The good news for both high school graduates and people with college degrees is that income opportunities are much greater for both than they are for people who don't at least complete high school. In fact, a high school grad earned a median income that was more than 38 percent higher than someone who dropped out in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
High School Income
According to the bureau, the median weekly income for a high school graduate was $652 in 2012. This amounts to $33,904 annually. This is close to the $30,627 that the U.S. Census Bureau indicated diploma earners made annually in 2009. This represents a nearly 51 percent higher level of annual earnings than dropouts, according to the bureau.
The data also reveals some discrepancies in pay based on gender and ethnicity with a high school diploma. Men with a diploma earned about 46 percent more per year than women as of 2009. While this gap is significant, it is an even higher 59 percent differential among those with college degrees. The average salary for white diploma graduates was 31,429, compared with $26,970 for black diploma holders and $25,998 for Hispanic grads.
Associate Degree Income
The bureau showed a weekly income of $785 for people holding a two-year associate degree. This includes a number of vocational and technical trade degrees as well as general education degrees. Compared with the high school diploma earner, the associate grad earned a 20.4 percent higher income. This is a significant boost for someone who normally invests just two years worth of time and money into a college education.
Bachelor's Degree Income
The boost in income at the bachelor's level is even more significant. The 2012 bureau data showed weekly income of $1,066 for an earner with a bachelor's degree. This was approximately 63 percent higher income than someone with a diploma. As of 2009, annual income was $56,665 with a bachelor's, or about 64 percent higher than with a diploma.