More Americans are electing to go back to school and earn advanced degrees, recent estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate.
Nationwide, about 22.7 million Americans held master’s, professional or doctorate degrees last year. That’s more than 11 percent of the total population, up from 9 percent 10 years ago.
While Census data shows increases across all levels of educational attainment in recent years, the group earning advanced degrees has seen the fastest growth.
About 16.5 million people held a master’s degree in 2012, up 43.3 percent from 2002. Similarly, the number with doctorate degrees climbed to 3.1 million, a 45.1 percent increase. Those with bachelor’s degrees as their highest level of education also rose but by a far lower rate of 24.9 percent over the 10-year period.
This chart illustrates the steady increase in educational attainment for people who are at least 25 years old:
The vast majority of individuals holding advanced degrees are employed in professional and related occupations. The Census Bureau estimates about 47 percent work in educational and health services, while another 17 percent work in professional and business services.
Metro areas with high concentrations of these well-educated individuals enjoy considerable advantages. Most notably, those with advanced degrees typically earn much higher wages.
Not surprisingly, smaller college towns are home to the most residents holding graduate or professional degrees. Areas with the largest percentages of such residents, as measured in the 2011 American Community Survey, were Ithaca, N.Y., (29.1 percent) Ann Arbor, Mich., (25.9 percent) and Bolder, Colo. (25.8 percent).
Among metro areas with populations exceeding 500,000, the following had the largest concentrations of residents holding graduate or professional degrees:
|Area||Population 25 years and over||Graduate or professional degree %||Bachelor's or higher %||High school graduate or higher %|
|Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV||3,832,547||22.9 (+/-0.3)||48 (+/-0.4)||90.4 (+/-0.3)|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||1,252,876||19.9 (+/-0.6)||45.1 (+/-0.7)||86.9 (+/-0.6)|
|Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH||3,142,424||19 (+/-0.4)||43.1 (+/-0.5)||90.6 (+/-0.3)|
|Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT||625,898||18.2 (+/-0.8)||44.1 (+/-1.1)||88.9 (+/-0.6)|
|San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA||3,084,235||17.4 (+/-0.4)||43.9 (+/-0.5)||87.4 (+/-0.4)|
|Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY||591,878||15.4 (+/-0.7)||34.4 (+/-1.1)||92.1 (+/-0.7)|
|Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT||828,727||15.4 (+/-0.7)||35.2 (+/-1.0)||89.4 (+/-0.7)|
|New Haven-Milford, CT||586,402||15.3 (+/-0.7)||32.6 (+/-0.9)||88 (+/-0.7)|
|Baltimore-Towson, MD||1,841,490||15.1 (+/-0.5)||35.8 (+/-0.7)||89 (+/-0.4)|
|New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA||12,944,112||14.9 (+/-0.2)||36.2 (+/-0.2)||84.8 (+/-0.2)|
To see how your area compares, select it in the menu below. The chart contains educational attainment data for more than 500 metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas from the 2011 American Community Survey.
Figures shown represent the portion of the population 25 years and older. Please note that some metro areas have high margins of error.
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