Workforce outcomes of Washington high school graduates

September, 2021
September, 2021

Students approaching high school graduation have a variety of post-graduation pathways they can take to enter the workforce. However, they generally have little information on the financial implications of these decisions.

This paper seeks to measure the impact of a high school graduate’s education choices and how these choices affect future wages. In this study, we found relationships between different education credentials and programs that will help students and policymakers understand what today’s students may earn after they enter Washington’s workforce — whether directly after high school graduation or after they earn an education credential.

The most important takeaways from this study:

  1. Completing a bachelor’s, graduate, or apprenticeship program leads to higher future wages.
  2. Wages from post-secondary education credentials (apprenticeship, bachelor’s degree, and graduate degree) increase over time.
  3. Some programs offer a positive wage impact that is greater than the wage value of the credential.
  4. Even if the program is popular, it doesn’t mean it will result in higher wages.
  5. Some programs, particularly computer science and engineering, have a notably higher impact on wages than other programs.
  6. The impact of someone’s program choice tends to accumulate over time, in both positive and negative directions.
  7. This study couldn’t determine the wage impact of earning an associate degree, certificate or completing some college.