Report: First-Year Earnings Vary by Degree Program

October 14, 2020

College graduates with an associate’s degree in nursing from Santa Rosa Junior College in California make more money than graduates from some programs at Harvard University, a new report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce shows.

The report uses data from the Department of Education’s College Scorecard to examine the differences in first-year earnings for college graduates from a variety of degree programs and with different levels of education.

Workers with more education still make more money on average in their first year of work than others, although the report found significant overlap in median earnings across levels of education.

More than a quarter of workers with an associate degree earn more than the median for workers with a bachelor’s degree. About a third of workers with a bachelor’s degree earn more than those with a master’s degree, and 22 percent of workers with a master’s degree earn more than the median for workers with a professional degree.

"Future earnings can depend more on the major pursued than on the level of the degree. Students also need to be aware of differences in earnings, by college, for the same degree in the same field of study," the report said.

In general, graduates from more selective institutions with more familiar names earn more than others, the report found. However, that’s not true in every case. For example, Bismarck State College’s bachelor of applied science in energy management has the highest postgraduate earnings of everyone with a degree in the field, above measures for degree programs at Harvard and Stanford University.

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