Women who graduated from college earned about 76 percent more than women with only a high school diploma in 2004, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The educational earnings gap has widened sharply since 1979, when female college graduates earned only 43 percent more than female high school graduates.
Women workers without a high school diploma who worked full-time in 2004 had median usual weekly earnings of $334. Those with a high school diploma and no college earned $488; those with some college but no degree earned $553 and those with an associate degree earned $608.
Full-time women workers who held a bachelor's degree in 2004 had median usual weekly earnings of $792. Master's degree holders had earnings of $957, while the figure for professional degree holders was $1,055 and for doctoral degree holders was $1,188.
The above earnings data reported by the BLS are median usual weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers age 25 and over.
The figures come at a time when other BLS statistics show that many traditionally male-dominated occupations have seen a great increase in numbers of women workers.
Some occupations have traditionally been dominated by either female workers or male workers. Most occupational therapists are women, for example, and most engineers are men. But these differences have lessened in numerous occupations in the past couple of decades.
Glass Ceiling Survives
Education levels and occupation aside, women in the American workforce still face a persistent earnings gap between men and women.
According to a 2004 GAO report, the weekly earnings of full-time working women were about three-fourths of men's.
Even accounting for factors such as occupation, education, industry, race, marital status and job tenure, reports the GAO, working women today earn an average of 80 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. (See: Why Women Still Make Less)
College Education Helps All Workers
Among all U.S. workers -- male and female -- the Census Bureau reports that workers with bachelors degrees earn an average of $51,206 a year, while those with a high school diploma earn $27,915. Workers with an advanced degree make an average of $74,602, and those without a high school diploma average $18,734. (See: College Degree Nearly Doubles Annual Earnings)