How a College Degree Pays Off After Age 75

Libby Kane

college degree older workersAt college graduation, the newest class of degree-holders are thinking about the future: the jobs they’ll hold, the trips they’ll take, the advantages they’ve earned along with that diploma.

One thing that probably doesn’t cross their minds, though, is what that college degree will mean for them after age 75.

A new study shows that for employees in their later years—much like for those in their younger earning years—having an advanced degree provides an advantage. A study conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) found that American workers with degrees beyond the high school level work more and are paid more per hour than those without similar levels of education.

The analysis of data taken from 2005-2009 was broken into four levels of education: high school/GED or less, some college or an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree and postgraduate education.

While, as one might expect, employment rates for men and women in their 70s are lower overall than for younger workers, across all ages those with advanced degrees had, for the most part, higher employment rates than those with less education. The report boils down the discrepancy between the highest and lowest education levels: “Women and men aged 70-79 years with postgraduate degrees are about twice as likely to be employed as their age peers with a secondary school education or less.”

But there was one notable exception to the idea that a higher degree equals a higher employment rate: When female workers reached their 70s, more of them with some college or associate’s degrees were actively working than were women with bachelor’s degrees (12.4% versus 11.5%, respectively).

Education level still offered an advantage when it came to pay. After about age 75, men with postgraduate degrees earned the highest wages, followed by men with bachelor’s degrees and women with postgraduate degrees.

In fact, across almost all ages and levels of education, men had both higher employment rates and higher pay. As the researchers write, “Men are estimated to earn two or three times more than women after age 65 within each educational level.”

  • JackieA

    Perhaps women with the higher degree of education were working less after age 70 because they were able to make a higher salary in their lifetime and therefore were able to save more. I am 67 and still working full time in a job I love but I might consider retiring if I could afford to. Most of my friends my age are retired. Some of that has to do with the jobs they held and other reasons were the salaries their husbands made (make.) I do have a college degree.

  • Audrey Knox

    I clicked on this link thinking it was going to be discourage (college degrees don’t pay off until you’re 75), but this actually gave me a lot of hope! Guess I’ll stay in school for now :)

  • CrankyFranky

    jeebus – earn more after 70 !? – I’m contemplating whether to retire at 60 ! – I’ve got enough – I’m just not sure about boredom, and I enjoy my work – so am staying for now – but expect to give it away well before the big seven-oh …