Community College Graduates Earn More Than Bachelors Degree Holders

Around 30 percent of Americans with two year degrees are now making more than those with bachelor's degrees according to a Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce study. Other research in several other states have suggested that on average, community college graduates that are fresh out of school are earning more money than graduates out of four year universities. The average wage for grads from community colleges in Tennessee, for example, is around $38,000 --- a rate that's more than $1300 higher than the average salary that's associated with graduates who have attended at the state's four year universities.

Within Virginia alone, the recent grads of technical and occupational degree programs at the community colleges are making an average of $40,000. This is around $2500 more than what is earned by recent bachelor's degree recipients. The vice present of the American Institutes for Research noted that "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." Although by mid-career, many of the bachelor's degree recipients have caught up in their salaries when compared to community college graduates, another factor that needs to be considered is that getting that four year degree is also much more expensive than getting a two year degree, likely suggesting that much of the student debt associated with getting a bachelor's degree is responsible for taking a chunk out of the earnings of bachelor's degree holders.

According to the College Board, a two year community college degree at present rates costs around $6000 – which is in direct contrast to a bachelor's degree from a four year private residential university, which can cost up to $158,000. Generally, the increase in wages that is being found in community college graduates is because there is a high demand for people who are considered to have "middle skills" which don't require more than an associate's degree. This would include people who are working as lab technicians, computer engineers, paralegals, machinists, radiation therapists, and teachers in early childhood programs. Having a two year college degree, an air traffic controller can make around $113,000.

Some say the value of having a degree from a community college is that you have skills that other employers want immediately instead of having a large amount of theories that have been provided by four year college degrees instead. Around 29 million jobs are now able to pay middle class wages and only require the associate's degree. However, the issue is that there are not enough associate's degree holders that are being produced, which means that they continue to be in demand – unfortunately, many people are hesitant to go to school as a result of the amount of student debt that is now involved. There are options to cover the funding, but those options generally mean extending the amount of time it takes for a degree and possibly having a degree that is not as updated as someone who can devote full-time hours to a degree program. The truth is, if the time is spent and the funding is there a community college may be the best option now and in the long run for a career option.