Tech college grads find quick employment as salaries grow

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By Erin Eagan

Let’s be honest, parents. You love your children, but that doesn’t mean you want them living at home well into their 20s. You want them to learn the skills for today’s job market.

In a recent survey, Wisconsin’s Technical Colleges asked parents of middle and high school students what they wanted for their kids once they graduated from high school. According to the Parents’ Perception Research study, in which more that 600 parents across all 72 Wisconsin counties were surveyed, the number one thing parents want for their children after they graduate high school is to learn the skills they need to support themselves.

Depending on the individual wants and needs of your child, there are options available. Maybe a four-year university isn’t the right fit for your child, and for many, it’s not. By no means does that hurt their chances of earning a livable salary because, in today’s world, a four-year degree no longer guarantees more money upon graduation. Just ask the tens of thousands of unemployed or underemployed bachelor’s degree holders. Research published by the Economic Policy Institute shows that for college graduates under the age of 25, the unemployment rate is currently at 5.6%, and the underemployment rate is more than twice that, at 12.6%.

Middle Skills Positions in High Demand

Many of today’s top-paying jobs require a one or two-year technical college degree or diploma. Part of the reason for this is a high demand for middle-skills positions such as electricians, early childhood teachers, dental hygienists, radiation therapists, lab technicians and paralegals. Employers are struggling to fill these types of vacancies, which represent nearly half of the labor force, making graduates of technical colleges a hot commodity.

With a technical degree or diploma in hand, graduates are all but guaranteed immediate employment in their chosen field. If you want further proof, check out the recently released 2015 Graduate Outcomes Report from the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS). The data is based on survey responses from more than 18,000 individuals who graduated from a Wisconsin technical college in 2015.

The graduate placement numbers are staggering: 93% of 2015 Wisconsin technical college graduates found employment within six months of graduation. Not only that, but they’re earning a median salary of $36,252 for all degree types. For an associate degree, that number jumps to $40,000. This means half the salaries for these graduates are above these numbers.

As Demand Grows, So Do Salaries

Wherever your child’s interests or passions lie, employers need skilled workers and are paying decent salaries to get them. Several industries are continuing to see a rise in median salary. For 2015 Wisconsin Technical College System graduates, the top five career fields ranked by median salary are as follows:

1. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
Types of Programs: Electronics, Utilities Engineering Technology, Mechanical CAD Drafting
Median Salary: $43,864

2. Law, Public Safety and Security
Types of Programs: Paralegal, Paramedic, Fire Science, Criminal Justice
Median Salary: $40,004

3. Information Technology
Types of Programs: Network Specialist, Web Developer, Software Developer
Median Salary: $40,000

4. Manufacturing
Types of Programs: Welding, Appliance Technician, Tool and Die Making, Wood Technology
Median Salary: $39,517

5. Architecture and Construction
Types of Programs: Construction Management Technology, Civil Engineering Drafter, Interior Design
Median Salary: $37,437

Not only are WTCS grads finding employment after graduation, but they are doing so without the heavy burden of five-figure student loans — a significant road block when it comes to being able to support themselves. Here in Wisconsin, graduates of four-year public universities can expect to walk away owing upwards of $25,000. Conversely, student loan debt for graduates of a technical college averages around $5,000, leaving a manageable monthly payment of less than $100.

Wisconsin’s tech grads continue to achieve success in record numbers. With a hands-on, practical approach to skills learning that almost guarantees immediate employment, a technical college education could be the ticket to a rewarding career for your child.