|By Denise-Marie Ordway, Orlando Sentinel|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Good money for someone right out of school, it's even more impressive considering that Carter will have completed only a two-year degree at a community college.
She is among a growing number of Floridians who are grabbing the chance to earn a good wage faster by completing an associate in science degree. Such students enter the work force in half the time it takes to finish a four-year bachelor's degree. And, generally speaking, they earn larger paychecks -- at least initially.
Carter and the other 22 students in the cardiovascular technology program at
"It's going to be more than I've ever made," said Carter, 23, a former waitress, bartender and ice-cream-shop manager who grew up in
Most community-college students want an associate in arts degree, which focuses largely on general-education studies, the basis for two more years of school and a bachelor's degree.
A.S. programs are different in that they require students to immediately specialize in a limited number of high-demand fields. They train in areas such as nursing, law-enforcement administration, media design and fire-science technology.
Starting pay varies by field. But as a whole, the median first-year wages of A.S. degree holders is
A.A. holders who don't go on to get bachelor degrees received much less:
Meanwhile, median first-year pay was
Some college officials call the A.S. degree one of higher education's best-kept secrets. Such programs have gained more attention recently, as legislators and higher-education leaders debate ways to help more Floridians earn college credentials.
A key concern of Gov.
That emphasis prompted a new state website that offers employment data on graduates of
"For the many students who lack the time, money or inclination to pursue a bachelor's degree, technical two-year degrees may represent a smart route into a career with middle-class wages," said
Community-college administrators said the challenge is helping students see the benefit of such a credential. Many students and parents are unfamiliar with the A.S degree. Recent high-school graduates generally prefer to pursue an A.A. because they are not sure what they want to study.
Parents, especially well-educated ones, want their children to get bachelor's degrees.
"It's been a battle we've dealt with at the community-college level for years," said Lake-Sumter State President
Some A.S. programs are quite popular, however.
Statewide, A.S. program enrollment has risen sharply in recent years. More than 98,000 students were pursuing A.S. degrees at one of
Nationally, 28 percent of associate-degree holders earn as much or more than the average bachelor's degree recipient, according to the Center on Education and the Workforce at
Although Black had earned a degree in journalism two decades earlier, she was working as an independent insurance agent. Wanting a career change -- as well as more money and job security -- she completed an A.S. degree in legal studies.
As a paralegal, the single mother of two did not want to disclose how much she earns. But she said she now makes about
"Now that I'm not an 18-year-old naïve kid anymore, I'm really wondering 'Why aren't more people doing these kinds of programs?' " she said.
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Median wages for 2-year graduates
Here are median first-year wages of
Statewide median for A.S. degree
Child Care Provider/Assistant
Radiologic (Medical) Technology
Physical Therapy Assistant
Emergency Medicine Technology-Paramedic
*For those who graduated between 2006-07 and 2010-11 and remained in
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