Community College Grads Earning More Early On Than Those With Bachelor's Degrees, Data Reveals

Filed under: In The News, Education: Teens

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Community college may give your student an initial advantage in the workforce. Credit: Getty

If you thought you had your child's future education and career track all figured out, new data about the emerging workforce may cause you to do a little retooling.

Florida state employment data that tracks the earnings of recent college graduates shows those who earned a career-focused associate's degree or a post-secondary certificate from one of the state's community colleges are, in many cases, earning more than those who graduated with bachelor's degrees at Florida state universities, the Miami Herald reports.

The salary estimates, disclosed last month during a Florida state Board of Education meeting, show a substantial $11,000 gap in earnings between the two groups. Bachelor's degree recipients from the state's 11 public universities were found to have an average starting salary of $36,552 in 2009, while those who received associate in science degrees from community colleges were paid an average of $47,708, according to the Herald.

The data brings to light the potential value of a community college education.

"Something like an associate's degree certainly should not be dismissed as a meaningless level of education,'' Edwin Koc, director of strategic and foundation research at the National Association of Colleges and Employers, tells the Herald.

To be fair, associate in science degree-holders are likely to be older than typical state university undergraduates, the Herald notes, and older students usually have more work experience under their belts and, as a result, a lengthier resume. So the salary advantage may, in part, be attributed to this age difference, the newspaper reports.

But a key difference between the two education tracks may be that associate science programs at community colleges focus on instilling students with workforce-ready skills that then yield higher starting salaries. These programs typically are rich in job-specific training courses for occupations such as legal assisting, early childhood education and a range of health care occupations. State universities, meanwhile, focus on enlightening students with courses in subjects such as philosophy or world history, according to the Herald.

Strikingly, those who completed shorter, non-degree certificate programs at Florida community colleges also out-earned state university bachelor's degree recipients, with those completing six months or less of training earning an average of $37,356 and those who trained for up to one year earning $39,108.

On the flip side, students graduating from community colleges with associate of arts degrees make considerably less, on average -- $31,836 -- because it's a transfer-oriented degree that doesn't focus on specific job skills.

The findings reveal that those earning only a high school diploma were at the very bottom of the list, earning less than $21,000, the newspaper reports.

But before your aspirations for your child's education completely go up in smoke, take comfort in the fact that a more advanced degree will likely pay off in the long-term, as the findings also reveal that a bachelor's or master's degree typically improves chances for future job promotions and accompanying salary increases, according to the Herald.

"Where the real difference tends to lie is where the ceiling of the salary is,'' Koc tells the newspaper.


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