Unexpectedly Intriguing!
21 June 2005

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas' 2004 Annual Report (available online as a 3.5MB PDF document) contained salary data for a variety of occupations according to their required level of education requirement (whether they required a college degree or not) and their experience level (where skilled = high, inexperienced = low or entry-level, unskilled = doesn't matter) for 2004, which Political Calculations' provides in the dynamic table below. You may click upon the column heads to rank the data from either highest-to-lowest or lowest-to-highest.

2004 Salaries - Degree vs. Experienced Non-Degree Occupations
Skill Level/ Degree Degree/ Occupation Salary
Inexperienced, Degree Accounting 41058
Skilled, Non-Degree Air Traffic Controller 95272
Inexperienced, Degree Chemical Engineering 52539
Inexperienced, Degree Computer Science 49036
Skilled, Non-Degree Dental Hygienists 59785
Skilled, Non-Degree Elevator Repairers 57077
Inexperienced, Degree English 31113
Inexperienced, Degree History 30344
Unskilled, Non-Degree Janitor 20763
Inexperienced, Degree Journalism 26758
Inexperienced, Degree Nursing 38920
Unskilled, Non-Degree Parking Lot Attendant 18055
Inexperienced, Degree Pharmacy 78593
Inexperienced, Degree Psychology 28230
Skilled, Non-Degree Real Estate Brokers 71444
Unskilled, Non-Degree Sewing Maching Operator 19373
All U.S. 2004 Average 36999

It's interesting to see that even within the groupings for both degree and non-degree occupations, education is a differentiating factor in determining an individual's income. For the non-degree occupations, the higher level of education is reflected in the form of the specialized skills an individual acquires through experience or training, as you would expect in the case of an air traffic controller compared to a parking lot attendant.

Likewise, the higher level of education required to gain the entry-level skills of an engineer or pharmacist command much more income than those degrees whose graduates do not require the same level of specialized knowledge. Think about it - you could teach a pharmacist to be a journalist and you would likely have them up to speed at the occupation in less than a year. If you tried the reverse however, it would certainly be unlikely that the journalist seeking to become a pharmacist would be anywhere near ready to work behind the counter filling prescriptions at Walgreens in the same amount of time. This difference in specialization accounts for the substantial difference in starting salary between the two occupations. Adam Smith's "division of labour" marches on!

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