This paper investigates the returns to education and to experience within the 15 pre-enlargement EU countries, distinguishing between wage earners and the self-employed. These returns are estimated by using a comparable data set coming from the European Community Household Panel during the period 1994-2000. To correct for the ability bias and recover the education coefficients, an Efficient Generalized Instrumental Variable technique is applied. Although the results differ across countries, two common features can be observed. First, the earnings-experience profiles indicate certain traits of competitiveness in the labor markets and, secondly, the returns to education show that signaling plays a relevant role in the earnings of workers.