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RB_Medical_Class_3.JPGCalifornia Community Colleges Chancellor Brice Harris debuted a new tool Wednesday that students can use to scope out potential earnings for their course of study.

Salary Surfer lets users search through the median salary for community college graduates two years before, two years after and five years after completing a degree or certificate program. The data covers 179 community college programs and breaks down the colleges that offer each program.

While Salary Surfer caters primarily to current and prospective students who want to look at a specific course of study, Harris said the tool also could help counselors, college directors and policy-makers determine which courses are the most viable.

One of the highest earning programs include a one-year certificate in electrical systems and power transmission at a median salary of $123,174 five years after graduation. Certificate earners in this subject netted higher median salaries than students who earn the corresponding degree, according to the website.

Programs with lower earnings include the film production degree and the journalism degree, with median salaries five years out at $10,931 and $17,347, respectively. Holders of psychology degrees and special education certificates also reported earnings at the low end of the scale.

The website also offers several trends about the overall earnings of community college graduates.

Students who complete an associate degree typically double their income, according to Harris. Nearly 45 percent of them earn more than $54,000 five years after graduation, and about a quarter of students' wages total more than $77,000 five years down the road.

The results for students with degrees in vocational subjects are even more promising -- the median annual wage for those students hits $61,600, beating the average Californian's earnings by more than $10,000.

Overall, Harris said Salary Surfer shows the "great return on the investment for all of the time and effort of our students."

PHOTO: A student takes notes during a Medical Language class at Folsom Lake College in Folsom on Nov. 25, 2009. Students take the class as part of a job-training program to teach them how to become phlebotomists. The Sacramento Bee/ Randall Benton.



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