Education and Earning Potential: What Your Kids Should Know

No one kid is alike—if you have more than one child, you know this firsthand. Some kids love school and everything about it—challenging homework assignments, after-school activities, and even taking tests. Others may struggle with schoolwork, while some are capable of earning higher grades but just don’t like school itself.

You have probably heard some variation of “But when will I ever use this?” from your kids, most likely while helping them with a particularly difficult or frustrating homework assignment. And your child may be right—it’s very possible that mastering long division by hand isn’t a necessary life skill—but you know how valuable it is for your child to put in a reasonable effort, care about grades, and feel a connection to school.

Not only is it important to help your child connect to school for the sake of education itself, it’s helpful for you and your child to understand how the level of education reached translates to wages earned once your child enters the adult workforce.

Consider these facts:

  • A student who drops out of school at eighth grade will earn about $17,000 a year.
  • A student who drops out of high school between grades 9 and 12 will earn about $20,000 a year.
  • A student who graduates from high school but does not pursue post-secondary education will earn about $27,000 a year.
  • The average salary for an individual who goes to college but does not get a degree is $31,000 a year.
  • A two-year college degree will earn that individual about $35,000 a year., and getting a four-year college degree will result in about $43,000 a year.
  • If your child goes on to earn a master’s degree, he can expect to make an average of $52,000 a year.
  • A doctorate degree? $71,000. And a professional degree (such as medical or law) means about $82,000 a year.

School Engagement

Your child may be one of those students who can’t get enough of school and already sees the value of an education. But there are plenty of students who don’t feel engaged at school, for any number of reasons. If your child seems to struggle with homework, drags her feet in the morning and resists leaving for school, or often complains about teachers or classmates, find out why.

Get to the bottom of your child’s negative feelings about school and see what you can do to help. Through talking with your child you may learn that her classes are moving too slowly for her, or much too fast. Maybe there is some bullying going on, or she doesn’t feel heard by her teacher.

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Once you know what is at the root of the problem you can tackle it head-on. Maybe your child will become more engaged in school if he joins a club, or if he starts seeing a tutor. Or maybe she will care more about what happens at school if she has a direct hand in it through the student council or a fundraising campaign. Whatever it is, do your best to improve your child’s relationship with school. Getting involved in your child’s school can make a difference, too, so see what volunteer opportunities there are that suit your interests and schedule.

Lifelong Learning

Your child certainly doesn’t need to go as far as medical school, but making her current educational experience as pleasant and rewarding as possible will go a long way toward making learning a lifelong priority.

Not only does more education mean higher lifetime earnings, but staying in school and making the most of it will help your child build the skills necessary for making responsible money decisions, no matter what his salary is.



U.S. Census Bureau. Current Population Survey, 2006 Annual Social and Economic Supplement, Table PINC-03 Educational Attainment. (This is the most current data at publication of this curricula.)



These are great points, however, I grow concerned when education is directly linked to later earning potential. Knowledge is important for many reasons other than money, and many people may pursue careers which will be fulfilling, but not high-paying. For example, I have a master’s degree and work at a non-profit organization. I’m doing what I love, but I’m making closer to what the average individual who “goes to college but does not get a degree” makes. A little less, actually. It’s also important to note that the economic climate has shifted dramatically since the 2006 population survey. Our country has gone through a recession and many people in my generation have not found employment in their fields at all, much less positions that actually pay these figures.

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