Students Should Look To Two-Year And Certificate Programs In Lieu Of Traditional Degrees


The value of a traditional four-year college degree has been on the slide for years in the United States. Meanwhile, the cost of attaining such a degree is perpetually on the rise. New research indicates that American students should take note of other viable options before shelling out money for four-year degrees — especially considering that graduates of many two-year associates and occupational certificate programs now earn just as much as workers with traditional degrees.

A report produced by compared the earnings of two-year technical degree graduates and traditional bachelor degree holders in in Arkansas, Colorado, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. The report found that many two-year and technical degree holders are out earning their bachelor degree holding counterparts in many cases.

In Texas, for example, students with two-year technical degrees have first-year median earnings of more than $50,000 — more than $11,000 higher than graduates of bachelor’s degree programs across the State.

In Tennessee, the study shows that graduates of two-year community college programs routinely earn marginally higher first-year wages than people with bachelor’s degrees. For graduates of 13 community colleges in the State, the average wage is $38,948, more than $1,300 higher than graduates at four-year institutions.

And in Arkansas, technical certificates such as those held by aircraft technicians earned some graduates upward of $40,000 in the first year on the job, while college graduates with a psychology degree earned roughly $26,000.

Aside from higher earning potential in many cases, graduates of two-year and technical programs also benefit from lower tuition costs. Average annual tuition and fees at public four-year colleges was $8,655 and nearly $30,000 at private institutions for the 2012-2013 school year. But public two-year colleges had an average annual tuition bill of just $3,131.

There remains potential, however, for shifts to allow a bachelor’s degree holder to end up out earning the average associate’s degree holder over the course of a career.

Even so, as Richard Vedder, the director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, pointed out in The Chronicle of Higher Education in December 2010, the constant push for higher education has saturated the job market and forced more graduate and postgraduate degree holders to take jobs for which they are overqualified and/or underpaid.

“[T]he push to increase the number of college graduates seems horribly misguided from a strict economic/vocational perspective. It is precisely that perspective that is emphasized by those, starting with President Obama, who insist that we need to have more college graduates,” Vedder writes.

The market, it seems, is backing Vedder’s assertion.

Personal Liberty

Sam Rolley

Sam Rolley began a career in journalism working for a small town newspaper while seeking a B.A. in English. After covering community news and politics, Rolley took a position at Personal Liberty Media Group where could better hone his focus on his true passions: national politics and liberty issues. In his daily columns and reports, Rolley works to help readers understand which lies are perpetuated by the mainstream media and to stay on top of issues ignored by more conventional media outlets.

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  • Henry

    There still no substitute for paying for your education without using loans.

    • Deerinwater

      Right ! while much has shifted since I was a youth. ~ and it would be very hard to do today as Supply well exceeds Demand. ~ Grants do help.

      I agree with SAM , ~ Trade and technical schools holds the future for the majority of todays students.

      The a labor force is subjected to the same forces as any other market and that being supply and demand ~ one would be wise to select well and take into account the current and future climate.

  • ArmyAviator

    America needs more people willing to work than anything else. All the lofty degrees in the world are WORTHLESS to those who refuse to work.

    • Chester

      Many of those unemployed degree holders would take any job that would have them, but who wants to use a MBA as a burger flipper? Too many of those who you claim refuse to work have been refused employment because they are “overqualified” and thus “won’t stay in a job long enough to learn it.”

  • peter

    One day soon we will need to decide who is more important:- the one who can provide or the one who has lots of money in the bank. A college degree does not always make one practical and often promises that which does not transpire, but a practical person who knows, understands, and can work with the land, rivers and the sea in harmony will never have to learn how to eat gold, bonds or fiat money. He will have everything he needs and some! Even good health and peace of mind. Remember that the rich man needs a practical man to build his mansions and boats – he cannot do that himself and if there are only rich about there is nothing of any substance. Can everybody be a financier? No, but everybody can be a provider, even if they sometimes need to be taught how. Are we then teaching the wrong way? Just wondering.

  • dan

    I think there’s a better chance of sucess if you marry into money…then you can become a politician

    • Vigilant

      Like our Secretary of State?

      • dan

        he did cross my mind , lol

        • Deerinwater

          I believe that applies to Mitt Romney VP choice as well.

    • alted1

      Don’t forget McCain.

  • Vigilant

    “And in Arkansas, technical certificates such as those held by aircraft technicians earned some graduates upward of $40,000 in the first year on the job, while college graduates with a psychology degree earned roughly $26,000.”

    Now THAT’S what I call apples and oranges.

  • Vigilant

    The headline says, “Students Should Look To Two-Year And Certificate Programs In Lieu Of Traditional Degrees.”

    The problem lies not in the number of years invested, but the nature of the degree sought. How many 4-year American graduates have degrees in engineering, chemistry, physics or mathematics? Where is the new wave of doctors that will be required to minister to the tremendous increase in patients expected under Obamacare?

    From elementary school upwards, the public so-called “education” system worships and rewards mediocrity, disincentivizes students in the name of self-esteem, and dumbs them down to the point that few strive for excellence while many expect that society owes them a job when they graduate with useless degrees like sociology, environmental studies, or black/women’s studies.

    But then, what would you expect from an administration that wants to kill manufacturing and the sciences in this country? A dumb, unemployed population fits like hand in glove into the created dependencies upon which the socialists thrive.

  • Michael Shreve

    There is a HUGE difference between education and skills. A Medical Doctor has a skill, but a Sociologist does not. Student must learn to identify a field they enjoy and the most efficient way to learn the skills required. College isn’t for everyone and it is becoming obvious that MANY degrees aren’t useful to anyone.