Spotlight on U.S. Educational Attainment
When Americans achieve higher levels of education, our economy and society move forward
With technological advancements and globalization the demand for a higher-educated workforce is growing in order to acquire new skills. Since 2010, the number of Americans who have completed at least 4-years of college has steadily increased. As the population achieves higher levels of education, the American workforce improves in quality which is an essential tool for the United States to participate competitively in the global market and prosper economically.
U.S. educational attainment reaches its highest level in history
The educational level of American adults is on the rise as more college graduates go on to earn master’s, professional and doctoral degrees. The Census Bureau gathers educational data through its American Community Survey.
Educational attainment refers to the highest level of education that an individual has completed. This is distinct from the level of schooling that an individual is attending. See the School Enrollment website for information on current U.S. school attendance levels.
U.S. total population educational attainment
Since 2000, the number of people age 25 and over whose highest degree was a master’s has doubled to 21 million. The number of doctoral degree holders has more than doubled to 4.5 million.
Female educational attainment outpaces males
In 2018, women are more likely to have a bachelor’s degree than men. This is particularly true for workers under age 60. Click here to access Census Bureau Educational Attainment Data.
Higher educational levels have higher earnings
In 2017, Americans age 25 and older earned, on average, $53,536 The mean earnings of Americans differs based upon their education level. In 2017, those who did not complete high school averaged earnings of $26,832, while those with a high school degree averaged $38,145. Those with a bachelor's degree had average earnings of $67,763, and those with an advanced degree averaged $98,369.
Additional educational attainment data
The Census Bureau releases U.S. educational attainment data to the public in order for Americans to better understand national patterns and correlations between education, income, geography, and more which allows the public to take full advantage of the opportunities available.