Salary Surfer: Online tool shows how a community college education pays off

A new online tool reflects the value of an education by showing the earnings one can expect by completing a certificate or degree program in a community college discipline and then entering the workforce.

Salary Surfer, which can be viewed at, displays median annual incomes for those who complete 179 of the most widely enrolled program areas and do not transfer to a four-year institution. 

Communication, health, and business and management are among the career fields represented.

The data show the median earnings for community college graduates two years prior to earning the award, then two years and five years after earning either a certificate or degree.

Salary Surfer was released June 19 by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.

An analysis of the data contained on Salary Surfer shows that students who complete an associate degree more than double their annual pre-degree earnings after two years in the workforce and nearly triple their pre-degree earnings after five years in the workforce.

Nearly 45 percent of students who graduated with an associate degree and did not transfer earned more than $54,000 annually five years after getting their degree. For comparison purposes, that is the median wage of someone with a bachelor’s degree living in California, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Salary Surfer also provides information on which of the system’s 112 colleges – including Antelope Valley College - offer programs in a specific discipline.
“This groundbreaking tool validates that California community colleges produce a tremendous return on investment for our state,” said Brice W. Harris, chancellor of the California Community Colleges.