Significant numbers of community-college grads are getting better jobs, and earning more at the start of their careers than people with bachelor’s degrees, a trend that surprises even the researchers who have noticed it in wage data that has started to become more available in the last year.
“There is that perception that the bachelor’s degree is the default, and, quite frankly, before we started this work showing the value of a technical associate’s degree, I would have said that too,” says Mark Schneider, vice president of the American Institutes for Research, which helped collect the numbers for some of the states that report them.
Omer’s friends with bachelor’s degrees “aren’t learning skills,” he says. “They’re just learning all this theory. I’ve got an applied degree. And I’m out there making a good amount of change.”
Nearly 30 percent of Americans with associate’s degrees now make more than those with bachelor’s degrees, according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. In fact, new research into earnings shows that, on average, community-college graduates right out of school, as a group, make more than graduates of four-year universities.
The average wage for recent graduates of community colleges in Tennessee, for instance, is $38,948—more than $1,300 higher than the average wage for recent graduates from the state’s four-year institutions.
In Virginia, recent graduates of community-college occupational and technical degree programs make an average of $40,000. That’s almost $2,500 more than recent bachelor’s degree recipients.
And while by mid-career many bachelor’s degree recipients have caught up in earnings to community-college grads, “the other factor that has to be taken into account is that getting a four-year degree can be much more expensive than getting a two-year degree,” Schneider says.
A two-year community-college degree, at present full rates, costs about $6,262, based on research by the College Board. A bachelor’s degree from a four-year, private residential university goes for $158,072. <Read more.>