In a previous post I looked at how the college wage premium varied by occupation. In this quick post I explore how the value of college depends on the state a person is in by creating thematic maps for the associates, bachelor’s, and advanced degree wage premiums. Like the last post I use data from the 2015 American Community Survey which can be found here. I also restricted the data set to workers at least 25 years old.
I thought it was likely that much of what is driving the differences in the college premiums is differences in college attendance so I also made a thematic map based on the proportion of a state’s population that has at leas an associate’s degree.
Despite the rising cost of college it is still argued that post-secondary education is a good investment because of the persistently large college premium. In 2014 a Council of Economic Advisers report fund that the median full-time worker over 25 with a bachelor’s degree had 70% more annual income than a similar worker with only a high school degree. Over the course of a career this premium leads to $1 million more earnings for the college graduate. Although these numbers are impressive, it’s important to remember that the wage benefits of a college degree vary widely by many factors, like major choice.
Payscale.com created a 2016-2017 College Salary Report that includes a list of the highest paying bachelor’s degrees. The average mid-career pay ranges from $172,000 for petroleum engineering majors, to $37,500 for those majoring in early childhood education. I was interested in seeing whether the college premium also varied by occupation, and if so, by how much.
To do this analysis I used data from the 2015 American Community Survey which can be found here. Like the CEA report, I restricted the data to workers 25 and over.
For the higher salary occupations in the first graph, it stands out to me that for most there is not much of a difference in average salary between workers with an associates and workers with only a high school degree. But for the more “blue-collar” occupations like extraction and protective service, the associates degree premiums (26% and 36% respectively) are very significant. The median associates degree premium for this data set is 11%.
The Bachelor’s degree premium ranges from 117% for those in sales related occupations, to 14% for installation, maintenance, and repair jobs. The financial specialists occupation group is a distant second with a premium of 70%. It was also surprising to me that workers in the life, physical, and social science occupation group have the second smallest bachelor’s premium (23%). The median bachelor’s premium is 39%.
Another way to measure the returns to college is the advanced degree premium, which is the difference in salary between advanced degree holders and those whose highest education level is a bachelor’s. Health care practitioners have the largest advanced premium with 109%, followed closely by workers in the legal group with a premium of 104%. The smallest premium is -6%, which belongs to the food prep occupation group. The median premium is 21%.
So like with major choice, the value of a college degree depends heavily on occupation.
Data are from the 2016 Stack Overflow Developer Survey. Students, retirees, people with missing data, and those who don’t fit into one of these 11 education groups were dropped from the data set. The light blue represents only the developers located in the United States, while the dark blue represents all developers outside of the United States.The tuition for a four-year college degree has been steadily rising and student loan debt has been dutifully rising with it. But as the price of traditional education has grown, a number of cheaper alternatives have become increasingly popular. I’ve been particularly interested in the rise of coding bootcamps. These are intensive and full-time programs meant to prepare students for entry-level software developer roles. Some coding bootcamp providers promise extraordinary results, like App Academy, which claims a placement rate of 98% and an average salary of $105,00 for alumni in San Francisco. At the same time, some are dubious that these claims represent the actual labor market value of coding bootcamps.
So I wanted to find out how much attending a coding camp actually affects a software developer’s salary and likelihood of being employed (if at all). I used data from the 2016 Stack Overflow Developer Survey. The raw data for the 2016 survey and previous Stack Overflow surveys are available here. The survey asked respondents for any programming-related education they have received. The choices ranged from traditional, like a masters degree in computer science, to non-traditional options like an online course (Coursera) or full-time intensive program (coding bootamp). All of the data cleaning and analysis was done in R.
This graph shows that in both the United States and the world as a whole, a B.S. in computer science is the most popular education choice. At least to me, a B.A. in computer science is a surprisingly unpopular option, with there being considerably more developers that are completely self-taught. So far, bootcamps seem to be functioning as a supplement to, rather than as a substitute for college, as most of the developers who have attended a bootcamp also have some other kind of programming-related education.
Unsurprisingly, developers with a PhD have the highest average salary. Furthermore, at least in the United States, PhD holders get a nice salary bump after attending a bootcamp. But for every other education level, there is virtually no difference in salary between developers who have and who haven’t attended a bootcamp. Even worse for bootcamps, developers who have only attended a bootcamp make less on average than developers who are completely self-taught. Taking all of this into account, coding bootcamps seem to have a negligible effect on salary.
So what about employment?
Overall, unemployment among developers in this data set is only 1.26%, and the graph shows that it doesn’t seem to vary much by education level. The main takeaway seems to be that it’s actually difficult for a developer to not be employed (or that employed developers were more likely to take the survey). Regardless, the results for employment are much the same as those for salary. Attending a coding bootcamp has no appreciable effect.
There are a few. First, these graphs only show comparisons of averages, which don’t control for important variables like age, gender, and experience. Also, even though Stack Overflow is the most popular online community of software developers, the respondents to the survey are not representative of all developers. For example, a 2016 survey of coding bootcamp alumni conducted by Course Report found that 12% had professional programming experience before the bootcamp. However, the 2017 Stack Overflow Devloper Survey found that 46% of alumni were already employed as developers before the program. So Stack Overflow seems to have an overrepresentation of career software developers, while coding bootcamp alumni as a whole tend to be career changers.
Consequently, these results suggest that for developers who are looking for a salary or employability bump, attending a coding bootcamp may not be the best option. At the same time, bootcamps may still be worthwhile for people who are making a significant career change by entering the software industry.