Educational Attainment Statistics

Educational Attainment: General Statistics

Education truly dictates the quality of life anyone lives. According to NCES, 21% of adults are either illiterate or functionally illiterate in the U.S., which includes 43 million people. However, technology, changing mindsets, and awareness are gradually transforming the literacy stats in the country.

Although college tuition has increased by 3.2% across the country, attainment of a higher level of education is at an all-time high. And while the competition after college has also increased, 36% of individuals have college degrees.

Here‟s the gist:

  • In 2020, at least 65% of jobs need applicants to have more than a simple high school degree or diploma.
  • More than 30 million individuals have some college education but haven‟t obtained a degree.
  • In 2020, 1,975,000 completed their bachelor‟s degrees,
  • 989,000 obtained their associate degrees,
  • 820,000 earned their master‟s degrees, and
  • 184,00 obtained their doctor‟s degrees.
  • 75% of prison inmates have low literacy, making education the root cause of most of the existing crime in the country.
  • According to the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, providing prison inmates with general education helped reduce recidivism by 7%.

Pay-out Statistics

In 2017, NCES concluded that nearly 78% of young adults, who have a bachelor‟s degree, are employed full-time. As of 2020, their salaries, which largely rely on their major and place of education, are listed below.

  • They earned 23% more than those with a bachelor‟s degree.
  • Students who obtained their master‟s degrees from a public school earned an average income of $26,288/year.
  • Students with a private master‟s degree averaged $61,104/year.
  • Individuals require at least a 2-year degree to land any of the highest-paying jobs.

A survey performed in Waco concluded that skill-based or blue-collar jobs in the manufacturing, welding, and construction sector have relatively high annual payouts due to the high demand.

Besides, most of the students who opt out of education were found shifting their focus to vocational courses to get hands-on experience in a particular field. Only 8 out of the 35 high school graduates neither applied for a job nor a college placement. The estimated salaries of those who did get employed are listed below.

  • In Waco, the median income is $40,000/year
  • Welders can earn an average of $60,000/year

Similarly, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported,

  • In Georgia, students with less than a high school diploma averaged, a high school diploma, associate degree, bachelor‟s degree, master‟s degree and a doctoral degree averaged $28,756, $37,960, $44,824, $62,296, $74,568 and $94,900 per year respectively.

It‟s also important to look at the supply and demand to correctly understand the pay-out statistics. NCES revealed that 20,032 students were awarded master‟s and doctoral degrees in clinical psychology. However, the country demanded only 5,600 clinical psychologists. And the gap continues to grow.

Educational Attainment Among Young Adults

According to NCES, more individuals are going for higher education than ever. The completion rate of high school education or higher has increased to 94% from the previous 88%.

  • There‟s an 11% rise in the completion rate of the associate or higher degree.
  • 39% of young adults have a bachelor‟s or higher degree, which is higher than the previous year‟s 10%.
  • Only 9% of young adults have a master‟s or higher degree.
  • Of the total youth offenders in prison, 85% struggle to read.

But that‟s just about children who live with their parents. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has revealed that more than 400,000 youth live in foster care in any year. The following are a few more statistical revelations of their report.

  • 84% of them wish to attend college.
  • But only 20% of the high school graduates enroll in college.
  • Of those, only 14% eventually obtain their degree.
  • To make education accessible for foster kids, the state of Pennsylvania has waived off a 100% tuition fee. Starting fall 2020, no public, private, community colleges, or state schools will be allowed to ask for any application fees or tuition fees from foster students below the age of 26.
  • Pennsylvania has become the 28th state to offer tuition-free education to foster youth.

Educational Attainment Among Genders

Although females are more educated than males, their average base salaries ($57,500) are lower than their male colleagues ($59,400).


Between 2000 and 2020, the gender gap between males and females has increased from 2% to 6%. Currently, more females have bachelor‟s or higher degrees than males and they account for more than 40% of students at top MBA programs.

Of the total female population, 1,13,969,000 have obtained some amount of education. Their segregation is listed below –

  • 4,472,000 have completed up to 8th grade.
  • 6,743,000 have obtained 9th to 11th grade education.
  • 31,360,000 are high school graduates (includes programs and diplomas).
  • 18,461,000 have completed some or no college.
  • 12,682,000 have obtained an associate degree.
  • 25,155,000 have a bachelor‟s degree.
  • 11,831,000 have a master‟s degree.
  • 1,393,000 have completed a professional degree.
  • 1,872,000 have a doctoral degree.

Because the number of females attaining education is high, colleges have made it more difficult for female students to crack the application process. Every group of 100 males competes with a group of 134 females to land a spot in better colleges. Therefore, even if the male students score lower than their female peers, they stand a higher chance of getting accepted.

Regardless of the fierce competition, 47% of all managers in the U.S. are females. All working females are employed in the following fields, some of which are considered to be high paying –

  • Educational and health services (24,035,000)
  • Professional and business services (7,057,000)
  • Wholesale and retail (7,040,000)
  • Finance (5,314,000)
  • Leisure and hospitality (4,623,000)
  • Manufacturing (4,236,000)
  • Other services (3,722,000)
  • Public administration (3,159,000)
  • Transportation and utilities (1,889,000)
  • Information (989,000)
  • Construction (916,000)
  • Agricultural, hunting, fishing, and forestry (539,000)
  • Mining (85,000)


The association of education with the degree of masculinity is still prevalent among male students. Boys think education is “too girly,” leading them to opt-out of education after high school. Of the total male population, 1,05,862,000 have completed elementary to doctoral education.

  • 4,256,000 have obtained up to 8th grade education.
  • 6,939,000 have between 9th to 11th grade education.
  • 31,325,000 are high school graduates (includes programs and diplomas).
  • 16,981,000 have completed some or no college.
  • 9,687,000 have obtained an associate degree.
  • 23,080,000 have a bachelor‟s degree.
  • 9,217,000 have a master‟s degree.
  • 1,780,000 have completed a professional degree.
  • 2,597,000 have obtained a doctoral degree.

Educational Attainment Among Various Ethnic Groups

More than 75% of students who enroll in schools are ethnic minorities. Among some minority groups, the percentage of students attaining education has gone from 0 to 60%.


  • 34% of the total population are illiterate.
  • Of the total students graduating from public schools, 13.9 million are Hispanic students.
  • The survey from Waco revealed that of all students who were employed, 60% are Hispanic.
  • In Florida, 34% of Hispanics, who are studying in the 12th grade, scored above „Proficient,‟ beating the national average of 22%. 71% of them scored “Basic” in reading, compared to the nationwide 63%.
  • The dropout rate among Hispanic students has drastically reduced by about 12% in the last 15 years.


  • While the educational gap among Latinos has reduced by 9%, only 17% have a college degree.
  • 7.4% of Latinas hold some type of degree.


  • 35% of the total population are illiterate.
  • Of the total students graduating from public schools, 23.7 million are white.
  • According to the Waco survey, 23% of all the employed students are white.
  • Of the 50% of students who obtain a four-year bachelor‟s degree, constitute of white students.
  • They are 20% more likely to get a 2-year associate degree.
  • Students belonging to the Pacific Islands have the same dropout rate as the white students, which is only about 5%.


  • 23% of the total population are illiterate.
  • Of the total students graduating from public schools, 7.7 million are black students.
  • In Waco, 17% of all the employed students are black.
  • Due to the rising levels of education among the group, teen pregnancy has fallen by 51%.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Education, black students are thrice more likely to be suspended than white students.
  • Florida is the only state that has reduced the achievement gap between white and black students.
  • The dropout rate among African American students has come down to less than 10% in the past 15 years.


  • Of the total students graduating from public schools, 2.7 million are Asian students.
  • More Asians have college degrees than any other ethnic group, which has led them to earn higher average salaries than their peers.
  • Of the 50% of students who complete a four-year bachelor‟s degree, constitute of Asian students.
  • The dropout rate among Asians has remained extremely low at 2.1% for the past 15 years.

Most Popular Majors

The technological advancements and emergence of new fields of study have largely influenced the choice of postsecondary majors among students.

  • 372,000 are pursuing health professions and related programs, making it the most popular field of study.
  • 229,000 students are pursuing business studies, followed by humanities, history and social sciences (161,000), psychology (117,000), biological and biomedical sciences (114,000), engineering (107,000), visuals and performing arts (93,000), and journalism and communication related programs (93,000).

For master‟s degrees, business (187,000), education (146,000), health professions (110,000) are found to be the most popular fields of study.

Similarly, health professions and related programs (73,700), legal studies (37,000), education (11,800), engineering (10,200), biological and biomedical sciences

(7,900), psychology (6,500), and physical sciences and technologies (6,000) are pursued more for doctoral degrees.

Student Loan Debt Stats

The education attainment figures are almost always influenced by the affordability factor of any educational field. Since most of the students drop out of school for financial reasons, these student loan debt stats will offer more insights for the growing literacy problem in the U.S.

  • The total student-loan debt has already crossed the $1.5 trillion mark, making education increasingly unaffordable for many students.
  • Nearly 44.7 million individuals have a student loan debt.
  • High college tuition has led to students working more than studying.
  • Close to 20 million people over 60 years of age have a student loan debt.
  • The average monthly repayment amount is $200 to $300. However, about 7.21 million have applied for income-based student loan repayment plans. Of which, nearly a million individuals make less than $20,000/year, as opposed to the national average of $61,937/year.
  • In 2020, 69% of college students have borrowed student loans.
  • Of the 90,962 people who applied for public service loan forgiveness, only 845 were granted forgiveness.
  • 66% of public college graduates have an average debt of $25,500 by the end of their four-year degree.
  • Nearly 50% of the defaulters have attended for-profit colleges, compared to the 12% who come from public colleges, and 14% who attend non-profit colleges.

Online Education Stats

  • 35.3% of students in America have taken at least one distance learning course by 2020, of which 16.6% have exclusively studied online.
  • 39% of students participating in online programs are pursuing bachelor‟s degrees, 19% are pursuing master‟s degrees, 14% are pursuing associate degrees, and 36% are pursuing non-degree courses.
  • One of the top reasons why students apply for online degrees is affordability. However, the average cost of an online bachelor‟s degree is $316 per credit, compared to the $311/credit for public colleges.
  • Similar to offline education, according to a survey by U.S. News, health-related programs and business studies are the most popular fields of education with 31% and 30% of individuals pursuing them, respectively.
  • 95% are returning to school, with the first-timers making for only 5% of the total attendees.
  • The average age of the students pursuing online bachelor‟s degrees is 32 years, making them older than the average on-campus students. Of them, 84% are already employed.


Although the enthusiasm for education is high in the U.S., the increasing inflation and financial gap are keeping students from obtaining quality higher education. Creating a demand for degrees might help combat the illiteracy rate in the U.S. and improve everyone‟s quality of life.

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