Women Make Gains in Earning Degrees

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The number of women earning a college degree has risen substantially

Here's encouraging news for women who have thought about going back to college for their degree: According to national statistics, the level of education that working women age 25 to 64 are achieving went up substantially between 1970 and 2005. In 2005, about 30% of working women held college degrees, compared with only about 10% in 1970. Even better, the number of working women who complete high school has increased dramatically. In 1970, only about 66% of women in the labor force had earned their high school diplomas, but in 2005, that number rose to about 92%1.

Women Make Gains in Earning Degrees

Women are earning more bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees now

Reports from the National Center for Education Statistics (part of the U.S. Department of Education) also show education gains for women. Their recent data show that women earn a greater number and greater proportion of bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees than they did about 25 years ago. In fact, between 1979 - 1980 and 2003 - 2004, the number of bachelor's degrees awarded to women jumped 76%.2

A college degree makes a payday difference

You only have to look at what a significant difference a college degree can make in the amount of money you earn to know why women earning higher education degrees is vital. In 2005, female college graduates age 25 and over earned nearly 80% more than women with only a high school diploma3 - that's almost double the pay.

A college degree means more career options

Your career opportunities also grow with every education level you achieve. The Census Bureau data also report that women have become increasingly employed in higher-paying occupations during the past several decades, undoubtedly because their higher education made them more eligible for those careers and jobs. In 2005, more than half of all the workers in management, professional, and related occupations were women.4

Women in college means women recognize the value of higher education

These important advances in women's educational achievement are encouraging and illustrate that women value seriously and pursue higher education. The challenges ahead are to make higher education affordable for even more women, and to bring women's pay up to the level of men's pay in all equivalent jobs.

1, 3, 4 U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey and the Bureau of Labor Statistics Report 996, Women in the Labor Force: A Databook (2006 Edition). The CPS is a national monthly survey of approximately 60,000 households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
2 Student Effort and Educational Progress, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), located within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences, is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education.