Doctors Know the Value of an Education

Physician's Money Digest, June15 2003, Volume 10, Issue 11

My physician-dad "isn't realgood"at articulating hisemotions—he's a matter-of-fact kind of guy. But it's a matterof fact that the day I graduatedfrom college, 20 years ago lastmonth, I know he was very proud ofme. Since now is the season whenphysician-parents are caught up ingraduations, it might be a good timefor them to reinforce the uniquevalue of a college education.

Even with all the billions of dollarsspent on precollege educationeach year, those who claim a collegedegree are still a pretty selectgroup. According to the USCensus Bureau, just over 25% ofAmericans hold a college degree;about 10% of the population has agraduate degree.


There's no question that a collegeeducation today costs bigbucks. According to the CollegeBoard, the average annual cost at a4-year private college this year willclear $30,000; at a 4-year publiccollege, it will reach $16,000. Holdonto your wallets, doctors. That's arange of $64,000 to $120,000 for achild's bachelor's degree—notincluding beer and pizza. And theaverage increase for college tuitionhas been climbing at a clip of about7% per year for quite some time.

Still, better than most, physiciansknow the college grind is worth theeffort. It's also a confirmed fact.That's the word from the US CensusBureau, which reports that a personwith a bachelor's degree earns anaverage of nearly $60,000 a year,about twice as much as one with anassociate's degree or less.

And the higher the educationlevel, the bigger the spread. Over aworking lifetime, a person with aprofessional degree (eg, doctor,lawyer, or dentist) can expect tomake an average of $4.4 million,more than twice as much as a collegegraduate with a bachelor'sdegree and nearly 4 times as muchas a person with just a high schooldiploma. I recently had this factconfirmed to me in a very personalway. In May, I attended my niece'sgraduation from the University ofSouthern California Law School.Once she passes her bar exam,she'll start out by pulling in $2500per week as a 25-year-old corporatelawyer in Los Angeles.


In 1966, my father ran for theboard of education of our localschool. (What, he didn't haveenough to do as a physician andfather of 8?) His platform was prettyheady for a then largely uneducatedseashore community: "Primaryschools should discipline the mindtoward higher education. One isinseparable from the other."Notbeing a member of the town clique,however, he lost the election. Buthe wasn't wrong.