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CTE Credential Holders Out-earn Their Peers


May 6, 2013


CTE Credential Holders Out-earn Their Peers

Last fall I reported to you on associate degree holders in CTE fields out-earning bachelor's degree recipients in Virginia. I've recently learned that Tennessee and Texas have also studied the relative benefits of various credentials and career fields for their postsecondary students, with similar findings:


  • Average first-year earnings for the state's community college graduates were more than $1,300 higher than graduates of its four-year public schools.
  • Graduates of the state's 13 community colleges made an average first-year wage of $38,948, more than $1,300 higher than graduates of the state's 9 public four-year institutions.
  • Results vary by career field: Many CTE-oriented associate degrees offer higher starting salaries, particularly in the health professions. In addition, certificate holders in construction trades from Nashville State Community College earned more than $66,000, and certificate holders who studied health professions at Columbia State Community College netted more than $50,000.


  • On average, students with two-year technical degrees had first-year median earnings of about $11,000 more than graduates of bachelor's degree programs across the state.
  • Two-year technical degree holders earned, on average, about $30,000 more than students in the labor force who completed academically oriented two-year degrees.
  • First-year earnings varied widely for certificate holders, depending on program. Certificates in health care, construction engineering technology and pipefitting can earn first-year graduates $30,000 more than the Texas-wide median bachelor's degree salary. In other fields, certificate holder earnings can be quite low.

The Tennessee report resulted from a partnership of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development and College Measures, and was funded by the Lumina Foundation. The Texas report is also a College Measures resource, in collaboration with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Both publications examined the average first-year earnings of graduates from 2006-2010 who were employed in the state.

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