Wages Vary By Type, Degree of Education

Education is important in determining the kind of job a worker can get, and, as importantly if not more so, how much it pays.

But while more education has benefits, not all occupations requiring a higher level of education pay a higher wage. The reverse is also true – some occupations requiring little education provide decent paychecks.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics assigns a minimum level of education required for each occupation. The wage paid to the 10th percentile of workers in each occupation is used as the entry level wage for that occupation. Although the wage paid to the 10th percentile of workers is not exactly the entry wage for each occupation, it is a legitimate stand-in for entry level pay.

How to read the graphs accompanying this post: The graphs show the distribution of the 10th percentile wages in each educational category of occupations. The small vertical tick at the left of the light green box is the minimum entry level pay for workers in the occupations in the educational category. The line space between the tick and the light green box is the range of entry pay levels for the bottom 24 percent of workers in the occupations of the educational category.

The light green box reflects the wage range for the next 25 percent of workers. The line separating the light green and dark green boxes is the median entry wage for the occupations in the educational category – half make less and half make more. The dark green box is the wage range for the next 25 percent of workers, and the line space to the right of the dark green box to the vertical tick is the wage range for the top 25 percent of workers. The tick marks the maximum starting wage for the educational category.

less than high school

Less than high school

Occupations that typically require less than a high school diploma are on the lowest end of the wage spectrum. Nationally there are 95 different occupations in this category, and 72 have statistics available for Idaho. Looking at the wage range of the 10th percentile workers in this educational category, the majority of occupations both nationally and in Idaho fell well below $10 an hour in 2011.

In Idaho’s case, more than 75 percent of the occupations requiring less than a high school degree had an entry wage of less than $9 an hour. The country’s spread was noticeably broader, and that had a lot to with the presence of more mining and extraction occupations. In both cases, mining and construction occupations made up the majority of those above the 75th percentile–the line to right of the dark green box.

In Idaho, crane and tower operators and excavating and loading machine and dragline operators had the highest entry wages, but both required one to five years of related work experience and moderate to long-term on-the-job training. Between the two occupations the Occupational Employment Statistics program estimated 2011 employment around 560. At the other end of the spectrum, hostesses and dishwashers had the lowest starting wage, but hostesses required nonrelated experience and dishwashers short-term on-the-job training. The combined 2011 employment in the two was 3,300.

hs wages

High school diploma

By far, most occupations require a high school diploma. Nationally, there are 345 such occupations with available statistics and 256 in Idaho.

The distribution of wages was similar nationally and in the state. Both had similar medians and similarly sized second and third quartiles. Both nationally and in Idaho, at least 75 percent of the occupations had entry wages below $12.55 an hour.

The occupations offering the top wages in this educational category were few. Power distributors and dispatchers, farm managers and postal service clerks were at the top end of the spectrum, but combined these accounted for fewer than 600 jobs.

Occupations at the bottom end  –occupational therapy aides, bellhops and child care workers – had starting wages of only $7.60 an hour. But except for child care workers, these were not common occupations. Office clerks, which were the most common occupation in this educational category, started at $8.32, putting them just below the midpoint.

postsecondary wages

Postsecondary non degree award

Only 41 occupations nationally, with Idaho statistics on 32, were in the postsecondary nondegree away educational category. Three other educational categories had fewer occupations–master’s degrees, doctorates and some college but no degree. There were too few occupations requiring some college to assess.

The wage distributions again were similar, especially in terms of minimums and maximums, but the national wage range for the third quartile encompasses more occupations with higher entry wages. While 75 percent of the occupations in this category start below $13.43 an hour in Idaho, the entry wage at the 75th percentile nationally was $14.79.

The occupations at the bottom of this educational category involved personal care services–manicurists, pedicurists, barbers, hairdressers and cosmetologists. These occupations had an entry wage of around $7.70 an hour, and the majority of the employment was among hairdressers and cosmetologists at over 1,400.

Several electrical and electronic occupations fall into this category. Electrical and electronics installers and repairers of transportation equipment, firefighting supervisors and electrical repairers of powerhouses, substations and relays had the highest entry wages in this educational category in Idaho. Workers making electrical repairs on the power grid had a

10th percentile wage of $21.38 but were a small group–just 430 in 2011. The next closest entry level wage was $16.72 for firefighting supervisors. The occupation with the largest employment in this category – nursing aides, orderlies and attendants – had an entry wage near the bottom at $8.22 an hour. The next largest employment category was near the top of the distribution. Licensed practical and vocational nurses had a 10th percentile wage of $14.92 and estimated employment at 2,850.

associates wages

Associate degree

Occupations typically requiring associate degrees total 47 nationally with Idaho statistics available for 44 of those.

Idaho’s distribution was less concentrated then at the national level, and this educational category showed a notable jump in entry wages from the previous educational category. Where 75 percent of the occupations made less than $17.17 at the national level, in Idaho the wage was $19.14 an hour at the 75 percentile.

The minimum entry wage in this educational category was similar to those of the three nondegree categories. Broadcast technicians and preschool teachers had a 10th percentile wage of around $7.80. While there were only about 100 broadcast technicians in Idaho in 2011, there were 1,000 preschool teachers.

The top wage range was significantly higher than in the nondegree categories. Dental hygienists, air traffic controllers and radiation therapists had entry wages between $23 and $27 an hour, and there were 1,200 dental hygienists in Idaho. Only a couple hundred people worked as air traffic controllers and radiation therapists.

The two occupations accounting for most of the employment in this educational category had strong starting wages. Registered nurses with employment of 11,600 had a starting wage of $21.11 while general and operations managers with about the same employment started at $17.87.

Registered nurses also top the Idaho Department of Labor’s hot jobs list that ranks occupations by their abundance in the economy, growth and pay.

bachelors wages

Bachelor’s degree

Occupations requiring a bachelor’s degree were the second largest group at more than 140 nationally. There were Idaho statistics on 117.

Somewhat the reverse of associate degrees, occupations requiring a bachelor’s degree in Idaho were more concentrated and at the lower end of the wage spectrum. Fifty percent of these occupations in Idaho started at less than $16.47 an hour compared to $18.14 as the top for the bottom half nationally. There was more disparity at the 75th percentile as well with Idaho at $20.60 and the country at $23.54. While the bulk of occupations were within a few dollars of the associate degree occupations, there were many more occupations–and jobs–at the higher end of the spectrum.

Video camera operators, audio-visual specialists and recreation workers ranked at the bottom, making between $7.68 and $7.86 an hour. While there were fewer than 200 video camera operators and audio-visual specialists, there were more than 1,000 recreation workers in 2011.

Engineering occupations accounted for most of the occupations near the top of the wage range. Chemical engineers, architectural and engineering  managers and nuclear engineers had the highest entry wages in Idaho at $32.34 to $33.49 an hour, and there were more than 1,400 of them combined in 2011. More than 1,000 of them were managers. Of the 19 occupations with the highest 10th percentile wage, 15 involved engineering. The other four were managers and software developers.

The three occupations with the most employment involved teaching, and there was no wage data available for them. Accountants and auditors were next at more than 3,300 with a starting salary of $18.75.

masters wages

Master’s degree

Occupations requiring a master’s degree were one of the smallest groups at 28 with Idaho data on 19.

The wage distribution was mixed in Idaho. For the first time the maximum entry wage was higher than nationally, if just slightly. But the bulk of occupations fell on the lower end of the distribution range, and the minimum was notably lower than the country’s minimum. Fifty percent of occupations requiring a master’s degree in Idaho had a 10th percentile wage below $16.11 while nationally the midpoint was $17.80.

Curators and occupational therapists made less than $10 an hour to start. These occupations had an entry hourly wage of around $8.90 and estimated employment of 450 jobs in Idaho; 400 were occupational therapists.

Physician assistants and psychologists who do not fit into a specialty category recorded the highest entry wages in this educational category. Physician assistants not only started at $28.85 an hour but totaled more than 700 across the state.

Two of the occupations with the most employment — rehabilitation counselors and educational counselors at 3,100 between them — were at the bottom of the wage distribution with entry wages of $10.11 for rehab counselors and $11.71 for education counselors.

doctorate wages

Doctorates and professional degrees

Occupations requiring doctorates or professional degrees totaled just 23 nationally, the smallest educational category, and there were Idaho statistics on 13.

Wages were spread out for Idaho while the nation was more concentrated in the middle. Idaho also had slightly higher maximum and higher minimum wages then the nation.

There was no available data for many occupations in this educational category, specifically medical doctors. Because of that, the top occupational entry wage was for pharmacists at $41.43. There were 1,400 pharmacists in Idaho in 2011. The occupation with the most employment was lawyers at more than 2,100, accounting for a sizable portion of the occupations with a 10 percentile wage of $22.57.

Select median analysis

The distribution of the median wages among the occupations was similar in many respects except for the occupations that require at least an associate degree or higher. It was clear that while Idaho was in the ballpark for entry level wages for many of these educational categories, the state fell behind when comparing median wages. This was especially true for the maximum median wages in the higher educational categories.

— Andrew.Townsend@labor.idaho.gov, Regional Economist
(208) 332-3570, ext. 3455

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