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Licensing Execs Are Educated: 89% Hold at Least Bachelor Degree

By: Karina Masolova;

Note: The following is based on as as-yet unpublished excerpt of TLL’s 2018 Compensation Report, to be released in digital PDF and print in May 2018 at Licensing Expo Las Vegas. Note that three charts and tables have been excluded from this excerpt.

Licensing executives are more educated than ever before, according to the 2018 Salary Survey. Over half of respondents hold a bachelor degree (56%) and 27% a master degree—11% hold a master of business administration (MBA) and 15% some other master degree.

Most respondents to last year’s Survey held a bachelor degree (59%), with 31% holding a master degree (MBA or other) as their highest level of academic achievement. In 2016, 56% held a bachelor degree, 18% an MBA, and 13% some other master degrees. Just 4% held an associate degree and 3% a high school diploma/GED as their highest degree. In 2013, 55% held a bachelor degree, 23% an MBA, and 6% another master degree.

Americans prefer the MBA, while Europeans tend to get some other kind of master degree. Virtually no EU respondents indicated that they received a juris doctorate (JD), either because the European system prefers a master of laws degree (or an LLM, explaining the higher rate of other master’s degree attainment) or because a legal background is not considered essential for a licensing professional.

Almost half of Americans with a high school diploma/GED stated, unsolicited, that they had a couple of years of college education. For the first time, the share of those without an undergraduate degree rose to surpass those with an associate degree. It is unlikely that professionals are pursuing four-year degrees while working (rather than pausing to cash in on an associate degree) because half have been involved in licensing for 10 years or more, and over three-quarters for over five years.

Surprisingly, respondents outside the U.S. and EU were the most highly educated, boosting the total average for PhD and bachelor degree attainment worldwide in 2017.

Highest Level of Educational Attainment Amongst Licensing Executives, 2018
Note: Numbers may not add up exactly due to rounding.
Degree U.S. EU Worldwide
PhD 1% 0% 2.1%
JD 6% 0% 4.1%
MBA 12% 9% 11.3%
Other Master 13% 27% 15.5%
Bachelor’s Degree 55% 55% 55.7%
Associate Degree 3% 0% 2.1%
High School Diploma/GED 10% 9% 9.3%

Comparing the average salary and raise, by degree, for years 2015 and 2017, it seems that attaining a degree still pays off. While the difference in salary for an MBA holder in the span of two years, a whopping $92,000 (60% growth), is skewed because of respondent makeup (MBA holders were exclusively executives), this trend holds true even for other master and bachelor degree owners.

While data was insufficient to present statistically significant salary ranges for other degree holders, it should be noted that Survey respondents are almost exclusively from the upper echelons of the business. A surprising number of executive-level executives only have a high school diploma/GED—granted, this cohort has been in licensing for at least five years (and half of them, for over 10 years).

Unsurprisingly, the most well-educated executives are the youngest, explaining why every PhD holder is only a mid-level executive. The biggest indicator of success was not necessarily educational attainment, but age.

Across gender lines, educational attainment is roughly equal, with 91% of men and 87% of women holding a four-year undergraduate degree or higher. Rates of attainment are equal for higher degrees such as the PhD, JD, and master (excluding the MBA).

Men are much more likely to get a master degree, with 19% of all men holding an MBA and 16% some other master degree. They actually hold 73% of all MBA and 47% of other master degrees.

Women, on the other hand, hold 60% of all bachelor degrees. As a group, 60% of all female respondents have this four-year degree. Roughly one-in-10 (11%) female executives have reached their current level with just a high school diploma/GED under their belt.


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