Salary Surfer, California community college website, approximates earning potential

by Sarah Rohrs, Huffington Post

After securing a degree in computer programming, a community college graduate could earn as much as $36,199 in two years, and $52,038 in five.

That’s according to a new online tool the California Community College Chancellor’s Office unveiled, which allows students and the public to see salaries associated with degrees or certificates in specific disciplines.

The “Salary Surfer,” displays median annual incomes for those who complete 179 of the most popular programs, but do not transfer to a four-year institution.

The data shows the median earnings for community college graduates two years before graduating, and then two years and five years after earning either a certificate or degree.

Chancellor Brice Harris said the tool shows that a community college degree is a good investment. “The return on investment of students is really wonderful. In some cases they have more than doubled their income in two years, and tripled after five years,” he said.

But, not everyone earns a lot of money after graduation.

The online tool also shows some disciplines do not net nearly as much as others, and some degrees actually decrease in value over time.

Students who obtain AA degrees in computer graphics earn, on average, $16,140 two years before they graduate and about that amount two years afterwards.

In five years, they may earn $28,541, according to the survey results.

Salaries for graduates with degrees in legal office technology or journalism, of those who get a certificate in a multimedia discipline actually decrease after five years, the survey shows.

The surveys do not include community college graduates who transfer to a four-year college or continue in other higher education avenues.

Brice said that nearly 45 percent of students who graduated with an associate degree and did not transfer earned more than $54,000 five years after earning a degree or certificate.

Some even earn more than $90,000 five years after graduation, including those who earn degrees in electrical and power systems transmission, physician assistant, or radiation therapy.

Helen Benjamin, Contra Costa Community College Chancellor, said the salary survey information will be useful to low-income students and others living in poverty as they can see what they might earning if they pursue higher education.

California Community Colleges Vice Chancellor for Workforce and Economic Development Van Ton-Quinlivan said the online survey tool indicates certificates or degrees translate have big value in the labor market.

Wage information comes from an agreement between the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office and the California Employment Development Department.

The information excludes federal employees, those who are self-employed and graduates who move out of state.

To reach the Salary Surfer go to