Higher Education Pays: Measuring the Economic Security of Florida’s Postsecondary Graduates

January 9, 2014 11:20

This report, the result of a partnership between the State of Florida and College Measures, focuses on the median first-year earnings of recent graduates/completers from two-year and four-year institutions across Florida as well as District Technical Centers. It documents the variation in first-year earnings for graduates of specific degree programs at specific colleges and universities. The report also presents data on the percentage of graduates/completers from various institutions that are receiving public assistance, as well as the percentage enrolled in continuing education. Debt accumulated by students, not just graduates, also is reported. The results show that the degrees and certificates students earn, and where they earn them, matter.

View the full report here 

Among the findings in this report:

Florida State Colleges and District Technical Centers

  • The bachelor’s degree and the associate of arts (A.A.) degree, designed as a pathway to the bachelor’s degree, are the two most commonly awarded degrees in Florida. The median first-year earnings of graduates with these degrees are lower, however, than those of graduates of many other degree and certificate programs. For example, graduates with an associate in science (A.S.) degree have median earnings that are more than $11,000 higher than graduates with bachelor’s degrees and almost $20,000 higher than graduates with A.A. degrees who are in the labor market.
  • The graduate’s field of study can greatly affect early career earnings. The median first-year earnings of a graduate with an A.S. degree in child care provider/assistant are around $25,000. A graduate with an A.S. degree in nursing can expect twice as much, and graduates who earned an A.S. degree as an emergency medical technician-paramedic can expect even more.
  • There is a range of median first-year earnings across programs awarding the same degree in the same field of study. Median first-year earnings for emergency medicine technology–paramedic range from less than $50,000 (College of Central Florida and Santa Fe College) to around $65,000 or more (Palm Beach State College, Miami Dade College, Indian River State College, Edison State College, and Broward College).
  • The average federal debt level per student in 2010–11 across Florida state colleges ranges from less than $3,000 at Pensacola State College, Northwest Florida State College, and Florida Gateway College to more than $5,000 per student at St. Petersburg College; Florida Keys Community College; State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota; College of Central Florida; Valencia College; St. Johns River State College; and Broward College.
  • District Technical Centers issued far more career Postsecondary Adult Vocational (PSAV) certificates than did Florida colleges. PSAV certificates issued by District Technical Centers accounted for more than 60% of all the certificates awarded in the state.
  • However, graduates with certificates from the Florida College System (FCS) are more successful in the labor market. For example, 76% of college graduates/completers who were awarded PSAV certificates were found to be employed compared with 68% with PSAV certificates from District Technical Centers. In addition, the median first-year earnings for the five-year period of study (academic years 2006–07 through 2010–11) of graduates/completers from colleges were higher ($34,628) than the earnings ($28,028) of those with certificates from District Technical Centers.
  • More than 15% of graduates/completers who have earned PSAV certificates in District Technical Centers received public assistance, almost double the percentage of those who earned their degrees and certificates from Florida’s state colleges.
  • Students earning associate’s degrees are less likely to have received public assistance than students who earn certificates.


 Florida’s Universities

  • There is variation in the median earnings of graduates with bachelor’s degrees from less than $30,000 at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical (A&M) University to more than $36,000 at Florida International University. Some of this variation is no doubt related to the different economic areas of the state where these campuses serve and students choose to work.
  • The median wages of graduates of four universities (University of Central Florida, Florida Gulf Coast University, University of South Florida, and the University of North Florida) were within $750 of each other, suggesting many university pathways into the labor market that employers value at roughly the same level.
  • Graduates with degrees in psychology, one of the most popular fields of study in state universities, have low first-year earnings, around $6,000 less than the statewide median. Graduates with degrees in political science and English language and literature also fall toward the bottom of the earnings distribution.
  • Among the highest paid graduates are those with degrees in business-related fields (business administration, finance, and accounting). In contrast, graduates with degrees in marketing, another business-related field, have lower first-year earnings.
  • The median statewide federal loan amount per university student is slightly more than $8,000. The amount varies, however, from around $5,100 at Florida Gulf Coast University to more than $13,000 at the University of Florida. Because this amount includes disbursements to both graduate and undergraduate students, there may be some upward pressure on the amount reported in research universities such as Florida State University and the University of Florida. Moreover, this is only federally issued debt, and other sources of loans students may be using to help finance their education are not included in this estimate.
  • During the five-year study period, Florida state colleges awarded more than 6,000 bachelor’s degrees, concentrated in a small number of relatively high-paying fields. In turn, the median first-year earnings of graduates with bachelor’s degrees from Florida’s colleges (around $41,800) are higher than those of graduates with bachelor’s degrees from Florida’s universities (slightly more than $33,600).
  • Graduates with master’s degrees earn more, often far more, than graduates with only bachelor’s degrees. The median first-year earnings of graduates with master’s degrees in Florida is around $49,000 compared with less than $34,000 for graduates with bachelor’s degrees.
  • For field of study, the earnings gained for having a master’s degree, compared with only a bachelor’s degree, range from around $5,000 (elementary education and teaching) to more than $25,000 for several business degree programs and nursing.


Where the Jobs Are 

The report also presents data on the industries and occupations that are likely to be most in demand in future years. Following are some findings.

  • The top three industries with the fastest growth in Florida are related to construction with specialty trade contractors projected to grow the fastest from 2013 to 2021 with annual growth of +3.72%.
  • The health care industry is also projected to grow rapidly due to population gains, the aging population, and improved medical technologies.
  • Another way to look at where the jobs are is to see which industries will be creating the most new jobs, regardless of the growth rate. Some fast-growing industries are relatively small, others are much larger. For example, ambulatory health care services and professional, scientific, and technical services are expected to add numerous new jobs, and both have high growth rates. In contrast, two industries, hospitals and administrative and support services, have lower growth rates, but because they are large industries, will add many more jobs than most of the faster growing industries.
  • Some occupations will have a greater demand relative to supply. Florida projects that only 572 graduates with the academic credentials to become physical therapists will be produced by state colleges and universities between now and 2021. The estimated industry demand, however, is for more than 2,000 therapists during this time, leaving a shortage of around 1,500 trained individuals. Physical therapists are well compensated.
  • Similarly, Florida colleges and universities will produce far fewer securities and financial service sales agents than projected industry demand (a shortage of some 1,800 graduates). These graduates are among the most highly paid graduates in the state. 


More findings are available at: www.beyondeducation.org


In addition to www.beyondeducation.org, readers interested in more information may want to visit the following sites:

What People are Asking (WPAA) http://www.whatpeopleareasking.com/index.shtm is designed to retrieve Florida job and wage data by area. It features Hot Jobs, What Hot Jobs Pay, and other information of interest to students and parents.

http://smart-college-choices.com/ provides outcome data on graduates of the Florida College System and District Technical Schools.