Community-college graduates with technical degrees start work at higher wages than four-year graduates, according to new research, notes the Hechinger Report.
Berevan Omer graduated on a Friday in February with an associate’s degree from Nashville State Community College and started work the following Monday in his new job as a computer-networking engineer at a local television station, making about $50,000 a year.
That’s 15 percent higher than the average starting salary for graduates not only from community colleges, but for bachelor’s degree holders from four-year universities.
. . . 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.”
Workers with bachelor’s degrees may catch up later in their careers, but nearly 30 percent of workers with associate’s degrees earn more than the average for workers with bachelor’s degrees, according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.
“Middle-skill” workers — lab technicians, computer engineers, draftsmen, radiation therapists, paralegals and machinists — don’t need a four-year degree to earn middle-class wages.
“A good technical-oriented associate’s degree program at a good community college is actually turning out graduates whose skills meet the needs of the regional labor market,” says Mark Schneider, vice president of the American Institutes for Research.
With a two-year community-college degree, air-traffic controllers can make $113,547, radiation therapists $76,627, dental hygienists $70,408, nuclear medicine technologists $69,638, nuclear technicians $68,037, registered nurses $65,853, and fashion designers $63,170, the online website CareerBuilder.com reported in January.
“I would not suggest anyone look down their nose at the associate’s degree,” says Jeff Strohl, director of research at the Georgetown center.
Compared to other industrialized nations, the U.S. ranks high in bachelor’s degrees but only fair to middling in sub-baccalaureate credentials. Ten percent of American workers have the vocational certificates and technical associate degrees needed for middle-skill jobs, compared with 24 percent of Canadians and 19 percent of Japanese.