How Does an Educational Background Affect Salary?

Whether you’re a job seeker or a higher manager, you’ve likely wondered, “how does education affect salary“? 

In reality, it depends on the industry and job title. For some fields, a professional educational background will increase salary while it doesn’t make much of a difference in others. 

Job seekers want to know that employers are compensating them fairly and based on their qualifications. On the flip side, hiring managers have a lot on their plates these days! We’re here to answer your questions regarding salary and education. 


Educational Background Screening

There are many factors to account for when making a hiring decision. What gets a candidate hired can vary. Interviewers evaluate qualities like job aptitude, education, experience, cultural fit, and personality. Some employers even look at social media accounts to assess candidates. 

Again, whether there is a correlation between salary and education depends on the profession. There are industries where a qualified education is crucial for potential candidates. 

That’s why 96% of employers use background screening for hiring. Qualification verification services such as educational background screenings are a great way to determine the pay rate and weed out unqualified candidates.

Employers have every reason to do this. Why wouldn’t you want to ensure that you’re hiring honest, qualified people? Education screening provides ‘quality assurance,’ which lowers turnover rates. 

So, which industries and professions have the strongest correlation between a proficient education and salary? Let’s run through the industries where education equals a higher salary.


Industries Where Education Background Increases Salary

Let’s examine some of the industries where education is a defining factor for salary level. 



This industry seems obvious, right? Most people know there is a direct correlation between education, qualification, and salary level. There is a truly vast amount of skills and knowledge to be learned. 

Plus, given that the healthcare industry is so large, a person could specialize in everything from human anatomy to software engineering! Healthcare truly is a wide-ranging, high-tech, and specialized industry. 

Associate’s Degrees are necessary for positions such as radiation therapist, dental hygienist, or nuclear medicine technologist. Each of these career paths involves earning additional certifications that increase salary over time. Bachelor’s degrees are required for roles such as registered nurses or medical & health services managers. 

There are direct correlations between salary and education level in these fields. Earning a master’s degree can help a nurse become a Physician’s Assistant and earn $100k+ per year without obtaining a doctoral degree. Furthermore, a doctoral degree will lead to a salary increase and a range of possibilities for specialized career paths.



Finance is another massive industry, and education can make or break depending on the career path. Everywhere from investment banks to wealth management firms will typically require a finance degree and offer salary increases if a candidate has a specialized Master’s degree. 


Finance is an industry where having the correct qualifications will almost always lead to more significant opportunities and pay increases. Finance managers with an MBA will almost always have many job options. In contrast, accountants likewise require a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance, CPA qualifications, and even MBAs with a concentration in Accounting.



There is usually a direct correlation between a candidate’s qualifications and their salary potential in this industry. Teachers will be eligible for a higher salary if they have a master’s degree or specialize with specific teaching credentials or qualifications. 


Educators who have a master’s or doctoral degree are more likely to reach higher-education positions.

Business woman hangs educational certificate on office wall

How Degrees Impact Salary

First, let’s look at the overall statistics in the United States by degree level to determine the correlation between salary based on education and experience.


Associate’s Degree 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 4% of jobs are in occupations that require an associate’s degree. Popular professions for associate’s degree holders include registered nurses, dental hygienists, agricultural and food science technicians, paralegals and legal assistants, and more. 


Bachelor’s Degree

Roughly 18% of jobs in the USA are in occupations that require a bachelor’s degree. Many different positions across the spectrum require bachelor’s degrees, such as information security analysts, systems software developers, special education teachers, or marketing managers.


Master’s Degree 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates that roughly 2% of jobs in the USA require a master’s degree. Jobs that would require a master’s degree include healthcare social workers, epidemiologists, statisticians, and many more occupations. 


Doctoral Degree

Around 3% of jobs in the United States require a doctoral degree or Ph.D. The annual median wage is about $100,000 per year. Many of these professions include veterinarians, physicists, judges, biochemists, postsecondary law teachers, etc.  


Average Salary by Education Level

Let’s take a quick high-level look at education level and median earnings in the United States. Are there overall averages that people should generally expect?


  • People with a high school diploma in the United States earn a median annual income of $38,784.  
  • Professionals with an associate degree earn $46,124 on average in the United States.  
  • Individuals with a bachelor’s degree average $64,896 per year in the United States.  
  • The average salary for a person with a master’s degree in the United States is $77,844. 
  • Finally, the average salary for professionals with a doctorate or professional degree is $97,000 per annum. 


Determining Salary Based on Education and Experience

As we have seen, salary can drastically rise based on education and experience in many fields. Especially in the United States, where there is a direct correlation between pay and education level. 

Any hiring manager would be wise to ensure that they deploy educational background screening to distinguish qualified candidates from dishonest ones. It’s important to know what to look for in a background check and use a thorough service.


For over 20 years, DataCheck has helped companies hire with total confidence using customizable background checks. We offer a comprehensive suite of employment screening solutions! Contact us and view our services for more info!