than either.

According to 2016 data from the United States Department of Labor, U.S. workers with a bachelor's degree earned a median weekly salary of $1,137, while U.S. workers with a master's degree earned a median weekly salary of $1,341. Meanwhile, someone with a professional degree could expect to earn around $1,780 per week. A person with a doctoral degree posted a median salary of $1,664.

Salaries for college graduates vary by subject, as well as the level of degree earned. However an individual with a master's degree can expect to earn more than an individual with a bachelor's degree in a similar position. For instance, according to the 2016-2017 College Salary Report from the website Payscale.com, an accountant with a bachelor's degree earned an average salary of $48,300. Meanwhile an accountant with a master's degree earned an average salary of $56,900.

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Salary Comparison

Here are some average starting salaries according to Payscale.com's 2016-2017 College Salary Report:

Academic Major Salary with a Bachelor's Degree Salary with a Master's Degree
Biology $40,800 $47,800
Business Administration $46,100 $57,700
Computer Science $65,300 $84,800
Elementary Teacher Education $34,700 $41,200
Human Resources $41,900 $50,700
Mathematics $54,000 $62,300
Mechanical Engineering $63,500 $72,900
Nursing $57,500 $81,700
English Language and Literature $40,400 $42,600
Journalism and Mass Communication $41,100 $43,800

The bottom line is that advanced degrees, whether master's or doctoral professional, translate into higher lifetime earnings than bachelor's degrees. However, keep in mind that, depending on the major you choose, the difference in earnings can vary greatly.

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