Higher Education Pays:The Initial Earnings of Graduates of Texas Public Colleges and Universities
Texas, with more than 25 million residents, is home to more than 8% of the U.S. population. Texas is also fast growing: Between 2000 and 2010, its growth rate of 20.6% was more than twice that of the nation. Texas has a slightly larger concentration of students approaching traditional college age than the nation as a whole: About 7.5% of its population is between the ages of 15 and 19, higher than the 7.1% national average. This percentage translates into an existing pool of around 2 million young students who are or soon will be reaching traditional college age. In turn, high demand is likely to continue for admission to colleges and universities throughout the state.
As students make their decisions about where to invest their time and money in pursuit of postsecondary degrees, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) is working with College Measures to make publicly available the first-year earnings of recent graduates from two- and four-year public institutions across the state who are working in Texas one year after obtaining their degree or certificate.
The results suggest that the degree a student earns matters, but that there are important variations in returns by program and by institution. This report documents some of the differences in first-year earnings ranging from certificate programs through master’s programs.
Among the findings are:
• Technical-oriented associate’s degree programs in the state of Texas are helping many students successfully enter the labor market by equipping them with skills that are in demand. On average, a year after graduation, students with two-year technical degrees have first-year median earnings of more than $50,000, just over $11,000 more than graduates of bachelor’s degree programs across the state.
• Graduates with these two-year technical degrees earn, on average, about $30,000 more than students who completed academically oriented two-year degrees and are now in the labor force.
• The first-year earnings of graduates from different community colleges vary widely. For academic associate’s degrees, the range is from around $10,000 (Ranger College) to more than $30,000 for graduates from the Trinity Campus of Tarrant County Junior College and from Central Texas Community College. For graduates with technical degrees the range is even greater, from approximately $20,000 for graduates from Clarendon College to more than $65,000 for graduates from seven community colleges: College of the Mainland Community College District, San Jacinto College South Campus, Tarrant County Junior College
South Campus, Galveston College, El Centro College, Trinity Valley Community College, and Weatherford College.
• Certificates are one of the fastest-growing credentials offered by community colleges. The median first-year earnings of certificate holders often exceed those of graduates from academic and technical associate’s programs. For example, the median first-year earnings of certificate holders in Business Administration/Management ($36,987) exceed those with academic associate’s degrees in the same field of study by $11,000. In criminal justice/police sciences,
the median first-year earnings of certificate holders ($48,230) exceed academic associate’s degree holders in criminal justice by more than $24,000 and those with a technical associate’s degree by about $11,500. In contrast, across Texas, graduates with technical associate’s degrees in Registered Nursing/Registered Nurse programs earn close to $50,000 more than new certificate holders in the same field of study ($68,059 vs. $19,729).
• The median first-year wages of graduates from some certificate programs are above $70,000, or $30,000 more than the Texas-wide median bachelor’s degree salary. Among these highpaying programs, health care is well represented, along with certificates in construction, such as Construction Engineering Technology/Technician (Brazosport College), Electrician (Lee College), and Pipefitting (Lee College). A number of certificate programs turning out technicians in engineering, industrial technology, and instrumentation (e.g., from Brazosport College, San Jacinto College Central Campus, and Frank Phillips College) are also on the list of high-paying programs.
• In contrast, in two dozen certificate programs, recipients earned less than $13,000 in their first year. The largest concentration of these low-paying certificate programs is in cosmetology (10 programs) and four are in nursing/patient care assistants. One program in computer and information systems (from Alamo Community College–San Antonio College) and one in Network and System Administration/Administrator (Laredo Community College) are on the list.
• The median first-year earnings of bachelor’s degree recipients statewide are around $39,000. However, there is a wide range in earnings, depending upon field of study: First-year earnings in popular fields of study range from around $25,000 (Biology) to around $47,000 (Accounting).
• More generally, despite the interest in increasing the number of graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), biology graduates at both the bachelor’s and the master’s level earn below statewide medians. In contrast, there is a premium for bachelor’s graduates in mathematics, who out earn biology graduates by more than $20,000 statewide and all bachelor’s graduates by more than $9,000.
• Master’s degree graduates earn more—often far more—than students with a bachelor’s degree. The median first-year earnings of master’s graduates in Texas are $63,340, or $24,000 higher than the median first-year earnings of bachelor’s graduates.
• The smallest difference (less than $5,000) between graduates with a bachelor’s degree and those with a master’s degree is in multi- or interdisciplinary studies. A person with a master’s degree in engineering earns about $14,000 more than a person with a bachelor’s degree, but graduates with either degree are the highest paid in that field. Graduates with master’s degrees in accounting earn almost $20,000 more than recent bachelor’s degree recipients in accounting.
The largest difference is in business administration, with an increment of more than $44,000 in first-year wages for master’s graduates versus bachelor’s graduates.