BUSINESS
08/21/2013 04:26 pm ET

One Big Reason To Worry Your Bachelor's Degree Isn't Enough

Those with advanced degrees have experience substantial wage growth over the last 10 years. The same can't be said for people holding only bachelor's degrees.

The inflation-adjusted wages of workers with just a bachelor’s degree actually declined between 2002 and 2012, according to a new report from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. Meanwhile, people with advanced degrees saw their wages jump quite a bit, a divide illustrated by the below chart from EPI:

wages chart

The wage growth of workers with advanced degrees pulled away from that of their bachelor's-only colleagues at an even quicker clip beginning around 2008.

That's cause for concern for the many Americans holding bachelor's degrees and nothing more. EPI's report found that between 2000 and 2012, the wages of workers with just a bachelor's degree pulled away from those of people with only a high school diploma at a rate of about 4 percent for men and less than one percentage point for women. (Compare that to a rate of about 14 percent during the decade of the 1980s.)

Yes, graduate degrees cost students more money, and slightly less than half of research doctorate recipients graduated with some debt in 2010. But advanced degree recipients in science and engineering fields often graduate with little or no debt, and those fields can often pay very well, according to the Council of Graduate Schools.

So EPI's results add to the growing body of evidence that it's more difficult for college graduates to find well paying jobs than in the past.

But while prospects for bachelor's-holding graduates may be more grim than they used to be, at least their wages remained relatively stagnant over the last 10 years. For those with only a high school diploma, wages actually dropped during that period.

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