From CTE Policy Watch – Associate degrees, postsecondary certificates and apprenticeship certificates can all lead to higher earnings than bachelor’s degrees, particularly in CTE programs such as health, engineering and other technical fields

The American Enterprise Institute recently published an analysis of the return on investment five years and 20 years later for students completing bachelor’s, associate, certificate and apprenticeship programs in specific fields of study in Florida, Texas and Tennessee.

Authors Mark Schneider and Rooney Columbus conclude that:

  • despite the emphasis on a bachelor’s degree, many associate and certificate programs provide valuable routes into the middle class;
  • majors are very important to post-college earnings, regardless of degree level, with health and technical fields proving more remunerative than traditional academic fields; and
  • programs that provide value to students exist not only at state flagship universities, but also at regional universities and community colleges.

In Florida, for instance, students who earned an associate in science degree to be a physician’s assistant have the highest median earnings across credential levels. Graduates from three apprenticeship programs—elevator constructor/mechanic, millwright and heavy equipment operation—were also high earners.

However, many of the top subbaccalaureate programs in terms of earnings also graduate relatively few students. The authors advise education and workforce leaders to carefully consider which programs can be scaled effectively.