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The Average Annual Salary of a Non High School Grad

by Dana Severson, studioD

It’s no secret that education affects earnings. The higher the degree, the higher the salary tends to be -- or at least that’s the prevailing trend. But dropping out of high school before graduation doesn’t just limit your earning potential, it also increases your chances of unemployment and takes a toll on the nation’s economy.


In 2010, half of all workers with less than a high school diploma earned just $20,070 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Those with a high school diploma earned $34,180, while those with some college made $44,350 a year. Workers made $61,590 with an associate degree, $63,430 with a bachelor’s degree and $60,240 with a master’s degree. Doctorates provided the highest income, at $87,500 a year.


The $20,070 income for non-high school graduates is a little deceptive. It doesn’t factor in on-the-job training. If you work in a position where no training is offered, you make less. As of 2010, half of all workers with less than a high school diploma and no on-the-job training made $18,460 a year. Those with short-term training saw a bump in pay to $19,740, while those with longer training made anywhere from $26,690 to $28,770 a year. For comparison, those with a high school diploma made just over $28,000 with short-term on-the-job training.


Unemployment rates also tend to be higher for high school dropouts. As of 2012, the unemployment rate for people with less than a high school diploma was 12.4 percent. The rate for those with a high school diploma was 8.3 percent, while the rate for those with an associate degree was 6.2 percent. It just keeps improving as the level of education increases. For example, the unemployment rate for people with a doctorate degree was just 2.5 percent, notes the BLS.


When looking at the individual numbers, the effect workers’ education has on the economy isn’t at all apparent. But a brief from the Alliance for Excellent Education help put it in perspective. The organization explains, “if the students who dropped out of the class of 2007 had graduated, the nation’s economy would have benefited from an additional $329 billion in income over their lifetime.”

About the Author

Based in Minneapolis, Minn., Dana Severson has been writing marketing materials for small-to-mid-sized businesses since 2005. Prior to this, Severson worked as a manager of business development for a marketing company, developing targeted marketing campaigns for Big G, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, among others.

Photo Credits

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