Tennessee Public Postsecondary Graduates and the Labor Market

Mark S. Schneider

Tennessee has a reputation for being a leader in reform efforts to improve education at both the K–12 and postsecondary levels. College Measures’ new EduTrendsTN website, developed in partnership with the state, supports initiatives to increase the number of college graduates in Tennessee by providing prospective students and their families with information about higher education costs, benefits, and affordability and delivering insights into employment demand and wage potential across many fields.

Key findings from a report based on this work include:

  • college graduation processionOn average, the market value for associate’s degrees and certificates that require 1–2 years of training is higher than that for shorter term certificates.
  • Among the 10 associate’s degree programs with the highest number of completers statewide, those in four of the programs earned wages that were below the state median for all associate’s degrees 1 and 5 years after graduation. The four programs were Business Administration, Business Operations, Liberal Arts, and Management Information Services.
  • The instructional program with the highest median wage (more than $61,000) five years after graduation was Electrical Engineering Technologies/Technicians.
  • Wages earned by graduates varied across community colleges, likely because of the local job market’s demand for graduates and prevailing wages.
  • Among bachelor’s graduates, there is wide variation in the earnings associated with different instructional programs. But the fact remains that if students don’t get into the University of Tennessee, Knoxville—the state’s flagship university—they can graduate from many other universities across the state and do as well in the labor market.