The Average Salary of High School Graduates

by Samantha Ley

Students in the United States may graduate high school by completing an approved curriculum through a private or public school, or by being homeschooled. Homeschooled students and other individuals who have not completed a traditional high school track can earn a GED. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS, and other sources show that higher levels of education are linked to higher wages and lower levels of unemployment. In 2011, the BLS stated that the average rate of unemployment across workers of all levels of education was 7.6 percent. However, among those who had not completed a high school diploma, unemployment was at 14.4 percent. For those who had a high school diploma or equivalent, the unemployment rate dropped to 9.4 percent.

Salary by Location

The California Postsecondary Education Commission provides 2009 salary information for each state in the United States. High school graduates earned the most in Connecticut, where the average annual salary was $31,776. They earned the least in Idaho, making an average of $22,850 per year. The national average salary for high school graduates was $26,140. In comparison, the average salary for someone who does not have a high school diploma or GED was $18,432, while those who attended some college or had an associate’s degree made $31,906 per year.

Salary by Gender and Race

Information from 2010 from the National Center for Education Statistics shows the differences in pay for high school graduates based on gender and ethnicity. In 2010, female high school graduates earned an average annual salary of $25,000, while male high school graduates took in $32,800 per year. In addition, high school graduates identified as white took in an average of $32,000 per year, while those identifying as black made $25,000 per year, on average.

Salary by Year

According to the NCES, high school graduates in 2010 earned an average wage that was only slightly higher than the 1995 average wage -- $29,900 in 2010 and $29,700 in 1995. The 2010 stated wage was also lower than the 2000 wage of $31,700 per year, as well as every year from 2005 to 2009. Across the numbers for all surveyed years, 2000 saw the highest average wages for high school graduates, while 2009 had the highest average wages for individuals of all educational levels at $38,600 per year.

Median Weekly Earnings

The bureau provides information about 2010 median weekly earnings for workers of various educational levels. High school graduates without any college experience took in a median weekly salary of $626, while those who had attended some college but did not earn a degree earned $712 weekly. Women earned a median of $543 weekly after graduating high school, while those who attended some college without completing of a degree made $616 weekly. In comparison, men who graduated from college earned a median weekly wage of $710, and those who attended some college took in $820 weekly. Among all workers, those who did not complete a high school diploma earned a median salary of $444 per week.

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