Do you know a student who questions the value of attending school each day? While it can often be difficult if not impossible to sway the opinion of young adults, we can try.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that the median earnings of a high school graduate is \$44,356/year.  Median means that half of all workers earn more, and half earn less.  For those who go on to get a four-year college degree, the median income is just under \$75,000/year.  If you go on to get a master’s degree, expected income goes up to \$86,372. Go on to become a doctor and income is \$240,000!

If we assume that wages go up by 2% each year, the person who goes to work after graduation from high school will earn roughly \$4 million if they work consistently to the age of 70.  If we assume just 40 years of work from the age of 18, the high school graduate will earn a little less than \$3 million over the course of his/her lifetime.

Those who go on to get a college degree earn \$6.75 million from the age of 22 to 70.  If we assume 40 years of work from the age of 22, earnings are \$5.1 million.

College graduates with a master’s degree can expect to earn \$7.6 million with earnings after 40 years of \$6.2 million.  If you go on to become a doctor or surgeon, 40 years of earnings total \$15 million!

Using the total earnings of each educational group over 40 years shows that the college graduate earns 40% more than the one with only a high school degree.  Add a master’s degree and you earn \$1 million more while becoming a doctor earns five times more than the high school grad and twice that of the college grad.

While the \$3 million number sounds like a lot, if the cost to rent or own a home is just \$2,000/month, \$1.5 million of earnings go toward housing.  Before paying for anything, the high school graduate now must pay for everything else in life with just half of the paycheck.

Let’s assume that the college graduate spends 50% more than the high school grad on housing.  Over 40 years, \$2.25 million or 44% of income.  When we add a master’s degree, financial flexibility is even better with 36% of earnings dedicated to housing.

Overall, those with college degrees have lower periods of unemployment than those without a degree.  What the degree is in and where it was attained plays a large part in the employment opportunities after school.  It should come as no surprise that a degree from an Ivy League school like Harvard or Yale offers better job prospects than an online school like the University of Southern California.

For those uninterested in a traditional college education, some of the next best opportunities come from learning a trade.  In the technology field, companies like Google now offer certifications to prospective employees in lieu of a college degree.

According to Indeed, a dental hygienist can earn more than many college graduates with master’s degrees.  The average salary for a dental hygienist is \$99,000.  An aircraft mechanic earns \$91,000 while an electrician earns \$63,000 and a plumber \$56,000.  Registered nurses average \$83,000.

Fast food workers on average earn \$30,000 annually.  Retail salespeople earn \$32,000 with cashiers at \$27,000.

Doctors and surgeons have some of the most lucrative jobs with salaries regularly topping \$240,000 annually.  Investment advisors do well with average earnings of \$180,000 annually.

A little work and a focus on education in youth can change the life trajectory of that person.

Haddon Libby is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Winslow Drake Investment Management.  For more information on our services, please visit www.WinslowDrake.com.