By Jon Marcus at The Hechinger Institute, CNNMoney
New York (CNNMoney) - Berevan Omer graduated on a Friday in February with an associate's degree from Nashville State Community College and started work the following Monday as a computer-networking engineer at a local television station, making about $50,000 a year.
That's 15% higher than the average starting salary for graduates - not only from community colleges, but for bachelor's degree holders from four-year universities.
"I have a buddy who got a four-year bachelor's degree in accounting who's making $10 an hour," Omer says. "I'm making two and a-half times more than he is."
Omer, who is 24, is one of many newly minted graduates of community colleges defying history and stereotypes by proving that a bachelor's degree is not, as widely believed, the only ticket to a middle-class income.
READ: Which colleges provides best bang for your buck?
Nearly 30% of Americans with associate's degrees now make more than those with bachelor's degrees, according to Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce. In fact, other recent research in several states shows that, on average, community college graduates right out of school make more than graduates of four-year universities.
The average wage for graduates of community colleges in Tennessee, for instance, is $38,948 - more than $1,300 higher than the average salaries for graduates of the state's four-year institutions.
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It isn't what your degree is in that is as important as what you know that is a saleable skill.
I have an associate's degree and four major certifications that make me the equivalent of a PhD in my career field when combined with at least a decade of follow-on experience. I enjoy an income more than most Ivy League professors; however, I know a 24-year-old physicist-engineer-female with an MBS who's income far exceeds mine.
STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathmatics – Hey you high schoolers – you wanna insure a good life with adequate income for your entire life – get a useable STEM degree. The caveat is "useable". We don't need 50,000 new marine biologists graduates each year, when the career field only hires a hundred each year.
Ahhhh – Not a surprise! We should also be beefing up technology training in our vocational ed curricula...The jobs of the future will require top technical skills and not necessarily all of the extraneous baggage that comes with a college degree program and is often is not worth much at then of the day.
Ellen, you hit the nail on the head. We don't necessarily have the luxury to have "well-rounded-educated" poor un-employed people.
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