41% of statistics are made up

I just got some pop-up ad that said "People with advanced degrees make 95% more on average." I clicked to find out the source of this information, and I got a bunch more pop-ups, with no readily apparent clue as to where this stuff was coming from. So I gave up.

So now I'm resigned to speculating what exactly is being compared here. Clearly, the mean income of all of the people in the U.S. with advanced degrees is not 95% more (almost twice as much, if they're using the figure correctly) than the mean income of all of the people in the U.S. without advanced degrees. A lot of people in public service and academia with advanced degrees make considerably less than a lot of people in sales or tech or aviation without advanced degrees.

Are they saying that people with advanced degrees in a given field requiring an advanced degree make 95% more than people in that same field without advanced degrees? This scenario could be accurate. My job, mental health, does require an advanced degree to work at the "professional" level, and the people doing so do make (at least) twice as much as the people who do work that doesn't require a degree, such as staffing a hospital unit or residential program. Still, although the assertion would be technically correct, it's still misleading in that a person working in a direct-care role would not receive a pay raise if he or she obtained an advanced degree in clinical mental health. In fact, a lot of places would lay the person off, because their agency has regulations against an employee holding a position for which he or she is grossly overqualified. And we aren't a field where there are just tons of jobs waiting open for the person to take.

Also, what is being considered an advanced degree? I've heard the term used to refer to any certificate or diploma earned beyond high school. I think it most commonly refers to a master's or doctoral degree, but I know this isn't standardized by any means. Would we consider something like nursing where a person does an internship and takes a licensure exam to be an advanced degree, even though it can be done without obtaining any academic degree? I would consider it to be on par with many advanced degrees, in terms of how it's regulated and what the pay scale is like, but a R.N. license itself isn't generally considered to be an advanced degree. Conversely, there are also academic degrees, like an academic doctorate in history, which don't qualify the person to do any sort of specific job and which can be earned just by demonstrating that the person has a certain amount of knowledge. Granted most people who have such a degree probably do have experience in teaching and research, but the degree itself does not mean that the person has any specific skills or experience like a law degree or a nursing license does. Yet these are labeled as "an advanced degree."

I guess the bigger issue is that a college (well, a college of some sort) is advertising education at all. Are there really people who put the time and money and effort into a college education just so they can make more money? Again, if money were the only motivation, it's much easier to go find one of the many jobs that pays well and does not require a degree. And if someone isn't personally motivated to get a degree, what are the odds that they'll be a good student? Who exactly is this place trying to appeal to, anyway?


1 comment:

jeff said...

A lot of people in public service and academia with advanced degrees make considerably less than a lot of people in sales or tech or aviation without advanced degrees

Amen to that - my advanced degree doesn't get me much earning potential in state government.