PhD Salaries & Lifetime Earnings

PhDs employed across job sectors show impressive earning potential:

“…[T]here is strong evidence that advanced education levels continue to be associated with higher salaries. A study by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce showed that across the fields examined, individuals with a graduate degree earned an average of 38.3% more than those with a bachelor’s degree in the same field. The expected lifetime earnings for someone without a high school degree is $973,000; with a high school diploma, $1.3 million; with a bachelor’s degree, $2.3 million; with a master’s degree, $2.7 million; and with a doctoral degree (excluding professional degrees), $3.3 million. Other data indicate that the overall unemployment rate for individuals who hold graduate degrees is far lower than for those who hold just an undergraduate degree.”
- Pathways Through Graduate School and Into Careers, Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) and Educational Testing Service (ETS), pg. 3.

Average salaries by educational level and degree (data from the US Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2009-2011, courtesy of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce):

 

Degree

Degree

Bachelors

Masters

Professional

Doctorate

Bachelors

Masters

Professional

Doctorate

Grouped undergrad major

Median earnings

Median earnings

Median earnings

Median earnings

Sample size

Sample size

Sample size

Sample size

AGRICULTURE and NATURAL RESOURCES

52000

63000

79000

83000

9385

2174

620

571

ARCHITECTURE

63000

71000

78000

73000

3597

1470

294

68

ARTS

46000

55000

65000

67000

17693

4257

579

447

BUSINESS

62000

83000

102000

94000

137905

32908

5392

1201

COMMUNICATIONS and JOURNALISM

50000

61000

84000

72000

28938

6479

1260

473

COMPUTERS and MATHEMATICS

73000

90000

90000

104000

30666

11873

986

1557

CONSUMER SERVICES and INDUSTRIAL ARTS

63000

84000

94000

83000

4204

584

65

33

EDUCATION

42000

56000

63000

73000

39185

30819

2371

1397

ENGINEERING

79000

101000

104000

107000

44297

22903

2090

3831

HEALTH

63000

77000

103000

98000

32807

9492

4073

2051

HUMANITIES and LIBERAL ARTS

47000

59000

99000

69000

38955

19013

7414

3408

LAW AND PUBLIC POLICY

52000

65000

89000

84000

14350

3049

994

192

PSYCHOLOGY and SOCIAL WORK

43000

56000

83000

78000

23192

16036

2945

2624

RECREATION

45000

58000

75000

73000

5004

1493

310

199

SCIENCE--LIFE/PHYSICAL

54000

73000

125000

89000

28075

14646

13187

9868

SOCIAL SCIENCE

57000

75000

105000

90000

32617

14167

7566

1971

 

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports higher earnings and lower unemployment rates for doctoral degree holders in comparison to those with master’s and bachelor’s degrees:

According to national studies, more education translates not only to higher earnings, but also higher levels of job success and job satisfaction:

“Educational attainment – the number of years a person spends in school – strongly predicts adult earnings, and also predicts health and civic engagement. Moreover, individuals with higher levels of education appear to gain more knowledge and skills on the job than do those with lower levels of education and they are able, to some extent, to transfer what they learn across occupations.”
- Education for Life and Work (2012), National Research Council of the National Academies, pg. 66.

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