How many Americans have a Masters degree?

A little over 15 percent of all Americans age 18 and over have a Master's degree, earn a median weekly wage of $1,233 per week and have a low unemployment rate of 2.4 percent. By contrast, high school graduates garner median weekly earnings of $618 and struggle with 5.7 percent unemployment.

The Stats

According to the 2008 Current Population Survey from Bureau of Labor Statistics for persons age 25 and over:

The median weekly earning for full-time wage and salary workers:

  • Less than a high school diploma: $453
  • High school graduate: $618
  • Some college, no degree: $699
  • Associates: $757
  • Bachelor's: $1,012
  • Master's: $1,233
  • Professional: $1,531
  • Doctoral: $1,561

The wage discrepancy between post-secondary degrees is nearly $550, not much when you consider how many years of work goes into obtaining a master's from a bachelor's degree--but between a high-school graduate to a person with a master's degree: the earnings difference is nearly double.

Unemployment rates (2008):

  • Less than a high school diploma: 9.0 percent
  • High school graduate: 5.7 percent
  • Some college, no degree: 5.1 percent
  • Associates: 3.7 percent
  • Bachelor's: 2.8 percent
  • Master's: 2.4 percent
  • Professional: 1.7 percent
  • Doctoral: 2.0 percent 

Having a high school diploma or GED is a great first step. But getting a post-secondary degree, like a master's, cuts your unemployment rate by half.

The educational attainment level of American adults according to a U.S. Census report released in April 2009:

  • Less than a high school diploma: 32,010
  • High school graduate: 69,480
  • Some college, no degree: 44,168
  • Associates: 9,016
  • Bachelor's: 40,070
  • Master's: 14,893
  • Professional: 3,009
  • Doctoral: 2,485 

You can see that after the bachelor's degree, master's degrees and above dropped off dramatically. This is for all Americans aged 18 and over. Less than half of those beginning college end with their bachelor's. Only about 37 percent of those go on to a master's degree at some time in their lives. The value of that single, signed piece of paper with that embossed gold seal continues to be worth a financially higher quality of life and greater job security.

Except For These People...

Some famous people who tried to pass off a fake diploma certificate as real job credentials:

  • Laura Callahan, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, former senior director, fake bachelor's, master's and doctorate in computer science.
  • George O'Leary, University of Notre Dame, former football coach, fake master's in education
  • Ali Kordan, former Interior Minister of Iran, fake honorary degree, Oxford
  • Richard Gottfried, sentencing law consultant, fake law degree and professional psychology license

Fake customized diplomas are for novelty purposes, not for fraud. Putting one on your shelf or wall can motivate you to attain the real degree. Don't pass it off for anything else!