Posted by: Tom Ross | July 26, 2013

Show Me the Money!

[Click on the title above to view on the CTE Central Blog website.]

New Tool Helps Students Make Career Decisions

When students think about and plan for their own future, they have a lot of options to weigh.


What do I think I want to do? And what’s the best way to get there? Should I jump right into a job and learn as I go? Or should I enroll in a local community college in order to earn a certificate or a degree? And what about going on to a four-year university?

These are not questions to be taken lightly. Students need all the help and information they can get.

There’s one more big question:

How much money will I make?

The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office has created a new database that gives students at least a rough idea what they can expect to earn when they finish certificates or degrees at community colleges in California.

It’s called the Salary Surfer.


The Chancellor’s office defines (in a press release) the new database this way:

“Salary Surfer is a web application designed for students and families that provides an estimate on the potential median wages to be earned after completing an award or certificate in 179 of the most widely enrolled disciplines. Median wages–or the middle wage value–were used instead of average wages to compensate for outliers. The application also provides information on which colleges are offering programs in that specific discipline.” The framework is based on the report YES, BUT CAN WE EARN A LIVING? from the Center for Studies in Higher Education at UC Berkeley.

The type of award was limited to Associate Degrees and Chancellor’s Office approved certificates. To ensure that the students whose data were used to calculate median wages are indeed in the workforce, cohorts were limited to students who had not transferred to a four-year college.

The Salary Surfer calculates earnings at two years prior to receiving a credit award (degree or certificate) at one of the California community colleges, and at two and five years after the completion of an award.

I did a quick review of the highest salaries, and I was happy to see they range from $70,000 to $123,000! You can also see that salaries across the board increase significantly post award and five years down the line. (I was also interested to see that computer software development ranks high on the list.)

Money should never be the only consideration—or even the main one. But it is, of course, part of the equation. Salary Surfer helps give students an idea of what they can expect to make in their chosen field with a community college degree or certificate. And it demonstrates that community colleges are more than just a means of advancement to a four-year university.


  1. […] out of the house, as summarized by FastWeb and US News & World Report. Recently in our blog we also explored how community college isn’t necessarily a stepping-stone to a 4-year college. […]

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