Special Report

Cities Where a College Education Pays Off the Most

Getting a college education is one of the most common ways to boost earning potential. The median worker with a bachelor’s degree has an income of $56,152, compared to just over $32,000 for one whose highest level of education is high school. 

While a degree is generally helpful for increasing income nationwide, there are a handful of cities in the U.S. in which the typical college graduate outearns the typical high school graduate by an especially significant amount

To determine the cities where a college education pays off the most 24/7 Tempo reviewed five-year data on earnings by educational attainment from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey. Metropolitan statistical areas were ranked based on the raw difference in median earnings for workers 25 years and older with a bachelor’s degree and the median earnings for workers 25 years and older with only a high school diploma. (Here are the highest-paying jobs you can get without a college degree.)

Nearly all of the places where a college degree pays off the most are concentrated on the East and West coasts. California is home to 11 of the 25 metro areas on this list, and Connecticut, Washington, and (an outlier in regards to location) Michigan are the only other states to feature multiple times.

Click here to see the cities where a college education pays off the most
Click here to read our detailed methodology

Many of the places on this list also rank among the metro areas with the highest incomes overall. These areas tend to have a relatively high concentration of tech workers – one of the highest-paying job markets in the country. College-educated IT specialists, software and hardware engineers, and other high-tech workers can often earn well over $100,000 per year. These are the best paying jobs in America.

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